With the Xanatos saga well and truly over, Jedi Apprentice has pivoted from a series of one-off adventures all connected by the looming threat of Qui-Gon’s former apprentice to a series of character-developing arcs with cool-down one offs before and after. I think it’s a change for the better, as we’ll see this week when we finish of the main series of Jedi Apprentice!
Welcome to Legends of the Hydian Way, the chronicle of my attempt to read through and review all the novels that make up mainline Legends canon in chronological order. May the Force be with me.
We pick up with book thirteen: The Dangerous Rescue. This title is slightly misleading, as naturally since we left Qui-Gon in the captivity of mad biologist Jenna Zan Arbor, you’d assume the rescue was referring to him. Not so! Very quickly into the book Obi-Wan finds fellow Jedi Adi Gallia and her still amusingly named Padawan Siri who assist him in breaking Qui-Gon free and forcing Zan Arbor to flee the planet. In fact, the rescue in question is that of an old hermit Jedi whom Zan Arbor is holding hostage, but whom we never actually get to meet because he never once speaks.
The chase leads the four Jedi to conclude that Zan Arbor has switched back to her old strategy of releasing a deadly disease, developing a cure, and then deploying that cure when the population gets desperate to raise a ton of money. It’s a strange shift, since in the prior books Zan Arbor was obsessed with the Force and unlocking the powers of the Jedi. Now she’s suddenly fine to simply muahahaha her way through evil scientist plot 101.
Ultimately it feels like this story arc is one book too long. Things wrapped up naturally in The Evil Experiment and most of The Dangerous Rescue feels like a stretch to try to keep the plot running for just one more book.
Book Fourteen: The Ties That Bind begins our last major story arc for this series. It begins by re-anchoring us in the timeline and revealing that Obi-Wan is now 16 years old, and that the prior books took place over the course of three years.
In major focus for this arc is Qui-Gon’s relationship with his childhood friend Tahl. You may remember Tahl as the now-blinded Jedi whom Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon rescued from Melida-Daan and the one who helped them investigate Xanatos’s meddling at the temple. In today’s series, she’s accepted a mission to protect a pair of girls on the world of New Apsolon.
Years ago, Tahl and Qui-Gon had assisted the girls’ father in making a unified government between the working class and the affluent business class of Apsolon, renaming the world New Apsolon in its wake. Now, however, their father is dead and political turmoil has engulfed New Apsolon.
Qui-Gon is tormented by visions of Tahl in danger and defies the will of the Jedi Council to go and assist on her mission. He and Obi-Wan become embroiled in the hunt for who killed this world’s leader, and who now wants his daughters dead.
Eventually they find Tahl, who is none to happy to realize Qui-Gon has followed her and feels that he doesn’t think she can handle things alone. Qui-Gon, somewhat startlingly, says that that isn’t the reason and admits outright that he’s in love with her. Tahl reciprocates his feelings, and the two agree to spend their lives together once the mission is over.
Of course this is when things take a turn for the worse. A break in at the governor’s mansion distracts Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan long enough for the chief of security, a man called Balog, to betray them and kidnap Tahl. In a panic, Qui-Gon sets off with Obi-Wan to rescue her.
Book Fifteen: The Death of Hope finds our duo hot on the trail of Balog, who has fled the major city of New Apsolon to hide Tahl with a group of Absolutes, a now-illegal secret police who at one time supported the old regime on Apsolon. Qui-Gon spends much of the book struggling with his emotions, which he knows are out of control but which at the same time he cannot help but feel. It’s a refreshing look at Qui-Gon as a human being instead of yet another placid Jedi.
Throughout this book series one of it’s great strengths has been portraying the Jedi teachings on emotion as much more complex than just “don’t have them” (a trap I find all too many authors fall into). Instead, Qui-Gon opines that emotions should be felt, that they cannot be shut down. The key is not to let emotions control you, rather to feel them, like a wave washing over you, without being swept away by it.
However, swept away is exactly how Qui-Gon is beginning to feel. He’s impatient, short with people slowing him down, and willing to break New Apsolon’s laws forbidding probe droids to track down Balog more quickly. As the political situation and question of who will succeed as planetary ruler heat up in the city, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan finally catch up to Balog.
Unfortunately for Qui-Gon, it’s too late, and Tahl has been injected with an overdose of drugs that have sapped her strength and leave her slowly dying. Balog escapes and the duo of Jedi just barely have time to get Tahl back to the city before she passes away on the arms of an anguished Qui-Gon
Book Sixteen : The Call to Vengeance shows us a Qui-Gon we haven’t seen before. Furious and spiraling, Qui-Gon sets off on his own to find Balog and take him down. Relying on the girls Tahl came to protect as a source of inside info, he begins his investigation, leaving Obi-Wan behind with Mace Windu, who arrives in the beginning of the book and then does literally nothing throughout the rest of it.
Qui-Gon’s reckless pursuit of Balog leads to him missing a crucial fact: the girls he’s relying on are the masterminds behind everything, and they’re setting him up to take the fall. Obi-Wan barely manages to reach Qui-Gon in time, wnd the two manage to catch Balog together. Qui-Gon is very nearly overcome by his pain and anger but hears a voice he believes to be Obi-Wan calling out to him, and manages to pull back from the brink and arrest his foe.
Later, Obi-Wan reveals he didn’t speak, and Qui-Gon realizes the voice he heard was Tahl. Nearly broken, but on the path to healing, Qui-Gon departs with Obi-Wan to return Tahl’s body to the Temple.
Books Seventeen and Eighteen are both one-offs that serve to wind the series down. Book Seventeen: The Only Witness sees Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan sent to escort a member of a mafia-esque crime family to Coruscant to testify against her relatives. Largely this book serves as a chance for Qui-Gon to come to terms with his grief over Tahl while Obi-Wan drives the action, pushing Qui-Gon to overcome his pain and focus on doing good in the future. The two succeed in getting their witness to the Senate, and help put an end to decades of crime.
Our final entry, book eighteen: The Threat Within attempts to show a now seventeen years old Obi-Wan stepping out of Qui-Gon’s shadow and prove himself capable as a Jedi. It’s good to see the relationship between the two evolving as Qui-Gon begins to trust Obi-Wan as a partner and less as an apprentice. Unfortunately the plot of this one lets the series down a bit. The two are dispatched to discover who is sabotaging the factories of a planet obsessed with work and productivity. When it turns out the culprits are the children of the workers, understandably not looking forward to a life of nothing but work, Obi-Wan tries to infiltrate them. He fails to curb their enthusiasm and eventually the movement is hijacked by a violent element that perpetrates a series of bombings. Somehow, in the wake of these bombings the adults and children reconcile after the children admit they were behind the attacks. Things improve, and the series ends with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan departing with a reinforced mutual respect.
Overall, this series was sort of a mixed bag. Some stories feel entirely unnecessary to the series as a whole while others feel like they could have benefitted from one more book. When the series is good, it’s really good. It captures the story of Obi-Wan’s training and growth very well while developing Qui-Gon much more than we are given in the film he appears in. We learn about a man who wants to trust but who has been hurt before and finds that trust difficult to extend. A man who feels so deeply that he has to project cold, logical stoicism to protect his much more vulnerable true self. It’s fascinating to read.
At other times, however, I’m left scratching my head. Almost every story arc has a character who exists purely to have a weird way of speaking or w catch phrase, whether this is a gambler who says “Kill me now” before just about any sentence or an alien who insists on calling the pair “Obawan and Jedi-Gon” it begins to grate after a while.
In particular, however, the series really ends on a whimper and not a bang. The final book is just…lackluster. The resolution comes far too quickly and too easily and none of the underlying issues are actually addressed. Literal terrorist bombings are swept under the rug as soon as the adults realize that their children are unhappy with life, despite the children insisting the whole time that their parents were not listening when told that. The message almost comes across as unintentionally vindicating the extremists who set the bombs because that ultimately appears to be what gets the adults attention.
Regardless, Jedi Apprentice manages to straddle the line between children’s and young adult fiction without sacrificing the Star Wars feel and tone we know and love. If you want a glimpse of the Old Republic before the Clone Wars, want to know more about Qui-Gon Jinn, or just fancy a series of light reads with a family friendly tone, I’d recommend at least the latter half of the series to you. Whether you read it all, I’ll leave to you .
Next week we’ll spend one more article on Jedi Apprentice, because there are apprently a pair of “Special Edition” crossover novels with the Jedi Quest series about Obi-Wan and Anakin and I felt these deserved their own separate looks. See you next time for more Legends From The Hydian Way!