Legends of the Hydian Way – Jedi Quest Books 1-6

You would be forgiven for thinking that the Anakin Skywalkers of The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones were entirely separate people. Most of this is easily explained by the ten year time gap, but just what happened during those ten years to amplify Anakin’s anger issues and wear away at his gentle, compassionate side?

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.

Jedi Quest, all by Jude Watson, picks up just after Rogue Planet, and three years after The Phantom Menace. In total there are eleven books in the series and as far as I can tell all of the special editions have already been covered here when we were looking at Jedi Apprentice. Unlike the reviews for Jedi Apprentice, however, I’m going to be reviewing the series more as a whole rather than book by book.

Jedi Quest begins with Obi-Wan bringing Anakin to a crystal cave to construct his lightsaber. This scene sets up the primary internal conflicts each character will continue to face throughout the series. Obi-Wan experiences a vision of Qui-Gon’s death, and feels that he is a far inferior Master to Anakin than Qui-Gon would have been. Anakin, meanwhile, sees Darth Maul taunting his inability to protect his mother or live up to the standards of the Jedi. In anger, Anakin attacks the vision, and awakes to find he’s constructed his lightsaber entirely within a trance. Both leave the cave feeling in some way unequal to the task laid before them.

Depending on the book in question, the theme of inadequacy that both characters carry in their hearts either rings true or comes off as an informed attribute. Personally, I think the good moments outweigh the bad but that’s up to personal interpretation. At its best, Jedi Quest depicts a relationship between two people afraid of failing the other even when that fear is exactly what causes the failure. At worst, it makes Obi-Wan seem obtuse and Anakin petty.

Through the first half of the series, we see Anakin coming to grips with a galaxy where not everything can be fixed quickly or neatly. Consistently, he focuses on immediate problems or issues that resonate with him personally at the expense of a wider view. Early on, he becomes obsessed with stopping a slaver without thinking about the power vacuum that he will leave. He urges Obi-Wan to hurry and help a girl find her friend’s murderer without noticing the girl is lying to him. Worst, he joins a murderous insurgency-for-hire who want to use him to fake someone else’s death because he feels kinship with them as young people fighting for justice.(granted, he didn’t know about their murderous nature at the time.)

However, for every hot-headed moment and every instance of Anakin’s simplistic, black-and-white view of the universe (has anyone ever considered that Anakin might have undiagnosed borderline personality disorder?) there are moments to counter them. He’s genuine, and kind. He forms bonds of loyalty easily and while sometimes his loyalty is misplaced he is sincere in his concern for others. He enters a podrace against his master’s wishes to save a girl from slavery, risking his life and career on the off chance he can help one helpless person. Even when confronted with a seemingly genuine offer to go and save his mother from slavery, no strings attached, he turns it down because it would mean leaving others to suffer instead.

In contrast, Obi-Wan is analytical to a fault. He doesn’t trust his instincts if he can’t rationalize them and when he tries to open up to Anakin he can’t seem to find the words to express himself. Anakin craves approval, but more than that he just wants just to know what Obi-Wan’s thinking. Obi-Wan frequently fails to tell Anakin the full story of what’s going on simply because he’s afraid Anakin will make a poor decision if he knows the truth. This sort of mistrust causes a lot of friction but whenever it’s pointed out to him, Obi-Wan relents and apologizes.

The interplay of the two repeatedly contrasts with Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon. Obi-Wan expects Anakin to be respectful and rule abiding like he was as a Padawan, while Anakin expects Obi-Wan to be more open and emotionally honest like his mother was. These different expectations lead to clashes and conflict and credit must be given to Jedi Quest for not shying away from showing us the raw, painful parts of the relationship as well as the positive moments.

Story wise Jedi Quest resembles it’s forebear in Jedi Apprentice. Each book is a short story usually concluded by the end of the novel with some tie-ins to overarching events. Primarily, the first six books deal with the discovery of a criminal called Granta Omega, who harbors a grudge against the Jedi for unknown reasons.

Omega is a master of disguise, and worse, is in possession of a Sith Holocron. We learn Omega is obsessed with the Sith, but knows he isn’t Forceful and thus can never be one. Instead, he wants to attack the Jedi, prove his worth to the Sith, and serve him as an important underling. It seems to me that telling the Jedi this, as he does, would virtually gurantee it never happens, since now the Sith would be as good as announcing his true identity if he ever hired Omega, but I’m not entirely certain Omega is playing with a full deck anyway.

By the end of the sixth book, Anakin is shaken by how easily he has been deceived and used by numerous beings claiming noble intentions but disguising rotten hearts. He worries that he’s failed his Master too many times and that he’ll never live up to Obi-Wan’s expectations. Obi-Wan, meanwhile, worries he’s failing Qui-Gon by training a Padawan who doesn’t fit any of the Jedi molds and consistently acts in impulsive ways.

Also of note in Jedi Quest is the re-introduction of Siri Tatchi, whom you may remember as the a character from Jedi Apprentice and according to Secrets of the Jedi the love of Obi-Wan’s life. Thanks to the order in which the books were written, their romantic involvement is never brought up or hinted at here.

Siri’s Padawan Ferus Olin serves as a rival to Anakin. The two can’t stand each other but are frequently forced to work together. Ferus is serious, mission-oriented, and stuffy. Everything about him rubs Anakin the wrong way and most of the time they interact neither one comes off looking very good. It’s an effective tool to show how Anakin’s perceptions aren’t always perfect, as no one else seems to dislike Ferus and if Anakin would give him a chance (or vice versa) it’s apparent the two complement each other quite well in terms of strengths.

It’s nearly impossible to look at Jedi Quest without comparing it to Jedi Apprentice. Personally I think Jedi Quest comes off looking the better of the two. Aside from a few continuity hiccups (Nar Shaadaa somehow not being the moon of Nal Hutta, for one) the tone is much more consistent and Star Wars-y. Jedi Quest also benefits from less pandering to younger readers, with the “token funny guy” trope I complained about in Apprentice largely absent here.

More importantly, where Jedi Apprentice felt the need to manufacture more and more reasons to have Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan in conflict, Jedi Quest is content to let the conflict develop naturally and as a result of personalities rather than circumstances. It reads as much more real and grows both characters through their conflict and the steps they take to mend fences afterward.

Join me next week for the second half of Jedi Quest, as we uncover the true identity of Granta Omega and Anakin faces his most sobering challenge yet!

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