Heir to the Jedi, written by Kevin Hearne, represents the third novel is Star Wars’ new official canon as well as the first to take place during the original trilogy and feature original trilogy characters (Luke Skywalker with brief appearances by Princess Leia and Admiral Ackbar). Heir is also a first-person novel and the first to do so from Luke’s point of view. All of this leads to a fair amount of weight and expectation placed on Hearne’s first foray into Star Wars, but ultimately proves disappointing as a few memorable homages are overshadowed by a tedious romantic subplot and a mission with unclear conflict.
Set shortly after the Battle of Yavin (Hearne has stated his novel takes place prior to the events of Marvel’s Star Wars comic series), Heir to the Jedi opens with Luke Skywalker on an everyday mission for the growing Rebel Alliance. The Rebels, despite their victory at Yavin, remain outgunned and lacking resources, forcing everyone to do their part to forge alliances. Luke, after a brief encounter with new character Nakari Kelen, travels to Rodia to negotiate purchasing weapons for the Alliance. During his journey, he encounters a minister who remembers the Jedi and takes Luke to a local Jedi grave. Luke comes away from the experience carrying the fallen Jedi’s lightsaber, though he never does anything memorable with it.
After this opening journey, Leia and Ackbar present Luke with his primary mission: a brilliant cryptographer is being held captive by the Empire; the Rebel Alliance has promised to protect her family in return for her services decrypting Imperial transmissions. Luke’s X-Wing fighter being a tad too familiar in Imperial territory, he teams up with Nakari Kelen and her sleek yacht, the Desert Jewel, and heads into deep space.
Except! The yacht is in need of better weapons and armor, so first Skywalker, Kelen, and R2-D2 accept a side mission to the Fex System gathering alien specimens with potential application in armor systems. The entire adventure is an homage to Ridley Scott’s Alien series in which our team inspects a creepily empty wrecked ship where creatures leap onto their heads and use a drill-like tongue to borrow through their helmets and suck out their brain. The escapade is interesting but frivolous after a few brief moments of intensity lead to mission accomplished and leaving the planet.
The rest is a straightforward rescue mission. Skywalker, Kelen, and R2-D2 work together to trick the Imperials, save the Givin cryptographer Drusil, and flee the planet via a series of never before used hyperspace lanes. The story’s third act climax is a stilted battle with bounty hunters hoping to return Drusil and the boy who destroyed the Death Star; after which they rendezvous with the rest of the Alliance and all is well.
Straightforward being the primary issue with the entirety of Heir to the Jedi. Hearne’s novel was originally outlined as the third entry in the now Legends universe Empire and Rebellion trilogy alongside Razor’s Edge and Honor Among Thieves. LucasFilm decided to move forward with releasing the book as a standalone piece of the new canon, and one wonders if that decision was partly due to how irrelevant everything that happens is Heir is. The first act journey to Rodia leads to some interesting stories about the Jedi and a visit to a Jedi grave, yet all of it is more or less pushed away for the second adventure to planet Prometheus.
The Fex mission leads to some character development for Nakari that culminates in a romantic relationship with Luke (at least to the point of making out in the back cabin several times). This development is necessary when a new character is introduced, but Nakari’s role both in this novel and the timeline feels minor and forgettable. SPOILERS IN NEXT SENTENCE When Nakari meets her ultimate fate, Luke is met with a sudden sense of anger that opens him up to greater strength within the Force…and no one pretends to have not seen/heard/read these character arcs several times before.
I realized as I reached the final few chapters why the love interest between Nakari and Luke is so boring — it reveals itself as the primary plot and purpose of the novel. The first two missions are short and foreshadow little and the main “save the cryptographer” mission has no real antagonist or conflict. There are no Imperial commanders chasing them. They lose the Imperials quickly, and the group of bounty hunters are nameless and random. All three missions feel like background stories to Luke falling in love with Nakari, but Nakari is no Mara Jade for, easiest of reasons, her relegation to a single novel character.
Hearne succeeds when he shows Luke’s inner monologue about the situation he finds himself in, moments strengthened by the first person writing. There are several wonderful examples of Luke, struggling to become a Jedi without Obi-Wan to guide him, trying to visualize what the Force is and how he interacts with it. One features Luke and Nakari discussing the threat of Darth Vader, and Luke (who believes Vader murdered his father) suggests he would want to talk to Vader and try to learn from him. Nakari is disgusted by the thought, but one sees how lonely and lost Luke is. Everyone knows him as the young kid that destroyed the Death Star, but no one except Leia and Han recognize how grand his fate is.
Beyond these moments, the first person writing feels slightly gimmicky, but this falls on a personal preference. There is a wonderful space combat sequence at the midpoint that is tense and descriptive. Overall, the combat scenes are well written and fun, but sometimes come at awkward or forced beats.
There are a handful of other characters throughout, but few do anything noticeable. Star Wars, in my opinion, has always been about bringing a group of strangers together to do game changing things. Our group here is Luke, Nakari, R2-D2, and Drusil, but nothing magnificent happens for any of them and it’s unclear exactly how much of an impact these events have on the future of the rebellion. Drusil is one highlight here. She is fun to read during her moments of mathematical calculation and outsider perspective, and Luke has several humorous attempts trying to read the face of a Givin, a strange and imaginative species.
Ultimately, were Heir to the Jedi the third in a trilogy of EU novels, were it yet another adventure of Luke Skywalker, it would be acceptable for those who love reading everything Star Wars, but forgettable in the pantheon. Yet Heir is at the forefront of a new era, and it represents the future of the universe we have all fallen in love with over the years. Not every piece of content can be game changing, but where A New Dawn introduced us to new characters in a new television show and Tarkin dived into a fan favorite during the Empire’s height, Heir does little to positively or negatively impact how I experience Star Wars.
During these early years when the new canon is still growing, Heir to the Jedi holds a key place for those who want to soak up as much as they can, but in the long run I suspect Hearne’s entry will have as short a relevance as its overall length with the exception being those looking for a distinctly different type of story in the first person point of view. I enjoyed the novel as much as I enjoy most of Star Wars, but I am skeptical it will make much of an impression over time.
Title: Heir to the Jedi
Author: Kevin Hearne
Release: 3 March 2015
Page Count: 304
Canon Timeline: Shortly after A New Hope
Review Written By: Aabsdu Dupar
Official Plot Synopsis
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . . .
A thrilling new adventure set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, and—for the first time ever—written entirely from Luke Skywalker’s first-person point of view.
Luke Skywalker’s game-changing destruction of the Death Star has made him not only a hero of the Rebel Alliance but a valuable asset in the ongoing battle against the Empire. Though he’s a long way from mastering the power of the Force, there’s no denying his phenomenal skills as a pilot—and in the eyes of Rebel leaders Princess Leia Organa and Admiral Ackbar, there’s no one better qualified to carry out a daring rescue mission crucial to the Alliance cause.
A brilliant alien cryptographer renowned for her ability to breach even the most advanced communications systems is being detained by Imperial agents determined to exploit her exceptional talents for the Empire’s purposes. But the prospective spy’s sympathies lie with the Rebels, and she’s willing to join their effort in exchange for being reunited with her family. It’s an opportunity to gain a critical edge against the Empire that’s too precious to pass up. It’s also a job that demands the element of surprise. So Luke and the ever-resourceful droid R2-D2 swap their trusty X-wing fighter for a sleek space yacht piloted by brash recruit Nakari Kelen, daughter of a biotech mogul, who’s got a score of her own to settle with the Empire.
Challenged by ruthless Imperial bodyguards, death-dealing enemy battleships, merciless bounty hunters, and monstrous brain-eating parasites, Luke plunges head-on into a high-stakes espionage operation that will push his abilities as a Rebel fighter and would-be Jedi to the limit. If ever he needed the wisdom of Obi-Wan Kenobi to shepherd him through danger, it’s now. But Luke will have to rely on himself, his friends, and his own burgeoning relationship with the Force to survive.
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