We move steadily towards The Force Awakens with a new answer to an old question: how did Luke Skywalker learn how to make that lightsaber jump off the floor of the Wampa’s cave? While there’s a lot more to Heir to the Jedi than that, it’s one of best the questions at the core of a good story that gives us a sort of midterm progress report on Luke between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.
He’s Lieutenant Skywalker when we catch up with him, and the Rebellion is out looking for a place to set up shop. In the meantime, the Rebellion finds itself short on contacts, and short on cash, and short on intel, so Luke gets dispatched on his own to solve all three problems. Thanks to some good plot structure from author Kevin Hearne, the book neither gives Luke too much to do, nor does it read like a three-act play; the solutions to the Rebels’ problems comes through Luke’s ability to relate to new people and new situations.
As the story reads mostly like a manhunt/rescue/fight-and-flight narrative, the locations that Luke visits with his new compatriots aren’t as memorable as Tatooine, Hoth, Bespin, or Dagobah, that really doesn’t undercut the story–Luke is a hero between stages of his development, so the sense of malleability with the setting as the plot moves from station to station doesn’t reduce the quality of the plot in any way. More, they provide a range of challenges to Luke at a point at which learning to grow in the Force toward Jedi-hood seems impossible. The book isn’t all about these worries, but Hearne does a great job of weaving Luke’s thinking into and out of that concern.
The supporting cast is interesting, mainly because of the math-reasoning Givin spy around whom the plot revolves. There’s some great science in this piece of science fiction, and Hearne makes use of his imagination and develops an interesting race of beings that serve an important role in explaining how the Rebel Alliance continued to gain support and power after the destruction of the first Death Star.
All in all, I enjoyed Heir to the Jedi as much as I have each of these first three LSG-approved Star Wars novels, and with the focus on the post-Clone Wars era being the chief work of the LSG, it’s good to see them fitting the pieces together so expertly. It’s been quite a long time since Luke Skywalker went on an adventure quite like this, and Kevin Hearne does a great job of bringing the character and situations back to life in true Star Wars fashion.