Jedi Apprentice #2 - The Dark Rival
by Jude Watson
Published by Scholastic
Scott's Rating: 4 out of 4
This is the second book in the Jedi Apprentice series. Picking up right where the first book left off, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan arrive on Bandomeer. Qui-Gon still does not want Obi-Wan as a Padawan learner, mainly because his last student turned to the Dark Side. (I assume it is possible to turn to the dark side without being a Sith cult member.) That student was Xanatos, and as Qui-Gon arrives, he receives a note from the former student. It was he who called Qui-Gon to mediate in the mining dispute, not the locals. Turns out he is working for one of the factions, but in what way? Meanwhile, Obi-Wan goes off to his farming duties.
Qui-Gon soon learns that Xanatos is in an evil partnership with the mining faction and he works to stop him. Xanatos eventually kidnaps Obi-Wan (assuming he's Qui-Gon's new Padawan) and puts him to work on an offshore mining platform. There, Obi-Wan meets a funny character named Guerra who helps him survive. Qui-Gon rescues Obi-Wan and then the dynamic duo face Xanatos in a deadly showdown in a deep mine.
Before the story concludes, we learn that earlier Qui-Gon treated Xanatos like a son, and also ignored all the signs that he was heading to the dark side. Compelled more by his family's wealth than doing good with the Jedi, Xanatos leaves Qui-Gon and helps his father take over their home planet. Qui-Gon helps the people there stop them, but he kills Xanatos' father in the process, slashing him and slicing his wedding band. Xanatos picks up his father's ring and brands his face with the broken circle. The broken circle becomes a symbol throughout the novel.
Of course, by the end of the book, Qui-Gon takes on Obi-Wan as his Padawan learner.
This continued the great story started in the first book. You really see the bond form between the two Jedi and it seems like the logical origins of the characters we see in the film. And don't be fooled by the packaging, this book is not just for young readers. It is INTENSE. I mean the lightsaber action in here is as fast paced and gory as that in Episode I. Plus, the origins of Xanatos are so dark and grim that you'd expect it in some adult novel. Heavy duty stuff.
Watson also created an awful character in Guerra. Not so! I lie! (That's a running gag of the character in the novel. Check it out!) I liked this character and hope to see him again. I was glad to see them come up with two original, memorable characters in both Guerra and Xanatos and not simply relying on the movie characters. I also liked the setting on the offshore platform. It's a truly great environment that is rarely used in any fiction. Plus, designing them is what I do for a living, so it was a neat touch I appreciated. :) Anyway, I highly recommend you pick up this series and I look forward to more of these books.
I didn't care for the paper quality, but that's a minor gripe. It kept the price down which helped. The cover art is good, but the picture of Qui-Gon is distinctly recognizable. It's on all the current Lucasfilm promo pics right now, so it kind of distracts. But you can't fault the cover artist that, cause even Drew Struzan uses the Lucasfilm archives for all his references.
In this novel we see Obi-Wan sever a hand with his lightsaber for the first time. Cool. :)