Young Jedi Knights #12
Return To Ord Mantell
by Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta
Published by Berkley
Scott's Rating: 3.5 out of 4
This is the 12th book in the Young Jedi Knights series. Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin go on a trip with their dad, Han Solo, to Ord Mantell. Han has been asked to be the grand marshal for the Blockade Runner Derby, a race of a motley collection of space ships. He runs into an old bounty hunter nemesis, Czethros, who claims to hold no hard feelings toward Han. Funny, then, when an assassination attempt takes place on the Solo crew. The rest of the Young Jedi Knights join the crew and eventually run into a young lightsaber wielding girl named Anja Gallandro. Readers of the old Brian Daley novels will recall that her now deceased dad was another rival of Han Solo's. She blames Han for his death and wants to help Czethros take him out (unknown to our heroes). In an attempt to make it up to Anja, Han takes the kids to her civil-war torn world of Anobis on a fact finding mission for the New Republic. Han hopes to bring an end to the long standing battle between the miners and the farmers....if he and the kids aren't killed first.
I was worried that Kevin and Rebecca would both be burned out after writing 11 YJK books, so I wasn't sure what I'd be getting with this novel. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this is one of the better Young Jedi Knights novels. First off, it has some pretty memorable scenes. Some of the best in the series. One of which is Han and the kids racing through the Derby course. Kevin and Rebecca really captured the speed of the moment and the excitement. Another is an attack by some spider-like/alien-like Black Sun goons. Definitely and exciting and eerie moment. There was also a great part that was kind of a mix of the Gallimaimus stampede and raptor scenes from Jurassic Park...Star Wars style. Intense and a lot of fun. But don't think this was all action. The story has started weaving a lot of sub-plots that will make the next two books interesting, too. Jacen begins to find new romantic interest in Anja, Zekk wrestles with controlling his addiction to the Dark Side, Han must come to terms with his past. It's really interesting on many levels. Most interesting is the new character Anja. Not only is she plotting to win the Solo kid's trust in order to kill Han, but she's a spice drug addict, too. It brings an interesting twist to the character and puts an important real world issue in it. This is one of the better novels in the group. And also check out the pirate-like lightsaber Anja wields on the cover. Good job, Dorman! Love it!
As much as I loved the book, it didn't leave me with that "WOW! What a ride!" feeling I get from other books. That's why I gave this a 3.5 out of 4. It's a great book with good action and a solid story, but I wasn't overly excited about it when I was finished. Only two items come to mind as far as "Bad" goes. After a long build up of the horror and gore from the civil war, the two sides seem a little quick to wrap things up and call a truce. It was too neat of a conclusion, but I have to realize they couldn't drag it on as long as it might take in reality. The book had to end somewhere. The other thing I thought could have been done differently was the derby. There is not one class of ship restricted to the race. It's a free for all. It's like putting a Volkswagon in a race with a Ferrari. You'd think there'd be some limitations. And then they let Jedi enter and win the race. Don't they have a bit of an unfair advantage? This is brought up in the book, but rather quickly dismissed. It would be a definite issue that you'd think would have drawn more concern or will show up later in the novels. But still, this is nitpicky. Overall a great book.
By far, this is one of the goriest of the YJK novels. Take your pick of ugly: being dismembered by a knaars, walking through a monofilament wire and being decapitated, stepping on landmines, etc etc etc.