I’m back from my sojourn down in Oxfordshire, which was spectacular and will no doubt be featured properly in a blog before the week is out! While there, I finished reading Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, which I’ve on/off been reading since I finished Heir to the Jedi last month.
It’s a novel I’ve read before, back in 2010 I seem to remember, but being a big Luke fan and fired with enthusiasm following the new book, I decided to revisit it. It’s pretty good, too, with a lot of action and stuff, even though it’s one of these that is just set in a single location.
The book’s villain is the EU’s legendary Blackhole, who is here revealed to be Cronal and Lord Shadowspawn as well. Confused? Well, you’re not the only one! Last month I took a look at some of the early newspaper-strip comics in The Early Adventures, where Agent Blackhole made his debut in the story Gambler’s World. Blackhole was later featured in an article in the now-defunct Star Wars Gamer magazine, which basically reaffirmed his link with Imperial Intelligence, and also that with Carnor Jax, who also uses black-armoured stormtroopers in the first arc of Crimson Empire. Stover elaborates on all of this, working in links made between Blackhole and the Lord Shadowspawn mentioned in the Dark Empire sourcebook, as well as with the Cronal mentioned in the Gamesmaster Screen from the West End Games RPG. This link had already been made in The Dark Forces Saga, a series of articles on the Wizards of the Coast site for the RPG. The whole is an elaborate collection of references into a truly beguiling character, though perhaps some more background could have been given for his shining role in novel form…
The book also brings us characters from Stover’s earlier Shatterpoint, which kicked off the Clone Wars publishing program back in the days between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. We see Kar Vastor and Nick Rostu again, with some interesting moments that really help to bridge the gap between the two trilogies. Something I really liked was how Nick thought Anakin had died protecting the Jedi Temple, while of course Luke knows otherwise. It’s also fleetingly mentioned, but there’s something of the sense of, just where did Vader come from? One minute, Palpatine has Anakin by his side and all is well, the next, the Jedi have attempted to take over, Palpatine declares the Empire, and suddenly there’s a big black-armoured chap with him. It’s something I wish we could see more of, anyway.
Finally, the book also brings back another early-comics character, the Mandalorian Fenn Shysa. He and Leia had had something of an awkward relationship in the pages of the Marvel ongoing series back in the day, and it was fun to see how Han reacts to all that.
The story is a bit gritty at times, but overall it’s really interesting. Shortly after the Battle of Endor, the rebels arrive in the Taspan system and all hell breaks loose as they’re trapped by Lord Shadowspawn/Blackhole’s forces. The battle is often rough, though it’s great to see Lando in military command, all while being rather dashing. There are echoes of Return of the Jedi, as Blackhole tries to manipulate Luke before realising he has a sister, and turning his attentions to Leia. On the subject of the last Princess of Alderaan, we see a really interesting side of her here, when she is able to completely deflect Blackhole’s brainwashing while unconscious. While we often hear how strong-willed she is, it’s nice to see this actually demonstrated here.
If I had to make any gripes about it, Luke comes across as far too serious for the majority of the time. Obviously, some pretty intense stuff is happening in his life, but still, it could lead to some fairly one-dimensional storytelling, but luckily just manages to avoid that. I’m a big Luke fan, though, so I’m naturally going to be biased!
All in all, a good book, and well worth digging up if you haven’t already done so!