Never before has the incendiary mix of action, politics, and intrigue that has become Timothy Zahn’s trademark, been more evident that in this new Star Wars epic. On the heels of the stunning events chronicled in Star Wars: A New Hope, the newly minted heroes of the Rebellion–fledgling Jedi Luke Skywalker, smuggler turned reluctant freedom-fighter Han Solo, and Princess Leia Organa, a bold leader with a world to avenge–must face the harsh realities of the cataclysmic conflict into which they have so bravely plunged. From this point forward, legends will grow, treachery will abound, and lives will be irrevocably altered, in the long, hard fight to counter the fist of tyranny and restore hope to a galaxy too long in darkness.
The story jumps between the main trilogy heroes, Luke, Leia and Han, Mara Jade (AKA The Emperor’s Hand), and the Imperial Stormtrooper group who find themselves on the wrong end of the Imperial Security Bureau. Forced to go rogue, the Stormtroopers name themselves the Hand of Judgement and set out to right the wrongs of corruption.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this is that its a story about trying to do the right thing for the little person, no matter how hard it is. In this respect, while Mara Jade and the rogue Stormtroopers all believe in the Empire and Emperor, they also recognize that are times corruption has set in. So in their own way, while still not turning into Rebels, they seek to help the little guy. This sets them on a collision course with each other as well as the Rebels. As it turns out…they all have the same enemy this time around.
I really enjoyed how Luke and Leia, both trying to keep a low profile, can’t resist someone in need and take action. It showed that on some level, they think alike. It’s very appropriate for twins. And how Leia is expected to keep a low profile shows a whole new side to her. Luke meanwhile has to deal with the spirit of Kenobi whispering in his ear and guiding him…which also doesn’t help with the low profile business. Their allegiance to doing the right thing by the little guy is the core of being a Jedi, whether they know it (and whether the Jedi always remembered it) or not. Han’s attitude was very much of a guy who doesn’t yet want to admit that he’s really in this, because he believes in it, as opposed to just out of friendship.
The stormtroopers were a nice change, giving face to the faceless and revealing how people honestly believed in the Empire and yet could still end up in trouble with them. And their determination to keep helping the innocent while wearing the armor is heroic. They know, eventually, what may happen when the ISB catches up. Yet they don’t blame the entire Empire for the ISB’s corruption. They were individuals, definitely not clones, with their own preferences and quirks. Each one had to face the question of what to do when you are given orders you know are criminally wrong. Each one had to decide between loyalty to one friend who was in trouble (and in the right) and whether going along with him was worth their careers and lives. Truly, where does their Allegiance lie? With the government and citizens they are sworn to serve or with it’s corrupt leaders?
Mara Jade’s relationship with Vader gets introduced. They aren’t together much but for those who know how Palpatine groomed Anakin Skywalker, one can see how Vader might react to this girl being treated the way he once was. Of course, she doesn’t know that. And its also clear when it comes to his passions (Luke), Vader is, to use 3PO’s term ‘not entirely stable’ emotionally. Anyone who gets in between Luke and his father, even the Emperor’s Hand, is in serious danger.
The ending was a nice twist. Just when you think you figure out the stormtroopers, one surprises you. There is also a nice tie in to The Empire Strikes Back, as we see how ‘Ozzel’ ends up under Vader and hints that he’d been given just enough noose to…well, choke himself.
This book ties into the sequel ‘Choices of One’.
Mara Jade was introduced in the post ROTJ book Heir to the Empire as the Emperor’s Hand. This story is set before that. She is young in this, no older than Luke, but better trained.
Other stories with Mara:
- Choices of One
- Sleight of Hand: The Tale of Mara Jade
- By the Emperor’s Hand
- First Contact (Adventure Journal/Anthology)
- Jade Solitaire (Adventure Journal/Anthology)
- Heir to the Empire
- Dark Force Rising
- The Last Command
- Jedi Academy Trilogy
- I, Jedi
- Mysteries of the Sith (Video Game)
- Ambush at Corellia
- Assault on Selonia
- Showdown at Centerpoint
- Specter of the Past
- Vision of the Future
- Union (Dark Horse Comics)
- Judge’s Call
- Survivor’s Quest
- New Jedi Order Series
- Dark Nest Crisis Trilogy
- Legacy of the Force Series
The character Disra, appears in:
- Specter of the Past
- Vision of the Future.
The way Mara is treated by the Emperor reminded me of how he treated Anakin Skywalker, in:
- Jedi Quest, the False Peace
- Labyrinth of Evil
- Secrets of the Jedi
- Attack of the Clones
- Revenge of the Sith
In these, he acted the part of benevolent adviser to Anakin.
Luke, Leia and Han:
Dark Horse Comics
- Empire Series
- Rebellion Series
- Shadows of the Empire (comic adaptation)
- Shadows of the Empire
- Han Solo Trilogy (Ann Crispin)
- Han Solo Trilogy (Brian Daley)
- Razor’s Edge (Leia)
- Honor Among Thieves (Han)
- Scoundrels (Han)
- Rebel Forces (YA)
The appear in nearly anything post Return of the Jedi