This week will see the release of the third novel in the new Expanded Universe of Star Wars under Disney ownership, with Kevin Hearne’s Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi. As with the first new canon novel Star Wars: A New Dawn, (previously reviewed here at borg.com) the title carries some secondary meaning. The first major tie-in novel years after Return of the Jedi was Timothy Zahn’s successful Star Wars: Heir to the Empire, and there is a certain subtle nostalgia element to the similar title here. The novel recounts some solo missions by Luke Skywalker after he destroys the Death Star at the end of A New Hope, and it is all told by Hearne in the first person voice.
Telling a story in the first person takes some real mastery, and if not done right it can result in some clunky storytelling issues. Telling a story from the mind of a key character like Luke Skywalker brings with it its own problems. The biggest problem is that everyone who grew up with Luke has their own view of what makes the character tick, and giving readers a canon view–a “this is the right and only view of Luke”–perspective makes it easy to throw off a segment of readers. Although I think Heir to the Jedi will certainly appeal to a new generation of readers, particularly those who have not read several of the newly labeled Legends novels, Hearne gives us a Luke that is not altogether that likeable, smart, or savvy a hero as you might hope for.
This may be because Luke is too close to being that whiny farmboy in A New Hope. It could be because he has no mentor now that Obi-Wan is dead. Too many times, however, I had to ask myself, “would Luke really say or think that?” or “Would Luke act that way?” As an example, by the events of The Empire Strikes Back, Luke seems to have a real friendship with astromech droid R2-D2. Yet here, he seems to treat R2 like an appliance or a tool, albeit a valuable one. I had similar issues in the seventh Harry Potter novel with Harry’s response to the death of his owl Hedwig–Harry barely seemed to react at all, despite his earlier devotion to his good feathered friend. I didn’t see the same camaraderie here between Luke and R2 as we find in The Empire Strikes Back.