Hey! Usually I don’t do spoilers. Herein be spoilers! Although perhaps not completely unanticipated spoilers.
Most of the way through I thought this was enjoyable space opera/caper novel, set in the gap between the original “Star Wars” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” that gives Luke Skywalker a chance to mature a little, both personally and his use of the Force.
But then it fell into my Most Hated Trope, and it really soured me on the whole book. And it was especially frustrating in this case, because it seemed like Kevin Hearne was setting up something that would have been much braver, more interesting, and that would have been a useful bit of world-building to add to the Star Wars canon. But given that this is licensed intellectual property, I don’t know for certain if the Most Hated Trope was actually the author’s choice.
So, Luke finds himself working with a rebel sharpshooter, Nakari Kelen, who is hot, and thinks he is kind of hot, and Luke starts to Catch Some Feels. And, because Luke is intellectual property in serial fiction, and because we don’t see her in “The Empire Strikes Back,” we know that Luke needs to un-catch the Feels by the time the book wraps up. (I mean, really, he doesn’t; the next book could just have an “eh, it didn’t work out,” moment, and that would be fine, but whatever.)
So there’s basically only two ways out of this faux dilemma: “Dude, she’s just not that into you,” and the sadly far more common Hated Trope: fit ‘er with a toe-tag, and dump ‘er in the fridge. Guess which we get here? So, yeah, Luke’s rage when Kelen gets offed tempts him with the Dark Side and he gets a good crying jag, not only for Kelen, but also Ben, Beru, and Owen. Blah, blah, blah, thanks, I hate it. No, really, I hate it.
And the thing is, Hearne was setting up such a good “Dude, she’s just not that into you.” Earlier in the book, Luke tries to do the “You don’t need to see his identification” Jedi mind trick number. Nakari is well aware that Luke has been crushing, albeit unrequitedly, on Leia. (Remember, this is pre-TESB, so the Two Worst Retcons in Fandom are in Luke’s future, and he has no clue Leia is his sib. Mercifully Hearne doesn’t dwell on this.)
So it makes perfect sense that even if Nakari Kelen is up for a bit of FWB with the young proto-Jedi, his Feels are going to be a bit scary for her, what with Luke’s unresolved feelings about Leia, not to mention the ongoing Galactic Civil War. And if Luke realized that he could do the Jedi mind trick to make her be into him that would be a really great Dark Side temptation for him to rise above. And it would go along way to explaining why Jedi aren’t supposed to hook up, because if you’re a strong enough Jedi, could you ever be completely sure that you weren’t coercing someone’s affections unconsciously?
And maybe that is what Hearne intended, and maybe that was a little too dark for Disney, and they imposed the fridging instead.
I hope so.