20 September 2012

New Republic Week: Star Wars: Tatooine Ghost by Troy Denning

Hardcover, 327 pages
Published 2004 (originally 2003)

Previously read February 2004
Reread July 2012
Star Wars: Tatooine Ghost
by Troy Denning

Would it be that Troy Denning had been writing Star Wars novels ten years earlier, because in many ways, this is the novel that The Courtship of Princess Leia should have been. Bridging the gap between Courtship and Heir to the Empire, Tatooine Ghost takes Han and Leia to Tatooine so that they can recover an important painting at auction. But what it ends up doing is confronting Leia with her past: the grandmother she never knew and the father she doesn't want to.

Tatooine Ghost links elements revealed in The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones into the original Star Wars characters to great effect: the sequences where Leia reads the diary of Shmi (surely one of the most underrated Star Wars characters) are excellent, even riveting, despite their flashback status. These are used to drive Leia's emotional journey-- which is paralleled with her physical journey. This is a harrowing escapade for Leia, Han, and Chewbacca. I doubt that any other Star Wars stories have revealed the harshness of Tatooine quite so effectively as this one.

What Denning also does well is write the Han/Leia relationship. I think this can be a tricky one to manage, because you have to be true to the films in depicting their characters-- which don't really show Han and Leia in a committed relationship very much. But Denning manages to get their characters spot on, and yet portray the depth of the commitment they have to one another.

There are a lot of things to like about this book: a good role for Chewbacca, random prequel characters like Kister and Wald, a Thrawn cameo, and best of all, the Squibs! Denning doesn't forget that Star Wars should be zany and funny.  I loved it everytime they showed up and caused trouble, well-intentioned in their own way.

The pacing could maybe be better-- the second half drags a little bit as they travel through the desert so much-- but on the whole this is one of my favorite Star Wars novels.

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