Category Archives: Expanded Universe

Talking Tahiri Veila

Being raised by Tuskan Raiders and being shaped by the Yuuzhan Vong should make for a compelling character. Unfortunately, for Tahiri Veila, she’s cast into role of the pining lover, moldable apprentice and slave to her desires. As likeable as Tahiri is, the unfitting uses of her character threaten her position on the list of female heroes in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

Tahiri began her role in the EU as friend to a reluctant Anakin Solo. Orphaned and raised by Tusken Raiders, she has a vastly different background than her best friend. Tahiri and Anakin during the Junior Jedi Knights books act as children their ages often do as they go through their many adventures. She’s bright, bubbly and intelligent.

Tahiri pops up again during the New Jedi Order first in James Luceno’s Agents of Chaos II: Eclipse in a minor role. When the Yuuzhan Vong attack Yavin IV during Edge of Victory: Conquest by Greg Keyes, Tahiri doesn’t accompany most of the other students. Naïve about how the Vong truly are and feeling stifled by her age, Tahiri stays behind to fight alongside Anakin. Instead of the glorious adventure she envisions, she ends up captured by Shapers.

The shaping of Tahiri is one of the most horrifying and interesting events in the EU. The Vong Shapers have no qualms with eradicating Tahiri by replacing her with memories of another. They treat her as a science experiment, a game. The extent of the damage Master Shaper Mezhan Kwaad and Nen Yim inflict on Tahiri when they inserted the Riina Kwaad identity into the young Jedi trainee’s mind comes forth the strongest during the Force Heretic trilogy. While readers saw some of the effects before those, it’s only then does she have to fight the conflicting parts of her mind.

Tahiri and Anakin’s relationship turns from friendship to love during this time. It was short-lived, however, when Anakin died on Myrkr. Tahiri refused to kiss Anakin, telling him that he needed to return to receive it. It’s a common request seen in movies and books that the hero often fulfils, yet in this case, it adds another layer to the tragedy of Anakin’s death for Tahiri.

Tahiri appears to be recovering somewhat during her mission to Coruscant with Luke, Mara and several others including former Wraith Kell Tainer. Though subdued, Tahiri successfully contributed to the mission, especially when dealing with Lord Nyax. In addition, “Aunt Tahiri” and Kell’s interactions provide much-needed comic relief.

When Riina’s personality attempts to take control of Tahiri, she is forced to retreat into her mind to battle to deal with her two parts. She eventually merges the two and becomes a new mix of Riina and Tahiri. She’s harder, rougher, yet still maintains some of Tahiri’s brightness. It’s somewhat off-putting at first, but it makes sense with what has happened to her. During The Final Prophecy, Tahiri’s characterization continues to strengthen.

When the Killik crisis occurred, Tahiri became a Joiner. Despite that she suffered from depression from the loss of Anakin and that the Yuuzhan Vong part of her was known for blind devotion, Tahiri as a Joiner didn’t make much sense. Here was a woman who’d undergone a transformation into a more mentally sound person. She’d had her mind invaded once. It’d be logical for her to create some type of metal barriers against that happening again and be alert to it. This change would take time to become comfortable with, but it wasn’t as if Tahiri spent those five years on Zonoma Sekot in constant combat. She’d have time to recover. A world so rich in life and the Force seems like ideal healing grounds.

Moving past the Joiner kerfuffle, Tahiri’s characterization takes a major hit when she joins Jacen. Jacen manipulates Tahiri’s remaining feelings for Anakin to draw her into his trap. When it comes to dabbling in the Dark Side, Tahiri lacks the finesse of other Sith. While her fall to the dark side can be understood given the history, it’s the revelation during her trial for the murder of Gilad Pellaeon in Fate of the Jedi Allies by Christie Golden that Tahiri and Jacen were physically “involved” that does more damage to her—and her Sith Master. Tahiri pining after Anakin and then sleeping with his older brother is simply uncomfortable. It takes Star Wars to a place that it doesn’t turn to. In addition, it adds nothing to the story but sputtering by fans. The final verdict in her trial would have been the same without that particular development.

Tahiri returns to her role as a hero in Troy Denning’s Fate of the Jedi Apocalypse. She fought one of Abeloth’s forms with the help of Boba Fett. The alliance, if it can be called such, between such vastly different characters worked well. Tahiri also fights alongside the Jedi in the Temple towards the end of the book. In both cases, she shows the Tahiri unseen for years. She’s an assertive, decisive woman capable of holding her own in most situations.

Tahiri is yet another female character in the Expanded Universe whose potential is repeatedly misused. She’s stuffed into the box of the lost love and self-pity. While she received closure during Allies, I’m not convinced that the Anakin card won’t play again in her future. No one wants to see a depressed, wallowing Tahiri.

Tahiri’s destiny links with Anakin long after his death. Rather than force her to stay tied down to a ghost, let her move forward. She can still have fond memories of him without them dragging down her spirit. The relationship is a part of her, but shouldn’t define her entire life. Aaron Allston sent her in the right direction during Conviction and Troy Denning pushed it farther along with the events of Apocalypse. It’d be a terrible loss if Tahiri faded into the background.

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Filed under Allston, Anakin Solo, Expanded Universe, Fate of the Jedi, female characters, FotJ, Jacen Solo, NJO, Star Wars, SWEU, Tahiri, Troy Denning

Let’s talk about the Hapans

Click here to read Fangirl, Kay and I talk about the Hapans and their female dominated culture. It’s the first part of the discussion, so look for more in the future!

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Filed under Discussion, Expanded Universe, Fangirl, female characters, Hapes, Star Wars, SWEU

Turning women into sex objects removes their humanity

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Black Widow in her catsuit.

Women are not sex objects. Their role in a quality story is not to fulfill a male fantasy or act as eye candy.

Sex sells. This is no secret. When creating a marketing scheme for a product or outline for a commercial, advertisers must look at their demographic and combine it with what research shows will capture that demographics’ attention. Axe product commercials show women fawning over a man because he is wearing their products. It doesn’t matter how they feel or if they even want the man, the aroma he gives off automatically makes him desirable—if you believe the commercials.

Even products for women objectify their customer base. Victoria’s Secret commercials show their models prancing around looking like sex goddess. Viewing this does not make me want to buy their products nor does it empower me. Gatorade is more affective at empowering women by showing a healthy mix of female athletes along with male athletes.

Over the past several days, various blogs and websites have been discussing women in Star Wars and Black Widow in The Avengers. As with most conversations about women and gender, the issue of the over sexualization of women appears.

Just as children are told from a very young age, what matters is on the inside of a person. I believe that the majority does not want to read a Star Wars novel with a flighty, driven by carnal desires, flimsy woman who bows to every whim of the man she’s with because she is so overcome with lust over his manliness that she can’t see straight. Paragraphs and sentences speaking of how tight and low-cut her shirt is, how large her breasts are or how hot and bothered her mere appearance makes the men in the room isn’t the storytelling we want in our fandom.

In The Avengers, Black Widow fights in a slinky black dress at the beginning. Later on, she wears a catsuit, just like Agent Maria Hill. Tony Stark, Bruce Banner and Steve Rogers wear normal clothes at some point and their costumes are not sexualized. Scarlett Johansson’s tight catsuit doesn’t leave anything to the imagination. It puts her character in a box that no matter how great she is, she can’t break free from if she’s treated this way.

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Leia captivated audiences from the start by her character.

The issue is beyond Star Wars and The Avengers. It encompasses our everyday lives. Sexual messages and behaviors are showing up younger and younger. Take a walk through the girls’ department at any clothing store. You will see shirts with cutouts in all the wrong places, low-cut necklines, short skirts and other inappropriate attire. The shoe department is just as bad. You can find heels higher than two inches made for seven-year-olds. No such problems exist in the boys’ department.

Sex finds its way into children’s shows through references and dialogue. The child may not understand it at first, but she will catch on eventually. All it takes is one child to ask another at school what it meant. The real meaning of the joke or comment will be known in minutes. Re-watching the shows we used to love as children review so much that we missed.

From a young age, women are told that we must be desirable to men. “Don’t get dirty. The boys won’t like you.” We are constantly assaulted with images of the ideal woman, of the way we should act to gain the approval of a man. We’re told to “man up” or “grow a pair” when something seems tough. These types of comments teach young girls and boys that men are, by default, tougher, stronger and superior to women and that the only way a women can compete is to act as a man.

The Hunger Games books and the movie smashed through the bestseller lists and box office. It is concrete, undisputable proof that a good quality female lead can sell. Katniss wasn’t a sex symbol. In close ups, viewers can see her facial imperfections. Capitol’s ways of transforming the tributes is seen as bizarre and unnatural. People didn’t feel for Katniss because of her appearance. It was her characterization and her story that drove her into our hearts.

Sex is a fact of life. It’s not offensive if one character considers another attractive. It’s becomes offensive when the woman’s only purpose to the story is to be a sex object. An object is not a person; it is an item. Calling someone a sex object removes her humanity.

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Katniss isn’t loved because she’s a sex symbol.

The constant claims that women are only sex objects hurt everyone. The issue is in the hands of consumers. Stop responding favorably to sexualization. Companies respond to losses of profit. The reason so many gossip magazine exist is that they sell well. The more issues that sell, the more appealing the publication is to advertisers, thus more money the publishing company makes. If the market for gossip magazines fell, less would hit newsstands. It’s the same with sexualization. By not protesting it, it will never stop.

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Filed under Expanded Universe, female characters, female geekdom, feminism, Katniss Everdeen, Princess Leia, The Hunger Games

Asking for equality in Star Wars isn’t sexist

Star Wars is no longer centered on Luke Skywalker. In addition to his relatives, there’s Jedi, Sith, smugglers, clones, droids and more in multiple eras. Unfortunately, that rich cast of characters is mostly male.

Every few months, Twitter and the blogosphere erupt in criticism regarding the demand for more female characters of quality. One popular argument, as mention in a recent EU Cantina column that argued writer Nanci’s own piece regarding women in Star Wars, is that it’s sexist to make such demands.

Sexism (Merriam-Webster)

1. prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially : discrimination against women
2. behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex

We are asking for equality not dominance. We aren’t not stating that the women should crush the men in numbers and presence. That request does not match the definition of a sexist person. There’s no excuse why more women characters can’t appear.

It takes less than a minute to rattle off 10 great, developed male characters in Star Wars. Naming 10 developed female characters take longer. Winter, Iella and Mirax are all great characters but lack the page time to be as fleshed out as most of the men. The potential is there. Grab it, Del Rey.

Another argument seen around cyberspace is why male fans should have to read female dominated stories. If a female fan wants to enjoy the Star Wars universe, she has no choice but to pick from dozens of novels lead by men. Tatooine Ghost and Dark Journey come to mind in regards to female leads, but after those, it takes some digging. If someone wants to read a great male lead, well, he can close his eyes, point at a stack of books and probably find a good one.

When we ask for more female leads, we aren’t stating that the male leads go away. That type of misconception is common in almost every women’s rights issue. Add more women in the workplace? Men will lose their jobs! Allow women to vote? Oh they can’t do that. They’re not educated enough and make rash, emotional decisions. Title IX discriminates against men because their sports lose funding, some say. No, Title IX does not state that schools must cut men’s teams to make room for women’s; it calls for equal funding. The institutions make the decision to cut the male teams. Remember, the woman’s rights fight isn’t even 200 years old in most countries. In the United States, we haven’t even been able to vote for 100 years.

The women’s rights movement was and is not about surpassing men in society. It’s about equality. Equality in everything, from jobs, politics, sports, pay and schooling to movies, television and books.

Most Star Wars books contain two or more main plotlines, each with its own lead or pair of lead characters. Multiple books use all male leads. And while some of these stories would work for specific characters (like Corran and Wedge in Rogue Squadron), there’s no reason why new stories couldn’t contain plotlines lead by all females or one led by a female.

The argument that a female-led book wouldn’t sell is weak. It’s no grand secret that women are a huge part of the buying market. We buy male-led books. To assume that men wouldn’t buy a book featuring Jaina, Leia, Winter, Padme or another woman character is insulting to many male fans and shows a lack of consideration for both genders.

Star Wars isn’t a “man’s world.” I can’t recall hearing about George Lucas stating that no women were allowed to view his movies. He created one of the best female heroines. Princess Leia is a cultural icon and not because of her metal bikini or hair buns (though those are icons of their own). Her take-charge attitude turns the typical princess role upside down. She’s not underneath any of the men in her life, no matter what they do or say. Telling Princess Leia what she has to do doesn’t work out well. While she’s had plenty of screen/page time, she hasn’t led many novels, usually falling second to Luke.

Just as there is a place for male heroes, there is a place for female in all eras. Satele Shan is the Grand Master of the Jedi during the period that Star Wars The Old Republic takes place. She’s one of the several great female characters the game developers and writers created.

The answer isn’t to throw in random female characters with no development. Just because a character is a woman does not make her a good character. We want female characters that are worth it, not cardboard placeholders. To assume that all we want is a female’s presence is offensive. A character that lacks any real substance isn’t useful.

The desire for equal treatment and character dispersion isn’t an out-of-this-world idea. It’s logical. If the situation was reversed, odds are that men would feel slighted. By continuing to put off or ignore the call for worthy female leads, the Star Wars universe narrows itself instead of grows. It can only last with new ideas and seizing opportunities. Using female leads will only help the fandom, not hinder it.

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Filed under Expanded Universe, female characters, female geekdom, Jaina Solo, Luke Skywalker, Star Wars, Star Wars The Old Republic, SWTOR

Family Trumps Distance: How Excluding the Fels from Apocalypse Goes Against Star Wars’s Use of Family

Note: Also posted at FanGirl Blog.

It’s impossible to include every character in each Star Wars book. That said, Fate of the Jedi Apocalypse left out the most logical inclusion in the final scene.

The Fels.

At the wedding of Jaina Solo and Jagged Fel it would make sense for Jag’s family to attend and yet they are nowhere in sight. There’s mention of others, like Kyp Durron and Lando, but not the parents and siblings of the groom.

The argument that loyalty to the Chiss would stop the Fels from attending their son’s wedding or even maintaining some type of relationship with him is ludicrous. Soontir shows loyalty to a government that he can believe in. The changing dealings of the Empire turned him to the New Republic, and then later Thrawn convinced him that the Empire of Hand was the way to go. Family played a role in both decisions. It’s hard to believe that Soontir turned into a narrow-minded man whose only loyalty is to the Chiss no matter what they do. In addition, there’s the appearance of the Empire of Hand in Ascension. If that’s not a clear indicator that Jag is in contact with the rest of the Fels, then nothing is.

Syal and Soontir lost children. What parent wouldn’t try to maintain a relationship with their surviving loved ones?

Given the scene Troy Denning wrote, it would have been easy to add in a sentence stating their presence. An actual conversation would have been even better, but that wasn’t going to happen. Wedge and his family weren’t even there. Wedge had a relationship with both of them and was friends with most of the guests. He’s a shoo-in for an invite.

Troy Denning stated in his interview with Suvudu that the wedding was planned from the start, yet the idea that Jag’s family attend the event was either ignored or cast aside.

Fans know very little about the Fels. No one knows exactly how Davin, Cherith and Chak died. Facts allude to the Yuuzhan Vong regarding Davin and Cherith, but we don’t know for sure that’s what happened. For being tied to one of the main characters, there’s not much information about Jag’s life and upbringing.

It’s not as if the books show that there is some type of family division or feud occurring. There’s no evidence to support this theory. The cost of Jag guaranteeing Lowbacca’s parole is nothing compared to family bonds. Money, land, its all possessions. Never have the Fels given off the impression that material items or status matter more than family. Even if Syal or Soontir had some type of grudge against Jaina, would they truly cast their son aside? No. Soontir proved early on how easy it is to accept someone who may not hold the same ideals or perform the same actions as himself just because someone he cares for loves that person. He and Wedge were on opposite sides, yet that didn’t stand in the way of Soontir and Syal’s happiness. Their son would have to same consideration.

We’re a family. Family does for family.“- Soontir to his father, Rogue Squadron 25: The Making of Baron Fel by Michael Stackpole

Family plays a vital role in the Star Wars universe. The loss of his mother Shmi led to Anakin Skywalker’s first major step towards the Dark Side. The death of Anakin Solo had a similar affect on Jaina. Jacen rationalizes that he must turn Sith to create a safe galaxy for his daughter Allana. The Antilles family found members on both sides of the Second Galactic Civil War and yet their bonds weren’t broken. Sacrificing a life for a sibling or child is something we all can understand. Jacen’s fall to the Dark Side seemed more difficult to grasp because who he was betraying. When he killed Mara, he killed a family member, not some stranger. It was a more powerful death (and not only because it was Mara Jade). With these bonds, it’s harder for viewers or readers to grasp onto what the characters are going through. While we can appreciate the need for saving a planet, saving one’s family seems more tangible.

The absence of the Fels also supports the remark about Jaina that Denning mentioned in the post-Apocalypse Suvudu interview:

“Now, some of the fans know that I was a Jaina/Zekk shipper early on, and everybody thinks that that was because I like Zekk better. It was really because I didn’t want to see Jaina go off to live in what early on would have been the Chiss Empire and then later would have been the Imperial Remnant. I didn’t want to lose Jaina for the main storylines. She’s an important Jedi, and we’ve known for a long time that she’s going to become more and more important to the core of the Jedi, so did we really want to have to go through plot hoops and come up with plot devices to bring her back into the main story every time we wanted to use her? Or did we want to risk losing her from the main story all the time? Once we came to terms with the need to use Jaina and decided to find a way to bring Jag back into the main story for a few years (so that Jaina could be in the main story too), that pretty much solved the problem.”

The Unknown Regions aren’t in another galaxy. There isn’t an electromagnetic band that forbids transmission or a lack of hyperspace routes leading in and out that prohibit travel. Even Star Wars The Old Republic uses the Unknown Regions. There’s not much there now, just Illum, space combat missions and class quest stops, but players can still travel there. Holograms and the holonet make it possible to converse with someone lightyears away. That idea is solidified into the base level of Star Wars canon in the prequels. The Jedi Council held meetings with half the members absent. Their projections were so good that the Masters appeared to be sitting perfectly in the chairs.

In addition, this is Star Wars. Very rarely do events in a book only occur on one planet. Location is no excuse to avoid using a character. Regarding Jaina, Denning’s concern is based solely on that Jaina could only join Jag, not the other way around.

It’s hard to believe that the Fels couldn’t find a way to communicate with Jag after his exile. How would the Chiss have learned of the death of Alema Rar for one? It’s not as someone sent out a mass transmission stating, “It’s okay, Alema Rar, a Twi’Lek you’ve probably never heard of, is dead. Go back to your drinks.” The only logical conclusion is that Jag filed some type of report to make the Chiss and his family aware of her demise. And what about the Empire of the Hand? There’s no way Soontir didn’t have something to do with their arrival.

We simply don’t know what the Fels are doing. Wyn could be a high-ranking member of the Chiss military or sent to some low level job after the events the Killik war. Cem’s status as a shadow child provides even less information. The entire family is a question mark.

Without knowing all the details of his exile, it’s difficult to discern the state of the Fels lives. Perhaps they would be so broke that leaving is a better alternative. They must have had some funds given that they hired rescue parties to find Jag. Any family that works so hard to find their lost child isn’t going to disown him for lost credits.

The exclusion of the Fels isn’t just a disservice to fans; it’s an illogical decision. The Chiss were the ones that cast off Jag, not Syal and Soontir. It fights their character to hop aboard the Starflare to fly to their son’s wedding. To deny them that is absurd.

And yet, that’s exactly what happened.

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Filed under Expanded Universe, Fate of the Jedi, FotJ, Jagged Fel, Jaina Solo, Star Wars, Troy Denning, Uncategorized

Zahn’s Han Solo novel has a name: Scoundrels

Timothy Zahn’s much-anticipated Han Solo novel has a title: Scoundrels. EW. com has the cover art for all to see. The cover art features Han, Chewbacca and Lando.

EW.com

The release still stands at Dec. 26, as mentioned in the Random House catalog.

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Filed under Expanded Universe, Han Solo, Star Wars, Timothy Zahn

Review: Fate of the Jedi: Apocalypse by Troy Denning

Contains spoilers.

Upon hearing the title of the last book in the Fate of the Jedi series, I cringed. Apocalypse is a word we’ve heard far too much in the past two years. The infamous Mayan 2012 prediction creeps into all media at random intervals to annoy us. Apocalypse seems as if it’s an overly dramatic title for a Star Wars book. The galaxy facing certain destruction is old news. Troy Denning closed out the FotJ with a plethora of action, just as he did Legacy of the Force.

On the surface, Abeloth sounds like a terrifying being. She can’t die. She can be in multiple places at the same time. She has no limitations. After finding out exactly what Abeloth is supposed to be, I felt highly skeptical. The history the Killiks gave bothers me to no end.

I don’t like the idea that everyone’s path is predestined. That takes away the responsibility of choice. The Killiks made it sound as if Abeloth would come no matter what anyone did. There was nothing Luke or anyone else could do about it and that’s an idea that I’m not comfortable with in literature or life. Anakin Skywalker chose to kill Mace Windu and pledge himself to Palpatine. Jacen chose to listen to Lumiya. The drunk driver chooses to climb behind the wheel of his car. The woman acts to cheat on her husband. Personal choice is necessary to avoid chaos. Regardless of how logical the Killiks argument may sound, taking it for face value even coupled with some story Yoda told Luke, is far too trusting for a group of strong Jedi. That the Force has a being that causes massive amounts of destruction for the sake of it doesn’t sound like the Force we all know.

Right from the start, Denning pulls readers into a rich, action-packed infiltration of Coruscant. It sets the idea that the Jedi are there to take the situation into their own hands. Those who prefer a more philosophical or mystical battle for the Jedi may find the book a little frustration at times. It’s gorier than most Star Wars books, what with the way the Sith die, Saba’s fight in the Jedi Temple and Abeloth’s use of her tentacles (think Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean). The pace slows down in the middle a bit, but picks up towards the end. There’s some repetition towards the end that can bog down readers and at times, it’s hard to picture a location.

The strongest part of the Apocalypse isn’t the plot; it’s the characters. As this is a Denning book, Han Solo dances from the pages with sarcastic humor. Master Saba Sebatyne comes across somewhat tamer than she has before (in behavior, not physical combat). Unlike previous Denning-penned books, I found myself pleasantly surprised at the portrayals of Jagged Fel and Jaina Solo. Even Tahiri became much more appealing, a first in this series. She’s wallowed in grief and self-loathing far too long.

Probably the biggest change in characterization was Luke Skywalker. It’s clear by the end Apocalypse that Luke’s growing away from his role as Grand Master. Near the end, Ben mentions that eventually the burden will fall to Jaina’s generation. Throughout the series, Luke still acts as a competent fighter, but he’s physically weaker. While Luke’s power isn’t fading, it actually feels as if a shift is occurring with the Jedi Order. It feels like a natural change.

These revelations came clearest through the conversations between Luke and Jaina. Gone were the rash decisions, the constant back and forth her character constantly suffers. She’s the one who acts as the voice of reason. This is a Jaina that needs to stay. Denning created a balance between the fighter, the Jedi and the woman. Her decisions were logical and sound. There were no questions about her and Jag’s relationship. Even though they didn’t appear in the same place until the very end, the little actions of her calling during a lull in battle and his concern for her during his own crisis spoke volumes more than a conversation about the relationship.

The end of Apocalypse left me with mixed feelings, excluding the last chapter that better fits the term epilogue. Had Abeloth been a more impressive or conceivable villain, the defeat would seem impressive. The elements were there, but the problems lie in the Abeloth character, not the actual confrontations. The end leaves a plethora of questions. What happened to the Dark Man? Is Vestara the next threat or will she disappear? Where do the Jedi go from here? How will the whole future of the Empire play out regarding to Jag?

Some of these will surely come up in whatever Del Rey produces next. As Denning mentioned, the possibilities are endless. The book truly felt like a turning point in the Expanded Universe, something it desperately needs.

And the wedding? It’s about damn time.

Score: 7/10

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Filed under Expanded Universe, Fate of the Jedi, FotJ, Jaina Solo, Luke Skywalker, Review, Troy Denning