Star Wars

Star Wars
Property of George Lucas, LucasFilms Ltd.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

And We (Finally) Have a Winner: Barbara Hambly! Girl power!

Child of the Jedi by Barbara Hambly
Esme's Take
Yes, folks, it's true! After a number of disappointing reads (though, admittedly, the disappointments gives us loads to discuss), we've finally found a winner. And, just to make it extra special, the author's a woman. Obviously, there are loads of incredible sci-fi/fantasy writers who are women: Andre Norton, Ursula LeGuin, and ... okay, so maybe there aren't as many as I thought. But I think, even among her incredible, though not perhaps numerous, contemporaries, BHambly stands out.

Also, am I alone in thinking Han looks completely insane and sketchy in this otherwise beautiful cover art?

Ginger Spice - couldn't resist, she's
the queen of Girl Power ^_^
Where to start? Well, to begin with, I actually quite like Callista. I know, it was a shock to me, too! Not only did I like her, but I discovered I have a lot of respect for BHambly's handling of female characters in general, which is no easy thing in sci-fi. From Leia to Cray to Roganda, BHambly is clearly a pro at characterization - these are well-rounded, powerful women! Roganda Ismaren has taken a battered and humiliating background and twisted it into advantage and power. Sure, she's evil, but unlike the negligible Admiral Daala, Roganda is believable, even sympathetic. I'm not keen on her harsh use of her son in her schemes, but then, he's a man, too, and Roganda has clearly been used and abused too much to care who she uses and how. Actually, I think she makes a nice foil for Mara - both were Emperor's Hands and both turned their ill-usage to their advantage. They did so in very different ways, but still. Looking at Cray and Callista, there's a very similar feeling I have about their character development. Everything about Callista's character paints her as a successful and powerful Jedi, someone who sacrifices who she is and who she loves in order to do her duty. In that way, she's a lot like Luke, although unlike Luke, she's able to continue to sacrifice herself in favor of saving the world.

Which brings me to the very interesting situation we're left with at the end of the book. Up until Cray chooses to sacrifice her body to Callista, Callista has been by-the-book Jedi. It was so interesting to me that she chose to inhabit Cray's body to be with Luke and interesting the sacrifice she paid for that choice. It's also pretty clear that she's not sure how she feels about the decision not to simply join the Force and have the peace of death after a short lifetime's unwavering loyalty to her service. I like that her decision, though at first blush uncharacteristic, does actually make some sense to me. The choice is a hard one and, given that it's clear she wasn't expecting it until the last minute when Cray offered, it was a big risk to take. In short, I find her to be an incredibly easy character to understand and sympathize with.
Just because ... teehee

It's interesting, actually, because my own bias against her was always based dually on my love of the idea
that Mara was destined to be the love of Luke's life and the fandom's hatred of her (seriously? So much fan fiction lays the hate on her). I was never brave enough to actually read about her and give her a chance. I'm so glad I have now read about her and given her - indeed, given BHambly - a chance. BHambly was worth it, Callista was worth it, and I can't wait to continue reading about the little corner of the Star Wars EU BHambly created. I know how it ends, I know what happens, but I feel like I'm reading all this with open eyes and that I can finally, at least, truly enjoy and appreciate the Callista trilogy.

Ro's input: I spent the better part of a Saturday about a week and a half ago dedicated completely to this book. I think I hardly stopped to make tea or toast (my favorite reading munchies, I'm very hobbity that way...). This book had all the compelling agents in it that most phenomenal books have: plot, characters, and good writing. The fact that it starred some of my favorite Star Wars characters just made it that much sweeter.

I did not have the same anxieties as Es going into this book. I went into it the way I've gone into almost every one of our books, with as open a mind as I could (Michael Stackpole notwithstanding). As a child I never formed any ideas either way about characters, Callista vs. Mara, etc. I just cared that the EU books removed me from my own frustrating and sometimes painful reality of terrifying surgery after scary test after frustrating doctor's appointment. I was attached to the Star Wars universe in an entirely different way than Es, but it meant a lot to both of us regardless.

The entire time I read Children of the Jedi, I kept getting glimpses of nostalgia. I know I read this book as a kid, but I remembered only small snapshots of it. It was an incredible feeling, being able to read a book for the second time, but really having it seem like the first. I wish I could do this with other books like Harry Potter and the Divergent trilogy and the Abhorsen trilogy. But I can't leave those books alone for more than a few years, let alone a decade - which is apparently at least how long the forgetting process takes. I can't wait to continue with BHambly, but I suppose we must go through a Kevin J. Anderson book to get there first. So...

...bring on Darksaber!


  1. It's so interesting that we both remember this book from childhood but can't actually remember a vast majority of it so we're essentially getting a brand new read. I agree, I wish I could manage this with "Harry Potter," any and all Tamora Pierce, and a couple other series where the first read is the best.

    It's a shame we'll have to slog through another KJA to get to BHambly again but maybe he'll surprise us ^_^

  2. Yes, maybe BHambly will rub off on him and make Darksaber an amazing read! Somehow, I'm not sure that will actually happen, but one can hold out hope.

  3. We're nothing if not hopeful dreamers, as this blog clearly shows ^_^ I am weirdly excited to start Darksaber - I'm actually invested in a lot of BHambly's characters so I feel that may be why I'm so eager to see them again. Hopefully KJA learns a few things from his fellow Star Wars writer ... Do you remember reading Darksaber? Again, I don't ...