– Spoiler Review –
The Weapon of a Jedi is a Luke Skywalker-centric YA novel in the “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” initiative, set between Ep. IV and V, written by Jason Fry with art by Phil Noto. Having read The Weapon of a Jedi last amongst the Big Three focused novels, I have to say Luke’s falls somewhere in the middle, as it has the light, fun adventure of Smuggler’s Run, but it also gets close to the level of introspective for its lead character as Moving Target did. With one of better Luke characterizations in recent memory (alongside the current on-going comics) and intriguing, thought-provoking Force training, The Weapon of a Jedi is the best Luke focused novel of the new canon, though it falters a little with the maybe too mysterious Sarco Plank.
After a successful mission with Red Squadron, Luke not only has a Force vision, but it continuously calls out to him after arriving at a rendezvous over the planet Devaron. Tasked with a solo mission (he takes Artoo and Threepio with him though) to retrieve recordings of intercepted Imperial transmissions, he leaves Devaron behind only to find himself under attack and forced to retreat and get repairs in a secluded village on Devaron. The village, Tikaroo, happens to be close to the place the Force has been showing him visions of, but he learns the villagers are afraid to go there due to it being haunted. When an unlikely guide appears in the mysterious form of Sarco Plank, Luke makes his way to the haunted building, which just so happens to be an old Jedi Temple (first seen in The Clone Wars…more on that in a bit). The tests he faces might be more than the junior Jedi can handle, but he takes them head-on in hopes of honoring those who came before him. However, enemies arrive and his true test begins.
It’s hard to really point a finger at any one specific character to be the villain of WoaJ, as it’s mostly just the Empire in general until a specific officer shows up in the back end of the book, while the new and mysterious Sarco Plank is hard to pin down as bad for most the book, though he’s certainly not a good guy. As seen on the back jacket cover of WoaJ and as a new action figure, Sarco is unlike any alien we’ve seen before and his history, species, and motivations are largely kept secret throughout the book. At first he’s part of the vision Luke has of the Eedit Jedi Temple (though Luke doesn’t realize it), then he takes Luke to the Temple, towards the end he helps Luke fend off an Imperial attack, and moments later he turns on Luke so he can raid the Temple’s possible riches to pay off some debts. Outside of that, we don’t get a lot of information on him and his motivations came up short to me in the end. It feels like there’s something more to Sarco that this book doesn’t cover and while I understand it’s probably because of his appearance in The Force Awakens (it’s what the official site says), the mystery they’re keeping around him doesn’t necessarily help the book. Inversely, reading this after seeing the film might be a better experience when it comes to Sarco, but we won’t know that for a few more months. He can also be seen, or at least someone of his species, as a background character in the Vanity Fair photoshoot (as seen below). UPDATE: Having seen the film, Mr. Plank is only seen once, and extremely briefly, in a background shot when Rey arrives at Niima Outpost….literally not helping his overall mystery as seen in the book. Maybe he’ll get other appearances?
That small quibble aside, the strength of Fry’s Luke Skywalker characterization is what makes this book well worth reading. Though there was a previously released canon (though was almost Legends) novel starring Luke called Heir to the Jedi, which I found to be barely any good in my review, I’d say you could skip that one and just read The Weapon of a Jedi instead because it’s characterization and arc for Luke are much stronger all around. While HttJ also had Luke learning the Force on his own and dealing with the dilemma of being seemingly the last Jedi alive, it has nothing on WoaJ‘s take on the same material. Luke struggles just the same with the lack of knowledge he was given by Obi-Wan, but he’s still optimistic about learning to use the Force because he knows how important its legacy is for the galaxy. On top of that, Fry captures Luke’s naive and hopeful outlook on his future as a Jedi so well here it makes one the biggest twists in film history all the sweeter. By having Luke constantly mention the lightsaber he carries is his father’s and how he wants to learn and be better at the Force so he can honor the man he never met, it makes the deadly surprise Luke learns on Cloud City all the more shocking for him. Now that we know Luke’s been idolizing his father, especially after being told he was dead by the only person who was alive to tell Luke about him, his reaction to learning his father is this horribly villainous masked menace is given extra emotional weight here (as if it needed any more anyways!).
Luke’s knowledge and usage of the Force expands a little here, thanks to his extended battles with the training remotes and his moving of a lever. The latter bit is way less cheesy than his battles with noodles in HttJ and feels like a much stronger version of the telekinesis lesson, while the former is thankfully written well and at almost just the right length page-wise. There’s also mentions of Obi-Wan training Luke beyond what we saw in A New Hope, including a moment where he passes on a lesson from Qui-Gon (about not centering on your anxieties) and lightsaber defensive postures, all of which seem natural and not forced because the film would’ve been several hours longer if we had seen everything they did while flying through hyperspace. And at the Temple, Obi-Wan makes contact a few times to impart some helpful wisdom, much like Yoda communed with Kanan and Ezra in their adventure to the Lothal Temple in Star Wars Rebels S1 episode, “Path of the Jedi.” Most of the Force-filled knowledge Luke gains helps set up his mindset and skill level for his appearances in the comics and The Empire Strikes Back and I throughly enjoyed how Fry imparted those moments to us readers in the book. And it all ends with an awesome pledge by Luke to carry on the Jedi Order, in the memory of his father, Obi-Wan, and all those who came before him.
While The Weapon of a Jedi is seemingly the lightest on The Force Awakens hints, it at least introduced us to a new character named Jessika Pava, the mysterious Sarco Plank, and some inferred idea of how the galaxy might still look favorably on Luke Skywalker (which opens up a whole lot of questions). Jessika Pava is a pilot in Blue Squadron for the Resistance, but that’s about all we learned about her besides her ability to put up with a story from Threepio. As for Sarco Plank, he certainly survives his encounter with Luke because he’s in TFA, but what has he been doing in the 30-odd years since? Though the biggest thing we can take away from the pre-TFA set Prologue/Epilogue is that, at least to Pava and Threepio, Luke Skywalker is still regarded as a hero, so we know he’s either done a lot of good in thirty years or hasn’t been doing much of anything (possibly for fear it’ll harm those close to him). What has he been up to? It doesn’t sound like he’s the head of any Jedi Order, so is he truly alone (besides maybe Finn or Rey)? Is his Jedi Order such common knowledge not mentioning doesn’t mean it’s not there? Or is something more sinister going on (possible heavy spoilers for TFA at the link)? If there’s one character we know absolutely zero about when it comes to TFA (minus spoilers and that leaked image) it’s Luke, so knowing he’s at least still a hero is good news to me. UPDATE: After seeing the film, I can confirm Mrs. Pava gets to do battle in an X-wing (though a trailer revealed that), Luke has vanished some unknown time prior to the events of the film, and as I mentioned early, Sarco Plank’s appearance barely registers as a cameo.
Age Appropriate Range for The Weapon of a Jedi: Much like the other two books, 4th to 5th grade readers will feel right at home reading this book, and parents should feel comfortable letting them. It’s probably the least dark of the three, while also teaches a good message about never giving up.
Here are a few other things:
- I’ve watched The Clone Wars through a few times, and while I’m currently in the middle of a chronological rewatch for the first time, but I totally missed that the Eedit Temple was actually first seen in the show! Fry’s descriptions in WoaJ indicated there was a big battle and possibly a lightsaber involved in whatever brought the Temple to ruin, but readers need wonder no more how the Eedit Temple fell by watching TCW S3 episode, “Monster,” where Savage Opress’ deadly abilities are seen for the very first time. I think that’s a pretty darn cool connection.
- As to where this takes place with all the other stuff going on in the same era, I’d hazard a guess it’s between HttJ and before the Star Wars comic, considering Luke never mentions his meeting with Vader or the Journal of Obi-Wan Kenobi he gets later on.
- Yes, Sarco Plank is wielding a electrostaff, those favored by General Grievous’ MagnaGuards during the Clone Wars.
- Seriously though, it was nice to read a Luke who wasn’t so dark and sullen, much like he was getting in the later years of Legends. I might not have flailed as hard as Nanci does in her review at Tosche Station, but I totally understand why she does.
- While it might not be until December when we see Sarco Plank in live action, but there’s a motion comic exclusive to Nestlé of The Weapon of a Jedi which brings the mysterious alien to life before then. It mostly spoils the ending of the book, though not the final battle within (via Jedi-Bibliothek). There’s also a video of Han’s Smuggler’s Run at the link.
While The Weapon of a Jedi is enjoyable enough while reading it, the well-handled Force training and Luke characterization will stick with readers long after they’ve finished, as the more one thinks on it, the more one will find hidden within its at first mistakenly shallow depths. While I still think Moving Target is my favorite of the Big Three focused JTTFA books, The Weapon of a Jedi is basically a tie.
+ Strong Luke characterization
+ Insightful, intriguing Force training
+ Luke’s pledge
– Maybe kept Sarco Plank too mysterious
STAR WARS MOVIE REVIEWS:
Episode VII: The Force Awakens
CANON NOVEL REVIEWS:
Aftermath | Aftermath: Life Debt
Battlefront: Twilight Company
Lords of the Sith
A New Dawn
Heir to the Jedi
CANON YOUNG ADULT NOVEL REVIEWS:
Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure
Smuggler’s Run: A Han Solo & Chewbacca Adventure
Before the Awakening