The real question, once the Empire was defeated, once Luke had been cloned and the clone was killed and he’d said no to the Dark Side of the Force for good, once Leia married Han and had managed to find time to have kids, was always going to be—but what about the Jedi Order? Wasn’t that supposed to get rebuilt at some point?
Enter Jedi Search. Because, you know, you’ve got the find the potential Jedi first.
That’s right, the beginning of the Jedi Academy trilogy spends none of its time dealing with how to train brand new Jedi. Instead, Jedi Search deals with how odd it must be to scour the galaxy for recruits. During the days of the Old Republic, we know that Knights were dispatched to various parts of their mandated territory to find infants who possessed those gifts that they needed. Those children were then taken from their parents; one has to assume that the conscription was part of living under the Republic umbrella—“we protect you, so you have to give us your kids to further ensure your safety.” Then the Jedi were systematically hunted down and murdered by the Empire. Having a healthy midichlorian count became even more of a liability, more dangerous.
So it’s understandable that even those who had Force sensitivities would not have thought well of those innate abilities. It’s also understandable that many might have spent their entire lives attempting to hide those abilities for fear of stormtroopers knocking on their door in the middle of the night. Jedi Search attempts to show where these people might be found in a galaxy so vast, how difficult it would likely be to convince anyone to join up after the past slaughter, how Luke would go about rebuilding the Jedi Order. It also shows the New Republic go through all the growing pains that any new government would encounter. And what is interesting is the variety of people emerge from the woodwork as a result.
But it all starts with the spice mines of Kessel.
That’s right, the throwaway references that Lucas outright stole from Dune, the concept of spice in the Star Wars universe, it’s finally given the expansion it needed. Han and Chewie head over to the mines on a diplomatic mission, and are immediately attacked by a very twitchy Moruth Doole, who turns out to be the very same fella who originally sold Han out to the Imperials when he was hauling a shipment of spice for Jabba. The very same shipment that put a price on his head.
This nasty encounter lands Han and Chewie in the mines themselves, where they meet exactly the sort of person Luke is looking for—a teenager named Kyp Durron, who has spent the better part of his childhood in the dark, who lost his family to the Empire, and who just happens to be insanely (and I do mean insanely) Force sensitive. He turns out to be a very good friend to meet, and helps Han and Chewie escape… into the clutches on an Imperial research station at the heart of the Maw black hole installation.
This is where we meet Admiral Daala.
At this point, the Expanded Universe emerges with an interesting trend; between Grand Admiral Thrawn and Daala (and Ysanne Isard as well in the X-Wing books), we find some of the biggest proponents of the Imperial Remnant to be people who were hidden in the shadows during Emperor Palpatine’s reign. Two women and one non-human—figures who we never see in charge during the Rebellion’s battle against the Empire in the original trilogy—all figures with great power, but not visibly. It says something very interesting about the Empire itself that the people defending it most as it’s dying are the people who were not rewarded for their loyalty in the same manner as the other officers around them.
This is further expanded upon when we meet Qwi Xux—another female, another non-human—who turns out to be the designer of the Empire’s greatest weapons, Death Star included. Of course, she was brainwashed and conditioned to serve the Empire without considering the consequences of her work, but yet again, we find the ways in which the Empire used and abused people who were different in their own ranks, the people who arguably benefitted them the most. One can only imagine how efficient the Imperials would have been had the power structure been overhauled.
Another interesting aspect of the book was watching Han develop such a close relationship with Kyp Durron, seeing his fatherly sensibilities come to the forefront (appropriate, since he’s now dad of three) as he attempts to save someone who’s been given a rotten deal. Because if anyone can relate to that plight, it’s Han Solo; he and Kyp are are both orphans according to Expanded Universe canon, after all.
And of course, Luke has a trial or two to overcome (with Lando at his side, of all people) in finding his new students. Gantoris won’t come with Luke until he completes a series of trials, and Streen only agrees because Luke might be able to tone down the empathetic feedback he’s received from the Force his whole life. The way that Luke pieces together his own manner of discovering potential Jedi—there’s some looking into old records and discovering what others missed, some odd tech, and one particular test that involves a Force-based reflex—is pretty impressive on its own, but what’s more impressive is watching Luke come into his own as a guide, something that he’s been preparing for since Anakin Skywalker died.
But that’s just the beginning for the Jedi Academy Trilogy. The Praxeum is only just being formed....