Who wants a we-were-kidnapped-by-Hethrir reunion? The Young Jedi Knights do! And we have to admit, it is kind of fun seeing the gang back together. Even if one of the gang has fallen in with some nasty friends? Wait. We should probably reconsider this… Unless we decide to turn it into some sort of Rebel Without a Cause knockoff? We think Jacen Solo should dress more like James Dean, at the very least.
But it’s Delusions of Grandeur! We’re not entirely sure why it’s essential to use a Han Solo quote for the title of the book, but we like it. Because teenagers have said delusions often. We remember.
Lowie and Raaba head back to Kashyyyk to let everyone know she’s not dead. This ends up being bad news for Lowie’s family, but we’re supposed to be concerned about Lusa instead, an old friend of Jacen and Jaina’s who has come to the Jedi Praxeum to say hi. Or rather, to say “I sort of joined the Diversity Alliance, whoops!” She tells the twins about how she left the organization behind after she realized how far she would be expected to go to carry out the wishes of the alliance; she was sent on an assassination mission that she could not carry out.
Raynar gets it into his head to watch over daddy’s business, and Tenel Ka and the twins volunteer to take him to Mechis III to do so. There they find out that Tyko Thul is not kidnapped! In fact, he pretended to be kidnapped in the hopes of drawing Bornan out of hiding. (Guess it didn’t work.) Turns out, IG-88A was reprogrammed by Tyko, and is acting more as a bodyguard.
The kids decide to give Emteedee repulsor lift capabilities (important for further adventures), and while they’re working on it, Zekk shows up! He is no longer hunting Bornan Thul… because he’s working for him. Bornan tried a clever disguise, but Zekk figured him out. He employed the kid to rescue his brother—surprise! He does care!
Unfortunately, Zekk is still has some bounty learning to do; he was followed by Dengar, who gives them a run for their money, thinking that Bornan is with them. IG-88A puts a stop to his attack, at which point Jaina and Emteedee reprogram him again, with the instructions to find Bornan and protect him.
They get a message from Lowie’s family too—“we’re on Ryloth, the headquarters of the Diversity Alliance!” It would seem that Lowie’s family are quite taken in by Raaba and her travels, and his sister wants to go with Raaba to hang out with the cool kids. Lowie has to go along because someone has to keep an eye on these shady happenings.
Lusa! I’m… really sorry your life has been so terrible. (Again with the idea that maybe the Solo’s should have been paying attention to the smaller pictures along with the big ones? First Zekk, now Lusa—these are people they were in a position to help. I’m surprised that they didn’t keep better track of all those Force-sensitive kidnapped kids from Crystal Star, for that matter. Hell, Luke should be feeling awful about this one, too.) Of course, the interesting half-error here is that Lusa considers former-kidnapper and Empire-Reborn CEO Hethrir a human… which he isn’t. He’s a Firrerreo.
Then again, he looks mostly human, and it makes me wonder more about the politics of the Diversity Alliance movement—are humanoids, beings who “pass” as human, held under scrutiny as well? We’re never told. It’s really too bad because this is were we are clearly told that the Diversity Alliance is bad. They’re extremists, and they hurt lots of people, human and non-human alike. But this arc really makes me wonder more about whether there are peaceful activists groups on behalf of non-humans. Droids too.
Poor Zekk is still trying so hard, and still having a hard time keeping it together. It’s great that he figured out he was hired by Bornan, but Dengar following him? I can hear Boba Fett tsking from half a galaxy away. Also, isn’t Dengar retired? These are continuity errors in the EU that I don’t like. Dengar is married and wanted out of the life. If he slips back into it, we better find out why. I want to know where Manaroo is, if this is only a one-shot deal because the credits are too good, if he is taking bounties on the side of a less-dangerous day job. Granted, all of these books were sort of coming out simultaneously, so many that information from the Bounty Hunter Wars Trilogy wasn’t available.
Much as I’m not a fan of IG-88, what goes on here is incredibly abusive to droids. He’s reprogrammed by Tyko, then again by Jaina and Emteedee without even a barest consideration. I get that he’s a “bad guy,” but the fact that it’s so simple to do this to a droid, and that no one thinks it’s not okay? Not even another droid? It’s one aspect of the Star Wars universe that always chills me.
Also, just… Tyko. Tyko, this is the worst plan. Tyko, what is wrong with you? You begin to realize where Raynar gets all the dramatics from. He’s got a family full of people who can’t even pretend to do things by halves.
I feel like the theme of Delusions of Grandeur—if we could grasp at one—is dysfunctional families, biological and otherwise. Let’s start with the Thuls: It seems frankly ridiculous that Raynar’s uncle Tyko would stage his own kidnapping to draw out Bornan… who does pop up (albeit disguised) long enough to pass a message through Zekk to go find Tyko. I understand why none of the adults could have let Raynar in on the layers of intrigue, but they couldn’t have said anything to Aryn Dro Thul? Last I remembered, she was something of a badass, and probably could’ve helped with this whole mess.
Then you’ve got Lusa’s stint with the Diversity Alliance. First—LUSA! I love a callback done right, and seeing Jaina’s friend and fellow Force-sensitive captive from The Crystal Star as an adolescent was perfect. I had also totally forgotten that the EU has centaurs, rad. Lusa’s loyalty to the Diversity Alliance also makes a ton of sense, considering how when she was kidnapped by Hethrir in Crystal Star, despite showing the same Force sensitivity as the other Humans, she was instead sold into slavery. Nursing that anger and loathing, no wonder she would join up with Nolaa Tarkona.
Then you’ve got Lowie’s family, who are all brainwashed by the return of Raaba and her exploits with the Diversity Alliance. Pray tell, where was Chewie to knock some sense into his sister for effectively relocating their family to join up with a cult?
Finally, while they’re not a family per se, you’ve got the league of bounty hunters we’ve glimpsed in these past few books. I had to roll my eyes when Dengar showed up, too, because as we’ve touched upon, there are more bounty hunters in the universe. And yet, there’s something kind of sweet about the idea of these mercenaries who all competed for the same bounty a decade or more ago, in their prime, crossing paths again as older men/women/droids to relive their glory days.
The reprogramming of IG-88A also got to me more on the second read. When watching The Empire Strikes Back as an eight-year-old, or reading Delusions of Grandeur for the first time shortly after, I thought of the bounty hunter droid as pretty mindless… yet I couldn’t shake the chill I felt when looking at this machine. Upon rereading, I gained a better appreciation for IG-88A’s near-sentience and his plan to upload his hive mind into all the droids in the galaxy. Which makes it even more disturbing that Tyko Thul reprograms him to kill only those people threatening Bornan. This great—if megalomaniacal—hunter is reduced to a babysitter. YJK gets really dark sometimes.
Natalie Zutter is the editor of all things geek over at Bookish. She is a playwright, foodie, and the co-creator of Leftovers, a webcomic about food trucks in the zombie apocalypse. Her writing has also appeared on Ology and Crushable. You can find her commenting on pop culture on Twitter.