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Never Too Late for Your First Space Derby — Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights: Return to Ord Mantell


There was this guy in the Star Wars EU called Gallandro, who was basically their version of an Old West gunslinger type. Wait, isn’t that Boba Fett already? you may ask. Nah—they needed a more direct knock-off. Fett has a rifle so he can’t draw at high noon.

No, really, Gallandro was known for being a fast draw.

But he and Han had unfortunate run-in and Gallandro didn’t make it out alive. Don’t worry; if you know anything about the EU, you know that everyone’s got kids except Lando. (Lando should have kids. Boo.) And they’re usually girls because there aren’t enough women in Star Wars. Let’s jump into Return to Ord Mantell and find out exactly what is going on with Gallandro’s legacy.



Han picks up the kids to take a trip to Ord Mantell and see the Blockade Runners’ Derby; he’s serving as Grand Marshal and the Falcon is going to be the pace craft. When he tests the course, there are mines and all sorts of unpleasantness, and the race has to be pushed forward a day to make the track safe. The Derby goes off fine, and the twins get a surprise when Zekk wins the race with Lowie and Tenel Ka in the Rock Dragon.

The crew get a sense through the Force that someone might be making off with the mine debris locked up in evidence, and try to stop the thieves, who turn out to be Black Sun. One of the people they find is Anja Gallandro, daughter of her namesake, and she wields a lightsaber. She accuses Han of being her father’s murderer, but Han tells her that’s not how it went down, though he won’t be more precise. Anja leaves disbelieving, making a jab at how the Solos never helped her warring home world, Anobis.

The accusations make Jacen suspicious, and he confronts his father later. Han tells him the truth; Gallandro tried to kill another treasure hunter in his party and auto-security systems shot him down, not Han. But Jacen senses his father’s guilt and isn’t quite happy with the answer. The kids decide to head to Anobis to check out what the situation is there. Anja joins them on the trip, explaining the situation on the planet—it’s a war between the formerly Rebel-aligned farmers and the miners who needed Imperial trade to survive. She was from the miner side of things, and bought her lightsaber; she’s not a trained Force-user.

They get to the system and find a smuggler named Lilmit running illegal munitions to Anobis, which Han forces him to jettison and blow up. When they get planet-side, they find that the farmer’s fields have been mined. The miner’s village is then attacked by carnivorous animals, and the young Jedi try to led the population away while Han evacuates as many as he can on the Falcon. They get they leaders of both groups together to talk out their problems, realizing that Lilmit has been running weapons to both sides of the war for some time. They farmers and miners start talking peace after their two-decade war and Anja decides to accompany the kids back to the Praxeum to train as a Jedi…


Emily’s Reaction

I was so disappointed in Jacen when this started up. He gets the kiss from Tenel Ka in the previous book after angling for it through the entire series, and now he’s suddenly hot for the new girl. Jacen, don’t be fickle. You’re not suave enough yet. I understand the Anja has the older, more experienced woman vibe, but she’s also so clearly bad news. You’re half a Jedi, you can sense your dad’s unease, but you can’t sense a thing with her when she’s playing you like the Max Rebo Band on a Hutt skiff? Wake up, boy.

It’s interesting to me that with how many enemies Han has on his list, he’s practically never in the wrong with these dealings from his past. The books tell us that is the case over and over, but it does suspend disbelief after a while. How many crazy guys from his past can really have that bad of a grudge due to one time he messed with them? Literally every bounty hunter and most mercenaries have a bone to pick with Han. I keep waiting for him to fess up to some real wrongdoing. One day….

Never quite understood Zekk’s desire to win the race, either. I mean, I guess it’s fun? It’s got that knight-winning-the-tourney vibe, and he might be trying to impress Jaina and little, so that’s a factor. But even so. It might have been a cool place to let someone else cameo instead.

The fight between the farmers and the miners is a petty standard Trek-like plot, with the “war so old we don’t even really remember what’s keeping in going anymore” device, but it works here just fine. The only thing that doesn’t really read is how everything can suddenly go bad enough to require New Republic intervention when this has been ostensibly happening for the past twenty years.

There’s more to Anja than meets the eye, of course, but that’s for the final two books to pick apart….


Natalie’s Reaction

I’m glad we slogged through the Diversity Alliance plot so we could get to my favorite bad bitch of the EU: Anja Gallandro. I’ve written before about how, as an adolescent, I aspired after Jaina for her spunk and smarts, and Tenel Ka for her rad mixed heritage and cool demeanor. But if we’re being honest, I found plenty to admire in Anja as well, albeit mostly negative: She was sexy and swaggering, with awesomely long hair, tattoos, and a manageable andris spice addiction. She was a woman compared to the Jedi trainee girls, and Jacen and Zekk clearly took notice.

Anja could have been more compelling if we the readers had ever actually been moved to believe her vengeance against Han. He tells her, in the first book of this arc, exactly what happened to her dad: Gallandro got fried by an ancient weapons security system because of his own pride and haste in a smuggling job. And yet, she still believes that Han somehow was responsible—and the Jacen starts believing her! Even as a kid, I knew it was only because he wanted to get in her hip-hugger smuggler’s pants.

And, weird as it sounds, little observations like that made this Black Sun arc so much more compelling than the Diversity Alliance stuff. Throughout this reread, I’ve been fascinated with the disparity between the Solo twins, who roll 20s on everything, and the other wannabe Jedi they run into. Anja isn’t Force-sensitive, but she scrounged her (wicked-looking) lightsaber from somewhere, and enhances her senses with the andris spice. Even if it’s part of her job as an agent of Black Sun to try and infiltrate the Jedi Academy, you can tell that she longs to belong—and the fact that she simply isn’t part of this Jedi club has to wear on her.

Instead of forcing us to care about some galaxy-wide threat that’s going to get resolved, this arc delves into resentments old and fresh, from Czethros claiming to be legit in a long game meant to destroy Han’s family, to Anja eclipsing Jaina and Tenel Ka as the mysterious “cool girl” at the Praxeum by the end of this book and the start of the next one. These little, petty conflicts are what YJK is best at.

Emmet Asher-Perrin is theming her next cocktail party “Space Derby.” You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

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.


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