Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights
Rise of the Shadow Academy
Author: Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta
Published By: Guild America Books
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Jacen and Jaina Solo, Tenel Ka and Lowbacca are renowned heroes of The New Jedi Order, but long before their heroism in the war with the Yuuzhan Vong, these Jedi received some radically new training in the very first Jedi Academy erected by Luke Skywalker on Yavin IV. The Young Jedi Knights series, which made its debut in 1995, details the adventures of these fledgling Jedi as they learn the ways of the Force in hopes of becoming full-fledged Jedi Knights. Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights: Rise of the Shadow Academy is a collection of six stories involving our heroes and the rise of a new enemy – an enemy skilled in the ways of the Dark Side of the Force.
Book one of the collection, Heirs of the Force, opens as Chewbacca’s nephew Lowbacca arrives on Yavin IV to begin his training in the was of the Force. Lowbacca becomes fast friends with Jacen, Jaina and Tenel Ka who have been at the academy for some time. While on an excursion in the forest, the children discover a damaged and seemingly long-abandoned Tie Fighter. The four soon learn that the Tie Fighter’s pilot is still very much alive and has not yet abandoned hopes at being reunited with the Empire. The pilot, Quorl, forces the young Jedi to repair his fighter, hoping to attack the Jedi Academy in the name of the Empire. However, his plan is thwarted by the savvy youths who use distraction and sabotage to thwart his plans.
Shadow Academy introduces us to a new and very interesting enemy force. Many years ago, an Imperial agent named Brakiss came under Luke Skywalker’s tutelage in an attempt to destroy the new Jedi Academy from within. When Luke Skywalker discovered his treachery, instead of destroying Brakiss, Skywalker tried to bring Brakiss over to the Light Side of the Force. He was unsuccessful. Brakiss returned to the Empire and was given the opportunity to create a new Jedi Order – one that was trained in the Dark Side of the Force. Brakiss’ training center, a ship supplied by the Second Imperium, is called the Shadow Academy. Brakiss receives assistance in training apprentices in the Dark Side from the Nightsisters of Dathomir, witches from the planet of Dathomir that were long thought dead. Realizing that he needed powerful students to strengthen his academy, Brakiss and the Nightsisters kidnap Jaina, Jacen and Lowbacca. The youths are saved from the Shadow Academy by Luke Skywalker and Tenel Ka, but not before Brakiss forces Jaina and Jacen into a lightsaber duel with each other. In this story, Jacen Solo learns that patience is a virtue.
In The Lost Ones, Zekk, a street urchin and old friend of Jacen and Jaina Solo goes missing. He is kidnapped by members of the Shadow Academy who decide that they should recruit force-strong individuals with lower profile status among the New Republic. To this end, the Shadow Academy, hiding inside Coruscant space via a cloaking device, seeks out the youth of Coruscant’s underworld. Those who aren’t strong enough in the force will serve as stormtroopers for the Second Imperium. At first, Sekk is skeptical of his training, but Brakiss wins him over by making him feel important. Brakiss tries to turn Zekk against his friends by implying that his low societal status is the reason why he was never tested by his friends for Force potential. Although Jacen and Jaina attempt to rescue Zekk, he chooses to leave with the Shadow Academy in favor of the new and more powerful life offered him by Brakiss.
In Lightsabers, Zekk begins to rise in the Shadow Academy hierarchy while one of the members of Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Academy takes a fall. Tenel Ka, having rushed in the creation of her lightsaber, suffers a tragic accident while dueling with Jacen Solo. Tenel Ka loses an arm and much of her self-confidence. She returns to Hapes in an effort to regroup. Soon after her accident, Jacen, Jaina and Lowbacca discover that Tenel Ka is actually the Princess of Hapes, a well-kept secret. The young friends travel to Hapes in an effort to boost Tenel Ka’s spirits and discover an assassination attempt of the Queen’s family is underway. As Tenel Ka aides her grandmother in escaping the assassins, she discovers new confidence and the will to return to her training at the Jedi Academy, despite her handicap.
Darkest Knight finds Lowbacca returning to his home of Kashyyk with his uncle, Chewbacca, and his friends to help his younger sister with her Wookiee trials. While on Kashyyk, the Shadow Academy attacks the local factory, stealing guidance equipment and other components valuable to the Second Imperium. Zekk, ordered to destroy his former friends, finds this to be a difficult task. Instead, he warns them of an impending attack on Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Academy.
The final story, Jedi Under Siege, finds Luke Skywalker’s Yavin IV Jedi Academy under attack. Luke’s trainees struggle to defend themselves against the Dark Jedi of the Shadow Academy, while the New Republic finds itself embroiled in a battle with the Second Imperium. In this final installment in The Rise of the Shadow Academy series, hidden potentials are realized, secrets are revealed and lives are changed forever.
In Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights: The Rise of the Shadow Academy, the young heroes of the New Jedi Order are just beginning to realize their Force potential. It is interesting to discover how these heroes met and how their bonds of friendship grew over the years. Authors Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta had a unique opportunity when writing this series. Prior to these young adult novels, the Solo twins had been written about, but not in as much detail as in the Young Jedi Knights series. Anderson and Moesta were given the ability to create relationships for Jacen and Jaina that would last throughout the Star Wars Expanded Universe of novels. These early relationships and the Solo twins’ experiences in the Young Jedi Knight novels molded these characters into the heroes of the Star Wars novels of recent years.
Although the books are designed to be read by young adults, The Rise of the Shadow Academy is part of the Star Wars cannon and should be read by all Star Wars fans who wish to keep in tune with the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Many of the events that take place in these Young Jedi Knights novels have great bearing on events in future novels and you don’t want to be left in the dark. I found myself wishing I had read these earlier novels before having read the New Jedi Order series. Despite being written with young adults in mind, the novels that comprise The Rise of the Shadow Academy collection are fun to read for full-fledged adults as well. Older readers can reflect on younger days and relate to the lessons learned by the young jedi in training. And the lessons are plentiful in this series – belief in one’s self, trust, self control, patience, and more.
Separately, each of the novels that comprise The Rise of the Shadow Academy is fairly easy to find. However, finding the hardcover compilation that I own was an adventure within itself. The Young Jedi Knights hardcover compilations are nearly impossible to find and, when you do find one, fairly expensive to buy. Thus far, I have only been able to find the series in hardcover on eBay and I have paid a pretty penny for them. I’m still missing one, as I find that my budget simply can not afford $50+ for a hardcover book. If you are prepared to fork over a great deal of hard earned cash for the hardcover editions, May the Force Be With You, but if it’s just a desire to read an important part of the Star Wars Expanding Universe, I recommend buying the soft cover books. It will be much easier on your pocket and may quite possibly make the reading experience that much more enjoyable.
For more about Star Wars, check out: