In my continuing exploration of the Star Wars universe, I wound up the Callistra Trilogy with Planet of Twilight by Barbara Hambly. I thoroughly enjoyed Hambly’s first book, Children of the Jedi, and was disappointed by the second in the trilogy, Darksaber, authored by Kevin J. Anderson. Book three brought us back to Hambly, and it showed–and I was quite pleased by that fact.
The book opens eight months after the previous one, as Luke searches for his lost love, Callista, who has gone off on her own quest in search of her lost Jedi powers. Luke’s search and Leia’s political responsibilities bring both of them to Nam Chorios, a former prison planet where the religious-cult majority insists on isolationism, over the objections of the minority of more recent colonists. The minority political leader captures Leia, while Luke explores very strange operations of the Force on the planet, and hunts for clues to Callista’s trail.
It was such a relief after Darksaber to come back to Hambly’s characterization. The characters had depth again. You can feel Luke’s pain at losing Callista, and it feels both real and appropriate–not vaguely self-indulgent, the way the focus on their relationship felt in the last book. I have a feeling there are those who would object to his focus on Callista when he has larger responsibilities (like an Academy to run), but really, I think it’s just human to balance something personally important against something that’s logically important. And at the risk of a slight spoiler, ultimately the novel is about how Luke accepts his path going forward.
There’s also some good delving into Leia’s character. Children of the Jedi had a lot about her past on Alderaan. This one has more about some of her plans and her fears, and delves into the rarely-addressed fact that she’s the child of Darth Vader as much as Luke is.
Most of the book is in either Leia’s or Luke’s point of view, and between their differing experiences we get to explore some very strange mysteries and very strange characters–including a Hutt with Force-ability, and some truly creepy bug creatures. It gets pretty gross in spots, and I likely would have been ill with a movie, but it wasn’t too bad in text. I enjoyed the reveal of the mystery and weird aliens are among the hallmarks of Star Wars.
Han, Lando and Chewie all have small roles here, trying to figure out what happened to Leia, and though they don’t have a big part, it’s enough that they don’t become conspicious by their absence, if that makes sense. Threepio and Artoo, meanwhile, manage to get lost and provide some excellent comic relief as they try to sort themselves out. Artoo, of course, is calm throughout; Threepio, not so much!
I got a little muddled in here with politics on various planets, and some arching plotlines involving plague and multiple revolutions. But the main focus was on the primary characters, so I didn’t worry too much about the larger politics, and that seemed to go all right.
I found this a satisfying end to the trilogy. I won’t claim it was brilliant, but it was put together well, has good portrayals of the characters, some clever twists, and all in all, an enjoyable read. And somehow it’s making me want to rewatch Return of the Jedi…
Author’s Site: http://www.barbarahambly.com/
Buy it here: Planet of Twilight