Tatooine Ghost, by Troy Denning

tatooine-ghost-by-troy-denning coverGenre: Star Wars
Publisher: Ballantine
Published: 2003
Reviewer Rating: two stars
Book Review by Heather Hunt

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Tatooine Ghost (TG) is the latest hardcover novel in the Expanded Universe of the Star Wars franchise. The advertising promotes it as being a story about the newlyweds, Han Solo and Princess Leia, and how they deal with Leia’s refusal to have children because of her fear of the Dark Side of the Force in her heritage. Many fans of this Star Wars romance were very excited to have a novel that filled in a huge gap in the EU about this couple who stole “The Empire Strikes Back” (TESB) with their romantic sparring.

If you’ve never read the Expanded Universe, then you don’t know that Luke Skywalker eventually marries a woman named Mara Jade, who was once the Emperor’s Hand and who spent many years trying to kill Luke. Eventually they end up married (a long story that took several books to tell) and ever since they have gotten the majority of “screen time” over the original romantic couple of Star Wars. There has, in fact, been a lot of hard feelings between fans of the respective couples.

With that background in mind, you understand the anticipation with which Tatooine Ghost with it’s advertised premise was awaited. Unfortunately, the novel doesn’t deliver.

If you’ve seen The Empire Strikes Back, you know the sparks that flew between Han and Leia. This book by Troy Denning continues the Expanded Universe’s unrelenting persistence in portraying this couple as basically fellow warriors who happen to be a bit friendly. And the plot about Leia’s reluctance to face the Dark Side threat in her heritage is a minor aside to the action surrounding a lost Alderaanian moss painting that contains a secret code to communicate with embedded Alliance spies in Imperial territory.

The novel is actually more of a “mid-quel” story than an Expanded Universe novel, because while Leia is on Tatooine, she finds out much of the history about her grandmother, Shmi, and Shmi’s history between movie Episodes 1 and 2, when her son Anakin finds her at her death bed. We definitely get much more of the gaps in Shmi’s story filled in than we do the gaps in Han and Leia’s early married life.

Because of its false advertising, I don’t give Tatooine Ghost a high recommendation. Readers will pick this book up expecting a story about Han and Leia because the cover art features them prominently. What they will get is a novel about Shmi.

For die-hard Star Wars fans, Tatooine Ghost gets a higher recommendation, because there is lots of action, we’re back on Tatooine, the quintessential Star Wars planet, Chewie is still alive (he gets killed in one of the later Expanded Universe novels–another controversy that raised a lot of ruckus), and See-Threepio is his usual twittering self.

The writing quality is good. But please, Ballantine Books, deliver what you advertise! I’m glad I read a library copy; if this novel had truly been about Han and Leia, I may have purchased it….

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