A few notes before we begin.
This was the 65th book published in the Expanded Universe. Tatooine Ghost was originally published in March of 2003. The paperback edition also features the Ebook A Forrest Apart which in the timeline takes place immediately before the events depicted within. In publication order it was released in between the two Star Wars New Jedi Order books Force Heretic.
In terms of timeline it is the 15th book post Return of the Jedi. It takes place 8-9 years after the Battle of Yavin. If one choose to read the Expanded Universe post ROTJ in chronological order it is the 11th book in the timeline. It is the direct sequel to The Courtship of Princess Leia happening about six months after the events in that book.
This book represents Expanded Universe ret-conning at its best. By the time this book was published the prequel movies were being made and released and their were a number of Old Republic era books being inserted into the timeline. It fills in the gap of time between The COPL and Heir to the Empire. It deals with a plot hole in the overall timeline where Leia and Han get married and how they become comfortable with the idea of starting a family. This is very much a Han and Leia story and the worst parts of this book are Leia finding the video diary of Shmi Skywalker and how she deals with the fact that Anakin Skywalker was once good, and how he would become Darth Vader. The prequel movies did such a horrible job building up that tension that it was left to the authors of the books to really fill out that tension. To be fair all the times the Expanded Universe did this it really bothered me. To the point that when these books were originally published I did not read them. I find reading them in chronological order adds to my enjoyment of them, but I hate the prequel movies so much that I find anything dealing with them quite tiring.
With that being said the author of this book, Troy Denning, is one of my favorite Star Wars authors. He would go one from this work to the Dark Nest Trilogy, several books in the Legacy of the Force, and Fate of the Jedi series. He would also write the final book of the old Expanded Universe. His first Star Wars book was Star by Star of the New Jedi Order series.
Knowing that we see why this book sets up the things that happen in his other books. The name of the painting they are after is Killick Twilight and the main new characters are the Squibs. This book also introduces Grand Admiral Thrawn and the effect he has on Imperial military doctrine. It is a careful balancing act to span the timeline between two books one that is pretty awful (COPL) and a trilogy of books that is the Holy Grail of the EU (The Thrawn Trilogy). For the most part I think Denning is very successful in those attempts but again being forced to incorporate prequel era story lines in these narratives is a very hard sell.
It is not that I do not want to see Leia struggle with these themes. I very much do want to see that. My favorite moments of Leia (in the timeline before the events of the Thrawn Trilogy) are her struggling with the fact that she is Darth Vader’s daughter. We saw her struggle with that in The Truce at Bakura and that continues in this book. Personally I just don’t like having story lines that were never developed properly in the movies continue on in the books. For a long time fans of the EU could keep these things separate. Once Lucas Books went back through the timeline and started ret-conning missing or under developed pieces of the story (especially those from the prequels) we get these chunks of story inserted where maybe they do not need to be. In a lot of ways these scenes, and later we see Luke go through much the same thing, feel very forced.
For the most part this is a Leia and Han story, and that is a good thing because after the really disastrous depiction of their love story in COPL there really needed to be a story based around their relationship to fill out the timeline. While I am not a huge fan of ret-conning I do understand why the powers that be felt the need to do this, and frankly I think Denning handled the task very well.
The basic plot of this book is Han and Leia are out to secure a painting once thought destroyed that contains a secret rebel cipher that is still in use by New Republic Intelligence. Through this journey they couple is put at extreme risk and we see how much they care for one another and start to root out their motivation for how their behavior. I still feel like Han got off pretty light for kidnapping Leia in the previous book, and no amount of ret-conning can fix that plot hole.
Those are excellent reasons to go back and ret-conn parts of the EU timeline. In fact I hope Disney is paying attention to this and remembers these lessons as they build out their timeline in books, comics, video games, and what not. I really think they should devout an entire trilogy of books to Han and Leia’s relationship, marriage or whatever, the birth of their son, and how his falling to the dark side destroyed their relationship.
For me this book has a real Ebook kinda of feel to it. It seems to me that it was added to the timeline as almost an after thought. I would have rather had a trilogy of books dealing with Han and Leia and how they came to be married. There are a lot of rumors that that was the initial plan but COPL was such a disappointment both in quality and in sales those plans were scrapped.
To be fair though I have that feeling about many of the early EU stand alone books. It seems like it took them a minute to get things headed in the right direction and I think that starts with the decision to write and publish the X-Wing series. That leaves us with COPL, The Crystal Star, Children of the Jedi, and Darksaber as the first attempts at Star Wars sand alone novels that are not up to the quality that we get in the trilogies and series. The Thrawn Trilogy, the Jedi Academy Trilogy, and the start Corellian Trilogy feature stories and themes that made us big fans of the EU. Granted those feelings are mine and based on my first reads of these book some of which took place nearly 20 years ago.
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