June 1, 1995, saw a new chapter of the Star Wars Expanded Universe unfold as the first book of the Young Jedi Knights series, Heirs of the Force, was released. Following the adventures of the Solo Twins, Jacen and Jaina, and their friends, and introduced Lowbacca, Zekk, Tenel Ka, and Raynar Thul, as they studied at Luke Skywalker's Jedi Praxeum on Yavin IV. This 14 book series opened a new era for Star Wars to explore, new characters, new worlds and a few classic favorites, as the next generation of Young Jedi Knights were coming up and for many fans this series was a gateway into the Expanded Universe.
Before following Harry Potter to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I followed Jaina and Jacen to the Jedi Praxeum to learn how to become a Jedi. I can still remember my first time reading the first book Heirs of the Force, how instantly I was invested in Han and Leia's Twins from their previous appearances in the Expanded Universe, and how curious I was to see them coming into their own, seeing just how very much like their parents they were. Jaina with an aptitude for the mechanical, like her father, Jacen with his mother, Leia's compassion applied to his love of animals.
Those first anxious chapters, where Jacen's crystal snake goes missing only to be found in Raynar’s room. How Jacen tried to crack the hardened exterior of Tenel Ka's lack of humor by telling her jokes she did not understand; yes, I had found yet another redhead to follow in the Dathomiri/Hapan jedi princess. Then a large nameless jungle creature attacked Old Peckhum and his Lightning Rod cargo ship on the landing pad. The creature was calmly sent away by Master Luke Skywalker without bloodshed by calming the creature through the Force, impressing all of his students, especially his animal-loving nephew, Jacen.
“I wish I could do that, Uncle Luke,” Jacen said, “that was really something.”
“You will be able to do anything you want, Jacen,” Luke said.
“You have the potential- as long as you have the discipline.”
The arrival of Lowbacca with Han and Chewie. I genuinely felt concern for how well Lowie was going to fit in at the academy without his Uncle Chewie or Han to translate for him. Jaina made the same conclusion that I did, and Chewie had already thought of the answer: Em Teedee, a wearable translator droid “specializing in Human-Wookiee relations”, developed by Threepio and Chewbacca, for Lowie, the nickname he preferred for close friends. The hilarity of the Food War of Yavin IV followed. Then a parting gift of a T-23 Skyhopper for Lowbacca from his Uncle Chewie, and that covers just the first few chapters. It was so easy to get hooked on these characters and stories because it was already set in a universe I loved, but now I got to follow a new Jedi generation's journey through the Force.
I encourage everyone to give this series a shot if you have not already, and if you have, please revisit them; as an adult I have new appreciation and love for the adventure these stories provide.
"To become a Jedi," Luke said, "you must face many choices. Some may be simple but troublesome, others may be terrible ordeals. Here at my Jedi academy I can give you tools to use when facing those choices. But I cannot make the choices for you.
You must succeed in your own way."
Join me and raise a glass of juice to toast the 23rd Anniversary of this series and most of all . . .
To help lobby for the Young Jedi Knights series and other Out of Print Star Wars EU Series to return to circulation, please see my previous article: Out of Print, But Not Forgotten: The Path to Immortality as a Digital Force Ghost.
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