Star Wars: Crucibleby Troy Denning
When Han and Leia Solo arrive at Lando Calrissian’s Outer Rim mining operation to help him thwart a hostile takeover, their/b>/i>
Han Solo, Leia Organa Solo, and Luke Skywalker return in an all-new Star Wars adventure, which will challenge them in ways they never expected—and forever alter their understanding of life and the Force.
When Han and Leia Solo arrive at Lando Calrissian’s Outer Rim mining operation to help him thwart a hostile takeover, their aim is just to even up the odds and lay down the law. Then monstrous aliens arrive with a message, and mere threats escalate into violent sabotage with mass fatalities. When the dust settles, what began as corporate warfare becomes a battle with much higher stakes—and far deadlier consequences.
Now Han, Leia, and Luke team up once again in a quest to defeat a dangerous adversary bent on galaxy-wide domination. Only this time, the Empire is not the enemy. It is a pair of ruthless geniuses with a lethal ally and a lifelong vendetta against Han Solo. And when the murderous duo gets the drop on Han, he finds himself outgunned in the fight of his life. To save him, and the galaxy, Luke and Leia must brave a gauntlet of treachery, terrorism, and the untold power of an enigmatic artifact capable of bending space, time, and even the Force itself into an apocalyptic nightmare.
Features a bonus section following the novel that includes a primer on the Star Wars expanded universe, and over half a dozen excerpts from some of the most popular Star Wars books of the last thirty years!
“Outstanding . . . an adventure that tantalizes the imagination.”—Roqoo Depot
“A fun, fast paced take on some of Star Wars’ most iconic characters.”—The Founding Fields
Read an Excerpt
With lowlifes of every species from three-eyed Gran to four-armed Hekto standing belly-to-bar, the Red Ronto reminded Han Solo of that cantina back on Mos Eisley—the one where he had first met Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi all those years ago. Smoke hung in the air so thick and green he could taste it, and the bartender was pulling drinks from a tangle of pipes and spigots more complicated than a hyperdrive unit. There was even an all-Bith band onstage—though instead of upbeat jatz, they were blasting the room with outdated smazzo.
Usually, the driving bass and stabbing wailhorn made Han think of banging coolant lines. But today he was feeling it, and why not? This trip promised to be more getaway than mission, and he was looking forward to seeing his old friend Lando Calrissian again.
“I don’t like it, Han,” Leia said, raising her voice over the music. “It’s not like Lando to be so late.”
Han turned to look across the table, where Leia sat with a half-empty drink in front of her. Wearing a gray gunner’s jacket over a white flight suit, she was—as always—the classiest female in the joint . . . and, despite a few laugh lines, still the most beautiful. He thumbed a control pad on the edge of the table, and the faint yellow radiance of a tranquillity screen rose around their booth. The screen was a rare touch of quality for a place like the Red Ronto, but one Han appreciated as the raucous music faded to a muffled booming.
“Relax,” he said. “When has Lando ever missed a rendezvous?”
“My point exactly. Maybe that pirate problem is more dangerous than he thought.” Leia nodded toward the entrance. “And take a look at that miner over there. His Force aura is filled with anxiety.”
Han followed her gaze toward a young olive-skinned human dressed in the dust-caked safety boots and molytex jumpsuit of an asteroid miner. With a nose just crooked enough to be rakish and a T-6 blaster pistol hanging from his side, the kid was clearly no stranger to a fight. But he was not exactly streetwise, either. He was just standing there in the doorway, squinting into dark corners while he remained silhouetted against the light behind him.
“He doesn’t look like much of a threat,” Han said. Still, he dropped a hand to his thigh holster and undid the retention strap. As a Jedi Knight, Leia felt things through the Force that Han could not sense at all, and he had long ago learned to trust her instincts. “Probably just some crew chief looking for new hires.”
The miner’s gaze stopped at the Solos’ booth. He flashed a brash smile, then said something to the bartender and raised three fingers.
“He’s looking for us, Han,” Leia said. “This must have something to do with Lando.”
“Could be,” Han allowed, but he hoped Leia was wrong. Missed rendezvous and strange messengers were never a good sign.
Any lingering doubt about the miner’s intentions vanished when the bartender handed him a bottle of Corellian Reserve with three glasses and he started in their direction. There was something in his bold stride and cocky grin that set Han on edge.
“Whoever he is, I don’t like him,” Han said. “He’s way too sure of himself.”
Leia smiled. “He reminds me of you at that age,” she said. “I like him already.”
Han shot her a scowl meant to suggest she needed an eye exam, and then the newcomer was at their table, stepping through the tranquillity screen. He placed the glasses on the table and opened the bottle.
“I hope you don’t mind,” he said, pouring. “But they keep a case of Reserve on hand for Lando, and I thought you might prefer it to the usual swill around here.”
“You were right,” Leia said, visibly relaxing at the mention of Lando’s name. “Whom shall I thank?”
The miner placed a hand on his chest. “Omad Kaeg, at your service,” he said, bowing. “Captain Omad Kaeg, owner and operator of the Joyous Roamer, one of the oldest and most profitable asteroid tugs in the Rift.”
Han rolled his eyes at the overblown introduction, but Leia smiled. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Captain Kaeg.” She motioned at the table. “Won’t you join us?”
Kaeg flashed his brash smile again. “It would be an honor.”
Instead of taking a seat where Leia had indicated, Kaeg leaned across the table to set his glass in the shadows on the far side of the booth—an obvious attempt to position himself where he could watch the door. Han quickly rose and allowed Kaeg into the back of the booth. If a stranger wanted to place himself in a crossfire zone between two Solos, Han wasn’t going to argue.
“So, how do you know Lando?” Han asked, resuming his seat. “And where is he?”
“I know Lando from the miners’ cooperative—and, of course, I supply his asteroid refinery on Sarnus.” Kaeg’s gray eyes slid toward the still-empty entrance, then back again. “I think he’s at the refinery now. At least, that’s where he wants you to meet him.”
Han scowled. “On Sarnus?” The planet lay hidden deep in the Chiloon Rift—one of the densest, most difficult-to-navigate nebulae in the galaxy—and its actual coordinates were a matter of debate. “How the blazes does he expect us to find it?”
“That’s why Lando sent me,” Kaeg said. “To help.”
Kaeg’s hand dropped toward his thigh pocket, causing Han to draw his blaster and aim it at the kid’s belly under the table. He wasn’t taking any chances.
But Kaeg was only reaching for a portable holopad projector, which he placed on the table. “Let me show you what you’ll be facing.”
“Why not?” Han waved at the holopad with his free hand.
Kaeg tapped a command into the controls, and a two-meter band of braided shadow appeared above the pad. Shaped like a narrow wedge, the braid appeared to be coming undone in places, with wild blue wisps dangling down toward the corrosion-pitted tabletop and even into Han’s drink.
“This, of course, is a chart of the Chiloon Rift,” Kaeg said.
He tapped another command, and a red dash appeared in the holomap, marking the cantina’s location on Brink Station just outside the Rift. The dash quickly stretched into a line and began to coil through the tangled wisps of hot plasma that gave the Chiloon Rift its distinctive array of blue hues. Before long, it had twisted itself into a confusing snarl that ran vaguely toward the center of the nebula.
“And this is the best route to Lando’s refinery on Sarnus,” Kaeg said. “I’ve been doing my best to keep the charts accurate, but I’m afraid the last update was two standard days ago.”
“Two days?” Han asked. With three kinds of hot plasma rolling around at near light speed, hyperspace lanes inside the Rift tended to open and close quickly—sometimes in hours. “That’s the best you can do?”
“I’m sorry, but, yes,” Kaeg said. “It’s important to take it slow and careful in there. If you were to leave a hyperspace lane and punch through a plasma cloud, you would fry every circuit on your ship—including your navigation sensors.”
“You don’t say,” Han said. Hitting a plasma pocket was one of the most basic dangers of nebula running, so it seemed to him that Kaeg was working way too hard to make sure he knew how dangerous it was to travel the Rift. “Thanks for the warning.”
“No problem.” Kaeg grinned, then let his gaze drift back toward the cantina door. “Any friend of Lando Calrissian’s is a friend of mine.”
Instead of answering, Han caught Leia’s eye, then tipped his head ever so slightly toward their tablemate. She nodded and turned toward Kaeg. After forty years together, he knew she would understand what he was thinking—that something felt wrong with Kaeg’s story.
“We appreciate your concern, Captain Kaeg.” Leia’s tone was warm but commanding, a sure sign that she was using the Force to encourage Kaeg to answer honestly. “But I still don’t understand why Lando isn’t here himself. When he asked us to look into the pirate problem in the Rift, he was quite insistent that he would meet us here at the Red Ronto personally.”
Kaeg shrugged. “I’m sorry, but he didn’t explain the change of plans. His message only said to meet you here and make sure you reached Sarnus.” Continuing to watch the door with one eye, he paused, then spoke in a confidential tone. “But I don’t blame you for hesitating. This trip could be very risky, especially for someone your age.”
“Our age?” Han bristled. “You think we’re old or something?”
Kaeg finally looked away from the door. “Uh . . . no?” he replied. “It’s just that, uh—well, you do need pretty quick reflexes in the Chiloon Rift.”
“It’s called experience, kid,” Han said. “Someday, you might have some yourself . . . if you live that long.”
“No offense,” Kaeg said, raising his hands. “I’m just worried about you heading in there alone.”
“Don’t let a few wrinkles fool you, Captain Kaeg,” Leia said. “We can take care of ourselves.”
Kaeg shook his head almost desperately. “You wouldn’t say that if you had ever been inside the Rift,” he said. “It isn’t the kind of place you should go without a guide on your first visit. The plasma in there kills S-thread transmissions, so HoloNet transceivers are worthless—and even emergency transmitters aren’t much good.”
“What about the RiftMesh?” Han asked. “All that communications hardware, and you’re telling me it doesn’t work?”
“The ’Mesh works, but it’s slow. It can take an hour for a beacon to relay a signal.” Kaeg tapped the holopad controls again, and a multitude of tiny white points appeared in the holochart. “And it’s not unusual for a message to pass through a thousand beacons before being picked up. Trust me, there’s no lonelier place in the galaxy to be stranded.”
“It’s a wonder any rock grabbers go in there at all,” Han replied. “I can’t imagine a worse place to be dragging around half a billion tons of ore.”
“It’s worth it.” Ignoring Han’s sarcasm—or possibly missing it altogether—Kaeg flashed a square-toothed grin. “The tumblers in the Rift are fantastic, my friend. There are more than anyone can count, and most are heavy and pretty.”
By tumblers, Kaeg meant asteroids, Han knew. Heavy and pretty was slang for a high content of precious metals. According to Lando, the Chiloon Rift contained the largest and most bountiful asteroid field anywhere, with more capture-worthy tumblers than any other place in the galaxy. Unfortunately, its roiling clouds of plasma and a sudden infestation of pirates meant it was probably also the most dangerous.
“Which is why the pirates are hitting asteroid tugs instead of ingot convoys,” Leia surmised. “The convoys have combat escorts, but the tugs are hauling all that valuable ore around alone, with no one to call for help.”
Kaeg nodded eagerly. “It’s terribly dangerous. You can send a message and go gray waiting for an answer.” He winced almost immediately, then said, “No offense, of course.”
“None taken,” Leia said, a bit stiffly. “But with all of those asteroid tugs running around, I can’t imagine the pirates coming after a small vessel like the Falcon.”
Not seeming to notice how he was being tested, Kaeg shrugged and leaned forward. “Who knows?” he asked. “Even if the pirates aren’t interested in the Falcon, there are many other dangers.”
“And let me guess,” Han said. “You’re willing to make sure we have a safe trip—for the right price?”
“I could be persuaded to serve as your guide, yes,” Kaeg said. “As I said, any friend of Lando Calrissian’s is a friend of mine.”
“How very kind of you.” Leia flashed a tight smile, and again Han knew what she was thinking. No trick was too low for a pirate gang, and one of their favorites was to slip a saboteur aboard the target vessel. “But you still haven’t explained why Lando didn’t meet us here himself.”
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Kaeg said. “As I mentioned, he didn’t give a reason.”
Han leaned toward Kaeg and pointed a finger at him. “You see, now, that’s where your story falls apart. Lando isn’t the kind of guy who fails to show with no explanation. He would’ve said why he couldn’t make it.”
Kaeg showed his palms in mock surrender. “Look, I’ve told you all I know.” He focused his attention on Leia. “Lando kept the message short. I’m assuming that’s because he didn’t want everyone in the Rift to know his business.”
“And why would that happen?” Leia asked. “Do you have a habit of breaking confidences?”
Kaeg scowled and shook his head. “Of course not,” he said. “But I told you—Lando sent that message over the RiftMesh.”
“And?” Han asked.
Kaeg sighed in exasperation. “You really don’t understand how things work here,” he said. “The RiftMesh is an open network—open, as in one single channel. Everybody listens, with nothing encrypted. If a message is encrypted, the beacons won’t even relay it. That makes it tough to keep a secret, but it also makes life hard on the pirates. They can’t coordinate a swarm attack if everybody is listening to their chatter over the RiftMesh.”
“And that works?” Han asked.
Kaeg waggled a hand. “It’s not perfect. The pirates find other ways to coordinate,” he said. “But the ’Mesh is better than nothing. And it helps the rest of us track one another, so our tugs don’t pile up when a good hyperspace lane opens.”
Han turned to Leia. “That actually makes sense.”
“As far as it goes.” Leia did not take her eyes off Kaeg. “But he’s been working pretty hard to get us to take him on, and that just doesn’t make sense.”
“Yeah, I know.” Han glanced back at their confused-looking table companion. “Since when do tug captains have time to take on extra work as tour guides?”
The confusion vanished from Kaeg’s face. “Is that all that’s troubling you?” he asked. “My tug has been in for repairs for a month. That’s how Lando knew I would be here to give you his message. And, quite honestly, I could use something to do.”
Han considered this, then nodded and holstered his blaster. “Maybe we’re being too hard on the kid,” he said. “After all, he did know about Lando’s stock of Corellian Reserve.”
Leia continued to study Kaeg for a moment, no doubt scrutinizing him through the Force, then said, “Fair enough. But he’s worried about something.”
“Yes,” Kaeg said. “I’m worried that you aren’t going to let me guide you to Sarnus.” He glanced toward the door again. “But if you don’t want my help, you know how to use a holochart.”
Meet the Author
Troy Denning is the New York Times bestselling author of the Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi novels: Abyss, Vortex, and Apocalypse; Star Wars: Tatooine Ghost; Star Wars: The New Jedi Order: Star by Star; the Star Wars: Dark Nest trilogy: The Joiner King, The Unseen Queen, and The Swarm War; and Star Wars: Legacy of the Force: Tempest, Inferno, and Invincible—as well as Pages of Pain, Beyond the High Road, The Summoning, and many other novels. A former game designer and editor, he lives in western Wisconsin with his wife, Andria.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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***My review first published on LibraryThing 7/9/13*** (Disclaimer: Received this egalley ARC free through NetGalley) I enjoyed Troy Denning's past works that I've read, and this was no exception. Great action and some of the most beloved characters in the Star Wars universe facing inner struggles and staring death in the face and still coming through it all. This book pits several Jedi, Han Solo, Princess Leia and Lando Calrissian against a pair of alien super-genius brothers bent on gaining use of the Force and using it for their own gain. Throw in a little deathmark they have against Han Solo, a platoon of Mandalorian mercs and their hybrid Nargon biot shock troops, a Sith agent of sorts, and a vastly powerful Force artifact and you've got yourself a book you won't put down. A new character introduced in the book comes off as a young Han Solo and I wonder if we'll see more of him in future books. Basically, one scene in the book will probably stay with me for awhile. Let me say, without spoilers, when you read it and think "This is like rabid dogs playing high stakes poker", you'll know the part of the book I'm talking about. Awesome mind game depiction. Don't know if I've ever come across anything similar in another book, ever. When I got to the end, I wanted more, more, more. Not that I was unsatisfied by any means, just that I want to see what some of the many future possibilities (too many to name) I saw come about in later books. Never trust a Sith, words to live by, and proven by the villainess Vestara, I know there will be more of her because she is cool, confident, and a perfectly beautiful, yet treacherous, being. How do you play against two living brains, which is what the Columi brothers are pretty much? Doesn't matter when they bet against Han Solo, the high stakes will cost them in the end. I loved the presentation of the Rift in this story, an endless black sea past the known and civilized galaxy. Made a fascinating backdrop for Lando's latest business endeavor and the starfighter dogfights where one wrong move can send you off into nothing, like the legendary Flying Dutchman. Also, where else would you hide an ultra-powerful Force artifact? There was a nice depth to the whole book that I found impressive. Entirely relatable characters, dark villains, several very well done sub plots. And of course, it's the Star Wars universe! I can't wait for the next book that has as much as this one does. This one may be a stand alone, but I can hope. My pet peeves: I found only 2 little missing word issues, that I can live with, and that's darn good for almost any book. Easily recommended for any lover of sci-fi, in particular Star Wars fans. Note: LibraryThing allows 1/2 star ratings, there I gave 4 1/2 stars which I feel is accurate, wish I could put 4 1/2 stars here also, not 4.
Crucible puts the fantasy back in Star Wars as Troy Denning takes Han, Luke and Leia on their wildest adventure yet. There's a lot to like for veteran Star Wars readers and those completely new to the setting.
gtar Wars Crucible offers a nice send off for the main characters of Star Wars and passes the torch on to the children and the next generation. An interesting conclusion and adding an other element to the force and the Galaxy. It makes for a nice bridge into the future of Star Wars and the next main series involving the children. Overall the story is a lot of fun and reflects on different elements of the Star Wars history. If you are a fan of the Force and enjoy different aspects of its relationship to characters you will enjoy the book.
I couldn't put this one down. This one was a welcomed addition to the Star Wars EU after "The Last Jedi", which i thought was boring and moved slowly. Bravo to Troy Denning.
THis one is a worthy sci-fi adventure that does justice to the characters in the Star Wars Universe. The story was a little slow at first, but then turned into an exciting adventure that displayed the physical and emotional vulnerabilities of Luke, Leia, and Han. It was definitely worth my time.
While this book wasn't bad, I would rate it similar to the Dark Swarm trilogy...not nearly as good a read as any of the Fate of the Jedi series, and not even in the same league as Invincible. Even though the official timeline didn't show any books between Apocalypse and Crucible, it seems like I must have missed one, but luckily it didn't detract too much from being able to follow the story. The story did get too mystical for me, in the last part, but that's just personal taste. What I really didn't like, no hated, was the length of the book. With the nook showing just over half way through, the book is done. Seriously, 301 pages. Oh, its excerpts for the next 138 pages! Dumb. Just tell me it's a short story before I plunk down more than $10. Also, the total lack of investment in the Ben/Vestara sub plot was disappointing. Nothing there. Nada. And the time spent getting into the new characters introduced was minimal. Overall a disappointment. I wait for each Star Wars book to come out and go and get it. Been following this series since day 1 (although I've avoided much of the prequel parts) This is one of the first times I've been really disappointed. Timothy Zahn would have taken this same story arc and spent three books and 1500 pages getting from one side to the other. Seems like the EU has become more about making a buck, then really telling the story. I mean, really! If I think back to the first three Timothy Zahn books, what do you really remember 20 years later? I can think of a lot of things right off the top of my head. What a grand story! Here, we've got the possible makings of at least a decent story, but one never gets delivered. I originally gave this a three, but I'm going to downgrade this to a two. Book should have been 600 pages or more for the story, but someone was in a hurry. Sorry Mr. Denning...and reading through the reviews, I'm not the only one who felt that this was a short story that fell short of the usually high standards I've grown to expect from Star Wars Books, at least the ones that move forward from ROTJ, rather than back before A New Hope.
Disappointingly short one-off story that doesn't seem to fit well with the most recent story arcs. Too many questions left unanswered.
I totally agree!
I loved the book. It ended the series nicely.
This book was great. If Disney doesn't allow the expanded universe to continue, then Star wars is doomed. But I can't believe that Disney is tearing down the franchise. The new "movie" will not be following any story arc after "return of the jedi". It's a whole new universe in itself. So real Star Wars fans be warned, episode 7 will be a Disney product only.
Will be released in December 2015.I can not wait for it to come out.YAY!!!!!!!!!!
This story will be about terrorization if you want to be in it please tell me
Crucible started out as a good send off for the classic trio. It was a nice wrap up to the previous series and the entire post ROTJ EU novels as well. Unlike the previous series Fate of the Jedi series this had a nice flow and kept the plot moving forward. For once, a lot of things actual happen in a single book. I wasn't a fan of Legacy of the Force or Fate of the Jed Series. If you don't want to waste all the time and money reading those, than this is a good book to bring you to the end of the EU novel timeline. My only issue was the less than satisfying ending, which I will explain below. SPOILERS BELOW: [I was not expecting or had heard about the connection to the Mortis arc from the Clone Wars. This was a welcome surprise, but if the connection is going to be made than fully commit to it. Instead we get, "well it might be the Mortis monolith". I am guessing much of the post ROTJ EU gets overridden by the new movies, so why can't the author/editors make any big reveals, or at least one final one. This appears to not only be the send off for the big three, but for the Pre-Disney EU as well. Denning set everything up for a big finale, but pulled back at the end (or was forced to by Del Rey/Lucasfilm). I believe we are suppose to think the monolith is the Mortis monolith, but it would have had to move based on its location in the Clone Wars. I guess only the author knows, but why have an entire series (FOTJ) worth of build up if it is not it. Whether this is the Mortis monolith or a similar monolith I had issues with non-force users being granted special powers upon accessing the monolith. Theses special powers granted beings known for their superior intellect, not their physical qualities, to stand on equal ground with Luke Skywalker. A proper sendoff would be an indication of who would take the reigns in the future. Maybe someone could take the place of the father, son, and daughter. Maybe the One's role in things are over. The problem is we don't get any answers and the only thing Luke and Leia take away from the monolith is that they need to retire.
The final book of the true Star Wars EU and a good one it was.The EU will be sorely missed.
This turned out to be the final novel of the Star Wars Extended Universe (1991-2014) timeline, and it made for a pretty good coda to the franchise. I am disappointed we didn't get that final hinted story involving the Celestials, but oh well.
I was not a huge fan of this book. It was billed as an ultimate showdown of sorts that would determine the future of the galaxy but all it really ended up being was a meta-physical mind trip that was, at times, a struggle to get through. The fact that this was a story of the core heroes of the EU (primarily Luke, Han, and Leia) was a nice change. Rather than leaping from sub-plot to sub-plot and from one end of the galaxy to the other, it stays rather focused in one tiny corner of the galaxy. The best part of this novel was the detail into Han's psyche and the scenes that focused on him. I enjoyed those very much. I also got a kick out of seeing Luke and Leia working together as a Jedi team without backup. Beyond that, however, it seemed like a rather boring plot that felt like it was reaching to find a meaningful story to tell. I had heard some say that the EU was painting itself into a corner and was particularly crippling the movie franchise in what stories were left to tell. I didn't believe that at the time but, after reading this novel, I admit that there may be something to the argument. It just seemed forced. I also found Vestara Khai's involvement to be contrived and opportunistic - thrown in just to have a familiar foil against the Jedi. The problem with that idea is that the Fate of the Jedi series did such a lousy job of clarifying her character. Was she good at heart? Was she pure Sith at heart? Was she deceiving the Jedi, the Sith, or just deceiving herself the entire time? That series ended without giving us a real sense of who she was deep down, which left her role as "supporting bad guy" in this novel feeling out of place. I kept wanting to look for a twist that would allow her to show her true side (hopefully a good side) but no, she's consistently written as just "bad guy." The ending also left much to be desired - it seemed like just another happy ending that didn't actually resolve anything. Worse yet, it left questions and openings for future plot development that the EU fan will now never see come to pass. For my last read in the EU about my favorite characters, it was disappointing.
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