Jedi Academy: Return of the Padawan

Return of the PadawanI’m sure the Germans have a word for when you get two pages into reading a book and realise it’s the second one in a series instead of the first.

Whatever that word is, it applies to me, having just experienced that with Jeffrey Brown’s Jedi Academy: Return of the Padawan.

The ‘return’ should probably have provided me an early hint, both because it implies someone’s already been somewhere before and because the Return of the Jedi in the film isn’t exactly the first. But let’s all agree my brain wasn’t entirely engaged until I had the graphic novel in my hands and its opening pages before my eyes.

Either way, I quickly caught the gist of the story (aided by the handy in-case-you-haven’t-read-the-first-book summary): Protagonist Roan Novachez dreams of being a pilot. He’s studying at Jedi Academy, a kind of boarding school for future Jedis.

The book/series is an entry into the young adult market, with Brown’s other books (about which I’ve blogged up to could it be three times?) catering to the dual market of young children and their bemused and sleep-deprived Star Wars-fan parents.

It’s a 190-page image and story fest, with Brown applying his comic-drawing skills to full effect. No two sections are the same, with each surprising as they simultaneously flesh out the Jedi Academy universe and propel the story forward.

The book begins with Roan heading back for his second year at the academy. The first year, reportedly, was a little rough, but I’m obviously yet to read that firsthand. This year, Roan will finally get to do the study he’s been most keen on: learning to pilot Jedi starfighters via state-of-the-art flight simulators.

While I found the hapless, bumbling Roan sweet but a little too goofy at times (he mixes up days and arrives at school too early; he forgets to pack underwear and breaks just about everything he touches…), he is ultimately endearing.

Jedi AcademyEven better were Brown’s subtle inclusion of Star Wars references and puns merged with high school references and rites of passage.

Gammy is the academy’s new cook and first Gamorrean to achieve the galactic gourmet rank—that is, he’s the least friendly, least likely cook to serve edible food since the quintessential cafeteria lady.

The gym teacher is a wookie. The students go on a camp with Yoda at Hoth and one student gets his tongue stuck licking ice in a cave.

Gammy’s Home Economics tips include: ‘Lightsaber should not be used to cut butter (it tends to melt all the butter) or bread (will toast the entire loaf). Lightsaber can be used to carve turkey for dinner. Make sure to thoroughly wash lightsaber afterward.’

Students use the force to create a forcefield that deflects spitballs. A parent–teacher interview sign is cheekily amended to read: ‘09:00 parents arrive [and give you embarrassing hugs]’, ‘09:30 parent–teacher interviews [no hiding report cards this time]’, ‘01:30 parents will receive tour of classrooms and [messy] dorm rooms’, ‘04:00 parents depart [after probably crying for no reason]’. Oh, and there’s a bedlam-peddling Ewok pilot to boot.

It goes without saying I’ll need to go back to Book One to understand the true nuances of this second book. But Book Two has been good enough standalone to encourage me to recommend it. I guess I should research if there’s yet a Book Three while I’m at it…

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Fiona Crawford

Fiona Crawford is a freelance writer, editor, blogger, proofreader, and voracious reader. She regularly appears as a book reviewer in Australian BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER magazine. Fiona is also (unfairly) known as the Book Burglar due to her penchant for buying family members—then permanently borrowing—books she wants to read herself.