Heir to the Jedi finds itself in a somewhat unique circumstance within the Star Wars franchise. Originally this book was meant to be the last in a trilogy called the Empire and Rebellion series. Each book in the trilogy featured one of the “Big Three” (Luke, Leia, and Han) out on an independent adventure. The first two books, Razor’s Edge (featuring Leia) and Honor Among Thieves (featuring Han), were released just fine. Then Disney declared the old Expanded Universe (EU) non-canon, resulting in the two existing Empire and Rebellion books to become a duology and Heir to the Jedi becoming a standalone book as well as one of the first novels in the new EU. Since the so-called “trilogy” featured stories that had nothing to do with each other that does not matter too much, but it may serve as a partial explanation as to why this book was sub-par.
The book takes place in-between Episodes IV and V. While reading, I had the impression that it is much closer to Episode IV; the characters talk as though the destruction of the first Death Star is still a very recent event. The issue with this book is not the writing; Kevin Hearne did as good a job as could be expected with what he was given. Heir to the Jedi’s real problem is that nothing happens. The entire book is pretty much Luke flying around in a ship, running errands for the Rebellion. While this pretty much prevents the book from being a page turner for virtually any reader, in a way it was the right thing for Hearne to do.
With the plot of the book more or less irrelevant, the real focus of Heir to the Jedi becomes Luke’s character development. Since this story is supposed to take place shortly after A New Hope, it is unrealistic for any reader to expect Luke to be performing feats that go beyond a normal person. The book is at a point in Luke’s character history where his training as a Jedi is next to zero; his only real combat skills at this point are his natural skills as a pilot and whatever level of marksmanship he developed from bulls-eyeing womp rats in his T-16 back home. A New Hope portrays Luke as a farm boy with the luck of the Force on his side while The Empire Strikes Back portrays him as a much more seasoned fighter, both as a rebel and an upcoming Jedi. Heir to the Jedi, as well as any other new canon works taking place between the original films, can and should show how that transition happened since the original films did not have much opportunity to touch on that process.
In the old EU, Luke was never exactly the most interesting character. With the dozens and dozens of novels, comics, games, and other stories in the old canon it became extremely boring that Luke was often the only person capable of accomplishing super hard tasks, even at a point where decades had passed since he rebuilt the Jedi Order and there were other Jedi Masters. Yes, Luke was the original protagonist of the series and that carried on into the old EU, but you cannot have the fate of the entire galaxy rely on this one guy being present every single time without your series getting stale. Luke’s godlike importance needs to be toned down and this book was refreshing since it portrayed him as an average guy, albeit at a much earlier point in his career. While this is not the most exciting read, it is short enough that you can skim through it if you really do enjoy Star Wars. And please, do not just skip over it if you are still angry that Disney scrapped the old EU; it is not like they are going to bring it back, so we might as well enjoy the new content.