The Callista trilogy is the unofficial name for the Star Wars Legends trilogy Children of the Jedi, Darksaber and Planet of Twilight, the middle novel written by Kevin J. Anderson and the other two by Barbara Hambly. The stories of each book are mostly standalone except that they all feature the supporting character Callista, Luke Skywalker's love interest.
Children Of The Jedi follows Luke's adventures as he, pupils Cray Mingla and Nichos Marr, C-3PO and a few others find themselves stranded aboard the starship known as the Eye Of Palpatine, a fully automated Dreadnaught which has set its destructive sights upon an old Jedi outpost on Belsavis. However, Luke finds an unexpected ally aboard ship, and in the most unusual place — Callista, a Jedi who died trying to stop the ship decades ago, has infused her spirit into the ship's computer. Han and Leia, meanwhile, search Belsavis for the eponymous Jedi children, and encounter the reason for the Eye's sudden reactivation: Roganda Ismaren, one of the Emperor's other Hands, who has used Bio-Augmentation to make her son Irek capable of reprogramming circuitry via the Force. While the Solos try to stop them from summoning the dreadnaught, Luke and Callista fight it from the inside. In the end, Luke's two students blow it up, and Cray hands her body over to Callista. She is reunited with Luke but has lost all connection to the Force.
Darksaber takes place eight years after the Battle Of Endor, about a year or so after the events of the Jedi Academy Trilogy (also written by Kevin J. Anderson). The story features the return of Admiral Daala, who manages to organize the Imperial forces in an attempt to destroy the new Jedi Academy; the graduation of Karma Houdini Kyp Durron into a full-fledged Jedi Knight; and a new foe, Durga The Hutt, who is constructing his own Death Star. It also follows the exploits of Luke Skywalker as he searches for a way to help his new Love Interest Callista regain her Jedi powers.
While Luke is hopping and skipping about the galaxy seeking a cure for Callista's condition, Durga The Hutt approaches President Pro Tem Leia to establish peaceful relations. It's all a ruse; agents of Durga break into the Imperial computer archives and retrieve schematics of the Death Star, which Durga plans to recreate. He even goes so far as to hire the original engineer, Bevel Lemelisk, to redesign the new space station; Lemelisk's design strips the station down to just the power plant and superlaser shaft itself, making it look like a lightsaber (hence the book's title).
During all this, Admiral Daala returns to the Empire, only to find it splintered, factioned and civil-warring. Her attempts to reunite the Imperial forces fails, and so she enacts a plan which forces the feuding warlords to listen up, in the process gaining an ally: former Captain, now Vice Admiral Pellaeon, once the lieutenant of Grand Admiral Thrawn himself. Daala brings the warlords to a peace conference to negotiate a reunification; but when they can't get past their personal differences, Daala executes them all and takes command herself, fulfilling her Xanatos Gambit; their cooperation would unite the empire, but Daala replacing them all does too.
Hints and vague warnings abound as the various New Republic leaders begin to uncover evidence of both Daala's and Durga's respective schemes. Meanwhile, newly minted Jedi Knights Kyp Durron and his pal Dorsk 81 have infiltrated the Imperial systems in hopes of finding out what the Empre is up to these days. They learn that Daala has managed to reunify all of the Imperial forces and is planning to unleash it upon the New Republic. They get themselves exposed as spies in the process but manage to escape. Daala, instead of reworking her tactics, merely speeds up her schedule, and further attacks Dorsk 81's home planet in retaliation.
In the meantime, Durga and his minions have been constructing the new Darksaber superlaser in Hoth's famous Asteroid Thicket. Unfortunately, he's as bad at hiring good help as Daala is at military strategy; the Hive Mind creatures who are doing the actual construction are easily distracted and tend to get confused when they return to work, resulting in a nearly non-functional space craft. Nonetheless, the New Republic sends a small strike team (led by General Madine) to sabotage the project. The team fails, and Madine is killed. Durga and his minions are ultimately defeated when the superweapon fails to work and the Darksaber is pulverized by asteroids.
While all this is going on, Daala attacks the Jedi Academy. However, she underestimates the Jedi trainees' power, and they manage to use the Force to blow her fleet to the outer edges of the star system; Daala herself is spared this fate only because she was a little late to the party. While the Jedi continue mopping up the Imperial forces, Callista — who can't stand to watch the Jedi do things she herself no longer can, especially Luke — commandeers a ship and sneaks aboard Daala's flagship, sabotaging it and ending the battle, but at the cost of her life.
As the New Republic goes back to day-to-day life, Luke receives a message from Callista, revealing that she survived the battle, but she cannot continue a relationship with him until she regains her Force powers — on her own. Also revealed is that Daala survives the battle, but renounces her rank and supreme command of the Imperial forces is handed over to Pellaeon.
In Planet Of Twilight Luke heads off on, ostensibly, a mission to rescue Callista, whom he believes may be hiding on a backwater planet. Said planet also happens to be a hotspot for political upheaval and a Cult Of Evil which is bent on conquering the New Republic — meaning that Leia has to go in to negotiate.
It's all a ruse; Leia is kidnapped upon arrival, her invite to the negotiations having been merely a lure. Luke now has to both find his old flame and rescue his sister before she becomes a mere bargaining chip. There's also a subplot with a plague that sends Threepio and Artoo careening from one misadventure to another before being rescued by a retired Admiral Daala of all people, who then proceeds to help out because she hates the Imperial moff involved in the political upheaval of said backwater system. Sentient power crystals are also involved.
Tropes featured in these books include:
- All Your Powers Combined: How Dorsk 81 and the rest of the Jedi trainees repelled Pellaeon's fleet in Darksaber. It kills Dorsk, sadly.
- And I Must Scream: Callista on the Eye of Palpatine.
- Artistic License Economics: Admiral Pellaeon's infamous line about how the cost of constructing the Executor nearly bankrupted the Empire. If that actually did happen, then one can only imagine how many loans the Emperor had to take out in order to afford the funds needed to build the Death Star II — or how a warlord with a fraction of the resources was able to build another Executor.
- Armed with Canon: At the time that Darksaber came out, there was a massive difference of opinion on the nature of the status quo in the galaxy. Timothy Zahn had decided that the Rebellion and the Empire had flipped roles, with the New Republic being the legitimate authority, which had more people and more hardware than the Empire. In this scenario only someone like Grand Admiral Thrawn could make the Empire a threat to stability. Tom Veitch, on the other hand, decided that a galactic civil war, with the Empire splintered into different factions and no power having any more claim to true rulership of the galaxy than any other, was better. This made the New Republic just another player in a galactic morass. The novel authors preferred Zahn's vision, but with Dark Empire still being in the same canon as the novels, this caused some obvious problems. Therefore Darksaber is a sort of Fix Fic wherein Daala changes the Veitchian status quo into the Zahnian one, creating the Imperial Remnant that served as the main antagonist for (most of) the rest of the line.
- Asteroid Thicket: The asteroid field from The Empire Strikes Back makes a return appearance, as the location (and source of raw materials) for Durga's Darksaber Project.
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: The Tauril in Darksaber, much to Bevel Lemelisk's chagrin. They tend to get fascinated by any asteroid or starship that gets too close to the under-construction Darksaber. And once they're done gazing, they end up getting back to work... at the wrong stations, leading to component connections going all doolally. At one point they build the superlaser assembly at a right angle.
- Bad Boss: Palpatine to Lemelisk. Count the times he executed the poor guy (though he had the sense to have him cloned, due to his skills) with things like being lowered into molten copper.
- Board to Death: Daala to the feuding warlords, although it's a little played with in the sense that it wasn't her first intention. She only did it as a last resort:Daala: "I didn't want to rule. I had no intention of becoming a political leader. I wanted to crush the Rebels instead — but you give me no choice. I can't leave the Empire in the hands of fools like you."
- Body Backup Drive: Prominent mention is given to how the Emperor used to have Bevel Lemelisk executed for his failures - slowly, painfully, often via... creative methods - then immediately reanimate him in a cloned body. He would often "awaken" to find his corpse still nearby, apparently in case the horrible, horrible death he'd just suffered wasn't enough of an abject lesson. It was later hinted Palpatine did this partly to see if the technology would work on himself.
- Body Horror: Bevel Lemelisk, the designer of the first Death Star, is killed horribly by Palpatine after the first Death Star is destroyed, then cloned and restored to life with full memories of how horrible his death was. He is set to work on the second Death Star and the process is repeated every time the project suffers a setback.
- Body Motifs: The Eye of Palpatine.
- Brain Uploading: How Callista got into the computer aboard the Eye of Palpatine. Also, the transference of Lemelisk's mind to new bodies every time he was killed and cloned could be seen as this.
- Brought Down to Normal: Callista, as the result of infusing her spirit into the body of a recently deceased Jedi. Also, this temporarily applies to Luke when he first arrives on Nam Chorios, since the weird effect created by the planet's living crystals augments the Force to an incredible degree, making any use of it spiral out of control. Until he adapts, Luke is compelled to rely on his wits and physical fighting prowess, not the Force.
- Call-Back: Durga in Darksaber briefly alludes to his time serving under the legendary crime boss Xizor. Notably, this also doubles as foreshadowing as Shadows of the Empire had not been released at the time Darksaber was published.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Taken Up to Eleven with Bevel Lemelisk. He helped design the Death Star but, after it was destroyed, Palpatine had him fed to a swarm of piranha beetles. He was then reborn in a clone body and tasked with creating more superweapons, each time one failed, Palpatine had him killed in an even more horrible way (such as being lowered into a vat of molten copper or being made to breath in acidic gas which dissolves his lungs) and then reborn. When the Rebels capture him at then end and plan to execute him (though presumably in a much more humane manner) he just says "Ah, well. If you're going to kill me, at least make sure you get it right this time." Later material reveals he was found guilty of genocide and shot, a mild death in comparison.
- Damsel out of Distress: Two things happen without fail in Barbara Hambly's novels: 1. Leia is kidnapped by the Big Bad. 2. She will make their lives pure hell before she is rescued during her own escape attempt. Filleting her erstwhile kidnappers with a lightsaber is optional.
- Deathbringer the Adorable: One of Leia's adoptive aunts had four pet pittins (analogous to kittens). Their names were Taffy, Winky, Fluffy, and AT-AV (short for All-Terrain Attack Vehicle). Leia named that one herself. Obviously harmless, but it is easy to imagine a kitten analogue behaving in a manner that would earn it such a name.
- Determinator: Luke spends most of the first book exhausted and in pain, mostly using the Force just to keep going, and still never gives in. Callista is also this trope, but it's deconstructed-she spends so much time yearning to get her Force powers back that she never considers becoming a Badass Normal-she's still a trained Jedi with a lot of lightsaber skills, after all. It's either get her powers back or nothing-and look how that turned out.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Mara Jade finds out that Emperor Palpatine had more than one Emperor's Hand in the first book. Her rage and subsequent rant about it sounds a lot like that of a scorned lover who just found out her significant other was cheating on her.
- Doomed Hometown: Khomm, Dorsk 81's home world. Especially notable in that Khomm had been neutral throughout all the previous galactic conflicts, and was attacked by Daala's forces for the sole reason that a Jedi spy had hailed from there.
- Drama-Preserving Handicap: Luke is so massively powerful at this point in Star Wars he'd be able to go through any of the challenges of Children of the Jedi easily. Thus, Luke spends the vast majority of Children badly injured without decent medical supplies available, the result of which being that he can barely use The Force and what little he can use he has to focus on keeping his body together.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Lord Elegin, a stereotypical Evil Colonialist, is nevertheless an Officer and a Gentleman who would never mistreat a woman.
- Fake Ultimate Villain: General Sulamar in Darksaber. Claims to be a feared and dreaded Imperial officer, responsible for the Massacre at Mendicat. Turns out that Mendicat was a mining station and said Massacre was really a foolish command error of Sulamar's that sent it hurtling into the star it was orbiting. Guess Durga forgot to Space-Google him.
- Fate Worse than Death: Callista gets a pretty good one.
- Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon: The Darksaber.
- General Failure:
- Admiral Daala, oh so very much. Later books have to give her brain damage to justify it.
- Also, "General" Sulumar in Darksaber, once it's revealed that he's a great big fraud.
- Pellaeon isn't really any better than Daala, at least in this series, being her admiring yes-man who enthusiastically supports all of her... questionable strategies.
- Generation Xerox: What Leia and the rest of the New Republic believe is the case regarding Seti Ashgad, who they think is the son of a same-named Senator that Palpatine exiled to Nam Chorios. Turns out he's the original Seti Ashgad, having been kept alive and young by a mutated droch beetle.
- Get It Over With, "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner and Face Death with Dignity: Bevel Lemelisk's reaction to Wedge's threat of final execution as a threat to galactic peace? A resigned sigh of "Ah, well. If you're going to kill me, at least make sure you get it right this time." It especially makes sense given how many times he already died and was reborn. One guide to characters claims he made this his Last Words before the firing squad after he was sentenced to death by the New Republic for genocide.
- Heroic Suicide: Cray and Nichos, blowing up the Eye.
- Hive Mind: The Tauril, the creatures that build the Darksaber. They're sadly easily distracted.
- Hold Your Hippogriffs: A variation of "Might as well be hanged for horse theft as for stealing chicken feed"-"In for two credits, let's rob a bank!"
- I Just Want to Be Special: This is practically Callista's refrain for pretty much the entirety of Darksaber.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Luke and Tionne do this to an Imperial Flying Fortress using the stump of a giant broken tree.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: In Planet of Twilight, Callista says this of Luke.''People have tried to use him from the moment he put out his hand and summoned his lightsaber to come to him. Vader wanted to turn him. Palpatine wanted his services. Palpatine's clone managed to enslave him for a time. But Luke is strong, stronger than he knows. And Luke has a single purpose. I suppose you could say that he has a pure heart. Luke doesn't hunger after power. In some ways I don't think he understands those who do."
- The Infiltration: Several in Darksaber.
- Info Dump: Darksaber is as long as it is partially because Daala and Bevel Lemelisk keep hauling the plot to a hard stop so they can reiterate their respective backstories. And not only them, but also General Madine, Qwi Xux, Dorsk 81...
- Informed Ability: Admiral Daala is described as a tactical prodigy that was kept down because the Empire was sexist. Daala's "campaigns" tend to be poorly thought-out raids that end in cataclysmic failure, and Daala herself comes across as trigger-happy and borderline unhinged. The only intelligent things she does are to eliminate the feuding warlords and consolidate their fleets into a single Imperial Navy, and turn over command of what's left to Pellaeon after her scheme's inevitable failure.
- Informed Flaw: In Darksaber Pellaeon is described as speaking with "little charisma". This is the same Pellaeon who took command of the Imperial fleet at Endor, brought about an honorable peace with the New Republic in the face of diehards on his own side, went on to lead the Empire for three decades and in this book managed to persuade his fleet to disobey a direct order from their (and his) superior to attack Daala. Maybe he was having an off day (possible, since he's here described as deeply disillusioned after the Empire's defeats and now having to work for said superior, who's one of many petty warlords).
- Killed Off for Real:
- Crix Madine in Darksaber, the first film character with a speaking role to die. Also a "Shaggy Dog" Story since he went on that mission to destroy the Darksaber, but as events transpired, he might as well not have bothered.
- Dorsk 81 bites the big one in Darksaber, dying after pooling together all the Jedi's powers to repel Pellaeon's fleet when it began its attack on Yavin 4.
- Lampshade Hanging: In Darksaber, upon learning of the eponymous menace, Han quips "Not another superweapon!"
- Lava Pit: One of the various ways Palpatine executed Lemelisk. Played with in that it was in fact molten copper, and when Lemelisk asked "Why molten copper?" a month later, Palpatine simply responded "It's what the smelter used that day."
- Meaningful Name:
- Daala alters the Night Hammer's name slightly, adding a K at the front as a sort of sick joke against the Jedi.
- Also, the eponymous superweapon in Darksaber, named due to its resemblance to a Jedi's lightsaber.
- Metamorphosis Monster: The alien parasites in Planet of Twilight start off as little beetles that burrow into people and are supposedly quickly killed by the immune system. They grow into horribly fat, claw-legged and LampreyMouthed monstrosities that use their little siblings to drain pure Life Energy from a distance, but they'll attack directly to gain biomass. One or two can become something like a protoshoggoth, with a normal human head atop a maw-studded body.
- A Molten Date with Death: One of the seven executions Bevel Lemelisk suffered was to be lowered into a vat of molten copper. Compared to the others, he found it almost disappointingly banal of the Emperor in retrospect.
- My Grandson Myself: Seti Ashgad presents himself as his same-named son in Planet of Twilight.
- Narrative Profanity Filter: Planet of Twilight has:Sitting up, the youth said a word that Threepio knew in close to a million languages but was programmed never to utter in any of them.
- Noodle Incident:
- Played straight and eventually subverted with General Sulamar and the "Massacre at Mendicat", which he claims was a magnificent military campaign that put him on the map in Imperial history. Crix Madine reveals to Durga and Lemelisk that said massacre was in fact nothing more than when Sulamar made a buffoonish command error that sent the Mendicat, an Imperial mining station, hurtling into a star.
- Also: since the end of The Thrawn Trilogy, Pellaeon has gained a promotion but lost the Chimaera and ended up in the service of a warlord, all of which hint at an interesting few years between The Last Command and Darksaber. Source material says he lost the Chimaera while fighting under the reborn Emperor, and then the Empire split up into warlord factions again. Later books show that he eventually manages to recapture the Chimaera.
- Reality Ensues: Honestly, Durga? What did you expect to happen when you tried to build a superweapon but decided to cheap out on construction material and labor? It doesn't even fire.
- The Remnant: Triple subverted in Children of the Jedi. Luke's investigative mission to the Eye of Palpatine starts with the dreadnought shooting them down, leading to a crash-landing on a planet where they are confronted by a garrison of Imperial stormtroopers... consisting of one old black man, Triv Pothman, who immediately helps patch them up. He's been waiting for the Eye to pick him up for decades. Then it does, brainwashing everyone into being stormtroopers—again, in Triv's case. Then Luke helps him snap out of it and he remains on the good-guy side, eventually experiencing the Call to Agriculture at the end of the novel.
- Ridiculously Human Robots: Nichos Marr in the first book. He's the result of a failed attempt at Brain Uploading. As a result, he has heated outer plating to imitate body heat and the ability to move his face. Too bad he's still a robot who happens to have some human memories. This not only foreshadows the fact that Callista might exist, but it also explains her reincarnation: Nichos' lover, Cray Mingla, who orchestrated the creation of the droid as a Replacement Goldfish, decides to rejoin him on the other side. And since she's got this spare human female body she won't need anymore, and Callista could use one...
- Scaramanga Special: One of the Imperial warlords can take off the medals and accouterments from his uniform and assemble them together into a bladed weapon.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story:
- Luke and Callista spend Darksaber traveling the galaxy trying to restore Callista's connection to the Force, but the subplot is interrupted when Daala attacks the Jedi Temple and Callista disappears in the process of stopping her. She does show up in Planet of Twilight but the status of her connection to the Force is not addressed again until the Fate of the Jedi series, where after going through even worse, she gets a happy ending.
- As mentioned elsewhere, the trilogy is something of this out of universe - in the words of Barbara Hambly, she was hired to write the perfect match for Luke in Children of the Jedi, then, because the fandom had latched on to Mara Jade as a romantic interest for Luke, she came back for Planet of Twilight to write that same "perfect match" out.
- Shaped Like Itself: Anderson is fond of these because they make him happy. "The structure rose like a giant ivory edifice." "Below, the dense greenery looked like clouds of foliage."
- Shoot the Builder:
- Bevel Lemelsik, the primary designer of the Death Star, is initially rewarded instead of being murdered, but after the Death Star is destroyed due to an overlooked weak spot, he's tortured to death by a furious Palpatine (as revealed in The Callista Trilogy). Then Lemelisk is resurrected with dark magic so he can build a second, improved Death Star.
- Lemelisk's former teacher Nasdra Magrody plays a minor, Obliviously Evil role in creating the Death Star, but suffers this fate in relation to a completely different project in the Back Story of The Callista Trilogy. Magrody's family is held hostage while he's forced to build a brain implant that will control machines with the Force. After the project's completion, he disappears and is probably murdered.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog:
- Durga the Hutt spends an entire book building his Darksaber in the asteroid field from Episode V. When the time comes for him to go forth and menace the New Republic the superlaser fails and the entire vessel is fatally sandwiched between two giant asteroids before it can even get out of the asteroid field. And so Crix Madine and his team died for nothing.
- Made even worse when you consider that the sporadic scenes where Bevel Lemelisk is dealing with the hive mind laborers screwing up his designs quickly devolve to the status of an Overused Running Gag. Even with enough time to complete the weapon, the shoddy materials and computers used to put it together would render it a laughing stock.
- Spear Counterpart: Children of the Jedi is, in a real sense, a romance novel told from the guy's perspective.
- Senseless Sacrifice: Crix Madine, who is executed trying to sabotage the Darksaber, only for it to get crushed by two asteroids after failing to fire due to shoddy workmanship anyway.
- Temporary Love Interest: Zigzagged with Callista. Hambly was commissioned to create a love interest for Luke Skywalker, on the understanding that Callista would stick around as his permanent match. But Mara Jade had built up such enormous Popularity Power by then that Lucasfilm decided on a new direction.
- Untouchable Until Tagged: How Callista died.
- Villain Decay: Lampshaded and addressed. At the end of Darksaber, Daala resigns her commission because she feels that after her repeated defeats, she can no longer ask her men to follow her lead.
- Villainous Valour: When Daala gasses the warlords, most of them only scream and plead and try to break out (As expected). One, however, methodically takes off all of his medals and uniform accouterments and assembles them together into a bladed weapon. Daala is impressed at his focus and wonders if he will be able to complete his task before succumbing. He does finish the weapon, but collapses before he actually reaches her.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: The Ismarens get away, and aren't seen again until the New Jedi Order.
- Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: Averted. Say what you like about how Madine died, but at least Durga was smart enough to ensure that it was properly carried out.
- Would Not Shoot a Civilian: Averted with Daala, who orders Colonel Cronus and his massive fleet of Victory-class Star Destroyers to launch a terror campaign against a large number of civilian and military targets, including Khomm, the Chardaan Shipyards, and a library world. She already showed her willingness to do it in previous books, and most Imperials have no problem with this.
- You Are in Command Now: Pellaeon, after Daala resigns.
- You Get What You Pay For: Durga's Darksaber probably would have worked better if he hadn't been chintzy on the construction costs. Lemelisk tried to warn him early enough to fix it, but he didn't listen.
- You Have Failed Me:
- Lemelisk gets executed by Palpatine for failing to look over a fault in the first Death Star which the Rebels finally took advantage of... Then he's cloned, being too good to throw away, but he does end up executed and resurrected multiple times whenever Palpatine sees a setback.
- Durga tries this trope, via an electrified chair, but he pushes the wrong button and executes someone else entirely. The next time someone screws up, the entire crew jumps out of their chairs, leaving Durga with nobody he can execute that way. And later on, we see that Durga has learned from his experiences, and had everyone restrained in their seats so they can't get away.