While plotting to rescue a carbonite frozen Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt, Luke Skywalker must avoid assassins sent by a mysterious figure of a crime syndicate. The events of "Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire" are set between the movies 'The Empire Strikes Back' and 'Return of the Jedi.' At the beginning of the story, Prince Xizor, the head of the notorious crime syndicate Black Sun, witnesses a familiar conversation between the Emperor and Darth Vader- the same conversation featured in 'Empire Strikes Back' when the idea of turning Luke Skywalker to the dark side is first mentioned. Xizor is the third most powerful person in the galaxy behind the Emperor and Vader, respectively, and has always hated Vader thanks to a personal vendetta. Upon learning that Luke is Vader's son, Xizor vows to kill Luke as a means of revenge and humiliation of Vader before the Emperor.
Across the galaxy, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, Lando Calrissian, and the droids Threepio and Artoo all band together to save Han Solo, still frozen in carbonite, but still in the cargo hold of the bounty hunter Boba Fett's ship. They enlist the help of fellow smuggler Dash Rendar to lead them to Fett, and after an unsuccessful rescue attempt on the planet Gall, narrowly survive two assassination attempts on Luke. Leia decides to send Luke into hiding on Tatooine until they can discover who's behind the attempts. She also sends Dash to watch over him in secret as a bodyguard. Without telling Luke, Leia also decides to enlist the services of Black Sun to help find the assassin.
On Tatooine, Luke begins work on constructing a new lightsaber to replace the one lost during the duel with Vader as seen in 'The Empire Strikes Back.' A gang of swoop bikers comes after him, and with help from Dash Rendar, Luke overcomes the group. He and Dash learn the gang worked for Jabba the Hutt, but since Jabba doesn't know of their intentions to rescue Han, why would he want to kill Luke?
Prince Xizor learns of Leia's interest in working with Black Sun and is attracted to her. He sends his personal bodyguard, Guri, to meet with Leia and bring her to him-but not for sharing information. After a few meetings with Leia, Guri tells her that Black Sun knows who is behind the assassination attempts on Luke and that she must meet with Prince Xizor to find out. Leia accompanies her, only to be seduced by Xizor before being saved by Chewbacca. Xizor proceeds to hold Leia hostage in his castle as a means of drawing in Luke to save her, thus getting to kill him himself and completing his revenge.
Meanwhile, Darth Vader, who has been searching for Luke, learns of Xizor's plot and is enraged for many reasons. He also learns of the grudge Xizor holds against him.
Luke meets up with Dash, Chewie, the droids, and Lando, and they sneak into Xizor's castle to rescue Leia. After a tense showdown with Xizor, Lando ups the ante by setting off a thermal detonator in the castle. All of the heroes escape before the castle is blown up. Xizor escapes as well, ordering his personal navy in orbit to capture and destroy the Millennium Falcon.
A final battle in space occurs, with the Millennium Falcon, Dash Rendar's ship The Outrider, Rogue Squadron, and Xizor's navy all in the combat. Just when things are looking bleak for the heroes, the Imperial Navy appears- but to attack Xizor's ships! Vader contacts Xizor, telling him he knows of the plan and orders him to leave Luke alone. Xizor refuses, and Vader tells him he must surrender or face the consequences. Receiving no further communication from Xizor, Vader orders his officer to destroy Xizor's fleet.
In the ensuing confusion, Luke, Rogue Squadron, and Dash all attempt to escape through the wreckage. A large piece of debris appears to take out Dash's ship-or does it?
As the story ends, Luke is back on Tatooine, using Artoo to record a very special message- one that will be seen in the opening half of 'Return of the Jedi.'
Best part of story, including ending:
I loved the writing overall. It felt like I was experiencing a brand new Star Wars film all over again. The characters were written like they'd jumped off the screen, and the new characters (Dash, Xizor, Guri) were equally entertaining.
Best scene in story:
I have so many favorite scenes, it's hard to pick one! I think I'd have to pick one of the minor scenes in the book- everyone is on board the Millennium Falcon when Lando decides to make dinner. It's a funny bit that helps relieve some of the tension and suspense that are starting to build.
Opinion about the main character:
In "Shadows of the Empire," we get to see Luke transition from the novice Force user from 'The Empire Strikes Back' to the cool, collected Jedi who walks into Jabba's palace in "Return of the Jedi." He's thoughtful, loyal, and has a temper, which appears a few times throughout the story. The character development of Luke Skywalker in "Shadows of the Empire" is one of the best arcs in Star Wars lit.