Um, Kathy, if by any chance the shoe you are waiting for happens to be what the NJO critics will say, you really don?t have to worry in my case. As one of the more vocal critics of the NJO, I've debated over weighing in, but hopefully ya'll won't mind if I share a few thoughts. I DEVOURED this book. Real life was kind to me yesterday and conspired to give me several long breaks at work where it was perfectly permissible to read. This is the book I've been waiting for. The characterizations were excellent. For the first time I felt like Jacen's dilemma wasn't a transparent plot device, and really felt for him. I thought Leia was spot on, and as someone who can obsess over whether the hairdresser took 1/4 inch too much off the length I really sympathized with her decision. She showed a grit and determination that really hasn't been seen since the films. Finally Luke showed a spark of humanity and some red blood under his vaunted Jedi Master cool (although, for all my criticism of Vector Prime, RAS did a good job with the human side of Luke as well IMHO). Words cannot describe how well I thought Mara was written. I really didn't know how I wanted Luke and Mara's relationship to be portrayed -- I just knew what I didn't like -- until I read this book and Eureka! it's the perfect depiction of how these two would be together. It...makes perfect sense. I also very much appreciated having Mara back to her ol? fighting self, and loved her scenes with Anakin and Jaina. The plot was well-paced, moving swiftly yet surely. The action sequences were exciting. I thought it was nicely laid out how all the characters convened on Duro -- Han and Jacen acknowledge that for all they know, Leia could be on Duro while Leia purposefully makes herself hard to find; and Luke & Mara know perfectly well the others are on the planet and indeed, it?s part of their decision to go. I would have liked to have known more about the whys and wherefores of the missing apprentice's fate but at least this subplot was wrapped up on page and not dropped into the ether I always have a hard time picturing space battles but the X-Wing moves were choreographed quite clearly for me. I almost wish this were the last book ? yeah, I know, too many cliffhangers ? but it left me with such a glow that I hate to have it possibly dissipated by subsequent books. However, I do like very much the Vong ultimatum re: the Jedi, and feel that it is an incredibly interesting situation to be explored in the future. Finally, the overall plot picks up -- IMHO. Question: Kathy, when you said "I was not asked to show Mara 'cured,'" does that mean you were or were not given a directive to show Mara either cured or not cured? The use of negatives sometimes confuses me!