Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars

Victory’s Price – Review

91JsOLv+dNLThe events of Shadow Fall have left Alphabet Squadron shattered and picking up the pieces in light of Yrica Quell’s betrayal. They have a chance to take down Shadow Wing for good as Operation Cinder rears it’s ugly head again, forcing Alphabet Squadron to defend Imperial worlds from destruction as the Empire eats its own. The end of the war feels near yet our heroes are left with the scars from years of fighting that may never heal.

The crawl for Revenge of the Sith said, “There are heroes on both sides” and Alexander Freed brings this statement to life in his third book of the Alphabet Squadron series, Victory’s Price. The Imperial remnant can no long afford to be at war with the New Republic, yet they continue their terror campaign, Operation Cinder. Freed gets into the head of Colonel Keize to to help us understand the reason why a person like him is more nuanced that might first appear. He’s not fighting for the cause, he’s fighting for the people next to him. It’s better for him to die defending his comrades than land in the arms of New Republic justice. He has no faith that the New Republic will handle trials fairly. Plus it comes to light in the novel that the Emperor made sure everyone in his service had their hands dirty, no matter their job in the Empire, there is no innocence.

On the other side, Freed uses every opportunity to dig deep into the impact years of war has had on the Rebels. In many ways the scars of war are proving Thomas Wolfe’s contention that you can’t go home again, at least not the same as when you left. Few Star Wars books dive into the psychological impact of war the way Victory’s Price does. Fans have become use to characters being able to easily overcome anything thrown at them, Freed doesn’t give us that luxury and the book is the better for it.

The best theme of the book is the way in which one see’s the “other side”. Quell says,

“Keize was just trying to keep his troops alive. Give them a future. And I -” She paused again for a long time. “I started to think maybe they didn’t deserve dying. Even as I watched them murder planets, I started to think of them as -not good people, not decent people, but people. My friends.”

This may be one of the best things to come out of a Star Wars book thematically in years. In a society that has lost the ability to see the “other side” as people, it speaks volumes. If one cannot see the humanity in someone across the aisle, it will enable “othering” and once you start down that dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.

Another huge plus for the novel is that Hera is given much more page time finally! It’s disappointing that it took two books before that happened. Hera should have been the feature character throughout the entire series.

The last theme that really stood out was the importance of remembering our mistakes and past. Quell says,

”But I haven’t forgotten Nacronis or anything else. I live with the memory of what I’m capable of every day. I need the memory to do better. And wiping out the records of what we’ve done seem an awful lot like helping everyone else forget.”

History, personal and societal must be remembered. It is only through knowing, recognizing and coming to terms with the truth of our mistakes that we can avoid making them again.

Victory’s Price is a rare type of Star Wars book. There is a depth to it that will surprise you. Personally I was not expecting to like this book after the second entry in the series but I was wrong. This might be one of the best Star Wars books in a long while. Victory’s Price is rated 4.5 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed with a review copy of Victory’s Price from Del Rey Publishing.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · Thrawn · Uncategorized

Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising – Review

iuIn 1991 author Timothy Zahn continued the Star Wars trilogy with his book, Heir to the Empire. The story was not only a continuation of our favorite characters’ stories but also an introduction to new characters. One of these creations has stood the test of time, having been adapted into canon by appearing in Star Wars Rebels and having his story continue in the literature. His name is Thrawn. This mysterious blue alien from the Chiss Ascendancy is finally getting his origin story in Zahn’s latest book, Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising.

The Book

The book is broken up into two different, alternating story lines. One is the “current” story of Senior Captain Thrawn and the second is the Memories section which tells us the history of Thrawn. The memories section also works to fill in the backstory for the relationships between the galactic powers inside the Chaos region of space, where the Ascendancy is located.

The absolute pleasure of this book comes in finally gaining an understanding of why Thrawn is the way he is. Getting to explore his history coming up in the Chiss military is fascinating and gives readers the fullest understanding of the character by letting us see his successes and, more importantly, his failures. Thrawn has always felt like the Sherlock Holmes of the Star Wars galaxy, but Zahn is not above showing readers hisblindspots. By alternating between the “past” and the “present”, the character of Thrawn comes to life in a way readers haven’t gotten to see before. Zahn gives us his motivations and worldview in the clearest possible way by having Thrawn tell, as well as show, what they are.

But this book is not just about Thrawn. It is about the Chiss Ascendancy as well. Fans have long wanted to know more about his power in the Unknown Regions and thankfully Zahn provides an opportunity to explore them. There is a richness to having this group fleshed out and developed as deeply as any race in the Star Wars galaxy. (I could spend the rest of the review diving into everything that’s revealed about Thrawn as well as the Chiss, but honestly it’s just more fun to experience it for yourself!).

Politics

Thrawn’s biggest blindspot has always been politics. Unfortunately for him, the Chiss Ascendancy is rife with politics at every level of life. Our current climates makes this a fitting theme to explore. We live in a time when politics inserts itself into every aspect of our lives. Watching Thrawn struggle with this reality mirrors the experience of many  in our world who also struggle to come to grips with this hyper-political existence.

In many ways Thrawn is not fully aware of the depth of the political wars raging behind the scenes as he works to quell the external threats to the Chiss. What will be interesting to see, as this new trilogy progresses, is if the political nature of Chiss life emerges as a detriment to them in their quest to keep themselves safe. Politics has a bad habit of clouding the most important issues because of partisan blinders. Chaos Rising clearly shows the danger of becoming myopic through the main antagonist’s end.

Conclusion

The start to this latest Thrawn trilogy is fantastic. Zahn finally gets to run wild with his creation by digging intothe Ascendancy as well as the title character. There is so much to love about the world building on display and about a story that’s only hindrance is the canon of where Thrawn will end up. Thankfully there is so much to play with, it makes the book feel fresh and new. Chaos Rising is rated 4.75 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed with a review copy of Chaos Rising from Del Rey Publishing.

This review first appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · Uncategorized

Shadow Fall – Review

iu-2

Don’t miss The 602 Club review!

Shadow Fall continues the adventures of Alphabet Squadron as they help General Syndulla and her battle group secure the Cerberon system as well as create a plan to entrap the dangerous Shadow Wing. In many ways, Shadow Fall follows the mold of The Empire Strikes Back in splinting up the characters, as well as getting to the heart of who they are and who they are going to chose to be. Friendships are forged, alliances are shattered and secrets are revealed that will change the future of Alphabet Squadron forever.

Secrets

On of the most interesting themes in this book is the idea of just how dangerous secrets are to a group. In Freed’s first book in the series, the reader was given the true reasons Yrica left the Empire. This information is held over her like a proverbial Sword of Damocles which finally does fall and irrevocably damages her relationship with her squadron.

In a world where the past has come back to haunt some of the most famous people on the planet, the theme of secrets feels as relevant as ever. It’s a reminder that it is much better to just be forthright about our mistakes. The truth will come out, no matter how hard you work to suppresses it and when it does, it almost always has the power to destroy. There are few things worse than living in the shadow of your past and just waiting for it to fall. Honesty, truly is the best policy.

Desiring Hope

Since this book takes place not long after the Battle of Endor, it’s fascinating to see how the galaxy is responding to life removed from the oppression of the Empire. One of the most interesting ways this is happening is in the rise of cults all over the galaxy. There seems to be an explosion of religious expression following the fall of the Empire.

One of the main cults we see in this book is based on Catadra, one of the planets in the Cerberon system, called The Children of the Empty Sun. Their main teacher challenges Chass as she explains their philosophy,

“Judge us by the same standards you judged the New Republic. There’s millennia of wisdom from a hundred cultures that teach what the Force wants—the flourishing of life, tranquility, community—yet the ruling powers only fight. You don’t trust the military to turn away from violence any more than I do. They don’t know how.”

“But you know how,” Chass said. She laughed and shook her head. “You listen to the Force, so you can build a better civilization.”

“Hard to believe, but what’s more likely to work? Holding on to war hasn’t given you peace, Maya. Maybe, just maybe I’m an alternative.”

It is not hard to see why this kind of philosophy would be appealing to the people of the galaxy and why cults like this would be popping up everywhere after 30 years of Imperial rule. Rebellions are built on hope, but so are lives in general, the hope that things can and will get better. Now that the galaxy is out from under the groupthink oppression of the Empire, people have the freedom to be able to express that hope in a variety of ways. And as is true in the real world, many people turn to religious expression to find that hope. Star Wars has always had a religious component and it’s fascinating to see the resurgence of that in the post-Endor galaxy as people exercise their new found freedom of religion.

The Book

There is a lot that is good in Shadow Fall. Readers finally have some mysteries revealed, the back story of Kairos and Adan, insight into Chass past, as well as the furthering of Nath and Wyl’s friendship. The book also continues to show the New Republic as it tries to govern, while still subduing the Imperial resistance. It is also nice to see the book use some previously established characters, especially on the Imperial side to continue building the post-Endor universe.

As good as these things are, there are some issues. The book’s focus is so myopic that there is little understanding of how and why this story is important to the over all story to the galaxy. There is no indication as to why this system is important to the New Republic, as there is never any connection with anyone outside this system. This was one of the strengths of the X-Wing series in the past is it’s ability to tell a focused story that also felt important to the Star Wars galaxy.

The first book gave us just a taste of Hera. Shadow Fall does have more of her in it, but sadly she’s still not given much to do and in all honest, as neat as it is to have her in the book, the character could have been any general in the New Republic and the story would have been the same. It truly feels like a wasted opportunity in storytelling.

In conclusion, there are some intriguing themes in the book but the rest of the story just didn’t hold my attention the way I would hope it would because of the things I mentioned above. Shadow Fall is rated 2.5 out of 5 stars.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · The Rise of Skywalker · Uncategorized

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: Expanded Edition – Review

9780593128404The Rise of Skywalker brought the Skywalker Saga to a close. If there was any criticism this reviewer had of the film, it was that the movie should have been longer, to allow scenes to breathe more, giving us more background, as well as more character moments. Thankfully Rae Carson’s expanded edition of the novelization is here to do just that!

Novels have some distinct advantages over movies and one of the biggest is allowing the readers to be inside the minds of the characters and understand what they are thinking in pivotal scenes. The Rise of Skywalker novelization is no exception. There are many key moments where Carson has been able to expound on an important point in the film through getting inside what a characters are thinking.

Much has been made of the ways the novel is able clarify or add to the understanding of certain revelations from the movie and they’ve not been exaggerated. Almost every expanded scene in the book should have been in the movie. Most of them would have added minutes, at most, to each scene, but what they do for the story is significant. Reading the book can be a frustrating experience because it will leave you scratching your head as to why so much of this was not included into the finished film. Some of these things can be read into the movie through what is given, but the explicitness the book gives to these scenes, honestly improves the story.

Rae Carson’s lead-in to Solo, Most Wanted was a great book and her work here lives up to that. She was able to perfectly expand on The Rise of Skywalker. The Revenge of the Sith is the gold standard of Star Wars novelizations, The Rise of Skywalker is the second. The way this book adds to the movie and expounds on it, makes the film better. It is rated 4.5 out of 5 stars.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · The Rise of Skywalker · Uncategorized

Resistance Reborn – Review

Don’t miss The 602 Club review!

“A choice to be better” – Poe Dameron

resistance-reborn-final-coverWhen The Last Jedi ended, the Resistance found itself shattered, what was left of it fit abroad the Millennium Falcon plus there were the pilots of Black Squadron who’d defended Ikkrukk against the First Order and what was left of Inferno Squad. It’s not a lot to work with as Resistance Reborn begins. Leia and Poe are left with the task to trying to rebuild the Resistance from scratch, as well as figure out why all of their allies seem to be disappearing.

Redemption and Action

The Last Jedi held a hard lesson for Poe Dameron. His impulsive behavior lead to the deaths of many in the Resistance and this weighs heavily on him throughout the story of Resistance Reborn. The title is apt as Poe and many others in the Resistance find themselves in need of a rebirth. Actions they have taken have lead to harm, destruction and even death, as Poe says in a speech he gives. And yet the choice is clear, they must face the consequences for their actions, learn from their mistakes and move forward, because quitting is just not an option in the face of the First Order’s evil.

Redemption is such a big theme in the history of Star Wars and yet being redeemed is not just about turning from previous choices, it’s also about actively changing your ways and putting yourself on a new path so that those mistakes don’t reoccur. Poe particularly finds himself in a place where penance for his mistakes is the best way to earn the redemption needed to help Leia lead the fledgling Resistance. It’s such a timeless story of personal responsibly and more important than ever in today’s world.

The Book

There are so many surprises in this book that author Rebecca Roanhouse has in store and it’s best to allow readers to experience those surprises as they read, therefore they won’t be spoiled here. What makes this book so much fun is the reward that it is for those that have been reading the new Star Wars canon material since the beginning. This book pulls from the Aftermath books, Bloodline, the Poe Dameron comics, the Battlefront II storyline and so much more to tell it’s story. In many ways it feels like the Legends books that were able to pull in any character, at any time and use them. Resistance Reborn is the kind of book fans have been waiting for since 2015 and is most definitely a must read before seeing The Rise of Skywalker. Resistance Reborn is rate 4.5 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed using a copy of Resistance Reborn was provided by Del Rey Publishing.

This post originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Book Reviews · Books · Galaxy's Edge · Star Wars · Uncategorized

Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire – Review

iu-3

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report. Don’t miss The 602 Club Review!

Most of the Resistance did get wiped out by the First Order, but that’s the tricky thing about doing what’s right and fighting the good fight: people just keep doing it no matter what.”

Black Spire p. 221

The celebration for the opening of Galaxy’s Edge continues as Del Rey Books releases Delilah S. Dawson’s Black Spire. Picking up where her previous book Phasma left off, as well as the events of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, Vi Moradi is tasked with helping the decimated Resistance by traveling to Black Spire Outpost on Batuu to set up a new base and recruit. Unfortunately for her, she’s not going alone, as General Leia sends her with Archex, who was formally known as Cardinal of the First Order, newly deprogramed and freed. What could go possibly go wrong?

Freedom Isn’t Free

One of the stand out themes of Black Spire is something Vi struggles with while trying to recruit new members for the Resistance among the denizens of BSO. She finds that most people are of the opinion that if they keep their noses out of galactic affairs they will be safe from the tyranny of the First Order. She is frustrated with the lack of interest in the common good and reminds them that, “…if you keep letting bullies bully other people, eventually they run out of other people.”(p.164). It brings to mind the age old adage about evil flourishing when good people do nothing. Vi’s pleading with them harkens back to Obi-Wan telling the gungans in The Phantom Menace, “You and the Naboo form a symbiont circle. What happens to one of you will affect the other. You must understand this.”. It’s a lesson that the Star Wars galaxy struggles mighty with but it’s also one that feels universal for the real world as well. The fight for freedom and the protection of it takes constant vigilance. It’s a fight that can happen in many different ways, but the commitment must be total and the character arcs of this book illustrate that perfectly.

The Trauma of Life

Life has a way of beating people down and Black Spire is very much about the ways people deal with the trauma that happens along the way. Vi is suffering from the torture she received at the hands of Cardinal which continues to give her nightmares. Archex has lost his entire way of life. He’s been a slave for most of it, being told what to do, what to believe and how to behave since birth, first in a Jakku orphanage and then as a “recruit” for the First Order. The psychological trauma of going from never having to make up his mind about anything and always know his purpose, to feeling broken and purposeless has taken it’s toll. He sums up his feelings when he says, “I’ve been through some bad things…People have hurt me. Most of the time, I manage to ignore it to hide it, but it’s always there, lurking underneath. And what I’ve learned is that the only way out is through. That I have to feel the fear, acknowledge it, and do it anyway. Fear can’t hurt you.'(p. 282)

His John Wayne philosophy of, “Being scared to death and saddling up anyway” is at the heart of each one of the characters in the book. Each one is having to face a fear, brought on by the trials of life and the only way to get over them is to deal with them head on. It truly is a beautiful reminder that the only thing that can beat us is us, if we give up; that’s when we lose.

The Book

The Galaxy’s Edge series has been about introducing fans to the new planet and location for the theme parks. Yet what sets Black Spire apart from A Crash of Fate is that it truly makes you feel like you know this place. Dawson’s descriptions are fantastic, but more importantly she brings BSO to life through the characters and their experience in this world. The book also does an incredible job of following up The Last Jedi and through this story of absolute desperation showing just how fragile the Resistance is after their narrow escape on Crait. With all of the themes talked about, you’d think this book is dower and serious and yet Dawson’s wicked sense of humor and sarcasm are on full display through the characters. This adds the levity needed in the story and truly makes the book a joy to read. Black Spire helps fill in the gap between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker perfectly and is the perfect way to fill the time waiting for Episode IX. Black Spire is rated 4.25 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed using a copy of Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire provided by Del Rey.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · Star Wars Rebels · Thrawn · Uncategorized

Thrawn: Treason – Review

D9hyp-SXsAE4yN5This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report. Don’t miss The 602 Club review!

“I tire of this bickering,” the Emperor said. “You, Governor, were the one who arranged this meeting. What precisely was your intent?”

Excerpt From: Thawn: Treason, p17.

This review does contain very mild spoilers.

Thrawn is back, this time in the interlude of Star Wars Rebels season four when he was summoned away from Lothal. Thrawn: Treason illuminates what was so important, that it could pull him away from finally closing in the the rebels, once and for all. Project Stardust is in danger as it’s supply routes have been disrupted by grallocs, a cousin species of mynocks, causing important shipments to disappear and putting the titanic project behind schedule. With resources for his own TIE Defender project on the line, Thrawn faces his most Sherlockian mission yet; can he deduce the gralloc problem in a week?

Politics, Politics, Politics

Thrawn: Treason is full of Imperial politics. Palpatine is actively stoking the fires of political machinations in his minions, fostering discord, as men like Krennic, Tarkin and a new Grand Admiral, Savit all jockey for postion, power and their own self interest. What makes this so fascinating is how Zahn helps lay the foundations for the reasons the Empire will ultimately fail. By encouraging this, Palpatine is creating a system that will eventually crack under the weight of ambition and egocentric behavior. As those in the Empire realize the immense corruption, they will eventually turn away, looking out for themselves or seeking out an alternative ideal to believe in. Zahn offers the perfect juxtaposition with Thrawn, the alien, being the embodiment of everything the Empire says it stands for yet doesn’t when you get past the crisp uniformed shell.

c5crpyjmdtmdrfrmyfhcMore Chiss

One of the best things about this novel is Zahn getting the opportunity to follow up on his first Thrawn novel. He answers the question of why Vanto was sent to the Chiss Ascendancy and gives readers what they all want, more Vanto! He is also able to expand on our understanding of the Ascendancy, their navigators and their importance to the survival of the Chiss. Furthermore the Gysks are back and the threat they face looms larger than was previously believed for the Chiss and for the Empire.

The Book

Zahn is a master at what he does. The mystery surrounding the supply lines is the kind of thing you want Thrawn facing. He’s also thrown the challenge of navigating the politics of the upper echelons of the Imperial Navy, something he’s no skill in. The book feels like the end of this era for Thrawn as he heads back to Lothal and Rebels shows us how that plays out. If this is the last we see of the illustrious Grand Admiral, Treason is a fitting end, the book is rated 4 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed using a copy of Thrawn: Treason provided by Del Rey.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · Uncategorized

Alphabet Squadron – Review

download copyThis review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report. Don’t miss The 602 Club review with Alex Damon of Star Wars Explained!

“We’re old hats at loosing. We’re still learning how to win” – General Hera Syndulla

When Disney bought Lucasfilm and rebooted the literature, to be in line with canon, one of the biggest losses was the fan-favorite, X-Wing series. Not only did it given fans some of the best characters in Legends, but it also told the story of important events post Return of the Jedi. Now, for fans clamoring for the return of a squadron based series comes the first book in Alexander Freed’s new trilogy, Alphabet Squadron.

The Cost

Alphabet Squadron takes place, months after the Battle of Endor and the events seen in the Battlefront II story involving the Imperial initiative, Operation Cinder. This a book that is truly about the cost of war and the toll it takes on everyone involved, on the winning and the losing sides. Freed’s strength, like his previous book Battlefront, is the psychology of war. Each one of the characters is dealing with the aftermath of the Galactic Civil War in different ways. For some it’s about revenge, for others it’s about just trying to get home, while for others it’s about trying to stay out of the fight at this point all together; the war has left an indelible mark on everyone.

The New Republic is also facing these same pains, as it transitions from a rebellion to a legitimate government. As the quote from Hera says, it takes time to learn how to win and to do that well.

This story, like Battlefront is a story that puts the war in Star Wars, it is a military minded story. It makes you feel like you are in this period of galactic unrest, in the cockpit, trying to survive the mission.

The Book

The book, since it is the first of a trilogy, does not feel rushed. It takes its time introducing you to the characters and this post Endor world. It helps not rushing into the action, getting the time to spend with the characters before turning up the heat on them. It also gives the book a sense of realism to not have this dispirate group of people, thrown together as a squad, immediately best buddies.

One of the highlights of the story is the inclusion of fan favorite, Hera from Star Wars Rebels. It would have been nice for her to have a larger role in the book, but here’s hoping it will be larger in the upcoming stories. She’s written perfectly by Freed so that you can hear Vanessa Marshall delivering every line of her’s in the book.

One drawback I had, was that I was not as connected to the characters in the story as I was the themes they were playing out and the larger ramifications of their actions. I didn’t dislike any of them but I was never as interested in them as I was the plot of this time period. I am hoping that this issue will be resolve with the subsequent books to come in the series.

This book is doing something very unique, Del Rey has partnered with Marvel Comics to tell both sides of the story. While the books will follow Alphabet Squadron, the comics will tell the Imperial side of the story and the happenings of Shadow Wing, together giving readers the full tale. The comic is called Tie Fighter and the first two issues are available now.

Alphabet Squadron is a solid entry in the canon, giving us our first real taste of what life is like after the Battle of Endor and it is rated 3.75 out of 5.

This review was completed using a copy of Alphabet Squadron provided by Del Rey.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · Uncategorized

Dooku: Jedi Lost – Review

Dooku-coverThis review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Don’t miss The 602 Club review!

I need to say this up front, I have never been much of an audio book guy unless I am on a very long car ride. But, I did grow up listening to audio dramas, so I was excited when they announced that Del Rey was going to release its first audio exclusive, Star Wars story with a full cast. This excitement was enhanced when it was announced it was a backstory for Dooku and Asajj, written by Cavan Scott. His work on Adventures in Wild Space, as well as his short story in From a Certain Point of View, gave me confidence that this could be something special. Thankfully I was not mistaken, Dooku: Jedi Lost is something special indeed.

Scott’s story efficiently and expertly expands our knowledge of Asajj and Dooku’s past. We finally learn what led to Dooku becoming one of the Lost Twenty. The book not only expands our view of characters, it increases our understanding of the Jedi and the Republic at a time we previously knew little about. This book, along with Master & Apprentice, has done much to show that the Jedi were far from the monolithic group they are sometimes thought to be. Characters like Lene Kostnana and Yula Braylon help show the variety in the Jedi Order, in their jobs, their passions and the way in which they teach their padawans. It’s something I hope we get much more of in the years to come.

The story is also able to portray how the Republic is already beginning to collapse. The lack of cooperation in the senate is palpable. It’s become a place increasingly overrun with corporations and self interest, forces which consistently undermine the symbiotic relationship of the Republic and encourage planets to retreat to a more tribal, protectionist mentality, with the Jedi caught in the middle. Many times the Jedi find themselves unable to take any actions because of their mandate to the Republic, instead of the Will of the Force.

As important as the story is for Dooku, this book is even more so for Asajj. The entire story is a fight for her soul. Will she choose to follow Dooku completely, giving herself over to the dark side fully, or can she escape her latest enslavement for freedom? The way Scott is able to do this is brilliant, but best left discovered in the listen!

Dooku: Jedi Lost is a story rich in details about this time period. It immediately left me wanting to re-listen so I could soak up more of the milieu. The time before the Prequels is a perfect playground for Star Wars stories, so I hope they will continue to mine it as often as they can. There is still so much that can be gleaned. On the heels of Master & Apprentice, this is the perfect companion piece, but it also completely stands on its own as a story. Dooku: Jedi Lost is rated 5 out of 5 stars.

 

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · Uncategorized

Master & Apprentice – Review

MAThis review first appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Don’t miss The 602 Club review!

I have to get something out of the way, right up front. I’m predisposed to love this book. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn are two of my favorite characters in Star Wars. I have, of course, followed their careers with great interest, reading the Jedi Apprentice series from Jude Watson for the Aggressive Negotiations Podcast that I cohost with John Mills and loving every page of it. Now, all this love of these characters as well as this time period in the Saga also made me very apprehensive as I approached Claudia Gray’s Master & Apprentice. I worried it would not live up to my own hype and expectations. Luckily, there was no danger of that at all, it exceeds them.

Gray’s tale takes place in Obi-Wan’s eighteenth year and he’s been Qui-Gon’s apprentice for some time, yet their partnership has never been a smooth one. Obi-Wan chafes at Qui-Gon’s disregard for the rules, creating a rift between them that grows even larger as a new opportunity for Qui-Gon has the potential to rip the two apart forever.

Motivations

One of the strongest parts of Gray’s work is the discussion of the different motivations for the Jedi, “why do they do what they do and how far do they go to do that?”. This is a question that each of the Jedi in this book struggle with. Qui-Gon wrestles with the constraints of the Jedi within the political system of the Republic. He is frustrated over how thisseems to put the Jedi at odds with their mandate as part of the Republic and with what is right. He questions the wisdom of the Jedi becoming little more that the chancellor’s police force and in that, loosing touch with the Living Force. This, in turn, allows for things such as slavery in the galaxy to continue.

Rael Averross is a Jedi that was Dooku’s padawan before Qui-Gon. He was brought to the Temple at the age of five, much later than is normal. Because of this he’s always been an outsider, never truly feeling like he belongs and he’s only worked to foster that more. He’s never lost his accent and his manner and dress reinforce his “otherness”. The Jedi Council has consistently bent the rules for him in an effort to help him reach his full potential, and the loss of his padawan has left him more determined than ever to not repeat the mistakes of the past. Yet all this intent has actually blinded him to his own shortcomings.

Obi-Wan Kenobi is a rule follower, living his life by the Jedi Code, to the letter. Unfortunately his Master sees the Code more as guidelines, which puts them at odds more often than not. The struggle between duty and thinking for one’s self frustrates Obi-Wan.

For each of these characters, motivations drive them as do their assumptions about the universe and their place in it. Gray expertly weaves their tales together to show the ways in which our own assumptions can get in the way and lead us astray. The question of whether or not they will cling to their perceptions, even when they are challenged by new information that renders those perceptions obsolete, is instructive for the world we live in today.

On top of all of this each character has to figure out why they are following the light and what is right. Are they doing it for personal gain? Are they doing it to win some cosmic game? How do they do what is right and work inside the system? What are the principles that are paramount and therefore cannot be forsaken? The answer in the book is, “We don’t choose the light because we want to win…. We choose the light because it is the light.” What makes this answer so beautiful is not just the sentiment, but the way Gray gets the characters who believe it to this point. Each one has their assumptions challenged, they allow themselves to be open to that challenge, and they ultimately have the willingness to turn from those assumptions if they are wrong. What relevancy! In a world where sides are taken based off assumptions about the opposition and where listening is a lost art, it’s edifying to see characters choose the better path. Communication, as always, is the key. As Qui-Gon rightly thinks in the book, “There was no Jedi so wise that he could not be undone by his own assumptions.”

The Book

Master & Apprentice is a prime example of expanding the universe. The Prequel Trilogy is full of things we still know so little about and this book helps fill in some of those gaps. Gray adds to our understanding of the Jedi before Episode I, giving us insight into their relationship with the Republic and some of the reasons why they have set themselves up under its leadership. We are finally given more on Dooku and his relationship with Qui-Gon, as well as the Jedi, since he’s only left the Order a short time before this story takes place. And most importantly, Gray expounds on the core relationship of Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, helping to set the stage for what we’ll eventually see in The Phantom Menace. I particularly love the way she sets up Qui-Gon’s fascination with prophecy and ancient Jedi lore which will set him on the path of immortality in the Force and the “Chosen One”.

There is so much more that I could talk about in this story, but honestly it’s best left for you to discover on your own. For my money, Claudia Gray has written a book that stands with her best Star Wars work, Bloodline and Lost Stars, which also happen to be two of the best books in the new canon. After reading this book, one can only hope that Del Ray and Lucasfilm will allow Gray to continue telling stories about these two. It would be magnificent to see the story about them on Mandalore, protecting Satine for a year, as well as more on Qui-Gon’s journey in the Force. Master & Apprentice is rated 5 out of 5 stars.