In the interest of sharing other books I love with you, and so this blog doesn't just become an advert for my own stuff, I have decided to start posting reviews of some of my favorite stories, typically things that have greatly influenced me. We continue with Star Wars: Dark Disciple, by Christie Golden, which is an adaptation of unaired scripts from one of my absolute favorite TV shows, and what I consider to be the best incarnation of Star Wars, Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
For those of us who loved the TV show Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Dark Disciple is an absolute joy to read. It feels almost like a reunion show for a series that should never have been cancelled in the first place. Fortunately, the Clone Wars live on in this wonderful book, as Christie Golden perfectly captures the tone and feel of the show.
Dark Disciple is based off scripts for episodes that never aired. The screenplays were written by none other than Katie Lucas--yes, daughter of that Lucas--who had written several excellent arcs for the show. This story primarily features Asajj Ventress, the erstwhile wannabe-Sith and disgraced pupil to Count Dooku; as well as Quinlan Vos, essentially the Jedi Order's resident hippie. To be brief, the novel takes place late in the Clone Wars. Count Dooku has more or less committed genocide on several occasions now, and well, the Jedi Council is fed up. Feeling frustrated and guilty over one of their former kin being responsible for such galactic-wide mass death,the Council begins to toy with an unfathomable idea: orchestrating Dooku's assassination. While some Jedi, such as Obi-Wan, are mortified by such an idea--Anakin, of course, is totally down with it!--ultimately Master Yoda gives his reluctant blessing on the operation (hesitant, yet ultimately capitulating... doesn't that really sum up Yoda in this era?). To conduct the mission, the council gets Master Quinlan Vos, a goofy, enigmatic Jedi who nevertheless exceeds at stealth and undercover ops. Vos in turn reaches out to Dooku's former apprentice, Asajj Ventress, who the Jedi calculate would be eager to exact revenge upon her old master. But when Ventress and Vos unexpectedly develop feelings for one another, their deadly mission becomes dangerous in more ways than one.
The fact that the Jedi would even entertain assassination is a brilliant way of demonstrating how far they've fallen in the Clone War. Many people who have seen The Last Jediare shocked by Luke's brusque dismissal of the Jedi as arrogant and hubristic, but it's really nothing new. This subtext was throughout the prequel trilogy, and it is brought entirely to the fore in the Clone Wars TV show, and this storyline demonstrates how far astray they really went. Of course the assassination attempt goes horribly wrong, and Dooku--who never comes across more evil than he does in this book, by the way--ends up turning Vos and Ventress against one another, which in turn exposes the Republic and the Jedi to further danger.
The best thing about the Clone Wars series was how it maintained the complex, intricate world of the prequels, but opened things up in a far, far less claustrophobic space, while telling the story through characters that were given the right time to breathe and be real. Not only are Ventress and Vos really likable through the whole book, but fan favorites like Obi-Wan, Anakin, Yoda and Mace all feel and sound like their television counterparts. You can easily close your eyes and hear and see the TV show playing out before you. Everyone 'sounds' like themselves. There are, of course, plenty of action scenes, and Golden writes them with the proper kinetic and frenetic pace that you would expect from this series. Also characteristic of the show, there are plenty of unexpected encounters between characters you never would fathom meeting--picture Ventress standing before the Jedi Council, for starters--as well as showdowns and throwdowns in properly idyllic settings. It also doesn't hurt that the prose is exceedingly clear and easy to read. Golden absolutely nailed the essence of what made Clone Wars Clone Wars, and I genuinely hope that if further adaptations of unaired shows are made, that she is tapped again to write them.
If you love Star Wars--and especially if you miss one of the franchise's very best incarnations--then this book is a no brainer.