I realize now that by publishing my last review in the middle of the week, I set myself up for a schedule I can’t possibly follow.
But now it’s Monday. New week, new me. Let’s try and keep things on track here with the first review of the week: Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray.
I’d been curious about the Disney-EU literary canon ever since I realized it was totally distinct from the collection of books now known as Legends. No disrespect to Legends whatsoever, it just felt too big (still does), and I couldn’t see a natural starting point.
I was still kind of hesitant about diving in to the new EU when an announcement last winter made my decision for me. Spring 2019 would bring with it two new entries into the EU: a novel about Padmé Amidala, and a novel about young Obi Wan Kenobi.
Done. Sold. It’s time to jump into the EU.
Set a few years before The Phantom Menace , Qui Gon Jinn’s relationship with his Padawan Obi Wan Kenobi leaves a lot to be desired. They haven’t managed to strike the right kind of balance when working together, and Qui Gon is wondering if he should pass Obi Wan off to another Master who understands him better. And the timing couldn’t be better, since Qui Gon has been offered a place on the Jedi Council, meaning he’d have to give his apprentice up anyway.
This is all going to have to wait though, as Qui Gon and Obi Wan are being sent on possibly their last mission together to the planet of Pijal to oversee the signing of a treaty that will open the system up to the rest of the Republic via a new hyperspace corridor. They were summoned by Rael Aveross, a friend of Qui Gon’s who now acts as regent for the Princess of Pijal, and who is concerned with the increasingly violent tactics of a group opposed to the treaty who call themselves “The Opposition”.
The treaty, while beneficial to Pijal, would also benefit the very shady Czerka Corporation, a company older than the Republic and with deep roots on Pijal. The company functions largely through the use of slave labour, a practice they intend to integrate with the Pijali criminal justice system should the treaty proceed.
As is the way with these things, it’s never as simple as initially presented, and more players begin to emerge in the mystery of who is behind the attempts to stop the signing of the treaty. Aiding Qui Gon and Obi Wan in their investigation are jewel thieves Rahra Wick, formerly a slave of Czerka, and Pax Maripher, a human raised by protocol droids. I didn’t listen to the audiobook at all for this, but I like to think he has all C-3P0’s inflections.
5 Things I Liked (and 1 I Didn’t)
1. Their dynamic
“Well”, you’re probably thinking. “In a book about a master and his apprentice, I sincerely hope you liked the dynamic.”
And you’d be right. This does seem like an odd thing to single out when it’s the backbone of the book.
They spend most of the story essentially failing to communicate as they should after 4 years of partnership, and we the reader are treated to the inner thoughts of either Obi Wan and Qui Gon (and sometimes both) every time something goes wrong. And what I loved about it, was every single time they get upset, they manage to turn the blame back on themselves. They only ever fault the other one for as long as it takes to assign responsibility to a personal failing of their own.
Which is just the sweetest thing.
2. The Foreshadowing
It makes sense that a book so focused on the importance/relevance of prophecy would include foreshadowing for the Saga that would be recognizable to the reader. One they repeat a lot is about a woman born of darkness who will give birth to darkness, which sounds an awful lot like Leia. And this gets repeated to make sure you don’t miss it. Loved it. Chills.
But there are moments that may not be visions of future to the characters, but certainly are for the audience. One scene that stood out (read: broke my heart) was when Obi Wan was explaining how his lightsaber worked to Princess Fanry. She asks whether the strength of the Jedi has an effect on the sabre should two Jedi duel each other. Obi Wan then confidently asserts that that would NEVER happen. Two Jedi would not engage in a duel to the death. Which…you know…
3. Obi Wan Kenobi
Again, stating the obvious. He’s one of the main characters, why single him out? This is less about style and more personal preference. He’s my favourite character in the entire Galaxy Far, Far Away. For that reason alone, I was excited that he was getting a book all about him.
Now that’s not quiiiiite what happened here, as this skews a bit more toward Qui Gon than his apprentice. But I am just so grateful for what we got. For instance, Anakin’s throwaway line in Attack of the Clones about Obi Wan not liking flying is given some hilarious context here. Poor thing actually really used to like it, too
This book also features the first time Obi Wan enters a meditative state in a fight, and accounts for the amazing acrobatics the Jedi use throughout the Prequel Trilogy. Also while we’re here: The Revenge of the Sith novelization by Matthew Stover (objectively the best Star Wars novelization) includes a fight scene where Obi Wan melds so completely with the Force that it almost reads like an out-of-body experience. It’s great, go read it.
A friend once suggested that the reason I like the prequels so much is because Obi Wan features so heavily, and there’s probably some truth (a lot of truth) to that.
4. The Jedi back on their bullshit
I implied in my review of Dooku: Jedi Lost that the Jedi got so caught up in their ways that it’s little wonder the order crumbled like it did.
Rael Aveross is sent to be the regent of Pijal after the death of his Padawan, as he needed a way to heal from the role he played in her death. His attachment to the Princess he is meant to protect, and his guilt over his Padawan’s death means that he totally misses the political upheaval happening right under his eyes. This seems like confirmation that the Jedi are right and attachment is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea.
And I just get so frustrated with it, because of course things spiral out of control, because like any feeling or emotion things get messy and/or dangerous if you haven’t been given the tools to manage them properly. If you’re told your whole life not to form an emotional attachment to anyone, when you inevitably do, you have no idea how to manage that. Aveross even mentions it at one point, that putting Jedi in a student/teacher dynamic for years at a time will naturally form a kind of affection that they have not been taught to deal with.
5. Choosing the light because it is the light
This speech, given to Rael by Qui Gon, is rightly one of the more cited passages in the book. In it, Qui Gon asserts that even if the Force achieves perfect balance, with light and dark essentially sitting at 50/50, he would still choose the light because it is the light and not because he’s trying to win some sort of game. This is in some contrast to Rael’s view that if it’s an even split between the two what difference does it make what they choose.
This is Star Wars doing what I like best. When a character stands up there and asserts that they will take an action, or make a choice simply because it is the right thing to do. It is here that the book really shows the depth of Qui Gon’s character. The council consider him a wild card and hesitate to even invite him to join their ranks. And yet he has such an understanding of what it means to be a Jedi and to hold the role in society that he does.
If I can just cycle back to the Jedi and their bullshit for half a second. When Qui Gon expresses his concern about Czerka’s use of slave labor, Yoda is almost…dismissive of his concerns, saying that they, in their capacity as Jedi cannot dictate how an entity chooses to govern themselves. While I do see how that can be a slippery slope, ending the objectively abhorrent practice of owning sentient beings seems like the kind of moral right they should be fighting for. It’s heartwarming to see towards the end that Qui Gon took up this cause for the remainder of his life, but sad when you realize you never see whether he was able to make a difference.
6. The Ending
Let’s be clear: plot-wise I do actually like the ending. That epilogue hit me right in the feels. My only issue is once the mystery is solved and the culprit apprehended, it all wraps up so quickly, within a few pages. So quickly in fact, that I totally forgot who the culprit even was between my first and second reading. This is just my way of saying I wish the book was about 100 pages longer.
If I may add my voice to this: when Lucasfilm decides they want a book about that year they spent on Mandalore with Satine, please get Claudia Gray to write it. Thanks.
Today in “who cares”: All the protocol droids have a -3P0 suffix at the end of their names (B-3P0, Z-3P0 etc). Do they repeat names or are there other suffixes for protocol droids?
That epilogue provided fuel for the Obidala flame that burns in my heart. Yes I’m reading way too much into it and no I will not apologize.
I was really excited when Master & Apprentice was announced. Couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. And then I read it, and was just like “oh, ok”. Honestly, I didn’t love it the first time around, and I felt sad that I didn’t because I really, really wanted to. Then as I reread it this past week and had a realization: I was faulting it for not being whatever I thought I wanted it to be, and not appreciating it for what it was. I’m happy to report that my opinion on it changed, and it now sits up there as one of my favourite Star Wars books.