Biweekly Book Review: Dark Disciple

Just in time for the Siege of Mandalore arc, we move away from the golden years of the Prequel era and dive headfirst into the Clone Wars. First up, Dark Disciple by Christie Golden.

Look, I don’t have a lot of Dark Side props, ok?

*Spoilers Below*

I will admit that despite watching the entirety of The Clone Wars twice through, I still feel out of my depth when discussing it. Perhaps a third rewatch is in order once the series wraps up in a few weeks? I might even watch in chronological order!

Why is this relevant? For those not in the know, who didn’t squint super close at the above cover, Dark Disciple is based on 4 unproduced episodes of the Clone Wars that went into development before the show was cancelled, and were then repackaged as a novel. Overall, the novel felt like The Clone Wars. It was action-packed, quippy, had deep, emotionally resonant character moments, and it’s a real shame that we never got to see it onscreen.

The Story

Jedi Master Quinlan Vos is known for his unusual, yet effective ways. It is with this in mind that he is summoned before the Jedi Council with a new mission: eliminate Count Dooku. Since all previous efforts to do just that have failed, they suggest that he seek out the aid of Dooku’s former assassin, Asajj Ventress.

Correctly believing that Ventress will not trust him if he presents himself as a Jedi on assignment, Vos initially disguises himself as a bounty hunter interested in teaming up with Asajj to secure better paydays. The truth comes out, as it always does. Ventress begins training Vos in the use and management of the Dark Side, claiming that to defeat Dooku they must “fight fire with fire”. The two grow closer, and eventually fall in love (awww).

They know they will eventually have to cross the bridge of “Jedi don’t form attachments”. What they did not count on was Vos being taken captive by Dooku, tortured within an inch of his life, and slowly being made over into an instrument of the Sith, leaving Ventress no other choice but to turn to the Jedi for help.

Regular characters from The Clone Wars appear throughout the book, such as Boba Fett and his bounty hunting gang, as well as Obi Wan, Anakin, Mace Windu, and of course Yoda.

5 Things I Liked (and 1 I Didn’t)

1. Asajj, again

In Dooku: Jedi Lost we see Asajj Ventress at the start of her Dark Side journey, and here we find her at the end of it.

Throughout the series, she is a fun foil for the characters as they deal with their problem of the week. She and Obi Wan flirt every time they see each other, and maybe have a little too much fun doing it. But as the series came to an end, we never really got a proper ending for Asajj, as far as I remember. She just…stopped appearing.

She finally gets her due here. She gets that internal struggle that Clone Wars does so well. We see her in her element on Dathomir, teaching Vos how to manipulate the Dark Side to serve him. We also see her profound sense of loss and loneliness after her entire coven was slaughtered by Dooku. She maintains that it is the Dark that will win the day when they face him. But it is in finally opening herself up to the Light Side in an effort to save Vos that she wins what truly matters to her, before Dooku strikes a killing blow and she dies in Vos’ arms.

There’s a bit of a….ahem….trend in certain stories these days to have a character who had given themselves over to the Dark Side choose the Light for one redeeming act (like, say, saving someone’s life) before dying, rather than choosing the Light and spending their lives making up for the harm they’ve caused. While this does generally bother me, it bothers me less here only because we’re weeks (possibly months) away from Order 66, and a happy ending where they ride off into the sunset wouldn’t ring true for anyone in Star Wars at this point in the timeline. I do find comfort that Vos returns Ventress to Dathomir so she can be reunited with her sisters.

2. The Party

About halfway through the book, Vos and Ventress sneak into a party being thrown in Dooku’s honour in order to kill him.

I loved that we finally got a break from the usual locales of desolate empty landscapes, generic cities, and the insides of vehicles and offices. To my recollection, Clone Wars never showed any parties taking place, yet parties seem to feature in many Star Wars novels, and I think that’s such a shame we never really get to see them. The galaxy has such potential to be a visual spectacular. It’s why I love Padmé’s wardrobe in The Phantom Menace (it’s also why I like Canto Bight so much, don’t @ me).

The party itself doesn’t take up much time in the book, but I love it because it’s the part of the book I most wanted to see represented on screen.

3. The Dark Side

Hardly surprising, this book is very Dark Side heavy, and I was here for it. We get so much in other stories about what the Light Side means, but never really get a chance to dive into the Dark. But this book goes there.

We see the more mythical, conceptual side of it when Ventress and Vos are on Dathomir.

We see how easily it can corrupt a person once they have let it in.

Most importantly, we see how a person can hide the appearance of the Dark Side within. Vos is in denial that the Dark Side has taken hold of him, and his denial is so strong that no Jedi can sense it within him. Which is INSANE to me. It makes me wonder if that’s how they missed all the red flags with Anakin’s fall. If he was also in denial about how the Dark Side affected him, no wonder no one noticed it.

4. Have I mentioned the Jedi need to get their shit together?

Oh. My. Stars.

These Jedi, man.

I know it sounds like a complaint, but watching them mess up time and time again was one part I really liked about the book because it really sets up how we get from their heyday to their downfall. It’s frustrating in the best way to watch a group that has such a capacity for good unknowingly walk right into their own downfall.

First of all. They will preach Light Side, guardians of peace and justice till they are blue in the face, but have no problems sending a member of the Order to kill someone. Not that I think Dooku should have been spared, but a little self-awareness please.

Second of all, on that note, “fear is the path to the Dark side” but apparently murder isn’t? I guess we’re ok with murder now? They send their man out to kill someone, a man raised in the temple and on their philosophies, and then they get all offended and pearl-clutchy when he finds the partner they suggested he find, has her train him in a new skill and then uses every tool in his arsenal to try and carry out their mission. “The Dark Side? Why I never”. Y’all. What did you think was going to happen?

Third, and finally. If I see one more Jedi talk about attachment I may scream. They love to tell people not to form attachments, then they attach an impressionable youth to a parental figure for the next 10-15 years, while also encouraging them to train and learn with their peers. Again. What did you think was going to happen. So when you foster a capacity for love and closeness, and the positive emotions associated with them, why be surprised when you send your Jedi out in the world and find they have developed love and closeness of a different kind with someone. They are shaken to their very core when Ventress confirms that she and Vos became lovers. Shaken because “he’s too good of a Jedi for that”.

Also, Obi Wan. Sir. You’re my favourite, but a little empathy please. You could walk away from the woman you loved, but clearly you have feelings that need resolving. And also where do you get off lecturing Vos’ friend for being worried about him when you love Anakin as much as you do. Come on man.

Sorry, got a little off track. What I’m trying to say is the whole Jedi Order is a mess by this point in the story.

5. The romance

I’m a sucker for a good romance. The first time I read this book, I think it’s safe to say I really didn’t see the romance subplot coming at all. Which is weird, because I usually hope for a romance and never get it. I wonder if I was tainted by my preconceived notions of Asajj…

What I like about the romance in this, though, is that it became my reason for caring about the plot at all. The plan to kill Dooku was so minor a concern that it was almost irrelevant. I know he’s going to survive until Revenge of the Sith, so I go into this story knowing at the outset that the main characters will fail in their mission. I needed something else to be invested in.

Which is why the romance is such a good addition. Vos’ turn to the Dark Side gives Asajj something to fight for. Her not believing in his supposed return to the Light further motivates her as the story progresses. Her desire for revenge on Dooku becomes secondary. He is once again taking someone she loves away from her, only this time she will not go down without a fight.

6. The damn fight scenes

I understand there is fighting in Star Wars, and it is often a necessary part of the story. I also understand that The Clone Wars has a lot of fight scenes. It’s an animated show, so they aren’t limited by physical space and human capabilities. But I just cannot express how much I don’t like reading them. I barely like watching them. I have to actively remind my eyes not to glaze over if a fight scene lasts too long.

Random Thoughts

Yoda makes an offhand reference to Barriss Offee, and the incident at the Jedi Temple that Ahsoka Tano was framed for, setting this story sometime between the end of season 5, and the start of season 7. I’m glad he made that one reference because I just kept wondering where Ahsoka was.

I don’t like Movie Boba Fest, but I do like Clone Wars Boba Fett. The kid actually has some personality. *runs and hides*

Vos has the power of psychometry, where he can hold an item and see and feel everything the owner saw and felt last. It’s a shame we didn’t see more of this in the show, or in the universe at all. The potential it has!

On that note, the scene of Vos finding out that it was Ventress who murdered his master is something I really would have liked to see. That was some messed up psychological torture, Dooku.

Given the tendency to have a former villain do one nice thing and then die, I’m honestly shocked Agent Kallus survived to the end of Rebels and didn’t die in Zeb’s arms

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