As quickly as we started, we now start to wind down on the Clone Wars era. Without further ado, let’s dive into Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston.
A year after the Siege of Mandalore and Order 66, Ahsoka Tano is alone and hiding from the Empire. She chooses the Outer Rim farming moon of Raada as an ideal location to hide out, given the lack of Imperial presence. She meets Kaden Larte, a farm worker around her own age, as well as the rest of Kaden’s crew, and tries to tentatively settle into life there, under the name “Ashla”.
But, as they say, old habits die hard. Ahsoka can’t stop thinking strategically, and coming up with exit strategies, even though she can’t put her finger on why. Before there is even a threat on the planet, she is already mapping out the cave systems and preparing hideouts.
Once the Empire arrives on Raada, Ahsoka brings Kaden and her crew in on her plans, knowing that once the Empire sinks their claws into a world, they’ll drain it of everything it has. The problem is, no one on the crew feels they know or trust “Ashla”, and decide to make secret plans of their own for fighting off the Empire.
When those plans go awry and Kaden is kidnapped, Ahsoka rescues her, revealing her identity as a Jedi. Because this puts her in danger, she goes on the run, but finds she cannot leave her friends on Raada hanging, and works to find her way back to them.
5 Things I Liked (and 1 I Didn’t)
1. The Flashbacks
There are periodic flashbacks throughout the novel. The first, which kicks off the novel, begins with the line “Mandalore Burned.” Which was chilling enough back when I first read it, and is sending me reeling now that the Siege of Mandalore arc is actually airing. The first few flashbacks are all from Ahsoka’s point of view, and explain how she escaped Mandalore and Order 66 (and are also so sad that I’m kind of hoping we get to see them in the show).
But then we also get flashbacks from Anakin and Obi Wan’s perspectives. Anakin’s is bittersweet, set moments before he and Ahsoka meet as he contemplates his readiness for additional responsibilities. Obi Wan’s might be a flashback, but it might also be a flash forward. Though he is trying to communicate with Qui Got Jinn through the Force, he is wracked with guilt and having a hard time with the task.
One thing I find about Johnston’s ability to write flashbacks: she does it in such a way that I found myself almost “remembering” these things too. As if I were there. She did that in Queen’s Shadow too, though to a lesser extent. I realize that’s the point of a flashback, but it’s so rarely done in a way that makes me genuinely nostalgic for something I never experienced, and she’s currently 2/2 on that front.
2. Musings on the future of the Jedi
Before arriving on Raada, Ahsoka lives on Thabeska, where she is on good terms with the prominent Fardi family. As she gets better acquainted with them, she realizes the youngest of the children, Hedala, is Force-sensitive, and has already begun to use it in small ways.
When she returns to Thabeska after fleeing Raada, she warns the family patriarch to keep an eye on Hedala, as the Empire may come looking for her. What stuck out to me about this plot point was how Ahsoka would watch Hedala and reflect on what the child’s life would have been like had the Jedi Order found her. And then Ahsoka’s realization that there would be countless such children, growing up with the Force, never having that community around them to help them channel it, and having to hide it from the Empire.
Like the flashback, the way these musing are written makes them something that I felt keenly. I felt the loss of the opportunity these kids would have, and it broke my heart.
3. Kyber Crystals
The Clone Wars does have a few episodes showing how a lightsaber is built, and more importantly, how a Kyber Crystal is acquired (essentially the crystal chooses the Jedi).
By this point in the story, Ahsoka finds herself on her own and without lightsabers for the second time since leaving the Jedi Order. She begins unconsciously collecting scrap metal through her work as a mechanic, and cannot explain why she keeps it with her at all times. When she eventually realizes that the components look just about right to make a pair of lightsabers, she goes in search of Kyber Crystals. Though none of them call out to her from Ilum, the traditional location where Jedi go for theirs, she finds there are some calling for her on Raada.
These Kyber Crystals belong to the Sixth Brother. When she defeats him, she takes his double-bladed saber apart and “heals” the red crystals so now they shine pure white.
I love that we get this look into why a lightsaber turns red (a process called “bleeding a crystal”), and also that the crystals can be healed and repurposed for the Light Side
(would have been real nice to see this on the big screen at some point, perhaps sometime recently, but I digress)
4. The action scenes
Pay attention, kids. This may be the one and only time the action scenes in a book made it to my “like” list. The action scenes are not about the action itself. They are purely about how it makes a character feel.
Their attacks on the Empire’s setups are not shown. They set them up, then leave and discuss the implications such an attack will have. The explosions are not the point.
Their escape from the Empire’s facility has them surrounded. Ahsoka makes the decision to use the Force to save everyone very quickly rather than have a prolonged firefight. That is the moment that everyone turns on her for having lied about her identity. First of all, a lengthy would make no sense if she can end it now. Second, it was their reactions to her use of the force that mattered. The fighting itself was not the point.
Ahsoka’s face-off with the Sixth Brother is heavily hyped up. The Sixth Brother spends half the book looking for her, and she spends half the book aware of a “shadow” looming. But when they finally face each other, the fight is over fairly quickly. Because the fight itself was never the point.
After leaving Raada, Ahsoka takes a job with the Fardi family. Though she initially believes she is merely helping them in their smuggling operations, she find they are usually smuggling goods to those who need it most. She takes advantage of her smuggling trips to help others who put out distress calls, and her actions put her on Bail Organa’s radar. He recognizes her actions to be consistent with a Jedi and makes it a mission to speak with her in person.
When they do finally meet, he not only aides her in helping the citizens of Raada escape, but then recruits her into the nascent Rebellion. She takes on a role as an informant, going by the code name “Fulcrum”.
This meant absolutely nothing to me when I first read the book. However, when I watched Rebels for the first time and heard them reference an informant named Fulcrum…there may have been some undignified flailing.
6. Kaden’s crew
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the members of Kaden’s crew, I just feel like I didn’t have enough time to get to know them all as I would have liked. And then about halfway through, a couple of members die, and some new members arrive, and my regrets persist. This is not a big issue, nor did it impact my enjoyment. They just all have such a sweet family dynamic, I would have liked to see more of it.
There is a moment where Ahsoka is thinking about Order 66, and considers the following “How many of the younglings had been murdered by a man wearing a face they implicitly trusted?” (p.37). I know she’s thinking about the clones, but I also know that’s not what happened and the unknown accuracy of this statement is chilling.
Miara Larte somehow reminds me of both Trace and Rafa Martez at the same time: young and naive to consequences, but also doesn’t trust easily. T
Bail Organa is back y’all. We love a Sexy Space Dad.
One Imperial Official muses that if farmers didn’t want to work backbreaking hours and be miserable then they ought to have considered that before becoming farmers, and first of all, what a scummy thing to say. Second of all, that line 100% made me think of this bit from the Emperor’s New Groove where Yzma essentially says the same thing to a peasant. I’ve gone off track, haven’t I?
Ahsoka often imagines what Anakin and Obi Wan would do if they were with her in high stress situations, and this just made me so emotional. It really plays off their dynamic from The Clone Wars so well, and even though it’s Ahsoka’s imagination, the thoughts felt familiar to me too.
A sign I read too fast: I don’t know how in the HELL I missed the fact that Kaden has a crush on Ahsoka that may or may not be reciprocated (I think it is, for what it’s worth). I remember hearing about it after the fact like “Oh well it must have been really subtle”. Nope. Not at all. These two crazy kids like each other and I hope it happens for them, I really do.
This is the last time I’ll get to talk about Obi Wan for a while (if at all), and I’m not gonna lie I’m real sad about it. I just love him so much.