This review was originally posted on The Geeky Waffle, and has been reposted here with permission.
When Star Wars Visions was announced back during Disney’s Investors Day presentation, beyond it just being labelled “Star Wars anime”, it was promised that the new series would take the Galaxy Far, Far Away to places it had never been before. Star Wars: Visions has more than delivered on that front. The same holds true for Emma Mieko Candon’s tie-in novel, Star Wars Visions: Ronin.
The world of Ronin is unlike anything Star Wars has seen before, not just in terms of what planet they’re on, or the technology they use. It’s clear that by having seven Japanese animation houses create the shorts for Star Wars Visions, that Lucasfilm hoped to return Star Wars to the source of its influence. That hope and that influence have extended into Ronin as well.
As it always does with Star Wars, the question of “is this canon?” will no doubt arise in the wake of the novel’s release. As of the writing of this review, the answer to that question is unclear. For myself personally, I couldn’t help but wonder when this was supposed to be set within the larger context of things. Is this a legend passed down to the era we are most familiar with, or is this so far in the future that the characters we all know and love have passed beyond legend themselves, and are now forgotten entirely? It doesn’t especially matter, but it was on my mind throughout.
Ronin, inspired by the Visions short “The Duel”, follows the titular character, known only as “The Ronin” as he journeys the Outer Rim in search of something, and guided along the way by a mysterious voice. He is confronted in a small settlement by a woman determined to kill him, and narrowly escapes with the crew of the Poor Crow, to whom the voice guided him. Not willing to let her quarry escape, the woman pursues the crew across the Outer Rim. What starts off as a fairly straightforward chase takes several turns into the unexpected.
Though this is a story of powerful Force users, it is not the dichotomous world of light and dark that so many have come to expect from Star Wars storytelling. There are characters you root for, but no one is really a “good guy” or a “bad guy”. The terms Jedi and Sith don’t even really mean what they usually do in our general understanding of them. These are not the Jedi and Sith of the Skywalker Saga. It is far more fluid than that. Anyone with any sensitivity to the Force views it in both light and dark. They don’t possess the rigidity of the Jedi Order we know.
The Jedi Order in Ronin is not what we recognize it to be in any way, structured more like a system of houses and clans than one unified order. The system of government is also worth drawing attention to. There is an Empire, but it can hardly be Palpatine’s “First Galactic Empire”, which left me wanting to know more about the world. It felt a little unsettling while reading, both familiar and unfamiliar all at once. It also left me wishing that we had gotten more development of each of these ideas.
Ronin is the kind of book that definitely warrants a reread. It is, as previously stated, unlike anything seen in Star Wars before. Where the Visions shorts are stories distilled to their most crucial elements, the set-up of the larger world around the characters in the book takes some time to get accustomed to. From the established systems in place that govern the galaxy and its denizens, to the possibilities of the Force, these things are mentioned as part of the character’s way of life, but not given much time or attention beyond that. At times, that made it a little unclear for me what the characters wanted and why they cared at all. There is something to be said for letting a story just be, without overexplaining, but I couldn’t help but wish for just a little more context overall. Emma Candon brought fascinating concepts to the Galaxy Far, Far Away. I just wish we had a little more time to explore them.
Star Wars Visions: Ronin is available October 12, 2021.
Special thanks to Del Rey for an advance copy for review purposes.
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