Growing up, my brother and I had a copy of the Phantom Menace junior novelization. This book got a lot of love over the years, and now has a spine that has definitely seen much better days. As it got read cover to cover over and over again, it wasn’t long before I took notice of the little sample chapter at the back, a first look at a brand new series for young readers based on the childhood of Obi-Wan Kenobi and his apprenticeship under Qui-Gon Jinn.
Little me, head over heels in love with Obi-Wan Kenobi was fascinated at the idea, and burning with curiosity to try the series for herself. But that was right around the time my family lived somewhere where the books weren’t sold, and in the pre-online shopping days that was that, as they say.
Missed a post? Catch up on The Year of Kenobi here.
Cut to 22 years later and I am an adult with disposable income living in a world with robust online book thrifting options. With the entire series now at my fingertips, it’s finally time to read Jedi Apprentice. Let’s kick things off right at the beginning with Jedi Apprentice #1 – The Rising Force by Dave Wolverton.
Preteen Jedi-in-training Obi-Wan Kenobi is in a race against the clock. He’s just a few weeks shy of his 13th birthday and has yet to be chosen as a Padawan by any of the Jedi Knights who pass through the Temple. If he hits that milestone still without a Master, then the path to knighthood is out of his reach and he’ll be called to serve the Jedi and the galaxy in a different way.
He receives one final chance when Qui-Gon Jinn arrives at the temple, ostensibly to look for a potential apprentice. He watches Obi-Wan spar against an opponent and win, but refuses to take him on, claiming that Obi-Wan is too angry and therefore more susceptible to the lure of the Dark side. Qui-Gon is hesitant to take another student after his last Padawan, Xanatos, left under mysterious (to the reader, not to Qui-Gon) circumstances.
With no options left to him, Obi-Wan is given passage on a mining ship to the world of Bandomeer to work in the service of the Agricultural Corps. Also along for the ride is Qui-Gon, sent on a separate mission on behalf of the Supreme Chancellor.
But the Force works in mysterious ways, and their trip over is nothing if not eventful.
Thoughts and Impressions
Given that I went into this book with only the nostalgic memories of a totally besotted 8-year old, I wasn’t sure what to expect from it. The only things I really remembered was that Obi-Wan started out at the temple, and he had a couple of friends he was close to. One of them was a girl and I distinctly remember sighing at age eight and going “wow I wish that were me”. Ahem, anyway…
As a result, I think I expected it to be more Jedi Temple focused, but we actually wind up leaving the academic setting fairly early on.
While I know the events of this book are considered “Legends” – and therefore no longer canon – it did surprise me that Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon didn’t take to each other right away. I know from newer books like Master and Apprentice that the relationship wasn’t exactly smooth sailing, but I thought that unease developed over time. I suppose I had assumed that the series would focus on Obi-Wan’s apprenticeship throughout, but clearly the authors are making us work to even get to that place to begin with.
Despite the young age the series is clearly targeted at, it looks like they won’t be pulling any punches when it comes to anger, grief, and healing. Qui-Gon is reeling from losing his apprentice, who it seems was every bit as angry as Obi-Wan is now. He is firm in his belief that Obi-Wan is not suited to knighthood because of his propensity to anger, but Yoda reminds Qui-Gon that it’s not for him to decide Obi-Wan’s fate like that. Rather, the two of them should trust in the Force.
And then there’s Obi-Wan. My sweet baby boy. We’re so used to seeing him onscreen as the grounded, calm emotional presence that having him be the angry, might-fall-to-the-dark one was an interesting turn. But The Rising Force shows just how much he is willing to grow, learn, and trust in the Force and in others. Character-wise, he grows leaps and bounds in this novel, going from the rash, hotheaded boy who got into a fight with fellow Padawan Bruck to the much calmer adolescent who works alongside his new friend Si Treemba on the mining ship to bring an end to the injustices faced by Si Treemba’s people, the Arconans, whose natures are being used against them by the Hutt mining collective also travelling on the ship.
Immediately, Obi-Wan being removed from an all-Jedi academic context forces him to experience and consider the many injustices that fuel the galaxy. Qui-Gon points out that a handful of Jedi cannot make right every single wrong, and while that might be true, it will be interesting to see just what these two can do within their two-person purview as the series continues.
The book ends on Bandomeer, with Qui-Gon still not wanting to take Obi-Wan on as a student and Obi-Wan having finally accepted that apprenticeship and knighthood aren’t going to happen for him. While he has come to a peaceful acceptance, the older Jedi is plagued by the idea that he’s missing something.
Watching their push-pull of whether or not they will pair up as student and teacher was heartbreaking to watch, even if I know that they will eventually make a formidable team. Qui-Gon pushes Obi-Wan away repeatedly, still haunted by the ghosts of his pasts, but in so doing winds up crushing the younger boy’s spirits, sending him from devastation to resignation to acceptance, which is where we leave them: the future apprentice at peace with the rest of his life, and the future master in turmoil.
Now on Bandomeer, the future master and apprentice are greeted by an official handing them a note addressed to Qui-Gon and signed by his former apprentice Xanatos, who it seems has orchestrated Qui-Gon’s arrival here…
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