Missed a post? Catch up on The Year of Kenobi here.
Before we get down to specific stuff can I just say that three books in, I really admire how interconnected this series is? I was expecting one-off adventures from book to book, but so far each story leads directly into the next, and builds on what came before. It feels more like serialized television than it does a middle grade book series. Anyway, let’s dive in to Jedi Apprentice #3 – The Hidden Past by Jude Watson.
*toot toot* All about the Angst Train.
Newly minted Master and Padawan Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi have recovered from their ordeal on Bandomeer and are headed to their next mission, which shall hopefully be far less eventful. They are being sent to the world of Gala, which is in the midst of a political crisis. In an effort to curb the unrest, the reigning monarch has declared that rather than passing leadership directly on to her son, Prince Beju.
What ought to be a routine transportation takes a turn – of course it does – when their Phindian pilot Paxxi reroutes the ship to his homeworld of Phindar. There he and his brother Guerra, who befriended Obi-Wan while both were taken prisoner on Bandomeer, commission the aid of the two Jedi in liberating their home from the malicious Syndicate, which has created a false scarcity to keep the local Phindian’s in line, and “renews” those who do not comply – namely, erases their memories.
Thoughts and Impressions
While initially the prospect of a side mission annoyed me – and I guess I need to get over that, because they’re just all side missions, aren’t they? – now I can say that of the three, this one was probably my favourite. Why? Because angst and tragedy, naturally.
The story begins on Obi-Wan’s long-awaited thirteenth birthday. Now that he’s not preoccupied with getting thrown out of the Jedi Order, he’s letting himself focus on more important things. Namely, what special gift will Qui-Gon be giving him on this milestone, as is tradition?
Why, a river rock of course.
Qui-Gon claims the item holds great personal significance to him, though it might not be of material value, and Obi-Wan promises to value it. Really, the poor kid is just super confused.
While the bulk of the plot is fairly action driven, with Paxxi and Guerra roping the two Jedi into their scheme to increase the resources available to their people, the book actually manages to tell quite a gripping, heartbreaking story about the effect the Syndicate has had on the people of Phindar. Families are torn apart while the “renewed” are either sent away to dangerous worlds with no sense of their skills, or worse still back to live once again among those who know and love them, with no memory of their lives.
In a twist that was surprisingly devastating, Paxxi and Guerra’s sister is one such individual, and the brothers – along with their mother – live their lives in the knowledge that their sister is now in service of an organization that means them harm and has no clue who they are.
My favourite part of the book, however, comes when Obi-Wan has been taken by the Syndicate for Renewal. It is in his cell awaiting the procedure that he remembers the second ritual to be performed at 13 is to reflect on the life that came before. He finds the stone Qui-Gon gave him, intending to use it in his meditation, and finds that the object is actually Force-sensitive. He uses it as an anchor to isolate and preserve his memories so that they might survive the procedure.
It’s at this point that we get little flashes into his life so far. His friends at the Temple, the little things about them and his life that brought him joy. We also get a glimpse at his life before the Temple, at the family he left behind. Because apparently in the early days of their apprenticeships they were allowed to make a visit home? Perhaps to confirm their commitment to the Order. There are snatches of his parents, and how loving they were. We also learn he had a brother.
A brother named Owen.
This book came out at the height of the Prequel era. We were three years away from learning that Owen Lars was Anakin’s stepbrother. But the way this line is isolated in the book, I wonder if the author was still clinging to the abandoned idea that Owen Lars was Obi-Wan’s brother instead. It’s such a fascinating little relic of story moments gone by. It’s a safe bet that most kids reading this at the time would not have been aware of the connection, but I’d love to know now what the intent was.
Obviously, Obi-Wan does not lose his memories, but the brief moments of Qui-Gon worrying that he has, and that everything that makes the boy who he is is just gone was beautiful. They’re already forming such a close bond, and are well on their way to becoming that quintessential master-apprentice pair.
Now that they survived their detour, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are en route to Gala for real, to see about this election and the corrupt and spoiled Prince Beju, who is probably not going to take too kindly to seeing Obi-Wan Kenobi again.
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