With the prequel era as my favourite Star Wars era, and Obi-Wan Kenobi as my all-time favourite character, it’s been something of an interesting experience this year. Even with the evidence right in front of me, I have a hard time believing that this is actually happening. I’m actually getting new stories with my fave.
This sentiment of “I can’t believe this is real” carried me right through Mike Chen’s Brotherhood, and I mean that in the best way possible.
The story, which details “that business on Cato Nemoidia” that Obi-Wan refers to in Revenge of the Sith is the story of Obi-Wan and the newly-knighted Anakin Skywalker right on the verge of becoming the men we see in The Clone Wars. The truth of the war, and their role in it, hasn’t fully settled on them yet, and they are faced with trying to solve new problems with old solutions.
An explosion on Cato Nemoidia separates the dynamic duo of Kenobi and Skywalker, as the former is sent to investigate on behalf of the Republic and the latter is sent on a separate mission accompanied by a squad of Clone Troopers and a group of Jedi Initiates. When word covertly reaches Anakin that Obi-Wan’s mission has been compromised, and with no other way to alert help, he charges in to save his former master, accompanied by empathetic initiate Mill.
If ever there was a prequel-era book that fully grasps who these two men are to each other and to those around them, it’s Brotherhood. Their dynamic felt so organic, and so familiar. Chen is a writer who absolutely understands Anakin and Obi-Wan. He manages to balance them out, without ever coming down on the side of which one is the more “correct” Jedi. In his hands, there is no judgement call to make. Both are doing the best they can, and doing what they think is right within the parameters the galaxy has set for them.
Though the narration is, in Chen’s own words, a tight third person, it never once feels limited in scope. The back and forth between Obi-Wan and Anakin’s points of view is occasionally peppered with narration from other characters — Mill, Nemoidian guard Ruug, and even badass Sith apprentice Asajj Ventress herself — to fill in the narrative gaps ensuring that the reader always has the fullest picture of what is going on.
Though large interconnected stories can sometimes suffer for trying to connect too much to their one little piece of the narrative — or in some cases, not connect enough — Chen balances this extraordinarily well.
Where this happens specifically is in bridging the gap between Obi-Wan and Anakin’s live action appearances and their animated ones. Though we as viewers understand the connection simply by virtue of their being the same characters, Chen takes the time to weave the strands of the two portrayals together, showing that one version of them simply does not exist without the other.
As a final note, an aspect of the novel that truly resonated with me was the depiction of romance. Both new love and lost love were given their due here, and were made unambiguous on the page. Though Obi-Wan and Satine Kryze, Duchess of Mandalore never actually speak or interact, it is made obvious enough that the romance they shared in their youth has stayed with Obi-Wan still, and isn’t brushed aside in a quippy one-liner, but shown to be the integral part of his character that such early experiences tend to be.
And then there is Anakin and Padmé, the newly-married forbidden love story that launched an entire saga. Though they do not spend all that much time together, what scenes we do get of them fit so naturally with where we last saw them in Attack of the Clones. Their passion for one another is never in doubt. Their affections, their hopes and dreams for the future, are not glossed over, but given the full weight of the romance it is, while letting the undercurrent on impending tragedy seem like the tragedy it is.
It’s a common refrain I hear these days, that we are in a prequels renaissance. If this is a sign of things to come, if the stories my generation grew up with are being treated with such respect and seriousness, while keeping the humour and heart that made us love them in the first place, then I would say the prequel kids like myself are poised to come out on top.
Star Wars: Brotherhood is out May 10, 2022. Special thanks to Del Rey for an advance copy for review purposes.