This review was originally posted on The Geeky Waffle. It has been reposted here with permission.
By its very nature, Padawan was going to be a hit with me. Kiersten White’s addition to the Star Wars canon – a young adult novel about the exploits of a teenage Obi-Wan Kenobi – was enticing to me on that premise alone.
What I was not expecting, however, was for this to serve as not only a satisfying story for Obi-Wan Kenobi himself, in terms of his arc, his growth, and certain parts of his personality that until now felt only like headcanon, but also for Padawan to so effectively tie together aspects of Legends and the finest of Star Wars publishing in a way that makes a grand tapestry of the whole thing.
Padawan follows 16-year old Obi-Wan Kenobi struggling to make sense of both his Jedi training and his master Qui-Gon Jinn. If you’re like me and you rabidly consume anything about Obi-Wan then you know that these issues with Qui-Gon won’t get resolved until Claudia Gray’s Master and Apprentice. But getting to that point is a journey, not a destination, and what Kiersten White has done is delivered one hell of a journey for my favourite Jedi.
Frustrated with the fact that all his friends get to do cool stuff while he’s stuck at the temple meditating with Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan takes the opportunity to propose an exploratory mission to an uncharted world about which they do not have much information save preliminary notes from a long-gone Jedi named Orla Jareni. While Qui-Gon initially approves, when the day comes he doesn’t show up at the scheduled departure time, prompting Obi-Wan to rebel and just go on without him.
When he arrives on the planet, he discovers It is largely uninhabited, save for a group of youths who exhibit some very Force-like abilities. Reluctant to return to the Temple where he feels like there isn’t a place for him, Obi-Wan decides to stick around a little longer, but naturally discovers things are not as they seem.
The brilliance of Padawan cannot be overstated. From a storytelling tapestry point of view, it builds on just the right stories to both further the plot and to make the world feel richer. The reference to Orla Jareni (and Cohmac Vitus), for instance, was a welcome and very surprising link to Star Wars: The High Republic. It’s certainly not the first reference we’ve gotten to it in other media, but on a personal level, I had always wondered how much Obi-Wan knew about these Jedi who came before.
Beyond the High Republic the adventure as a whole felt so reminiscent of the Jedi Apprentice series, which operated very much on a planet-and-conflict-of-the-week format. Though the adventure ended when the book did, the lesson Obi-Wan derived from it stuck with him, and I can’t help but feel this adventure helps turn him into the young man who would finally manage to find some common ground with his master in a years time — and with his own Padawan in 10 years time.
But then there is Obi-Wan himself. In an interview, White said that the heart of Obi-Wan is that he cares so, so much and I could not have put it better myself. Beneath the devotion to the Jedi order and a certain way of life, Obi-Wan is all heart. He cares about his friends, about his Order, and he even cares about the well-being of strangers who would rather have nothing to do with him. Much of what makes him who he is remains in the periphery of the current canon. It’s there if you want to see it, but can easily be glossed over if you don’t. But with Padawan, Kiersten White has brought one of Star Wars’ oldest characters to the forefront and given him the introspective coming-of-age story he truly deserves. You couldn’t miss what makes Obi-Wan such an incredible character if you tried. I normally balk at definitive rankings, but it’s safe to say Padawan now sits in the top 3 of my favourite Star Wars books of all time.
Padawan is out July 26. Special thanks to Disney Books for the advance copy for review purposes.