Sal’s Review: Dark Disciple
My name is Sal and I am biased.
I have a suspicion that this book may have been written for me. I’ve been a strong supporter and costumer of Quinlan Vos for years and he remains one of my favorite characters to this day. It’s no secret I’ve been looking forward to this book (maybe a little too much…), so if you’re here to read a good fair review of this book… I may not be the one to give it to you. So instead of trying and failing to give a fair half-hearted review I’m gonna do us both a favor and just be honest.
I’m pretty sure this is the best Star Wars book I’ve ever read (See above explanation of possible bias).
This book is exactly what Star Wars means to me. Characters I love. Adventure and excitement. Trials and tribulations. Epic storytelling. Redemption.
So what about Legends? As a Vos fan you might be waiting on pins and needles to see what, if anything, remains from Vos’ previous depictions, just like I was. As a character created in the Legends universe by John Ostrander and Jan Duursema, Quinlan Vos’ arc, while completely new, has strong thematic connections to his Legends counterpart. When I read Vos’ story in Dark Horse’s Star Wars comics he was a Jedi different from anything we’d seen before. Suffering from amnesia with a powerful ability called psychometry (which allows him to “read” powerful memories or emotions from objects), Vos was a bit of a brash, unpredictable and wild Jedi. His dark nature put him on the razor’s edge of always falling to the dark side. He went deep undercover during the Clone Wars, joining Dooku’s acolytes to try and ascertain the identity of the second Sith lord. A long and dark path unfolded and Vos’ mission led him through the dark and back. Along the way he eventually fell in love and fathered a child with an underworld woman named Khaleen Hentz. He admitted his failings as a Jedi and vowed that he would serve as a general until the end of the Clone Wars and then leave the order to be with his family. He barely survives Order 66 and finally meets his son, and together with Khaleen, goes into hiding. A wonderful arc of a character that seems to never quite fit right into the Jedi order.
And Ventress. Beautiful Ventress. From a Legends two-dimensional boss enemy to a wonderfully complex woman. Her legends appearances all painted her as this bloodthirsty merciless assassin. I was positively surprised when, on The Clone Wars, Katie Lucas allowed us to see who Ventress truly was and what she could truly become. One of the most fulfilling arcs of the entire series was watching Asajj become so much more than a cardboard cutout with a great action figure. If the story group could take this character and give us something so much better could they do the same with Vos? Would it be more difficult to do with a character who is already loved for his story arc as much as his character design? Or would any change be looked upon by fans as a slap in the face or dilution of a character so beloved?
Well I have good news and bad news for all the Vos fans out there (of whom I believe I am the elected leader…) The bad news is while Vos is very much the character we know from the Legends, his story has changed. Gone from the canon timeline are his comic book exploits and adventures. The good news is that what they have given us in my opinion is by far and away a wonderful and powerful story that, while completely new and unfamiliar, still thematically honors the Legends take on Vos. Take it as you will. I love what Ostrander and Duursema gave us but I’m so happy to be given this story.
This book hits hard from the outset. We join a group of Mahranee refugees aboard a Jedi cruiser. Through the eyes of Ashu-Nyamal we witness the horrifying toll the war takes on innocents. I suspect that this whole chapter would have probably been the opening montage would this have remained a Clone Wars episode. This is a great example of how a novel can take something that may have been a passing scene and expand upon it to create something much more immersive. It paints Dooku’s act of senseless genocide in a much more personal way as we are granted the opportunity to meet these people before their part in the story concludes. It also makes the council’s following debate understandable after we bear witness to the same actions they are trying to stop.
Then, Obi-Wan. When he mentions he has a suggestion it’s the perfect button to bring us out of the solemnity of the scene.
… And into the wonder that is Vos. In “Hunt For Ziro” Vos’ first appearance was somewhat met with a bit of criticism. Some felt that his “surfer-dude” personality was too far removed from the dark brooding Vos they knew from the comics. I disagree. The situation in the comics took Vos to some very dark places. In The Clone Wars episode he’s on a mission with his buddy Obi-Wan under very different circumstances. Do you hang out with your buddies and just brood all day? Me neither. The Vos in that episode is exactly what he should be: a bit of a loose cannon with a sense of humor and a style unlike any other Jedi. We got to hang out with Vos for a day and see him differently and I like that. Plus, how could we take a dark journey with him if he already starts that way? We meet him in another undercover mission in a circumstance that makes it clear why he enjoys being a Jedi. His personality is so charming and infectious. He’s charming–not in a smug weary Han Solo way, but more of a mischievous jokester-ish kinda way. His laid-back attitude and reactions to situations are priceless.
It’s good to see Vos and Kenobi together again. Their relationship is not as forced or bound by status as Qui-Gon or Skywalker. Kenobi genuinely seems to enjoy Vos. They are peers that not only respect each other on a professional level, but are friends as well. Vos’ temple memories are what we all imagine they would be and all of this paints Vos in a very real, believable, and grounded person. You know Vos. I know Vos (I am Vos). And Kenobi knows Vos. Their friendship is fantastically written and also shows us another side of Obi-Wan, which is great to see.
There are some brief appearances by Boba Fett and his syndicate. I love Boba’s interaction with his crew of familiar faces (Bossk, Highsinger, Latts, and Embo) as well as his interaction with our main characters. Teenage Fett, while still not quite the efficient hunter he is in The Empire Strikes Back, is still one great character on his way there. As a Boba Fett fan it’s cool to see him again as we continue our story.
Vos and Ventress. The big one. What everyone has been waiting for. From the meeting on Pantora their relationship is wonderfully crafted. Two characters who you’re not quite sure how they’d interact seem to do so in a remarkably real way. Their personalities show themselves very truly and honestly. There are fantastically humorous moments, revealing deep moments, and everything in between. Their interaction and relationship is some of the best Star Wars writing I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. They build, grow, fight, and depend on each other along their journey. They even begin to trust. And just like reality there are ups and downs, highs and lows, honest laughter, and crushing tears.
This book broke me.
I’m sad we never got to see these finished The Clone Wars episodes, but I think this novel gave us a deeper understanding of the characters than we would have otherwise seen. For years I’ve been asking for more Vos and I’m glad not only to see him again, but together with Ventress, their story is one of the finest tales ever woven.
I have no idea where to heap my praise–Christie Golden, Katie Lucas, Dave Filoni, or the Story Group. I’m certain they all had a hand in crafting this masterpiece but I’m going to give a huge amount of credit to Golden. To take what was given to her and adapt it so perfectly and build upon it with such introspection is no easy task, no matter how flawless the source material is.
That’s what this book is. Flawless.
This book reaches out and pulls you into this wild and fascinating ride. It’s crafted in a different way than most novels. Perhaps because of the episodic nature of the source material we see a longer journey than usual. And much like real life there are spaces in between. Places to rest our heads for a moment. Endings and beginnings.
It gave me something to behold. I watched and learned and listened as it unfolded.
I grew and laughed… and cried with our characters.
No other story has affected me like this one.
As much as I look forward to The Force Awakens I seriously doubt it will be able to grab my emotions the way this book did. (Once again, possible bias disclaimer.)
Quite simply this is the best Star Wars…
The best book I have ever read.
It is a wonderfully honest, poignant, and human story about choice. Katie Lucas says it perfectly in her foreward:
“At it’s core, Dark Disciple is a story of redemption; a story about how people can be unbelievably broken, and yet find a way to rebuild despite the odds.”
I couldn’t say it any better.