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WARNING: There are some slight spoilers in this review.
For those unaware, Dark Disciple by Christie Golden is a novelization of eight unproduced scripts from the cancelled animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. It continues the storyline of Asajj Ventress, though surprisingly the focus is placed much more on Jedi Master Quinlan Vos than on the Nightsister bounty hunter. Vos is tasked by the Jedi Council with assassinating Count Dooku and hopefully ending the war; to do so he must forge an alliance with Dooku’s former apprentice, Ventress. Through his mission Vos will be tempted by two things: growing feelings for Ventress and the call of the dark side.
As a fan of The Clone Wars, I was very much looking forward to this book. Ventress is one of my favorite Star Wars characters in any medium, and her arc over the course of the series is fantastic, rivaling that of Anakin Skywalker’s padawan, Ahsoka Tano, in terms of depth and development. But at the same time, I didn’t need this story. I was content to imagine that Ventress had gone off as a bounty hunter, living out her life in the underworld, having found her place in the galaxy. But if you’re going to offer me more Clone Wars in some form, I’m going to take it, and I’m glad this story is out there.
I don’t envy Golden. She was basically tasked with writing a novel adaptation and those don’t always turn out to be as rewarding to read as a story created exclusively as a book. She does an admirable job; Dark Disciple is a lot better than other novelizations that I’ve read. Still, the fact that it is a novelization hung over the entire thing, as it is clearly not structured like a normal book but like individual episodes of a television series strung together. Throughout, I very much felt like, “Oh, we’re in the ‘Vos meets Ventress’ episode, now the ‘Ventress trains Vos episode,’ etc.” That’s no fault of Golden’s though, and she handles the task pretty well, even if she can’t quite overcome that hurdle. Multiple times while reading it, I wondered if Dark Disciple might not have been better adapted as a comic series where each episode was a single issue, and I think perhaps it would have.
That’s not to say it’s bad. The overall story is quite good and would have made for some fantastic television. Ventress and Vos are both pushed further than we saw on the show. Introducing a love story between the two leads in which Asajj has to learn to trust someone not only felt like the natural next step in her evolution, but also gives us a chance to examine Anakin Skywalker’s own forbidden love and secret marriage from another angle as Master Vos began to question his own loyalty to the Jedi Order.
Quinlan Vos was one of the aspects I very much enjoyed in the book, but not necessarily or the reasons one might think. As a character, I wasn’t necessarily sold on him. A single previous appearance on The Clone Wars and then showing up here wasn’t enough to endear him to me. What I did think was interesting was how the new canon took a nugget of an idea from the Legends continuity–Vos’ struggle with the dark side of the Force–and retold it in its own manner. I like this and think it opens the door for more such occurrences (example: “Luke and the gang deal with a new, brilliant Imperial tactician named Thrawn”), but can also see it leading to even more arguments than we already have about whether Legends or Canon did it better (and the Force knows we have way too many arguments about that as it is).
When it was all said and done, as a Clone Wars fan I appreciated Dark Disciple and found some closure that I didn’t necessarily need. The story itself was engaging on a personal level, without having repercussions for the larger galaxy (the running theme of the new canon novels). Had it been conceived as a book from the beginning, the whole story probably would have worked better, but as it is, Golden does a decent job in her translation. It’s good, but probably not a story for someone who isn’t a fan of Clone Wars, Asajj Ventress, or Quinlan Vos.
Star Wars: Dark Disciple by Christie Golden can be purchased now at Amazon.