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Christie Golden’s Dark Disciple is the latest addition to the new Star Wars canon, a breath of fresh air for the fans more interested in pre-ROTJ EU canon. The premise is simple: the Jedi have decided that Dooku needs to go, and the cheerful Quinlan Vos is the man for the job. Unfortunately, it’s not a one-man operation, and so he must team up with prior Sith acolyte-turned-bounty hunter Asajj Ventress without her knowing his true nature.
Together, Ventress and Vos are the best hope for eliminating Dooku—as long as the emerging feelings between them don’t compromise their mission. But Ventress is determined to have her retribution and at last let go of her dark Sith past. Balancing the complicated emotions she feels for Vos with the fury of her warrior’s spirit, she resolves to claim victory on all fronts—a vow that will be mercilessly tested by her deadly enemy . . . and her own doubt.
Opening with an intro that’s a clear parallel to Tom Kane’s newsreel-style openers for The Clone Wars, this novel reads like an episode of such: fast-paced, witty, and fun, but it also dips more into a darker side of the story than we might not have seen otherwise in the children’s cartoon format. From the moment the Mahranee are introduced mid-warzone to the tear-jerking end, Dark Disciple is a non-stop rollercoaster. It’s rare that I can’t put down a book—it probably hasn’t happened since I read the Republic Commando series last year—but this was one that I lost hours of sleep buried in. A zombie apocalypse could have happened and I wouldn’t have known, as I was so enthralled by Golden’s smooth writing. You can basically hear the characters’ voices in your head.
Dark Disciple is an adaptation of unproduced scripts from The Clone Wars, which means there are a lot of references to the show, a real double-edged sword. This is great news for fans of the cartoon series, because it feels like an extension of their cancelled love. For people who aren’t fans or haven’t watched much of the show, this can be a disadvantage, especially if their only knowledge of the characters comes from other Legends sources. Asajj’s past is briefly touched on, but to really know about the Nightsisters and their demise, or her past conflicts with Dooku you’d really have to have watched the show.
Quinlan Vos from the show is quite a different creature compared to the Vos in the comics. Though I don’t have much experience with the latter, I was curious to see how they’d balance the happy-go-lucky kiffar Jedi from the episode “Hunt for Ziro,” the ninth episode of season three, with the darker Legends Vos that would theoretically be drawn from for this story arc. I personally loved his character’s journey, but I come at it from a Clone Wars fan perspective. I wasn’t as much of a fan of Ventress’ arc in hindsight, though I enjoyed it as I read. Their relationship, however, grows naturally and believably. I may have had issues with them being paired up when the synopsis was originally revealed, but I can officially label myself a “Quintress” shipper now.
There are also small glimpses into other characters’ lives during the course of the novel, such as Anakin and Padmé. Seeing their relationship contrasted against Ventress and Vos’ and how both Vos and Anakin handle their respective feelings is great insight into how different Jedi deal with the no-attachments rule, as well as how Anakin thinks of himself as compared to others. Seeing Vos’ struggles with the dark side of the Force with the knowledge of Anakin’s imminent fall is another interesting parallel between the two, and adds layers to both of their experiences with the dark side. The reader knows what Vos could become, but is also given insight into how Anakin could have felt and thought during the event of Sith. Obi-Wan’s relationships and opinions of both Ventress and Vos are explored in part too, and I will never complain about more Obi-Wan.
Written with bare-bones description—Golden paints bright parts of the whole picture and leaves the reader to fill in the rest—Dark Disciple leaves you guessing at many turns, except for one part: the events of Revenge of the Sith make it obvious that Dooku cannot die. Of course, this raises just as many questions as it dashes, but it also adds an extra level of stress to the action. If Dooku can’t die, does that mean the attempt kills someone else?
While the first half of the novel is exciting and fresh, the second half unfortunately starts to fall into an obvious storyline that many predicted months earlier and hoped wouldn’t happen. At the time I was so sucked in that I didn’t even realise—which says a lot for the writing—but in hindsight it’s something I’m not happy about. Of course Golden can’t be blamed for this, it’s a failing in the wider storytelling of The Clone Wars (and media in general) and isn’t just confined to this novel. Another common issue is that there isn’t enough of Asajj’s point of view, but I personally enjoyed the mystery of what she was thinking at those times. The reader is left as unsure as Vos when it comes to her feelings for him and how much she really knows about him. Ventress has always been somewhat of an enigma, and I relished in experiencing her feelings and thoughts in a way The Clone Wars could never show.
Dark Disciple is easily my favourite book of the new canon, and is solidly on the list of my favourite Star Wars novels of all time. If you loved The Clone Wars and want a fun, but emotional read this is definitely the book for you. It is now in stores both online and off, having been released July 7th. If you love it, be sure to tweet Christie Golden and let her know!
Thanks to NetGalley for providing a review copy for the purpose of this review.