The MSW team is full of passionate Star Wars bookworms. When a new book comes out the team is all over the reviews like Jawas in a junk yard. My colleagues Pete, Jesse, Elaine, Saf, and Sal already did amazing in-depth reviews. Me… I like to take some time to digest things. I need things to marinate. I also prefer to give my thoughts with some distance as opposed to the first reaction. (That and I also read slowly.)
Well I’ve had time for all that now. If you still haven’t picked up Dark Disciple, below is the Good, the Bad and the Sithy!
- More Clone Wars!: Obviously with the unexpected and untimely cancellation of the beloved animated show The Clone Wars, fans have been clamoring for more. I’m in that camp but primarily because I want the loose ends tied up. I completely understand Disney’s decision to start fresh (relax, trolls) but I definitely want some closure for some of the characters we fell in love with. Asajj Ventress and, to a lesser extent, Quinlan Vos, fall into that category. To me, the best thing about this book is that we got a satisfying conclusion. That’s no easy feat.
- The Second Half: As I’ll discuss more below, the book was somewhat uneven to me. However, at a specific point in the narrative, the action picks up and then the reader is just caught up in a whirlwind of action and emotion that doesn’t stop until the book is done. I loved the second half of this book. It was interesting, entertaining and emotionally satisfying. Really can’t ask for too much more… except maybe an equally strong first half.
- Uneven Vos: Here’s the thing that bothered me the most about this story–Vos’ powers are confusingly uneven. He’s presented as a Jedi Master who Obi-Wan considers a peer, yet in the beginning he’s so underpowered that Ventress essentially mocks him, Vos acknowledges the mockery and begs to be trained by Ventress. Yeah, you read that right–a Jedi Master had to be mocked and trained by someone who didn’t make it as an official Sith and basically got owned by Dooku. That makes no sense. The whole time Vos is just unbelievable as a Jedi Master… until suddenly later in the novel Vos does something where he’s way overpowered. I recognize that the limits and boundaries of Force abilities are difficult to keep consistent, and I’m not sure anyone really knows the right balance. But here, it just seemed that Vos was used as the mode through which to tell whatever story needed to be told at that moment. If he needed to be underpowered in one scene, he was. If suddenly 10 chapters later he needed to dominate someone, he did.
- Sophomoric Jedi Plans: The premise of this whole story is that the Jedi have hatched a plan that they think will end the war. Essentially, the idea is to have Ventress train Vos and then to have them team up to kill Dooku. It’s a poorly conceived plan, that is even more poorly executed. Ventress, whom Dooku trained, isn’t equipped to defeat her former master. Vos apparently isn’t even strong enough to handle Ventress. The two of them, as characterized in the book, don’t exactly make up the kind of fearsome team that should be able to take down who the Jedi believe is The Sith Master. It really felt like the story builders decided “Let’s do a Ventress and Vos team-up!” and worked backwards. I don’t put this on Golden since we know the basic framework of the story was already in place for The Clone Wars. I also realize that the Jedi in the PT era are basically fools, but even with that backdrop this whole plan is absurd at best. And even as the plan goes forward the Jedi continue to act so completely clueless that it made me want to watch Revenge of the Sith again just so I can watch all of them get cut down.
- Ventress & Vos Sitting In A Tree: For a novel that stars two characters, it’s critical that the relationship between those characters is the strength of the story. Fortunately it is. The two have great literary chemistry (is that a thing?) and you really buy into the interactions. There’s a romantic element to this book, and sometimes the story delves into cliched romance story tropes. However, it all works with Vos and Ventress because you’re really rooting for them by the time you get to those tropes. Star Wars rarely does love well, especially love that isn’t corny or heavy-handed. Here, Golden really hits a grand slam with the space love. Despite some shortcomings with the overall story, by the end, you practically don’t care because you’re just so invested in the relationship between Ventress and Vos that you just want to see how it all ends. And when it ends, you close the book feeling satisfied.
Dark Disciple was one of the most highly anticipated books because of how The Clone Wars show was canceled. Within fandom, the appetite for this story was ravenous. I tend to think that some of the overwhelmingly positive reviews of this book was a result of that desperate appetite for anything more Clone Wars. Having said that, it’s a really strong Star Wars story and one that I would easily recommend.
Dark Disciple is available on Amazon now.