Note: This is a spoiler-free review of Christie Golden’s Dark Disciple.
If you’re a fan of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the announcement from Del Rey about Dark Disciple by Christie Golden likely made you flail a la Kermit the Frog. I had that reaction to the news. The novel is based on unproduced episodes of The Clone Wars co-written by Katie Lucas (George Lucas’s daughter) and tells the story of the time Jedi Quinlan Vos crossed paths with Asajj Ventress. Vos is assigned a morally questionable mission by the Jedi Council: to kill Count Dooku. To maximize the likelihood of success, he’s ordered by the Council to seek the assistance of Ventress–well, to use her, really.
I picked up Dark Disciple with unabashed excitement. I couldn’t help it. The Clone Wars is my Star Wars, and I’m fascinated by Asajj Ventress. As far as delivering more stories and moments with some of my favorite Clone Wars characters, the book didn’t disappoint. Vos and Ventress are at the heart of the story, yes, but the heavy decisions of the galaxy-wide conflict swirl around them. Obi-Wan Kenobi has a presence, as does Anakin Skywalker, Yoda, and several other familiar faces.
The Jedi are in a desperate place, grasping for straws, and it’s difficult to watch. Their predicament is at the core of the adventure/romance/drama that is Dark Disciple. This is only a single moment in time in the prequel trilogies–like The Clone Wars, the story is set between Episodes II and III–but it captures a point in which the Jedi lost their way and made the wrong decision. The exploration of that misstep alone makes Dark Disciple worth picking up.
And again, if you’re a fan of The Clone Wars, you’ll be pleased to know Golden captured the voice of each character. It’s all too easy to hear the voices from the animated series as you turn the pages. In fact, I’d love to hear a radio drama version of this story with the voice actors from The Clone Wars.
Golden especially excelled at bringing Ventress’s biting but appealing personality to life. This is a character who has been beat down by life at almost every turn. Her rotten luck doesn’t excuse her actions, but Ventress never pretends that it does. She’s very much a woman trying to find her way, and Dark Disciple adds nuance to her personality. We see her strengths and her vulnerabilities and ultimately come to know her as a more multifaceted character—that was in Clone Wars too to some degree, but they weren’t able to get into her head with the same intensity.
As far as Vos, he’s just a likable guy. He’s rogue-ish in a Han Solo way, and Golden had the opportunity to round out the character. Canonically speaking, he hasn’t been featured prominently. It’s interesting to see how the Jedi treat one of their own who is capable of walking in the gray area like Vos can and also interesting to see how they fail him.
The relationship between Vos and Ventress is the cornerstone of the story, and though certain aspects move a little too quickly for me and certain comments are a touch too sappy, they have chemistry. Electric, exciting chemistry. Their back and forth banter is on point and flirty, and their partnership is equal. Ventress isn’t diminished by the presence of Vos. He does help her figure some things out about herself, but she helps him too—it’s not one-sided or uneven.
It’s hard not to be charmed by Dark Disciple. I realize I basically gushed, but it’s true to how I reacted as I read the book. An aspect I’m uncertain about and can’t speak to is whether the novel will resonate with fans who don’t know and love Star Wars: The Clone Wars. You don’t necessarily need the background information from the series, but it definitely added to my appreciation of the characters and of the story.
Dark Disciple will be available on Tuesday, July 7.
This review was completed using a copy of the book provided by Del Rey.