Review – “Dark Disciple” (2015)

Dark Disciple Cover“We’re Jedi, not generals. We should be fighting organizations like Black Sun, doing things that make a difference. Dooku is the war. When he dies, it’s over. With him gone, the Jedi could really help people again, really do something that makes a lasting difference. More than just a single rescue here and there… So—yes. I want Dooku dead now. His death will fix everything.” – Quinlan Vos


 

Dark Disciple, by Christie Golden, is a breath of fresh air in the “new” Star Wars canon, as it marked the first time since the Disney buyout that Star Wars returned to the prequel trilogy era. For a while it felt like Disney wanted to forget the prequels ever happened, which as a fan of all the movies, was very annoying. So I was excited to be getting a new novel set during the Clone Wars.

Dark Disciple is actually a novelization of unproduced episodes of The Clone Wars TV series. The story contained in the book would have actually been eight episodes of the show. I’m still bitter that the show was cancelled without getting a satisfying conclusion, but having the story continued through books feels like a step in the right direction.

Ventress with hair!I was even more excited that this book centers around two characters who I like a whole lot: Quinlan Vos, and Asajj Ventress. Anyone who has watched The Clone Wars is already very familiar with Ventress. Quinlan Vos appeared in a single episode, but before that he came from the Expanded Universe, most notably in the Star Wars: Republic comic series. In some weird way I find it very cool that his first full-on novel isn’t “Legends” but official Star Wars canon. I would love to see more characters and elements of the old Expanded Universe pop up in the new canon.

The story centers on the Jedi Order trying to stop Count Dooku once and for all. In a very unorthodox move for the order, they decide the best way to end the war and stop Dooku’s treachery for good is to assassinate him. They don’t come to this decision lightly, but in the end they decide that Dooku has to be killed. From the beginning I’m already a little disappointed in the whole plot of this story. It’s hard to feel really invested in a story when you already know how it will end: Dooku will not die. The Jedi will not complete their mission. I watched Dooku die in Revenge of the Sith. There is no way this is going to work. So, once I get past that little annoyance, the story is actually pretty good.

Quinlan VosThe Jedi Council chooses Master Quinlan Vos (who never appeared in the films but was mentioned in passing in Revenge of the Sith) to assassinate Count Dooku, and they want him to get help from Asajj Ventress, one of the Jedi Order’s greatest enemies who was once Count Dooku’s apprentice. They believe that Ventress will want vengeance on her former master, and since she knows him better than almost anyone, she could be a great asset. The catch is, Ventress cannot know that Vos is a Jedi. Vos agrees, and sets off on his mission.

Now, I’m not overly familiar with Quinlan Vos from the Expanded Universe, but I have been told this new interpretation of Vos is very different than his character from the EU. Not being familiar with his previous appearances, this doesn’t bother me, but if you’re a fan of the Quinlan Vos from the Republic comics, this “new” Vos might not be the Jedi Master you’re looking for. For me, I think that this version of Quinlan Vos is a very fun character to read. He doesn’t seem to take life as seriously as his fellow Jedi. Quinlan Vos in The Clone WarsHe’s upbeat, he’s not always serious, and he likes to enjoy life. He is a stark contrast to Asajj Ventress, who is… well… the former apprentice of a Sith Lord. Completely unwilling to help at first, with a little bit of persuasion Ventress actually agrees to work with Vos to assassinate Dooku. Her change of heart felt very sudden. I actually didn’t believe it at first, but to my surprise she is actually sincere when she decides to team up with Vos, and the two start preparing and training to kill Count Dooku. The pairing up of these two was a genius move, as they make a very fun team to read about.

In fact, that’s the word that keeps coming to mind when thinking of how to describe this novel: fun. This book is just plain fun to read, from start to finish.

With that being said, I do take issue with a few things. For one, as the book goes on, it becomes more and more obvious that this was written as multiple episodes of a TV show spread out over a relatively long time. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that makes this so obvious, but you can just tell. This wasn’t supposed to be a novel, and as much as I liked the book, I do think that it would have worked a lot better on TV than in novel form.

Mace WinduAnother thing I didn’t really like was the portrayal of Mace Windu in this story. Mace seems to be against the Jedi Council’s decisions and the Jedi code the entire time. Every bad decision that’s made is pretty much his fault. I don’t like that. Mace Windu is kind of the bad guy in this story, and to a lesser extent, the entire Jedi Council is, for approving and going along with his bad ideas. Mace is one of my favorite characters from the prequel era (my favorite Star Wars book of all time is Shatterpoint, the only Star Wars book to date with Mace Windu in the lead role) and I did not like this portrayal of him at all.

My biggest gripe with this story has to do with the ending. It’s no spoiler that Count Dooku is not killed at the end of this story. What bothers me, is the way he escapes the Jedi. I won’t go into detail, but it is one of the laziest, least satisfying cop-out escapes I can imagine. This is what annoyed me more than any other part of the story.

The ending of the story caught me by surprise though, for an unrelated reason. I can’t talk about what happened without majorly spoiling the book, but aside from the stupid Dooku escape, the rest of the ending was very satisfying. It brought a sense of closure to Ventress’ previously unfinished story that I didn’t expect to see in this book. I have high praise for how the ending of this book was handled (again, disregarding Dooku’s escape).

I really enjoyed this book. It’s not really an important story in Star Wars canon, but it is a fun one. I can definitely see myself reading this one again. For me, this is one of the high points of the new canon so far. I applaud Christie Golden and the writers of The Clone Wars for bringing us this story, and I’m hoping we get more novelizations of unfinished episodes of The Clone Wars (without making it feel like I’m reading episodes of a TV show though) because it still drives me up the wall that that show was cut short without having a proper ending.

Score: 7/10

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