Sunday, 26 July 2015

Star Wars: Dark Disciple by Christie Golden (Del Ray Books)

I review Christie Golden’s Dark Disciple, one of the most recent entries in the new Star Wars Expanded Universe, published by Del Ray Books and looking at events during the era of the Clone Wars.

Based on unproduced scripts from the blockbuster TV show Star Wars: The Clone Wars!

The only way to bring down the dark side's most dangerous warrior may be for Jedi and Sith to join forces.

In the war for control of the galaxy between the armies of the dark side and the Republic, former Jedi Master turned ruthless Sith Lord Count Dooku has grown ever more brutal in his tactics. Despite the powers of the Jedi and the military prowess of their clone army, the sheer number of fatalities is taking a terrible toll. And when Dooku orders the massacre of a flotilla of helpless refugees, the Jedi Council feels it has no choice but to take drastic action: targeting the man responsible for so many war atrocities, Count Dooku himself.

But the ever-elusive Dooku is dangerous prey for even the most skilled hunter. So the Council makes the bold decision to bring both sides of the Force's power to bear—pairing brash Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos with infamous one-time Sith acolyte Asajj Ventress. Though Jedi distrust for the cunning killer who once served at Dooku's side still runs deep, Ventress's hatred for her former master runs deeper. She's more than willing to lend her copious talents as a bounty hunter—and assassin—to Vos's quest.

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. 

The Clone Wars series is something that I’ve got a mixed experience with, and am actually, incredibly behind, having only got the chance to see the first nineteen episodes of season one. I’ve heard it gets a lot better and there have been a few promising signs of great things, but so far there has been plenty of issues. Two characters that are part of the series – one that I encountered in the animated movie, Asaji Ventress, one-time Sith acolyte, and one that I haven’t yet seen as far as I can remember, Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos are featured here, and I was half wondering whether, especially as this was based on unproduced episodes of the show no doubt further down the line from where I am at the moment, I would struggle to understand what was going on or not. Thankfully that was not the case here, with Dark Disciple being very easy to understand and serves up nicely as a standalone fare, and a really welcome surprise for Star Wars fans as it’s among one of the best novels in the franchise that I’ve had the pleasure of reading in a while.

Fans of The Clone Wars will be right at home in Dark Disciple. Following the aftermath of an assault by Count Dooku on a flotilla of helpless refugees, the Jedi Council decide that they have to target him for assassination, a direct approach frowned upon in the Order. The only way to stop the veteran Sith Lord is to pair both Jedi and (former) Sith together on a rogue mission, the Han Solo-esque Quinlan Vos and Dooku’s ex apprentice, the sinister Asajj Ventress. Both make interesting choices for the novel (I don’t know how much screentime, if any, they shared in The Clone Wars) and they play off each other well with some great character exchanges as the Jedi’s best hope for eliminating Dooku. All the characters involved that I am familiar with on The Clone Wars (Anakin, Obi-Wan etc) are portrayed well and this feels like it could be right at home as an episode of the TV series, and it works really well, combining an expertly paced plot with some great action sequences.

The book itself handles the differences in character between Vos and Ventress very well indeed, mixing their development and handling their interactions strongly. If you’re looking for some more awesome female characters in the Star Wars ‘verse than it’s clear that Ventress is most certainly one, and this book has got me really interested to see what she can do in The Clone Wars, along with Vos, so I’m probably going to get caught up on that series when I can. I’m in the middle of The Walking Dead and Scandal at the moment though.  

Something that’s also worth noting and that I only found out after researching Vos’ character a bit more, is that the book separates from the original story for the character so if there are any fans of Vos then you may be disappointed, as this serves as a different take on his time during The Clone Wars. It makes things interesting, however, the character is handled well here so that fans of Vos’ original story shouldn’t be put off. Vos and Ventress also form an unlikely relationship that’s handled better than expected, as the book itself explores things in a lot more depth in general than most other Star Wars books, yet at the same time, remaining a page-turning read that will render readers unable to put this novel down.

Despite the depth that’s mentioned above, the issues that the book brings to the table aren’t tackled with a lot of subtlety leading the book to feel a tad rushed in places, but that’s pretty much one of the few minor problems that I had with an otherwise really fun experience. Dark Disciple does an excellent job at giving more depth to the main characters and making the book a captivating light read, and it’s safe to say that you could find far worse Star Wars books for your money than this one.


‘NEW’ EXPANDED UNIVERSE STAR WARS NOVELS TIMELINE: Dark Disciple by Christie Golden, Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp, Tarkin by James Luceno, A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller, Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne, Aftermath by Chuck Wendig 

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