Together, Asajj Ventress and Quinlan Vos are the best hope for eliminating Count 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.
It’s Saturday night at Barnes & Noble. Fans are lined up to purchase the last book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. There’s excitement in the air, but there’s also a tinge of sadness because waiting behind the cashier counters is the last chapter of an epic series. I remember looking around and taking it all in because I knew, in that moment, that no other book would capture my heart. And no book hasn’t until Dark Disciple. Written by Christie Golden and originally envisioned and written by Star Wars: The Clone Wars writers Katie Lucas, Matt Michnovetz, and Dave Filoni, Dark Disciple is an emotionally charged and gripping tale about love, trust, betrayal, redemption, and second chances. It’s the kind of book that sucks you in and doesn’t let you go until you’ve reached the last page of the book at 4 o’clock in the morning, two hours before you have to get ready to go to work. And if that’s not enough, it’s also the kind of book that makes you want to do it all over again with multiple readings.
Quinlan Vos and Asajj Ventress are tasked with the mission to assassinate Count Dooku and end the atrocities that threaten billions of lives across the galaxy. When the novel was first announced, I have to admit that the pairing of main characters Asajj Ventress and Quinlan Vos sounded bizarre to me. Ventress is this dark side assassin turned bounty hunter and Quinlan Vos is a laid back, sarcastic, go-with-the-flow kind of Jedi. If you have any reservations about seeing these two characters working together, rest assured that the match and the banter that comes with it felt as natural and believable as Leia and Han. It’s a result that came about convincingly well, aided by the narration switching between perspectives, allowing the reader to jump into the mind of each character and understand how these two complex characters come to appreciate and respect each other.
Some early reviewers stated that there is an inordinate amount Quinlan Vos in what is essentially a novel meant for Asajj Ventress. Having read the novel twice, however, both characters complement each other equally over the course of the story. Our experiences, relationships, and environments make up who we are as individuals, so to have less of one character in this arc would have been a disservice to the other character. Additionally, it was critical to expound upon Quinlan Vos’ personality, since his character does not adhere to the Legends (Expanded Universe) version and we only saw him once throughout the animated series. In doing that, it prepares the reader for the emotional roller coaster ride that ensues. If you are willing to unlearn what you have learned about the previous characterization of this particular individual and open yourself up to a more well-rounded character, then you’ll be in for quite a compelling journey. And of course, the journey is not complete without the formidable and deadly Asajj Ventress. You get inside her head to discover the demons that continue to plague her and you witness how her wall gradually crumbles to reveal this person capable of deep emotion. I’ll go as far as to say that she has the best character development in the entire Star Wars saga, and this continuation of her story is no exception.
What I love most about the novel is that the writing style is so easy to fall into and visualize. It’s not dry or overburdened with description. You can actually see the story unfold in your mind’s eye and hear the voices of The Clone Wars actors as you move through the story. As much as I would have liked to have seen the finished episodes, Christie Golden truly hits it out of the park in terms of exploring the characters’ thoughts and actions, while also exploring adult and dark themes that would have been censored out of the episodes. It’s that added layer that effectively heightens the intensity of the emotions throughout the text, making for a breathless and captivating read. Speaking of emotions, the novel also does an exceptional job at carefully exploring the dark side of the Force. There was so much passion involved–anger, love, hate, fear–that I felt like I had tapped into my own emotions while reading the book, making it even easier for me to connect with the characters and the raw energy that drew them together.
Since the book takes place several months before Revenge of the Sith, certain aspects of the plot do suffer from being predictable. You know right from the start that Count Dooku can’t die, but you quickly overlook these minor issues as the story progresses because it’s ultimately not about achieving the goal, but more about the steps taken to get there and how they inform each character. And given the paths certain characters take throughout the novel, the story did a remarkable job at making Anakin Skywalker’s betrayal in Revenge of the Sith more believable. The thirst for power, falling to the dark side, and being blinded by one’s own ambitions–we’ve seen all of this before, but the novel helps put these things into perspective, allowing the reader to understand how someone, like Anakin, can go to the extremes in a short amount of time.
Dark Disciple is both intimate and moving. As you flip through the pages, you’ll discover genuine humor, action-packed passages, heart-pounding excitement, and real and natural emotion. Superbly crafted, the story will tug at your heartstrings, keeping the reader engaged and transporting them into the minds of the characters so that the experiences become their own. I believe the story can be read without having watched the animated series, but having that background in mind will certainly make for a better reading experience. Without a doubt, Dark Disciple is my favorite canon Star Wars novel. I’ve read the last page multiple times, and just like that Saturday night at Barnes & Noble, I don’t know if a book will ever capture my heart the same way again. Christie Golden and the Star Wars: The Clone Wars crew set the bar high, so anything that comes after will have their work cut out for them.
Dark Disciple will be available for purchase at your local and online bookstore on July 7, 2015. To enrich the reading experience, make sure to visit StarWars.com to browse through the concept art gallery.
Part two of my review contains spoilers and will be published on Tuesday, July 14, so as to give TWG readers and other Star Wars fans enough time to read it and experience the story for themselves.
Many thanks to NetGalley for providing TWG with a review copy.