The following part of the review contains SPOILERS. For Part I of the review, click here.
First, I truly appreciate how Dark Disciple made me fall in love with a character I had little interest in when he first appeared in the series. Quinlan Vos was written exceptionally well, and because of that, I connected with his character. He’s a compassionate individual and the popular guy in the Jedi Temple. And like any other person who desperately wanted to bring the war to an end, he was willing to sacrifice the inherently good parts of himself. And of course, things didn’t go according to plan, since power and ambition got in the way, much like it did for Anakin Skywalker. I know people still struggle to see how this pairing works, but he was the perfect match for Ventress. She was this no-nonsense kind of woman with a fortified wall around herself, but Quinlan had a natural charm about him and he burrowed his way in. Besides Ventress, Quinlan also had great interactions with Obi-Wan and his longtime friend Akar-Deshu (Desh). I have a lot of emotions when it comes to Desh, having grown to love his character throughout the novel. Despite the Mahran genocide at the start of the novel, I’d love to see his species show up again at some point in a future Star Wars project.
Second, when Dark Disciple was originally announced at San Diego Comic-Con 2014, I knew someone’s life would be in danger and my mind went straight to Asajj Ventress, since Quinlan Vos had been mentioned in Revenge of the Sith. Following the cover reveal late last year, I made my opinion known, “Ventress’ fate, in particular, is the one that most fans fret about, since she’s a strongly written and complex female character–a rare find in the canon universe. It’s worrisome to think that this could be an end for her brilliant character development–or worse, that she would be the source of Quinlan Vos’ ‘manpain’.” I remember having a “If Ventress dies, we riot” mentality because I didn’t want to lose another amazing female character, especially given how the past few canon novels have ended. I admit, it’s an unsettling trend that the female characters keep dying and the male characters keep on living to fight another day. Nevertheless, I defended the ending to Heir to the Jedi, and I will also defend the ending to this novel.
Ventress lived her entire life having failed relationships and having everything ripped away from her. She was an emotionally broken character. Katie Lucas understood this, having developed her character throughout the series. She even mentioned it in her foreword to the novel, “At its core, Dark Disciple is a story of redemption; a story of how people can be unbelievably broken, and yet find a way to rebuild despite the odds. All of us are given chances time and time again to transform our lives, and it is our responsibility to seize those opportunities before they disappear.” Ventress took that opportunity with Quinlan Vos, and later, Vos took an opportunity to change for the better because of her. Asajj had been sold into slavery, lost her Jedi Master, left for dead and discarded by Dooku, and lost her sisters on Dathomir. All she had ever known was pain and loss, but there was this one man–this one idiot–who quelled that pain and gave her something she had always wanted: to feel loved and respected.
Did Asajj have to die? No. I could have seen her live, buddy up with Ahsoka, and return as a recurring character on Star Wars Rebels, but that’s fan fiction at its core, right? The fact of the matter is Katie Lucas had a vision, one that I respect, and Christie Golden took the material she had been given and spun gold out of it. Asajj had the opportunity to let Quinlan die, but wouldn’t you try to save someone you love, even if it meant you dying in the process? She had come so far from being someone who took lives callously and without regard to someone who saved lives. And even if Quilan had been hit by Dooku’s lightning and Asajj had retaliated, that wouldn’t have made sense. She said it herself, in order to kill Dooku, you have to be someone filled with hate and she wasn’t that person anymore. She died selflessly, and most importantly, knowing that she hadn’t lost another person she cared about, like her old Jedi Master and her sisters. Asajj lived a tortured life, but her end didn’t solely happen to advance Vos’ character (turning him back to the light side), it happened because it was time to free herself from that life. And it couldn’t have been a more beautiful ending, Vos taking her back to Dathomir, where she was reunited with her sisters and was finally at peace.
People will, undoubtedly, have opinions about the ending, given how Asajj is a fan favorite. I understand the frustration behind losing a complex female character, but I also understand this particular character’s development and evolution. I’m sad to see her go, but I’m also pleased to know that she felt what it was like to be happy and whole, and that a character who had been painted a villain was capable of experiencing one of the most universal feelings–love.