Fans have long wondered what happened to Ahsoka after she left the Jedi Order near the end of the Clone Wars, and before she re-appeared as the mysterious Rebel operative Fulcrum in Rebels. Finally, her story will begin to be told. Following her experiences with the Jedi and the devastation of Order 66, Ahsoka is unsure she can be part of a larger whole ever again. But her desire to fight the evils of the Empire and protect those who need it will lead her right to Bail Organa, and the Rebel Alliance….
A much beloved character, it’s safe to say that Star Wars fans have been waiting to read a novel about Ahsoka Tano since before the novel by E. K. Johnson was officially announced. For many of us, we grew up with Ahsoka, and for many others, they learned to appreciate her, so it’s no surprise that a good portion of the fan community desperately wanted to know what happened to this former Padawan in the years between Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. What role did she play in the Siege of Mandalore? How did she ultimately escape Order 66? Where did she go? What did she do? How did she become the wise leader that we later see in Star Wars Rebels? Some of these questions are answered in the novel, while others remain unknown. I went into this book with a lot of expectations and with the desire to have many of these questions answered, and while it gave us some great insight into Ahsoka’s life following her decision to leave the Jedi Order, it also missed the mark in a few other areas.
To start off, let’s take a look at the things that I favored about the book:
- E. K. Johnston did an amazing job at capturing Ahsoka’s voice. That was my main concern. Would this new author successfully carry over Ahsoka’s personality and thoughts from the animated series over to a novel? It was exceptionally well done and we get to see what Ahsoka’s headspace is like at this time.
- Johnston also did a fantastic job at capturing the voice of other familiar characters, such as Bail Organa. Bail is one of my personal favorites, so it was great to see him recruiting Ahsoka and the two interacting as if they were old and dear friends. Although they didn’t know each other all that well, they shared like minds and found that they had similar goals.
- The inclusion of an Inquisitor as the antagonist truly caught me by surprise because I hadn’t expected them to be around this close to the birth of the Empire. Like those from the animated series, he was ruthless and relentless. That said, there really wasn’t much else to him. Like the others we’ve seen, he is a hound for the Empire, so he doesn’t offer anything new in terms of how the Inquisitors came about and the brother/sister structure they come from.
- The origin of Ahsoka’s new lightsaber crystals made me gasp in delight because I don’t think it’s something that we’ve seen before: crystals being acquired from another Force user and changing color. That, to me, is new and refreshing and that sort of twist is something that I look for and appreciate in Star Wars stories.
- It was great to see Ahsoka have an internal conflict regarding the future of Hedala Fardi. Hedala is a Force sensitive girl during an age when the Jedi are no longer around. Ahsoka is aware that there will be countless children in the galaxy who will grow up without training and guidance and who will be in danger because of the Empire.
Now, here are the things that I still favored in some way, but I found that they needed some improvement:
- The interludes were in an interesting touch. I was reminded of Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath. In that particular novel, however, they were distracting, and while they weren’t as distracting in this novel, there were some interludes that went off topic, like the ones that focused on Anakin and Obi-Wan. I understand why they were included, but I would have much preferred the story to go from point A to point B without hopping around both in time and space.
- Speaking of the interludes, I have to admit that I expected the Siege of Mandalore to have been fleshed out more. This and Order 66 are meant to propel her story forward, but they’re only briefly covered in the first interlude. How does Rex end up saving her? When did he remove his chip? Where was Bo-Karan in all of this? Again, these are questions that I wanted to see answered, but the story barely touches on them.
- Johnston created a great group of characters, and some that immediately jump to mind are Kaeden Larte and Selda. That said, they weren’t really fleshed out all that well. They were also difficult to visualize. A lot of things were left to the reader’s imagination, and I love to use my imagination a lot when it comes to Star Wars, but when it comes to character descriptions and personalities, I desire more details. Additionally, some of these characters were underused. Take Selda and Vartan, for example. They are interesting characters that I wanted to learn more about, but we barely see them throughout the book.
- The pace of the novel is also something that was unexpectedly slow. It started off with a good amount of energy, and then, it quieted down for several chapters before it finally picked up in Chapter 16. On a related note, this book was short for a young adult novel. For comparison, Lost Stars (hardcover) is more than 550 pages long, while Ahsoka is about 400 pages. Granted, Lost Stars covered a longer period of time, but young adult books in general tend to be longer. Also, even though Ahsoka is 400 pages, once again, a significant portion of the book was slow, so for a good chunk of time, I felt like nothing was happening.
- The ultimate showdown between Ahsoka and the Sixth Brother was good, but again, I expected something more. It was a swift encounter, and before you know it, the whole thing is over.
- While I’m on the topic of the Inquisitor, I think there’s something that’s not connecting all that well between the novel and the television series. In the “Future of the Force” episode, Ahsoka spent a good amount of time trying to locate the identity of the Sith Lord she had encountered earlier in the second season, but she comes back having discovered that the Inquisitors have a secondary mission. Why is this brand new information to her in the show, if she’s already encountered it in the novel through Hedala Fardi?
Honestly, I went into this novel with very high expectations and with a list of things that I wanted to see play out. I don’t tend to do that, though, because I know better than to come into someone else’s story with a checklist. I like to be swept into the story and be amazed by what the author has to offer. That said, Ahsoka is a very important character to me and to many other fans out there. I’ve been a fan of that character since the day she first appeared on screen, so I find it hard to detach myself from those expectations.
Overall, Johnston’s novel contains a good story. There’s drama, action, humor, new characters, new places, etc. Everything a good Star Wars book needs. When it comes down to the nitty-gritty details, however, some things were missing here and other things were missing there. It’s not perfect, but it’s still entertaining and a good book to add to the collection.
Also, after reading it a third time, I came to the conclusion that this book is more for someone who is already familiar with Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the post-Jedi Order events that were discussed at Ahsoka’s Untold Tales panel at Star Wars Celebration Europe this past summer. It’s not really meant for a newcomer who is not familiar with Ahsoka and her story. Therefore, if you’re planning to give it as a gift to someone hoping to introduce them to Ahsoka, it’s best to make sure they have seen the series first.
Lastly, it also left me wanting more. We saw Ahsoka become Fulcrum. Great! Now, I would like to see Ahsoka in action as Fulcrum in the years leading up to Star Wars Rebels. What are her successes and failures as this new agent of the Rebellion? What sort of contacts does she make? The sort of people she meets?
All of that said, I am happy that Ahsoka has been getting so much attention and love over these past few years. She is a superb role model, and it’s wonderful that part of her story exists in the form of a young adult novel. As previously mentioned, Johnston captured her voice perfectly, and while I was reading, I could hear Ashley Eckstein’s voice as Ahsoka in my head. The novel was a good start, but I really hope there are plans to continue Ahsoka’s journey in the future because there’s a lot more of her story to tell.
Also, stay tuned for a special episode of Rebels Chat later this week, where a Youth Services Librarian (Melissa) and I discuss the novel in detail.
Many thanks to Disney-Lucasfilm Press, an imprint of Disney Publishing Worldwide, for providing a review copy. That said, this review is an honest assessment of the product.