Dark Disciple Review

Dark Disciple, the newest Star Wars novel, has been out for a week now, and I’m finally getting around to putting up that long promised post on it.  I’m calling this a review, but I don’t really want to assign an actual grade to it.  Rather, I’d like to give a rundown on it, share my general opinion, and then let you know how it stacks up to the two leads’ stories in the Legends continuity.  I’ll warn now that SPOILERS lie ahead, though I’ll be careful not to give everything away.

In short, I enjoyed the book.  At the core of it, unsurprisingly, is the relationship between Asajj Ventress and Quinlan Vos.  What’s a little more surprising, perhaps, is that the book is, essentially, about the romance between the two of them.  Vos is assigned by the Jedi Council to assassinate Count Dooku, and told to enlist Ventress in his efforts.  Already, the book is raising some serious ethical questions for the Jedi: while they have no qualms killing in self-defense, an assassination is an entirely different beast.  That said, they also recognize that Dooku’s death would end the war, and the question becomes if it is moral to stop the killing of many with the premeditated murder of one.  It’s a question Vos, and all the Jedi, will come to struggle with throughout the novel.  The book has several distinct sections, no doubt resulting from its origins as eight distinct scripts.  The first is Vos initially joining up with Ventress as a bounty hunting partner, but the second, and more interesting, section is  Vos revealing his mission and himself as a Jedi, and his subsequent dark side training.  Ventress attempts to teach Vos to use the dark side without being consumed by it.  It’s around here that Vos and Ventress become lovers, and thankfully, the pairing feels quite natural.  Their relationship is endangered by Ventress realizing that she had killed Vos’s master Tholme earlier in the war, so to avoid that revelation and help Vos tap into the dark side, she tells him that Dooku killed Tholme.  It’s a decision that will have a lot of ramifications in the novel, and threatens the relationship between the characters.

Author Christie Golden does great work with each of the characters.  They both behave in believable ways, and we get a great sense of their motivations, especially with Ventress.  The reason that I say that is that as the novel draws towards the end, Vos’s motivations are being deliberately kept from the reader.  Golden draws much more from The Clone Wars than the existing Legends material, and it shows especially with Vos.  At the start of the novel, he is very much the carefree Jedi seen in Hunt for Ziro.  As the novel goes on, however, his character evolves and by the end is actually far more in line with his depiction from Republic.  The action scenes are handled pretty well, and the variety of combatants involved give them relatively distinct feelings.  The romance between the characters evolves and feels natural.  All in all, it’s a good read, and among my favorite Star Wars books.

Now, one reason that some fans might not like the novel is that it does not line up with the EU at all.  Ventress’s endgame from the EU had pretty much already gone out the window just from The Clone Wars itself.  Where Dark Disciple leaves her is no closer to the ending from Obsession than where she had been, perhaps further from it.  When we first meet Vos, he’s involved in undercover work, much like in the early stages of the Republic Clone Wars comics.  He isn’t however, infiltrating Dooku’s inner circle like he would in the EU.  It is perhaps better to think of his arc in this novel as a re-imagining of his arc from the comics.  In both, Vos is given an assignment that he may not be able to handle, and in both he winds up going in too deep and flirting dangerously close to the dark side.  He justifies his decisions as necessary to get close to Dooku and discover the identity of the second Sith.  In the end, he is able to come through on the side of light, with the help of those close to him.  One other change of note is the fate of Tholme.  Here, he died early in the war, and it’s used as a catalyst to lure Vos to the Sith.  In Republic, he actually survives Order 66.

Ultimately, this is a book that I think most people will be able to enjoy.  It does draw heavily on The Clone Wars, so watching the episodes I suggested would actually be a pretty good idea before reading the novels (incidentally, starwars.com just did their own article covering the same bases that I did).  While hardcore EU fans might not like that elements of Vos and Ventress are gone for good, the novel stays true to their general characterization.  There’s a lot to like, and I definitely recommend it.

Tidbits

– While Vos and Ventress are undoubtedly the focus of the novel, Obi-Wan gets a good bit to do as well.

– As I mention, the novel draws on The Clone Wars pretty heavily.  One of my favorite inclusions was Boba Fett’s bounty hunting team from Bounty, who show up several times.

– If I had one wish, I would have liked to see more of Aayla Secura in this.  As I understand, she’s still Vos’s apprentice in the new canon, and it would have been nice to see their relationship explored.

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