My adolescence was spent devouring Star Wars book after Star Wars book in the old Expanded Universe - all those books now published under the Legends line. I read about my heroes making peace with the remnants of the Empire, flying around in X-wings, courting one another, taking down Grand Admiral Thrawn, founding a Jedi Academy, raising a new generation of Jedi, and dealing with all of the pain, heartache, and drama that came along with it. I’ve not been enamored with any of the newer Del Rey offerings, until Master & Apprentice, that is. This is nearly everything I want in a Star Wars novel, and I loved it.
Claudia Gray writes a fast-paced tale focused on Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, the titular master and apprentice. True to the form of all the greatest Star Wars novels, what makes this novel work is the interactions of the characters. Jinn and Kenobi serve as excellent foils for one another. Qui-Gon is hardly a rule follower, and his tendency to bend the rules of the Jedi Order runs afoul of Obi-Wan’s much more obedient tendencies. It’s interesting to watch Qui-Gon attempt to open his padawan’s mind to the realities of the universe while at the same time watching Obi-Wan’s own struggles with how to relate to his masters. We also get some interesting flashbacks to Qui-Gon’s own days as a padawan with his master, Dooku. There are plenty of lightsabers, fun uses of the Force, and at least one cool scene with a star fighter, to complement the excellent characterizations. There’s also some interesting politics and references to well-known worlds from the Star Wars universe, like Alderaan and Naboo. Even more tantalizing, there are a number of references to ancient Jedi prophecies. Obviously, this ties into the prequel trilogies assertion that Anakin Skywalker was the Chosen One - that’s tropey and a bit boring, honestly. But some of these prophecies, I’m convinced, apply or will apply to the new movies as well, which makes them interesting.
There’s hardly anything I didn’t like about this novel. Personally, I think Star Wars is at its best when there are Sith to balance the Jedi. This is true if for no other reason than lightsaber battles are the coolest battles. That couldn’t be the case here, given the timeframe it takes place in, when everyone is convinced the Sith have been extinct for a couple millennia. Because we know both the main protagonists survive, it also lacks a little tension in some scenes here and there. That’s the disadvantage to writing about the earlier history of two characters we already know. In the larger picture, however, these are fairly minor criticisms.
Claudia Gray has done a fabulous job with Master & Apprentice and I’m hoping for more Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan shenanigans. This became an instant favorite for me. It’s Star Wars at its best, and it makes me want to go reread my old favorites and hope for some new favorites set in the Old Republic era. Recommended for hardcore fans and folks who’ve only seen the movies.
Review by Calvin Park
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