Dark Disciple is based on an unproduced story arc that was originally slated for Star Wars: The Clones Wars. It was adapted into this novelization by Christie Golden, and features a forward by Katie Lucas. This review contains some minor spoilers.
I’ve always been drawn to the character of Asajj Ventress. From her first introduction in The Clone Wars micro series (2003-2005), she has been an intriguing entity. Villains don’t typically interest me – I’m all about the heroes. However, there was always something that unsettled me about Ventress — a nebulous quality I couldn't quite define. However, through her characterization on The Clone Wars (2008-2014), I came to realize she wasn’t truly a villain, and I had done her a disservice. She’s always been more complex than that oversimplified label would imply. In light of that history, I was thrilled with the announcement that Dark Disciple would feature a deeper exploration of her character, and my excitement crescendoed as I eagerly devoured the book.
I was not disappointed. Christie Golden has written my favorite Star Wars novel.
In Dark Disciple, the Jedi Council is coming to terms with what they feel they must do to eliminate the mounting threat posed by Count Dooku — namely by eliminating the man himself. While assassination is hardly a Jedi-like pursuit, the Council decides they need someone who can handle the morally ambiguous nature of the job — enter Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos.
In order to find out what makes the Count tick, and how to get close enough to actually kill him, Obi-Wan Kenobi suggests Vos seek out Dooku’s former Sith acolyte-turned freelance bounty hunter, Asajj Ventress, and attempt to gain her aid — and her trust.
Vos is particularly adept at adopting personas suitable to undercover work, and, upon locating Ventress as she pursues a bounty, he manages to ingratiate himself well enough to convince Asajj she could use a partner. It takes a bit of doing, but Vos earns her confidence — and, eventually, much more. These are two solitary people who work exceptionally well together, on every level.
After several previous failed attempts to take the life of her former Master, Vos suggests to Ventress that together they could finally put an end to Dooku. Ventress, in turn, determines that Vos must undergo specialized training that will allow him to touch the Dark Side of the Force, for that is the only way he will be strong enough to fulfill the task at hand. As one might suspect, events take a less than favorable turn. Obviously, Dooku survives, only to be cut down by Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith. What does that mean for Quinlan Vos and Asajj Ventress?
Machinations aside, the very heart of this book is the relationship that develops between Vos and Ventress. Asajj is walled off, determined not to let anyone into her life, let alone her heart. She bears the scars of great loss. Quinlan, being a Jedi, is forbidden from forming attachments, especially those of a romantic nature. Some things are inevitable (fated?). Vos and Ventress fall in love, and it’s a relationship that is not only conceivable, but palpable. Perhaps more so than any other to date in Star Wars (aside from Kanan Jarrus and Hera Syndulla in Star Wars Rebels, but the exact nature of their current relationship is still open to debate).
With regard to Quinlan and Asajj, as with most of the great love stories, there is an element of the tragic….
Dark Disciple features many familiar faces from The Clone Wars — Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Mace Windu, Yoda, and Count Dooku – who is a properly villainous and cruel character in this novel, albeit charming as ever. Since this was originally written as a story arc for The Clone Wars, it is easy for the reader to actually ‘hear’ the characters as they were portrayed in the series — and it only serves to enhance an already enjoyable reading experience. The novel plays well in your head, if you take my meaning.
There are some great action sequences to be had in Dark Disciple, as befits a Star Wars novel, but the main focus is always on the two main protagonists. It is their personal entanglement, so beautifully laid out by Golden, that stands front and center — and rightly so. This book will haunt your heart, mind, and soul long after you’ve turned the last page.
My rating: A solid 5 out of 5
Thank you to Del Rey for providing a copy of this book for review.
*The next issue of Star Wars Insider (on sale July 21) will feature a prequel story, “Kindred Spirits”, written by Christie Golden, with artwork by Magali Villeneuve Privé.
Be sure to check out Coffee With Kenobi's Book Chat with Christie Golden here.Powered by Sidelines