This review of Star Wars: Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray may contain minor spoilers.
Star Wars: Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray features the long-awaited duo of Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Set in the years prior to the events of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Obi-Wan is 17 years old and has a bit of a contentious relationship with Qui-Gon, who can be a difficult read for the young Kenobi. We see hints of where the two differ in The Phantom Menace, but in Master & Apprentice those differences are very much at the forefront. That's not to say there isn't a mutual respect or affection between the two, but there is an underlying tension that comes from an inability to communicate with each other properly.
The book covers the present, but also flashes back to Qui-Gon's time as a Padawan under Count Dooku — thus granting the title a dual significance. We know from Star Wars: Attack of the Clones that Dooku trained Qui-Gon before he left the Jedi Order, and in Master & Apprentice we get our first look at that relationship. We're also introduced to another Jedi who trained under Dooku, Rael Averross.
Jinn and Averross are reunited when he requests Qui-Gon's assistance in a political dispute on the planet Pijal. Averross was previously dispatched by the Jedi Council to Pijal to serve as Lord Regent to the young Princess Fanry after the untimely death of his Padawan. After being guided by Averross for eight years, the Princess is nearing the age where she can claim the throne. However, certain factions threaten that action and possibly her life. There's the Opposition, the powerful Czerka Corporation, acts of terrorism, slavery, and deception. Feeling he's grown too close to the situation as a whole, and the Princess in particular, Averross hopes Qui-Gon can bring fresh perspective, and advise a course of action.
The central theme of the book however is mentorship, and the exploration of the master/apprentice dynamic is presented in an effective way by author Claudia Gray. The Jedi Council has offered Qui-Gon a position on the Council, and he is inclined to accept. He knows his relationship with Obi-Wan isn't in the best place, and he's sure his Padawan would be better served by another Master. You feel for Obi-Wan as he wonders if he's to blame for the breakdown in their relationship, while on the other side we see Qui-Gon wondering the same about himself. We know their difficulties are largely worked out by the time TPM rolls around, but understanding how they got there was the most rewarding aspect of Master & Apprentice.
As for Rael Averross — to say he's an unconventional Jedi is an understatement. That is both good and bad. He is an interesting and well-realized character — one I wouldn't mind seeing developed more in the future — but his manner and phraseology were, at times, a little too Earth-bound for my tastes. Multiple instances of modern vernacular and slang took me out of the story. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away should feel just that — long ago and far away.
Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi are wonderfully depicted. Qui-Gon's characterization in particular is a real strength, and he's the most powerful presence in the book. Most of the events are seen though his eyes, and we look back on his experiences and training. We get into his head as he grapples with how to deal with Obi-Wan, and the circumstances of their mission to Pijal. Qui-Gon has always been one of my favorite Jedi, and I felt myself wanting to get back to him when the focus shifted to other characters.
Of note in Master & Apprentice is the origin of Qui-Gon's interest in prophecy, and Obi-Wan's dismissal of the notion that prophecy has any value. Considering the role the prophecy of “The Chosen One” will play in their lives within a few years makes this an intriguing thread indeed.
Overall, Master & Apprentice is a good read. It's a solid exploration of the relationship between Master and Padawan, and everything Jedi-related is excellent. That's where the book shines. I found myself less interested in anything concerning the mission on Pijal, or the non-Jedi involved. I didn't become invested in any of the ancillary situations or characters — and I felt like I should have. That ultimately made my experience somewhat uneven.
My rating: 3.5/5
Star Wars: Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray is available now from Amazon.
Thank you to Penguin Random House for providing a copy of this book for review purposes.Powered by Sidelines