(2019) Claudia Gray, Century, £20, pbk, 464pp, ISBN 978-1-787-46240-3
An unexpected offer threatens the bond between Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi as the two Jedi navigate a dangerous new planet and an uncertain future. A Jedi must be a fearless warrior, a guardian of justice, and a scholar in the ways of the Force. But perhaps a Jedi’s most essential duty is to pass on what they have learned. Master Yoda trained Dooku; Dooku trained Qui-Gon Jinn; and now Qui-Gon has a Padawan of his own. But while Qui-Gon has faced all manner of threats and danger as a Jedi, nothing has ever scared him like the thought of failing his apprentice.
Obi-Wan Kenobi has deep respect for his Master, but struggles to understand him. Why must Qui-Gon so often disregard the laws that bind the Jedi? Why is Qui-Gon drawn to ancient Jedi prophecies instead of more practical concerns? And why wasn’t Obi-Wan told that Qui-Gon is considering an invitation to join the Jedi Council – knowing it would mean the end of their partnership? The simple answer scares him: Obi-Wan has failed his Master.
When Jedi Rael Aveross, another former student of Dooku, requests their assistance with a political dispute, Jinn and Kenobi travel to the Royal Court of Pijal for what may be their final mission together. What should be a simple assignment quickly becomes clouded by deceit, and by visions of violent disaster that take hold in Qui-Gon’s mind. As Qui-Gon’s faith in prophecy grows, Obi-Wan’s faith in him is tested – just as a threat surfaces which will demand that Master and Apprentice come together as never before, or be divided forever.
Along time ago in a galaxy far, far away Han Solo, slipped on a bar of soap in the shower, hit his head and when he blinked away the pain he found that he had blinked away all those many, many other Star Wars books that had been written over the years, demoting them to “legends” status, and so we are in the time of the new, official canon of Star Wars fiction, when the novels are punctuated by the films – the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy and the new trilogy and the films Solo and Rogue One. Not surprisingly according to the “Timeline” at the start of Master and Apprentice and given that we are talking about Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi here, we are back at the start in the time before the film The Phantom Menace, with book two in the new timeline, book one being Dooku: Jedi Lost.
I’m not the target market for these sort of books, they are written for the many Star Wars fans out there who have already turned it into a New York Times bestseller. Of those many, some fans will be familiar with another incarnation of the exploits of Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi from the 'Jedi Apprentice' series of twenty books written mainly by Jude Watson which appeared between 1999 and 2002, but those are now part of the “legends” canon and no longer part of the official timeline series of books, so some readers who were brought up reading those books will have a very clear idea of the relationship between Master and Apprentice which is very different from what Gray serves up here.
My major quibble here – as with all spin-off books - is the real lack of jeopardy for the major characters – we know no real harm can come to the two leads, and to be honest major revelations and reveals take place in the films, not in the books, so it is up to Gray to come up with a plot that has plenty of action, plenty of intrigue and mystery and plenty of memorable supporting characters that readers might actual vest some interest in, and care to see them triumph, or fail. Gray is an old hand at writing Star Wars books for both young adults and adults so we are in safe hands as she delivers a story which mirrors the relationship between Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, and that of young Qui-Gon Jinn as padawan to his master, Dooku, and we get some character development and reveals that drive the major character’s beliefs and fears in The Phantom Menace and the rest of the prequel trilogy. One minor quibble is that there could have been more action, and less chat as the plot does drag in places.
The tale itself comes as a meaty tome - over 430 pages long, consisting of thirty-eight chapters and an “After” end piece that takes place during the end of The Phantom Menace – no spoilers here, but you can probably guess which scene I am referring too. After the action ends and Gray acknowledges everyone who helped her with the writing of the book we get a 27 page long excerpt from the forthcoming Star Wars Alphabet Squadron by old-hand Alexander Freed. I’m sure Star Wars fans will push that one on to the bestseller’s list too, just as they have with Master and Apprentice. All in all, this is an entertaining, though slow read, and if you’ve never read any of the new Star Wars books, but have seen the films, then this is a good place to start.
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