The Star Wars extended universe is vast and sprawling. It consist of movies (obviously), TV shows, games, comics, and many, many, many books. Just so many books. And if I’m honest it was a bit daunting.
I’ve always considered myself a Star Wars fan but mostly confined myself to the movies and TV with an occasional comic thrown in from time to time. I attempted to start in with the novels but by the time I got around to it there were dozens already published, and the storylines and lore was massive and intertwined…basically it was all so overwhelming it made my head hurt. So I simply confined myself to the movies and TV and left it at that.
That was until Lucasfilm was purchased by Disney and we got a reset. All that vast, complicated, sprawling universe was cast off into Legends and cannon was made anew. That seemed a perfect jumping on point for someone like me who just didn’t have the time to read it all from the beginning (in other words: lazy).
And so I decided to begin with the new cannon novel based on the stand-out character from Clone Wars, Ahsoka Tano.
Before I begin talking about the novel I want to point out that the fact Ahsoka is a stand-out character is remarkable in and of itself. When she was introduced in Clone Wars as Anakin’s spunky, teenage padawan she had all the hallmarks of a typical kid’s point-of-view character – that is to say annoying and obnoxious. I assumed that she would be a force sensitive version of Wesley Crusher. And true enough that’s essentially what she was in the beginning, but her character soon evolved into something bigger and more complex till eventually she became the show’s moral center. And also quickly became a fan favorite.
That is something to point out as well, if you are a fan of Clone Wars and a fan of Ahsoka Tano than this book is definitely for you. One of the book’s strengths is the fact that it you already know the character and if you’ve watched her grow over the years on the series than this follows quite nicely. You’ll be rewarded with a sprinkling of call-backs to the series and to other characters as well as the continuation of a character’s story that was left hanging when Clone Wars came to an abrupt end. And it helps fill in the gaps up to her arrival in Rebels.
That strength however could be seen as its biggest weakness. If you are not already familiar with Ahsoka than this novel might not be for you; this might not be the best introduction to her since the bulk of her story-arc and relationships have already been seen elsewhere. That is hard for me to gauge since I was familiar with Ahsoka but I did take note of several times when having previous knowledge probably helped the story along.
I suppose I should also point out that this is a Young Adult novel. That is not meant as a negative criticism, mind you. But it should be noted that it is written for a younger audience and if that is not your thing than you might want to skip it. Personally I have no qualms reading YA novels as long as I go into it with the understanding of the demographic it is targeting. The more you know and all that.
Ahsoka, written by E. K. Johnson, takes place about a year after Return of the Sith. Ahsoka is on the run following order 66 (the order for all clones to kill the Jedi) and has faked her own death complete with grave and giving up her light sabers.
She begins going by the name “Ashla” (a word that also means the light side of the Force – he said without having to look it up) and attempts to keep a low profile on various Outer Rim worlds before settling on the farming moon of Raada.
At this point the novel slows down to become almost a frontier Western along the lines of Shane or maybe closer to Unforgiven. Ahsoka is distraught, the death of the Jedi and the rise of the Empire weigh on her greatly. The loss of her former life, her friends and purpose haunt her as she struggles to decide what it is she want to be; who she will become.
But in spite of this Ahsoka settles in on Raada working as a mechanic and becoming friends with the local farmers, and for a little while things seem good. But it seems she can’t outrun the Empire for long and soon they arrive to exploit the farmers leaving Ahsoka to decide whether she wants to run or fight.
Essentially she ends up doing both. She runs in order to keep her new found friends safe when it is discovered she is a Jedi (or rather former Jedi) but of course she returns with newly constructed light sabers in hand and new allies in toe to mount a dramatic rescue.
All in all it’s a fairly simple story, but an entertaining one. The time we spend on Raada has some good moments of growth for Ahsoka. And while the supporting characters are really just one-note caricatures; we do get some insight into the thoughts and feeling of Ahsoka. We watch her at her lowest point and slowly gain strength and knowledge and ultimately a new direction. In that sense the book is a success.
Where it falls short however is how the book seems to race toward a connection with Rebels and the larger Star Wars saga. While the first two thirds of the book takes its time to build Ahsoka’s life through relationships and a sense of duty; the final third makes he into a kind of superhero. She meets Bail Organa and the fledgling rebellion and falls into her role as Fulcrum rather quickly. Would have been nice to see that part of her story play out over time, perhaps in another story or two? But I suppose this was never meant to be anything more than an entertaining gap-filler between Clone Wars and Rebels. In that sense it plays its part quite well.
In the end this is just a nice little story. It revisits a beloved character and for the most part tells a genuinely enjoyable tale. It adds some much needed backstory for Ahsoka and provides motivation for where her character will eventually go. You won’t be blown away by this novel but you will be entertained.
And really, what more could you ask?