Welcome to the Multiversity Star Wars Book Club! Based on a conversation in the Multiversity Slack, editors Matt Garcia and Brian Salvatore decided to start up this column, where we will be reading and discussing a Star Wars every month or so. So come, enter the ancient library and join us!
This month, our resident Star Wars aficionado Alice W. Castle steps in for Matt to discuss the last bit of Clone Wars media Brian has to cover for the site (for now), Dark Disciple by Christie Golden!
Written by Christie Golden
Based on unproduced episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, this new novel features Asajj Ventress, former Sith apprentice turned bounty hunter and one of the great antiheroes in the Star Wars galaxy.
The only way to bring down the Sith’s most dangerous warrior may be to join forces with the dark side.
In the war for control of the galaxy between the armies of the dark side and the Republic, former Jedi Master turned ruthless Sith Lord Count Dooku has grown ever more brutal in his tactics. Despite the powers of the Jedi and the military prowess of their clone army, the sheer number of fatalities is taking a terrible toll. And when Dooku orders the massacre of a flotilla of helpless refugees, the Jedi Council feels it has no choice but to take drastic action: targeting the man responsible for so many war atrocities, Count Dooku himself.
But the ever-elusive Dooku is dangerous prey for even the most skilled hunter. So the Council makes the bold decision to bring both sides of the Force’s power to bear—pairing brash Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos with infamous one-time Sith acolyte Asajj Ventress. Though Jedi distrust for the cunning killer who once served at Dooku’s side still runs deep, Ventress’s hatred for her former master runs deeper. She’s more than willing to lend her copious talents as a bounty hunter—and assassin—to Vos’s quest.
Together, Ventress and Vos are the best hope for eliminating Dooku—as long as the emerging feelings between them don’t compromise their mission. But Ventress is determined to have her retribution and at last let go of her dark Sith past. Balancing the complicated emotions she feels for Vos with the fury of her warrior’s spirit, she resolves to claim victory on all fronts—a vow that will be mercilessly tested by her deadly enemy . . . and her own doubt.
Brian: Hey Alice! With reading Dark Disciple, I’ve now officially finished the Clone Wars journey that you set me on. Thanks!
So this book is an odd one, ain’t it? On the surface, I can see how this was an arc or two (or three) of the show, but there were a lot of details that would have been grossly out of place in the show. But let’s start with generalities: overall, what was your opinion of this book?
Alice: The thing about Dark Disciple is that it was one of the first New Canon book I read. Before it had come A New Dawn, Tarkin, Heir To The Jedi and Lords Of The Sith. These were all novels that were set just before or during the Original Trilogy and were pretty self contained with some connections to other Star Wars works.
I don’t think I knew what to expect.
Dark Disciple is reworked from, I think, 8 unused scripts for The Clone Wars in order to tie up some loose ends for Asajj Ventress and, to a lesser extent, Quinlan Vos. It made for a strange read and I don’t think I’m alone in thinking it makes for a novel with a pretty disjointed structure.
You can almost exactly tell where the episode breaks were, chapter by chapter.
But what about you? You’ve had a pretty hardcore marathon of Clone Wars content, how did you find this as a cap off (for now)?
Brian: Well, on one hand, I think that this particular story works so much better in novel format rather than 22 minute episodes aimed (ostensibly) at children. The depth of Vos’s darkness and Venteress’s love for him just wouldn’t have played up as well without the internal monologue of various characters. I think these episodes would have really short changed the story that was told here, but I do agree that you can sort of see the seams of where the episode breaks would happen. It is almost like each chapter is a 6 minute segment, which ends with a commercial break.Continued below
So, obviously, Ventress is a huge part of The Clone Wars, and so this felt like a necessary ending for her story, and gave a nice sense of closure to her arc from villain to redeemed hero. But for Vos, this is clearly the most time we’ve spent with him. What was he in, something like 6 episodes of the series?
Alice: For sure, I definitely think the story being told here worked better in the format presented. I don’t know how a story about how Asajj fucked Quinlan to the dark side would play on Cartoon Network.
And, yeah, Quinlan Vos is a weird one. He was initially a background extra in The Phantom Menace.
John Ostrander and Jan Duursema expanded upon the character in the “Star Wars: Republic” comic before George Lucas took a shine to him and wanted to bring him into Revenge Of The Sith, but didn’t end up introducing him into “canon” until The Clone Wars.
Which makes it weird that I actually don’t really like him all that much. He’s very much The Edgy Jedi in other media as way of making him look Cool and Hip, I guess.
Here, though, I thought Christie Golden was able to mine a lot of pathos out of the character.
Brian: Ha! I had no idea about his Phantom Menace bonafides!
But yeah, the character seems a little silly at times. Imagine a Jedi [record scratch] THAT FUCKS!
I think Golden does a lot with the character as well, but it is a pretty broad character to work with. You need to make him a really good Jedi, but also a loose cannon, and one with a special Force power, without turning him into Jedi X-treme. By the end of the book, it seems like Golden, more or less, does that.
What did you think of the journey that Ventress went on?
Alice: So, I know a lot of people who are mad at this book specifically because of Ventress’s journey, particularly her (MAJOR spoiler warning here) death in the final chapters.
I can see where they’re coming from in that it’s another example of a female character being killed for the pathos of her male companion. By rights, I should be mad at it too.
But death, to me, is an intrinsic aspect of Star Wars purely for its static timeline. People age and die in Star Wars. They are but players in a cosmic game.
Asajj Ventress had to die sometime and I think Golden does a fantastic job in communicating why you should care for her, even if you didn’t over the course of the show.
It’s a book about grey morals, shifting allegiances and personal freedoms over organisational dogma and if you know anything about me, you know that’s how I love my Star Wars.
What about you, though? I’m curious because I don’t think we’ve talked about Ventress in depth much before.
Brian: I more or less agree with you. While I get why people might be mad that she ‘had’ to die in order to further Vos’s story, I’d argue that, if anything, Vos is still a facet of her story, and not the other way around. Like, this story has way more impact for Star Wars overall when we think about Ventress. She goes from being a Jedi to an assassin to a Nightsister to something else entirely, and her journey is one that is full of depth and change.
Vos’s story, though he comes out of this novel in tact, is a much more slight one. He’s a Jedi who (briefly) went rogue. I don’t know how much more meat there is on that bone, whereas I think Ventress’s story does so much to flesh out parts of Dooku’s story, as well as the Nightsisters.
I also think her death comes at a moment of true change and hope, and she is able, in death, to do what the Jedi were not, which is hold true to their moral code. Her death means something really important to Star Wars, and that’s not to be taken lightly.
Alice: For sure, and it’s why I always recommend it to people who watched The Clone Wars despite it being difficult to communicate why without spoiling it.Continued below
Now, I’d like to talk about one of the weakest aspects of the book to me and that’s the narrative setup of the first half. Vos is tasked by the Jedi Council to assassinate Dooku (which is a whole thing in itself) and must track down his former apprentice, Ventress, to help him get close enough to do it.
Maybe this worked better when it was one of many arcs working in tandem in the show, but the reason I struggled with the first half of the book is that I, as a reader, know the mission fails because I’ve seen Revenge Of The Sith.
It wasn’t really until Vos’s capture that book kicked into gear for me. What did you think about that?
Brian: I had a similar thought initially, but then I realized that, conversely, that’s also the problem with Rogue One. You know that they get the plans, so it somewhat takes the tension out of the story. But, I think the story managed to keep enough twists and intrigue to make it, much like Rogue One, more than just a bit of filler.
The idea to execute Dooku is an interesting one, precisely because we see it happen in Revenge of the Sith. By the time of Sith, Anakin is enough in Palpatine’s pocket to execute him without so much as a second thought. Here, he puts up much more of a resistance to the idea. Perhaps this, more or less, ‘softened’ him to the idea.
That said, the Jedi proposing the assassination actually rang really true for me. In war/times of strife, people make decisions they would normally run from. But here, they see a risky idea that very much goes against their core beliefs, but one that, they can atone for in the future. The Jedi need the war over, even more than they need to stand by their own beliefs, or so they believe in the moment.
It is, of course, poetic justice that the one to realize their folly is a former Sith apprentice.
Alice: Oh, I for sure see this Jedi Council proposing such an idea, especially seeing it in the context of The Clone Wars as a larger narrative. Mind, this takes place after Barriss turns on the Order and frames Ahsoka. This is after Tup murders Tiplar.
The very fabric of galactic society is on the brink of falling apart and I think having this arc play out over the course of Seasons 7 and 8 would speak to the growing desperation of the Jedi.
And I do think it’s interesting to see how similar Quinlan is to Anakin. They’re both brash and headstrong with one foot toeing the line of the Council’s orders and the other toeing the dark side. And it’s almost so easy for Quinlan to fall to temptation, just like Anakin.
I wonder if this had survived to become a part of the show if this would have become foreshadowing for that turn in Sith.
Brian: Yeah, that would’ve been really interesting to see play out over a longer period of time.
I also think it is interesting how Obi-Wan is drawn to these figures that do toe that line, even if he himself is about as close to a company man as there is. I wonder why Obi-Wan is so friendly with the (pardon the pun) rebels?
Alice: I wonder if it’s about guilt. One of the things rarely actually touched on in The Phantom Menace is that Qui-Gon was very much a rebellious sort of Jedi. We’re told a couple times that he often doesn’t listen to the Council and keeps his own counsel. Their master/apprentice relationship seemed like it would follow a similar path to Anakin and Ahsoka’s in that the former’s rebellious streak and the latter’s by-the-books resolve fed into one another.
Losing Qui-Gon and blaming himself for it likely lead Obi-Wan further into the resolute, dogmatic character that we see by Attack Of The Clones and I wouldn’t be surprised if he thinks it’s his responsibility to shepherd characters like Anakin and Quinlan.
Brian: I think with Anakin, it is definitely guilt. Qui-Gon was supposed to train Anakin, and wasn’t able to do so. Obi-Wan is fulfilling his master’s quest, a task as honorable as any. He needs to train Obi-Wan, because that’s what Qui-Gon was supposed to do.Continued below
I do think you’re onto something about Quinlan, too. I continue to find Obi-Wan the most interesting Jedi, for so many reasons.
Anything else you want to add before putting this to bed?
Alice:: No, I think we pretty much covered it. This book is definitely one of the most underrated of the new canon in my opinion and one of my all time favourites in terms of Star Wars novels.
Is it perfect? Nah, but it’s certainly worth a read and is, I would say, an essential chapter in the Clone Wars narrative that is not to be missed.
Next month, Matt returns and we (finally) read The Legends of Luke Skywalker!