Book Thoughts: Dark Disciple [Spoilers]

Dark Disciple is a novel produced from a set of unfinished episodes from Season Six of Star Was The Clone Wars.  In fact, there were even a few short animatics of these episodes shown recently that appear in the book.

The book was written by The story is really interesting and powerful.  And a bit tragic.  This book was written by Christie Golden, a veteran Sci Fi writer, perhaps best known for some of her Star Wars Voyager stories.  She has a great way of getting the voice of the character right, especially those as unique as the stars of the book, Asajj Ventress and Quinlan Vos.

I really like this book and I’m very disappointed by this book.  And perhaps for the same reasons.  By that token, it’s a great addition to Star Wars (the films have this same characteristic, I think).

General Plot: Quinlan Vos and Asajj Ventress team up to assassinate Count Dooku, and things get…complicated.  Not going to give up more than that, but it’s really all the preamble you need to understand the plot.

 

What was great

Ventress was perhaps the most interesting character of The Clone Wars series.  She went through a great character arc stemming from the very first Episode where she attempts to kill Master Yoda with her droid army to the last parts of Season Five where she teams up with Ahsoka to find the perpetrator of a murder of which she is falsely accused.  And so this book really brings that arc to its conclusion where we really see Ventress forced to confront the things she really fears and wants – trust.  I love that we get to see Ventress go through this challenge and see her strength and commitment towards something that she typically fights against – trust, faith, love – and finds to be the source of weakness and comes to realize its a strength.

Perhaps more than most other Star Wars stories, the dysfunction of the Jedi are front and center in this book in a way that I think is very helpful and instructive for understanding the Prequels era.  The prequel films and most of The Clone Wars (save for parts of seasons five and six) really don’t address this dynamic within the Jedi.  But in this book, we see the failure of the Jedi not only to see the Dark Side, but to understand how they are being corrupted by it.  Frankly, this is the dynamic that I wish we had see in Attack of the Clones as I think it would really have created a better underlying plot element that I think was too muted.

Perhaps the most interesting part was following Quinlan Vos’ attempts to develop trust with Ventress (hopefully that’s not a spoiler – you should know that’s part of this plot).  We get to learn more about his rather unconventional perspective of being a Jedi.  This is a very interesting

And lastly, we got to see a few Clone Wars characters that we love – Boba Fett & his crew, Obi-wan Kenobi & the Jedi Council.  We even get to see Ventress in some new environments including a fancy banquet.

 

 

What I didn’t like [spoilers]

So the crux of this book is an exploration of the power of the dark side.  Ventress is really the only sith-affiliated character who has survived and transitioned from the effects of “the dark side”.  Part of reclamation is a realization that power is an illusion.  But mostly, Star Wars centers around the theme that Love is the most powerful force of all.  Luke was able to sense good in Vader because he believed that Anakin’s love for Luke would ultimately be his salvation.  In this case, we see Ventress receive a moment of clarity from the Force because of her love of Quinlan Vos that she would not give up believing that there was good in him and that he had lost his way.  Fine.  But Quinlan Vos should have died.  If one of them had to die, I’d rather have Ventress than Master Vos, especially since we know (almost) all the Jedi die in Order 66.  This would have been a more fitting death for Quinlan Vos than Order 66.  It would have also been a great way to end Ventress’ character arc for the Clone Wars where she finds clarity through the Force because of her undying love and trust and is rewarded through the sacrifice of another.  I would have preferred that ending.  Furthermore, Ventress is a more interesting character and I would have loved to seen her come back in Star Wars Rebels than ultimately lose both of them.

I take issue with the notion that a Jedi Master would fall to the Dark Side so fast.  I also take issue with the notion that Ventress’ deception of her killing his Master would have really been a big deal.  I mean, Ventress killed other Jedi.  Why would him knowing Ventress specifically killed his Master rather than Dooku himself made any difference, especially since he knew Ventress was Dooku’s personal assassin anyways (so Dooku still killed his Master from a certain, and relevant, point of view).   That dynamic is part of what made this story seductive in the first place; Ventress wasn’t just some bad person – she hunted and killed Jedi and their allies.  Furthermore, Vos wasn’t some youngling, he was an old, experienced, “worldly” Master Jedi.  Why would he be so eager to let Ventress impart knowledge of The Dark side to him?  Wasn’t the combination of the two of them – one “good”, one “evil” strong enough?  What did this add to the story?  How could torture (which he’s trained to resist) and ministrations from Dooku trigger his (true) fall to the Dark Side over some revelation of something he already knew?   It was just a dumb premise, especially since this fall begs the obvious comparison to Luke and Vader.  Vader threatening to convert his sister who had remained unknown is a real premise to provoke Luke.  So Vos falling to the Dark Side of this thing with Ventress… really weak.

I also just don’t like that they killed a great, strong female character and then Master Vos eventually gets his job back as a Master Jedi.  I mean, he kills other Jedi and many others in his fall to the Dark Side and then he gets his job back after probation.   Look, you can’t mess up the fries at McDonalds and keep your job.  Master Vos did a lot of dirt that he was trained not to do, and he got his job back.  I really hate this dynamic.  Look, Star Wars is make-believe.  It’s also aspirational. And it’s really just a reflection of some set of ethos or values. This dynamic of a strong, talented woman taking a loss while her co-worker (who she carries) gets to keep his job and work his way back up is a really ugly real-life dynamic that I hate; it isn’t a value that I care for and it isn’t something anyone should aspire to cultivate.

 

That’s all I have for now.  It’s a great book and you should read it, but I’d recommend getting it on discount.  It’s a really fun story with lots of twists and turns.  It very much feels like a Clone Wars episode.

ForceCast has a great podcast (warning spoilers) on Dark Disciple with some interesting view points.  It’s a great interview with Christie Golden and a great round-table discussion from the ForceCast crew.  So I’d recommend it if you’re interested on some additional dialog on the story.

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