Today's post will be something starkly different from my usual content. Regularly, I only write reviews on movies, or discuss what I'd alter in particular ones. However, today will be a break from the mold, so to speak, as I review the phenomenal novel Star Wars: Dark Disciple, by Christie Golden.
From start to end, Dark Disciple's vivid imagery, unique plotline, and most importantly, its intertwined connection with the Star Wars saga captivates the reader. While Quinlan Vos and Asajj Ventress, the novel's protagonists, aren't comparable heavy-hitting names to Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader, they're extremely well-done grey characters, whose actions and motivations lapse constantly from good and evil. If this book were about any other character, such as Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker, -to cite aforementioned examples-, this novel would flop completely, as those characters have set, defined goals, motivations, and personalities.
Not this novel's protagonists, in a sense. There will be spoilers ahead.
Quinlan Vos is a charismatic, fun-loving Jedi, comparable to Anakin Skywalker before his fall into the Darkness. He also harbors a special ability, able to psionically connect with any inanimate object and vividly see its history up until the moment it touched his palm. The Jedi Council have chosen Vos, because of his unique capabilities and prior experience in infiltration, to assassinate Sith Lord Count Dooku, thus destroying the Confederacy of Independent Systems from within and concluding the Clone Wars. As Star Wars canon proves, this mission was never fated to succeed. But it's not about the reader's understanding that Vos's goal is futile, it's about the journey Vos takes in his attempt to reach that goal.
Vos is assigned to recruit Asajj Ventress, a graceful, beautiful, and ruthless former Sith apprentice to Dooku, betrayed by him years prior, and owing her people's extinction to his droid armies. While originally approaching her as a fellow bounty-hunter, as they work together through a series of jobs to score cash, Ventress quickly picks up on Vos's true nature. After discussing with her the plan to eliminate Dooku, they enact it on Raxus, the CIS capital world. This plan goes awry, resulting in Vos's capture.
When Asajj stages a rescue operation for him, she finds that Vos has become brainwashed by Dooku and blinded by hatred for Asajj, after finding out Ventress murdered his old Jedi Master. Over the novel's course thus far, both were growing feelings for each other, and Asajj begs for Quinlan to escape with her, but he vehemently refuses, and instead joins the vicious Count.
The Jedi approach Asajj, wishing to truly see whether Vos has fallen into the darkness, after seeing galactic news of Count Dooku's new admiral, 'Admiral Enigma', who is actually Vos. After another botched attempt on Dooku's life, Vos is luckily saved, but Ventress refuses to believe he's turned.
I would continue on, but I feel this entire post would be me describing the novel's plot, and I've already done it an injustice wording it lazily just now. I'll state my professed likes and dislikes about this novel instead. Firstly, there is little to dislike about this novel, save a rather confusing plotpoint near the end, where Quinlan Vos continues withholding the truth about his actions to Ventress, and I feel as a reader I never understood what his overarching plan was in the first place. I believed his primary motivation changed from being a platonic Jedi to living a peaceful life with Ventress, but then it morphed into killing Dooku and the enigmatic Lord Sidious? (spoiler alert: it's actually Chancellor Palpatine, shocker, I know) Secondly, and while this is an extremely minor nitpick, General Grievous in this novel is little more then an attack dog side antagonist that shows up for but a few moments, and in those moments he's outsmarted and relies on weak battledroids. I know General Grievous is in no way consequential to this novel's actually plot, but I am rather disappointed of how the new canon portrays him, as some bumbling, weak, idiotic coward. Star Wars Legend's interpretation of Grievous as a terminator-like cyborg killer was far more intimidating and enjoyable of a character. Moving on.
This novel's greatest strength is the organically developed bond between Quinlan Vos and Asajj Ventress. Considering this wasn't just a romance novel, it was set in the Star Wars universe, and also had the Sith, an evil cult of telekinetic warlords, roped into it, provided every avenue for the writer to simply state: "Quinlan could no longer resist the darkness and kissed Asajj". Everything in here was earned, this novel rewards adept fans of the Clone Wars 2008 Animated Series and entertains regular Star Wars casuals alike.
Secondly, while the story focuses on Quinlan and Asajj, the writer seems to have perfectly encapsulated the personalities of Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the Jedi Council, alongside several new (and short-lived) faces. It truly displayed to me how much attention to detail they put in their work. Fans of the Clone Wars will imagine Anakin Skywalker whenever they hear his snazzy dialogue, or Obi-Wan Kenobi when he rubs his beard, or Mace Windu when he gives a scalding report to his fellow Jedi.
Finally, the novel's main antagonist, Count Dooku. I love antagonists, they're the driving force of the entire narrative, providing an embodiment of everything the protagonist (or protagonists in this case) must overcome, the singular beating heart standing between them and their happiness or goal. Count Dooku is that beating heart. He constantly acts arrogant, ruthless, political, yet so strangely human. He gets injured in this novel, beaten, and defeated. But using his manipulations, Dooku continuously weasels his way out of these situations, forcing Quinlan Vos to act under his guidance and fight against his former friends in the Republic. Dooku isn't on par with Palpatine or Vader, but I believe he's a highly underrated villain in the Star Wars annals, and this novel does the aristocratic powerplayer justice. Each line delivered from him seems ripped straight from the show or movie, and each movement that's described seems uncannily characteristic of the Separatist leader. All in all, Star Wars: Dark Disciple provides a welcome treat for Star Wars: The Clone Wars fans seeking to devour content after they'd finished all six seasons of the show. I dare say that it can reinvigorate even a small interest of Star Wars in fans disappointed and disgruntled with the recent blunders of EA and Disney, it certainly did so for me. I highly recommend this read even if you're just a casual fan of Star Wars, it's perfect for passing the time, and it will make you genuinely care for these two characters. Upcoming: Transformers Revenge of the Fallen Rewritten Part 3