Star Wars: Master and Apprentice (Book)
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 Averross, 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 that will demand that Master and apprentice come together as never before, or be divided forever.
Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon Jinn embark on one of their most important early missions together in the latest Star Wars novel, Master and Apprentice. Though it takes place before any of the movies, it offers plenty of important connections, character moments, and tons of enjoyment. Come inside to check out my full review!
I grew up with the original Star Wars films, wearing out two sets of VHS tapes before the Special Editions were even a thing. That said, I’m still very much a child of the Prequels. While I understand their flaws, I can’t help but love them and the great characters/lore they introduced. My favorite is The Phantom Menace and the dynamic between a young Obi-Wan and his Master Qui-Gon Jinn is something that’s stuck with me 20 years (!!!) later. Now, we’re getting a book focused entirely on the pair.
I was really excited when this was first announced, as so much of the recent Star Wars media releases have focused on the time periods around the Original Trilogy (just before or just after) and Sequels. About the only Prequel related stuff we’ve had is heavy on the Clone Wars focus. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed--just about--all of it, but have been eager to see some stories about OTHER Prequel characters around that period of time.
Couple that with Master and Apprentice being penned by Claudia Gray, who I feel has written the best Star Wars books in the new Canon, and my excitement was pretty high. Thankfully, the novel absolutely delivers on the goods and the wait has been worth it.
Master and Apprentice is set a few years before the events of The Phantom Menace. Ostensibly, it’s a period of peace for the galaxy, and we’re still a ways off from seeing Palpatine’s machinations to turn the Republic into the Empire. Instead, we’re seeing the Jedi fully in their capacity as “keepers of the peace.” Don’t let that fool you into thinking things are boring, however, there’s plenty of excitement/action to be found.
The focus is firmly put on Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn, but this isn’t the insync duo we see in Phantom Menace, exchanging witty banter as they effortless deal with bad guys. Instead, this is a tumultuous time in their relationship where things haven’t exactly clicked and events threaten to break the slim bond they have.
Just as they seem on the cusp of ending their Padawan/Master relationship, they’re dispatched on a mission to a far off planet. A fellow--albeit unconventional--Jedi, Rael Averross, currently serves as regent for the planet’s monarch and needs their help. As the coronation ceremony approaches (along with a new constitution that would change things for the citizens), an opposing group of protestors steadily grows more violent. To protect his charge, Averross asks for the aid of an old friend, Qui-Gon, both of whom shared the same Master: Count Dooku.
The Supreme Chancellor and Jedi Council have other reasons for the coronation to go off without a hitch and entrust the pair with the mission. Their journey sees them encounter a mega-corporation that deals in slavery, a pair of jewel thieves with hearts of gold, and plenty of palace/political intrigue. In order to keep this review spoiler free, I’m going to stop right there in regards to story details. Suffice it to say, despite taking place before the Prequels, there’s no shortage of action and excitement going on.
Striking a Balance
There’s a lot going on in the story, but none of it feels cluttered. There was never a moment where I felt there was too much going on at any one point, despite dealing with new characters, a handful of subplots (a few that connect directly to the movies), and an ever present mystery to be solved. Claudia Gray handles all of these elements with a deft touch, marking an excellent balance between it all.
There was never a scene that I felt lingered too long, or reached that point where I was just ready to get back to other characters. This is more impressive considering how attached I was to the Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon characters before even starting the book. Despite my investment in them previously, I was just as hooked into the new characters and their stories.
This same balance can be found in the action and quieter moments in the overall story. I mean, after all, you can’t have a story with plenty of Jedi and have no action to showcase their awesomeness in. Of course, with no war going on, it would seem like there wouldn’t be much chance for these moments to happen. By focusing on the smaller, planetary scale of conflict, rather than galaxy spanning problems (although there’s a touch of that in play as well), Gray is able to add in plenty of action that still feels epic in nature.
A big part of why the action feels so impressive is how engaging the characters are. It’s not all Lightsaber swinging and jumping around, however, and plenty of time is given over to smaller character moments. These provide a deeper connection to the characters on an emotional level which gives even the smaller action sequences gravitas.
All of which goes to move the story forward in interesting ways without relying on heavy exposition. This makes Master and Apprentice an incredibly fast read. It only took me a couple days to get through it and I’ve got four kids at home! Between the engaging character work and the interesting story I found it hard to put down. When I had to, however, it was easy to get back into the story where I left off.
Standing Alone and Together
I keep coming back to this idea of balance, which plays an important role for the characters within the story, but seems to form the basis on how the book is written/structured. The novel itself does a great job of working as a standalone story while featuring great connections to the rest of the Star Wars saga (films, comics, and other books). Even if someone hadn’t watched the prequels, they could pick up this book without feeling lost; the characters are introduced and strong enough to hold their own.
That said, there’s plenty going on for long-time Star Wars fans to enjoy as well. There are a ridiculous amount of offhand comments and nods to other works within the galaxy far, far away. These make everything feel even more connected and part of the larger story. Some of them are small, serving more as Easter eggs for fans to spot (e.g. dialog stemming from the Rebels cartoon), while others harken back directly to moments in the film, giving in those new meaning.
In this, Master and Apprentice once again finds the perfect balance and delivers on multiple fronts. The story is a great deal of fun in and of itself, but some of the deeper connections made me look at the films with a fresh perspective. Frankly, considering how it was set several years before even Episode I, that wasn’t an aspect I was expecting, but I was thrilled to see it.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised as it’s something Claudia Gray seems to excel at. I’ve made no secret that her Star Wars books have been my favorites in the new era, and each of them have done a stellar job of not only being engaging character works, but providing a new perspective on the films that enhanced my future viewings. Master and Apprentice is no different and as soon as I turned the last page, I immediately wanted to pop my Prequel blu-rays in and watch.