Star Wars: Ahsoka (Book)
The newest Star Wars novel out on the market gives fans some insight into one of the cartoon series' most important characters, Ahsoka Tano, filling in a gap fans have been curious about for years. While it's technically a "young adult" novel, Ahsoka has plenty for fans of all ages to enjoy. Come inside to check out my full review!
If you're a fan of either of the animated Star Wars television series, there's one character who's really stuck with audiences: Ahsoka. The big time gap between her appearances on the show have left many fans wondering what happened to the one time apprentice to Anakin Skywalker. E.K. Johnston's new book seeks to fill in some of that time period, though it doesn't lead up directly to the events of Star Wars Rebels.
Ahsoka doesn't span the entire decade and a half(ish) that Ahsoka was laying low from the Empire. Instead, the book keeps the focus on within the first couple years since the execution of Order 66 and rise of the Empire. This isn't a bad thing, and the narrower focus of the story makes for a stronger narrative and better character exposition. Not to mention the fact it leaves things open for further books or media to fill in the other years if need be.
The story starts with Ahsoka on the run as she flees from Imperials on a world she thought she could hide out on. As she escapes to a backwater moon Raada, inhabited only by local farmers, she attempts to start a new life and cope with the heavy loss of all she's known and fought for. Just as she begins to feel comfortable, Ahsoka learns just how far the Empire's reach is growing.
Ahsoka, despite wanting to keep a low profile, can't sit idly by and watch the horrors the Empire brings to Raada and her new found friends.
A bunch of things then begin to happen rapidly after the Empire arrives and we see hints of a growing rebellion. I don't want to go into further details as I'd like to keep things spoiler free, but there are plenty of neat moments throughout the book that give some great insight into how this character, who we know mostly from her time during the Prequel Era, is coping with the Empire.
While the story itself is relatively straightforward, Ahsoka shines in the character moments it gives us. The story is less about what Ahsoka DID during this period of time, and more about how she finds a purpose in the new galaxy. The end of The Clone Wars cartoon series saw Ahsoka leaving the Jedi Order, and the book expounds on some of what happened immediately following that time frame. When Order 66 went down and the only family she'd ever known were summarily hunted for execution, Ashoka once again feels lost and without purpose.
This idea of seeking a purpose and doing the right thing, even when it could possibly hurt you or others, is continually present throughout the book. It's a central theme and the author does a phenomenal job of getting the reader inside Ahsoka's head and feeling her pain. Because of this, the decisions we see the character makes feel much more profound and epic when they happen.
While the focus of the book is (obviously) kept on Ahsoka herself the majority of the time, the novel doesn't have any qualms about shifting over to other characters here and there. It's not often, but when the focus shifts to another character it offers up some great insight to other events around the galaxy and showcase how others feel about the way things are going. While you'd think this would mean you don't come to care as much about the book's other characters, that's not the case. Instead, because you follow Ahsoka and sees why SHE comes to care about these people, you do as well.
Action and Such
It's a Star Wars book, so obviously there has to be some sort of action and explosions going down. In this regard, Ahsoka doesn't disappoint. While the stakes aren't galaxy-spanning, the action moments are nonetheless tense in their own way. Since Ahsoka is on the run and trying to keep a low profile with a bunch of farmers, the battles aren't huge scale epics. Rather, they feel more like guerilla battles, where the odds are most definitely against them. Tactics come more into play and since Ahsoka can't/doesn't use her Force powers much (initially) those no Deus Ex Machina around to save everyone.
As such, there's much more tension to the fights/battles than I expected and they're written well enough to be easy to follow while thrilling. Speaking of the writing, E.K. Johnston has done a really solid job on Ahsoka. It's a really easy read, with flowing exposition and dialog, making the novel a quick read that's hard to put down.
Ahsoka is solid all around and the only real issue I can think of has to do with the subject matter in general terms. Much like last year's Star Wars: Dark Disciple, the story really only works if you've watched The Clone Wars cartoon series. While the basics of the story seem to work for a standalone tale, as I was reading it, there were several moments I could see others being totally lost if they hadn't seen the series (or even specific episodes). All emotional moments would be pretty much non-existent without some knowledge of Ahsoka's previous story.
I'm sure the primary audience for this book will BE those who've watched the animated shows over the years, it still feels like it could be an issue to more casual Star Wars readers/fans. As I said, it's a minor quibble, but if you've never watched or cared for The Clone Wars or Star Wars Rebels series, I don't think you'll get much enjoyment out of the Ahsoka novel.