Before Disney completely pulled the ears off the Gundark that was the original Star Wars Expanded Universe, there was a vast and colorful exploration of the Clone Wars era; one that involved two television shows, an animated movie, novels, comic books and video games. In all actuality, it was one of the more frequently visited realms of the Star Wars timeline, and Christie Golden steps back into the era to deliver us Dark Disciple, a tale derived from unproduced scripts of The Clone Wars television series.
Starting off with welcoming back the familiar face of Quinlan Vos (even though most of his appearances are no longer canon,) Dark Disciple puts the daunting task of assassinating the dubious Sith Lord, Count Dooku, into the Jedi’s hands. Now, normally, assassination is not the Jedi way, but with someone as sinister and manipulative as Dooku, the Order is willing to make an exception…mostly. With that, Vos sets out in the guise of a bounty hunter to seek assistance from Dooku’s once-pupil; the ever so lovely Asajj Ventress. Together, they set off on a mission to put an end to Darth Sidious’ right hand man and hopefully turn the tide of the Clone Wars. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, just like George Lucas trying to explain the concept of Midi-Chlorians, something got lost in translation.
Almost from the get-go, this story struggles to find its footing, with a lot of its issues involving individual characterization. Vos, for instance, was depicted quite differently in his original tenure in the Star Wars EU, with a rather gritty and brooding tone to him. Then that was almost completely changed during his singular appearance on The Clone Wars, switched out for a very Han Solo-esque cocky, yet humorous persona. Golden tries really hard to mesh both of these personalities together in this novel, but only succeeds in stumbling over her attempt to appease fans of Quinlan Vos’ duality. Ventress falls into a similar situation, but definitely feels a lot more genuine with her depiction than most of the characters floating around Dark Disciple. That includes most of the supporting cast, which are made up of some pretty recognizable faces.
The one thing Golden does excel at with this book is crafting the relationship between the Jedi and the former Sith apprentice. There are times when Vos battles against his emotions and his teachings due to how he feels about Ventress, as well as the task at hand. On the flipside, Ventress initially treats Vos just as she would anyone else, but quickly shows a side to herself that no other character has been exposed to in the Star Wars EU so far. It’s a nice thing to see, these two polar opposites complimenting each other in ways that normally wouldn’t be expected from supporting cast members-turned-main stays, and it definitely shows that Golden was damn near surgical with her handling of this connection.
In short, Dark Disciple is a shaky return to a time in the Star Wars EU where clones reigned supreme and the Separatists still used those idiotic battle droids for warfare. From a rocky second act dealing with moral ambiguity, to fight scenes being talked about instead of shown, Golden demonstrates that although she may know how to use the Force, there’s still much for this Padawan to learn. The one positive people can walk away with from this novel, though, is that there’s a lot of heart put into the execution of it. Some big names come and go throughout Dark Disciple, but the focus never falters from Quinlan Vos or Asajj Ventress, which is where Golden really shows her passion. This may not be the Star Wars author you’re looking for just yet, but given time I’m sure Christie Golden will sift through the debris of Alderaan and give the readers a tale truly worthy of a galaxy far, far away. ~~ Michael Flanders
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