Dark Disciple Review: A Tale of Love, War, and Moral Ambiguity. - Star Wars News Net | Star Wars News Net
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Dark Disciple Review: A Tale of Love, War, and Moral Ambiguity.

ASAJJ VENTRESSThe Clone Wars was one of many great shows that was simply cut short before its time – a sacrifice that had to be made to go forward with The Force Awakens. But thankfully, many stories from incomplete episodes have made their way out in other mediums, and the latest – Dark Disciple by Christie Golden – does not disappoint. Click ahead to see a spoiler-free overview of what I thought of it before you get the opportunity to read it yourself.

 

I’ll skip over explaining the premise this time, as fellow site-runner DEKKA129 covered that in his own excellent review of this book (you can check it out here). Instead, I’ll go more into discussing the two protagonists of the book – Asajj Ventress and Quinlan Vos – on their quest to assassinate Count Dooku, and the strengths and weaknesses of Christie Golden’s writing.

 

I remember first seeing Asajj Ventress in the 2003 Clone Wars miniseries. While I thought she was an interestingly-designed character, it didn’t seem like there was too much to her in terms of personality – she seemed like just another Dark Jedi. Even in the various Star Wars comics that were released after the miniseries had ended, there wasn’t a lot added to her character – which, in the same Expanded Universe where the “Ice Cream Man” from The Empire Strikes Back got a full backstory, seemed like a waste of potential. Her characterization really started to change and develop in the third season of The Clone Wars, in which her former teacher, Count Dooku, betrays her, leaving her for dead and forcing her to adapt to more dangerous situations.

 

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From that point on in the show, we learn a lot more about Ventress – that she was a child taken from her Nightsister clan by pirates, that she was later adopted by a Jedi Knight, and that his death was what spurred her to the Dark Side and led her to Count Dooku. By the time the show ended its televised run, Ventress went through a lot – she trained Darth Maul’s brother to become an unstoppable warrior, she became a true Nightsister, she survived the destruction of her clan, she became a bounty hunter, and she even atoned for some of her past deeds when she helped Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka on a few occasions.

 

To her credit, Christie Golden was able to touch upon all of these aspects of Ventress’s checkered past. We hear more about what her life was like from her perspective, and somehow we’re able to feel sympathy for her in spite of the horrible things that she has done – one event in particular is brought up throughout the story, and by the time we learn more about it it feels like a punch to the gut of both of the characters it affects. We see her go on bounty hunting operations, even with assistance from Boba Fett and others. We see her cooperate with the Jedi once again for the greater good. We see her train Quinlan Vos on Dathomir as the Nightsisters trained her… which leads me to my next point.

 

Quinlan VosQuinlan Vos was a character that I felt needed more time on the show – time that would have been granted had the show gone on longer. This book remedies that, since it covers a story arc that would have been eight episodes long (much longer than any other individual arc on the show) and places Vos at the center of it alongside Ventress. As it stands, Vos’s only major appearance on the show was on what was indisputably one of the most bizarre episodes of The Clone Wars, in which he and Obi-Wan Kenobi try to capture a Hutt that sounds like Truman Capote before a Duros that looks like Lee Van Cleef can nab the bounty first – only for both of them to be beaten to the punch by the singing alien from Return Of The Jedi (don’t ask, explaining it all would take too long).

 

What was interesting was that appearance was one that was based primarily on his earlier personality in the comics he appeared in – an eccentric, laid-back, and quippy Jedi – as opposed to his more well-remembered traits of being a tortured soul caught between the Light and Dark Sides as a spy, which were added much later on. Like the book’s treatment of Ventress, the way that Vos is written in the book manages to pull elements of his more serious characterization and blend them in with what was previously shown on the show. For me, the result was that the creative team re-established one of the more interesting Jedi to follow in any of the Clone Wars-era stories (Legends included). Vos’s struggle with the Dark Side in this book – something that Ventress believes Vos will have to go through in order to make him stronger – is both exciting and saddening to see unfold.

 

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While it’s a shame we’ll never get to see it get fully animated, I think that adapting the story in a written form was the best call for the story – the book features a few scenes that seem to be a little too violent to get away with on a TV-PG rating (the opening scene features a ship full of refugees – many of whom are children – getting blown to smithereens), and the tale itself features content that might have pushed the envelope a bit too much. However, the way the concepts are integrated into a book not only allows the ramifications of these events to be shown in all their gory details, but it also allows for the kind of analysis you can only really get from reading the written word. You can really get inside the heads of these characters, and that’s not really a luxury you’re always able to afford on a 30-minute animated program.

 

Another thing that I unexpectedly liked was the romantic angle of the story. I felt like the writers of The Clone Wars had played with the concept before between Obi-Wan and Satine, and that they managed to make the Anakin and Padmé romance considerably more interesting than what was shown in the movies. It didn’t feel like it was tacked-on, as I had feared when I first read the synopsis of the book, but that it felt like the two characters really were kindred spirits who didn’t realize that they had been looking for different lives until now. The action is pretty cool to read as well – even though Star Wars really works as a visual medium, the swordplay, the gunfights, and the banter all feel like they wouldn’t be out of place in an actual Star Wars movie. Though the foregone conclusion that they aren’t going to kill Count Dooku unfortunately looms over the book, reading about how these characters operate in and out of battle is very interesting.

 

My only complaints are really just nitpicks. As DEKKA129 mentioned, the overuse of Yoda’s syntax got a little grating as sentences became more oddly-structured (though this is a problem that really applies to all of The Clone Wars and not just this book – not everything he said was spoken sideways). A major fight scene with the Bounty Hunters – animatics of which was teased at Celebration Anaheim – is almost entirely cut from the story, leaving us to only catch the tail-end of the scene with little context as to how it happened. And I personally felt that Vos needed more time as the POV character in the final quarter or so of the book. But even with those small problems in mind, Dark Disciple is an engaging read that provides insight into both a memorable antagonist-turned-anti-hero and a character who was previously unexplored on the show. The book serves as a great conclusion to a long-running story arc that had been brewing from the very beginning of the show, and any fan of the series should consider taking a look into the novel’s tale of a journey to and from darkness.

 

Asajj Ventress Star Wars Insider

Dark Disciple hits the shelves today. A short story (“Kindred Spirits”) serving as a prequel will pop up in the next issue of Star Wars Insider. Keep reading Star Wars 7 News for the latest updates on all things Star Wars.

 

Grant has been a fan of Star Wars for as long as he can remember, having seen every movie on the big screen. When he’s not hard at work with his college studies, he keeps himself busy by reporting on all kinds of Star Wars news for SWNN and general movie news on the sister site, Movie News Net. He served as a frequent commentator on SWNN’s The Resistance Broadcast.

 

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