Non-Spoiler Review: Author Claudia Gray is at the Top of Her Game With Star Wars: Master & Apprentice
From the moment I read her incredible debut novel in the Star Wars universe (Lost Stars), I knew that author Claudia Gray would be one to keep an eye on. With her sophomore effort, Bloodline, I realized that Gray just might be the next best Star Wars author, and her next book – Leia, Princess of Alderaan – only cemented that in my mind. However, with her latest novel, Master & Apprentice, Gray has completely outdone herself, proving that she is a Star Wars mainstay with her work being the gold standard for the modern expanded universe.
In Master & Apprentice, Gray really plays to her strengths, with a focus on building character relationships and showcasing each player’s own inner turmoil, something that can really only be properly achieved in the book medium. Gray gives us a fascinating look at the relationship between a Jedi Knight and his Padawan like we’ve never seen before through the eyes of Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Simply put, Master & Apprentice is the reason that Star Wars books exist. Read on for the full non-spoiler review.
This non-spoiler review is possibly one of the hardest I’ve ever written as there’s just so much that I want to talk about and dissect. However, moving forward, I will shy away from specific plot points and reveals, instead honing in on the spirit of the novel and giving an overview of what Gray accomplishes with the book.
The premise of the novel is pretty straightforward, and if you’ve read any of the previously revealed excerpts from the book, than you probably already have an idea of the nature of the relationship between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan going in. In short, things are rocky at best, and the pair is on the verge of parting ways at the beginning of the story. Being so diametrically opposed in their views on the Force, the master and apprentice are just not meshing well together, and Qui-Gon is seriously considering having Obi-Wan assigned to another master, one who would better suit his needs as a student.
When Qui-Gon is surprisingly offered a seat on the Jedi Council, he finally has an out for releasing Obi-Wan to another master without hurting him directly, knowing that it was very uncommon for a Jedi on the Council to have a Padawan and completely unheard of for a newcomer, given the great demands involved. But all would not be so easy. Before he could make his decision, the pair are sent on what would very likely be one last mission, a mission that would most likely confirm Qui-Gon’s trepidations about training Obi-Wan. However, neither would be prepared for what was to come and how it would forever change them both.
The setting is about eight years before The Phantom Menace, making it the earliest story yet on the official timeline of canon media. Although a fourty-year-old Qui-Gon Jinn and a seventeen-year-old Obi-Wan Kenobi are the stars of the book, Gray also delivers on the new characters that she introduces to the story. Aiding the Jedi in their quest are a couple of jewel thieves named Rahara and Pax who are both instantly likable, and I was able to empathize with them from the start. Rahara is a former slave with a heart of gold and Pax is a socially awkward tech genius who was raised by protocol droids for fifteen years of his life (it’s a whole thing), and I was just as invested in their story as I was the book’s central characters.
From Jorus C’baoth to Quinlan Vos, everyone loves a rogue Jedi, and Claudia Gray introduces us to a new one named Rael Averross, a Jedi sent by the council to serve as regent to the throne of Pijal, the planet where Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are sent on their last mission. Having been Dooku’s Padawan before Qui-Gon, the two of them are old friends, but time and circumstances have caused them to grow apart over the years.
Averross is a really interesting character as well, and his unorthodox methods paired with Qui-Gon’s defiance reveal more and more about what kind of Jedi Dooku was. By this time, Dooku had already left the Jedi Order, and Qui-Gon’s interactions with him in flashbacks to his own apprenticeship reveal more about the mysterious Jedi and what could have led him to part ways with the Order and eventually become a Sith Lord.
Gray leaves almost no stone unturned and pays very close attention to detail concerning Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. From Qui-Gon’s obsession with the ancient prophecies of the Jedi mystics to Obi-Wan’s views on flying and his wreckless, yet wise, nature as a student, Gray checks off all the prequel story boxes without ever feeling like she’s checking off boxes. She even sets the precedent for something Obi-Wan does in Revenge of the Sith that actually turned what I always thought was just a cool action scene in the movie into something more, highlighting Obi-Wan’s unique connection to the living Force.
There is a moment in The Phantom Menace when Qui-Gon tells Obi-Wan that he was a wiser man than he was, and after reading this book, I know that the Jedi master was not just tickling his Padawan’s ears. He really meant what he said. Despite their differences and Obi-Wan’s irritatingly orthodox mentality, Qui-Gon witnesses so much potential in the boy. Realizing that, regardless of his penchant to remain inside the box of traditional Jedi thinking, Obi-Wan was indeed wise beyond his years and perhaps had a more intense connection to the living Force than Qui-Gon, who was a devout student of that aspect of the Force, did himself.
Although he wouldn’t die until The Phantom Menace eight years later, Star Wars: Master & Apprentice is truly Qui-Gon’s swan song. He is definitely the main character in the book, and his experiences and actions give us more insight to Obi-Wan, Dooku, Yoda, and the Jedi Council than we’ve ever really seen before in a Star Wars story. As they say, hindsight is 20/20, and looking back at these characters, it’s easy to see why the Jedi would ultimately go the way of the dodo bird, and also why both Obi-Wan and Yoda would be the ones to carry the torch to the future generation of Jedi.
In my opinion, Master & Apprentice is Claudia Gray’s best Star Wars novel yet and one of my own personal favorites. It’s required reading for any fan of Qui-Gon or Obi-Wan and should really be experienced by any Star Wars fan who enjoys a good read. The story is well-paced, with interludes that break up the main narrative and keep the story feeling fresh throughout. The plot is not necessarily groundbreaking, but it does provide an interesting tale with enough twists and turns to avoid being too predictable. In summary, the plot is not heavy by any means, but Gray focuses her efforts on building characters and relationships, which is where she excels and where the book itself shines.
Star Wars: Master & Apprentice is available now where books are sold. Until next time, happy reading Star Wars fans!
Jordan Pate is Co-Lead Editor and Senior Writer for Star Wars News Net, of which he is also a member of the book and comic review team. He loves all things Star Wars, but when he’s not spending time in the galaxy far far away, he might be found in our own galaxy hanging out in Gotham City or at 1407 Graymalkin Lane, Salem Center, NY.