I just finished the Jedi Academy trilogy and instantly stared reading Star Wars: Dark Disciple by Christie Golden. My enjoyment of the latter helped me figure out my disappointment with the former.
Now, I don’t want this to upset any fans of Jedi Academy. The reason I wasn’t won over by the trilogy, or the Thrawn trilogy is a personal preference, subjective as it gets. Both have pointed out two things I dislike in Star Wars books so far, and that’s trilogies and post-Return of the Jedi stories.
First, on trilogies, they have to have a huge cast of characters. All those characters have to have stories and side missions and everything has to lead to the big final of the series. That tends to mean a lot of filler. Characters will have quests that happen apart from the main story just so they have something to do until the end. Some stories will be important to the series but will take three books to reach the end.
And I don’t like this. With so many important (or at least note-worthy) characters, the writers need to include them for face value, even if they aren’t necessary to the grand scheme of things. I want all the characters to feel important to the story. I don’t like extra fat, even in epics. Keep in mind, it’s not trilogies I dislike, it’s trilogies in the Star Wars books.
My dislike of stories taking place after Return of the Jedi is also one that won’t be shared by everyone. For me, the holy trinity of Luke, Leia and Han doesn’t really click. Their stories have already been told. Luke’s most important adventure ended when he defeated the Emperor. Stories following a now-stoic Skywalker don’t do it for me, nor do stories of a married and fathering Han Solo.
What I want in stories taking place after Return of the Jedi is new characters and new adventures. It’s part of the reason I loved Star Wars: Legacy so much and part of the reason I’m hesitant about the trinity showing up in Episode VII. The future of Star Wars belongs to a new set of heroes.
That’s part of the reason stories taking place before A New Hope work for me. The Skywalker twins are nowhere to be seen and there are large gaps of history that can filled. But those gaps aren’t so large as to need trilogies. Stand alone stories work just fine.
And I like stand alone Star Wars books. Instead of a large cast, they can focus on one or two. Instead of interconnecting threads and filler, they can have a specific plot and goal, digestible in a few hours of reading.
Those traits benefit Star Wars: Dark Disciple. The book itself isn’t the best in the world and it’s based on an unproduced script for the Clone Wars cartoon. But because it’s focused and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, it’s enjoyable.
Telling the story of an undercover Jedi and Asajj Ventress, villain of the Clone Wars, Dark Disciple is about an assassination plot against Count Dooku. Now, we know nothing will happen to Dooku, as his fate lies in the films, but Ventress has been question for a while. A popular character from the Expanded Universe, her story wasn’t given a full conclusion in the show or comics. Now we get to see where she goes after the Clone Wars.
It’s an interesting tale, partly because we get up close and personal with Ventress and see how her mind works. The Jedi of the tale, Quinlan Vos, is also great to read about because he has to straddle the line between the light and dark to work with Ventress. Both characters have fates that are up in the air when this book begins and I was intrigued to see where it would all lead.
The book reads quick, helping when the third act starts to drag, but it’s a satisfying end. I’m finding Star Wars can read like a popular thriller, like Clive Cussler in space, and it’s not a bad way to do things. They’re adventure stories, they don’t always have to have the fate of the galaxy at hand, but they have to matter to the characters involved. Dark Disciple matters for Ventress and Quinlan and they matter to us.
It’s an encouraging read for the quality of the new Star Wars canon. I’ll be reviewing Lords of the Sith next, since I picked it up right after I finished Dark Disciple and it benefits in the same way for being a one shot.
If you haven’t picked up Dark Disciple, give it a try.