“Master and Apprentice” book review

When it comes to Star Wars authors, Claudia Gray is perhaps the best of a very good group. Everything Star Wars that she has written so far has been absolutely fantastic: “Lost Stars”, “Bloodline”, “Leia, Princess of Alderaan”, and the short story “Master and Apprentice” in “From a Certain Point of View”.

Well, she expanded upon that last one, penning another story about Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi in the novel titled “Master and Apprentice”, which released earlier this year. It’s a terrific read, and it’s the Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan story you’ve always wanted.

SUMMARY:

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The book begins with Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice, seventeen year old Obi-Wan Kenobi, on a mission to Teth dealing with the Hutts. At this point, Kenobi had been training with Jinn for four years, but their relationship was rocky. We quickly learn that Qui-Gon feels guilty for failing an apprentice with so much potential, thinking that Obi-Wan deserved a better Master. Obi-Wan, on the other hand, doesn’t understand his Master or his ways, and grows increasingly tired of his Master’s seeming disregard for the Jedi rules.

Upon returning from Teth and reporting to the Council, Qui-Gon is shocked when he is asked to join the Jedi Council, to take the place of Master Dapatian upon his retirement. Mace Windu admitted that they would have thought this crazy a few years earlier, and Qui-Gon reminded the Council of their many disagreements, but Depa Billaba noted that the Council could use different perspectives. But when Windu noted that the change could resolve other problems, Qui-Gon realized that accepting the offer would mean Obi-Wan was transferred to a different Master, something that would address the problems between the two of them. Qui-Gon asked for time to meditate, but he planned on accepting.

Before that happened, though, the Council sent Qui-Gon and his apprentice on one last mission – to Pijal, to help Rael Averross. Qui-Gon and Rael had a personal connection, as both were trained by Dooku, and Averross needed help on his mission to protect Princess Fanry from terrorists before she could take the throne. Averross was assigned to this mission by the Council to rule until Fanry was old enough to take over, following a disastrous mission that led to the death of his padawan, Nim Pianna. Averross blamed himself as he was the one who had to kill her when her brain was taken over by a slicer dart.

Upon arriving on Pijal, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan learned that a woman named Halin Azucca was the leader of a group known as the Opposition, and they had pulled political stunts – some of which had turned violent. The two Jedi were brought in to investigate, and they wound up recruiting the help of two thieves, Rahara Wick and Pax Maripher. With their help, the Jedi encounter the blackguards (discovering they have shields that can repel lightsabers), thinking they’re Azucca’s troops, until Azucca and her gang arrive to help the heroes. They realize that there have been different factions; while Azucca’s gang pulled political stunts, they didn’t escalate to terrorism. On a subsequent mission, Rahara was taken as a slave by the Czerka Corporation, as she once was enslaved and had escaped, but was re-captured.

Azucca and her gang oppose the growing influence of the Czerka Corporation, who control a great deal of power and are angling for more upon the ascension of Princess Fanry to the throne to sign a treaty with them. Czerka is a corrupt organization and employs the widespread use of slavery, and because of this and because of Qui-Gon’s trusting Azucca, he opposes the signing of the treaty and insists he will not serve as the Republic representative. Jinn is also wary because of a vision he had of bloodshed at Fanry’s coronation, and he doesn’t want to see it coming to pass. Obi-Wan, however, already uncertain of Qui-Gon’s actions, goes behind his master’s back and speaks to the council about this. Before long, the Republic appoints Obi-Wan as the representative instead.

At the coronation ceremony, Qui-Gon’s vision actually comes true, and we are stunned to find out that it was actually Fanry who was behind everything. She rejects the Czerka influence and the Republic’s aid, insisting on doing what is best for her planet as the new ruler. In this effort, however, she has seized all power and turned to violence. She targets the Czerka ships in orbit, and the Jedi act. (Obi-Wan, meanwhile, was ready for such an attack and had figured out a way to work around the lightsaber-deflecting weapons)

The Jedi spring into action, recognizing how many slaves are on the Czerka ships. Qui-Gon tries to reason with Fanry, but the Princess is eventually stopped by one of her aides. Obi-Wan, meanwhile, flies a ship into the heart of a Czerka ship and, as the official Republic representative, frees the slaves.

As the novel ends, Qui-Gon Jinn turns down the Council’s offer to join the Jedi High Council, deciding instead to stick with Obi-Wan Kenobi and continue his training. Rael Aveross, meanwhile, receives a message from Dooku inviting him to join him in discovering more truths of the Force the Temple could never teach, but Aveross declines and decides to go back to the Jedi on Coruscant. In the final chapter, an afterward, Obi-Wan Kenobi prepares for the funeral for Qui-Gon on Naboo and resolves that, since his master thought Anakin Skywalker was the chosen one talked about in the prophesies, Kenobi would choose to believe it too.

REVIEW:

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Like I said at the beginning of this article, there’s no one I’d trust more to write this story than Claudia Gray, who has developed an incredibly impressive resume of Star Wars material. And in this book, she shines in so many different areas.

We must start with Qui-Gon Jinn, however, as he truly is the focal point of this story. He’s the main character. Sure, other characters like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Rael Aveross, and even Dooku play important roles, but all as they relate to Qui-Gon. And I think that’s a fantastic decision that pays big dividends, because Qui-Gon is such a fascinating character – in large part because he doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with the other Jedi. That’s been well-established both in the films and in other canon material, and this book certainly adds to that. It’s mentioned in regards to Qui-Gon’s disagreements with the Council, but they at least are willing to have him join them – a positive sign of open-mindedness that unfortunately didn’t continue in the prequels. Instead of re-hashing all of that, though, Gray chooses to focus primarily on the issues Obi-Wan has with his master. He is a more by-the-book pupil, so his master’s antics wear on him.

I found it very refreshing to read about the struggles that master and apprentice had early in their relationship. Previously we only saw them at the end of their life together, and they worked so well with one another. So it’s cool to jump to an earlier date, when both sides are just about through with one another. We get to see the evolution in their relationship, not to where they see eye-to-eye but to where they grow more in understanding and respect. Obi-Wan recognizes his master’s principles, and Qui-Gon recognizes his pupil’s remarkable potential.

Rael Aveross also serves as a contrast of sorts to Qui-Gon, as they both were apprentices to Dooku but have turned out quite differently. And we do get some flashbacks to Qui-Gon’s time training with Dooku, which provides more of a look into the mysterious former Jedi’s life – and how fascinated he was with the prophesies, well before Qui-Gon was.

Above all, what we see is Qui-Gon’s total devotion to the Force. He is committed to the prophecies when no one else is. He believes his vision is a message from the Force when no one else does. He is intent on carrying out the will of the Force, even when other Jedi may be saying differently. It sounds a bit odd to say, but it’s true: the biggest thing that makes Qui-Gon Jinn a bit unique as it pertains to the Jedi is that he is totally devoted to the will of the Force.

Altogether, this is a fantastic book, and one that I’d recommend over and over again. Claudia Gray absolutely nails the characters of Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, we’re introduced to several interesting new characters, the book is very well written and keeps you guessing until the end, and includes plenty of fun and intriguing tidbits for Star Wars fans as to how this story connects – including to the future. This book is exactly what you’d want in a story of the relationship of this master and apprentice.

My grade: 10/10

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