Dark Disciple, the fifth released new canon Star Wars novel for adults, is interestingly a continuation of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, an animated series for kids. In fact, this story arc comprises the stunning events of 8 finished scripts that never had the chance to make it into production before Disney shut down the project. I grew up on Star Wars, but was always a step too old to have ever had the opportunity to enjoy The Clone Wars show, which I now regret. Much of this book takes plot lines clearly expounded further in the preceding series, but I was astounded as to how much I enjoyed it despite never having watched a single episode. Christie Golden did such an incredible job with introducing certain characters who’ve never seen screentime in the Star Wars movie saga, but have had a long history within the show, and made them understandable, relatable, and you never once feel as though you’re given too little to work with. Some spoilers will follow.
The story begins with the striking revelation that the Jedi Council has chosen to assassinate Count Dooku, seperatist leader and Sith Lord, to bring the balance back to the Force – a decidely un-Jedi task. Quinlan Vos is chosen, a human male with a quick-wit, handsome face, and a unique talent for espionage. But he must first sidle up close with ex-Sith and bounty hunter, the irascible Asajj Ventress, as she knows Dooku better than anyone, and has a very personal vendetta against him.
The chemistry between the two is magic in and of itself. It’s no wonder that the two begin to share feelings for each other. I’ve never shipped a couple together so hard as I did while reading this book. The only issue is that Vos, a Jedi, has sworn an oath not to love. When that oath is broken, one would expect some form of remorse from him for breaking his own moral principles, but that emotion never comes – one of my only gripes about the book, but it seems a weighty one, when dealing with morals and apostasy.
By apostasy, it’s safe to say in this review that Quinlan does touch upon the powers of the Dark Side of the Force, something expressly forbidden within the Jedi code. It is the only way Asajj knows to train him so as to defeat Count Dooku. One would think he’d have second thoughts as to his actions, but blind love and the even more blinding lust for power push him totally out of that emotional range.
The book brilliantly plays with the good and bad and the light and dark, and the fine line where they intersect. One isn’t simply Sith just because you harness the powers of the Dark Side, but there is a point where it appears one has gone too far. And the way they introduce the Dark Side in this book, as seen by Asajj Ventress and her former sisters, is fascinating. It appears to be more of a lifestyle or religion than a way to gain further power. The customs of her people were so steeped in the Dark Side it’s hard to believe they could function. I’ll really have to go back and watch all the Clone Wars episodes now, to see how this is portrayed throughout the series.
As much as this is about a descent into darkness, an even more apt tone for the novel is redemption. Redemption appears in several quite unlikely places, and often at great cost. Heartbreakingly so. The ending to this book was so powerful it shook me to tears. Overall, this is a better love story than Attack of the Clones could ever dream to be. This is also a better expositionary transition to the Dark Side than Revenge of the Sith. Dark Disciple by Christie Golden is a must read for all fans of Star Wars, even those who’ve not seen the Clone Wars. It’s really that good.
For more on the Star Wars new canon timeline, visit my previous post “Timeline and List of All Canon Star Wars Novels.”