There are times when you find yourself unable to put down a book you’re reading. Although some of those times you don’t want to put it down because you know if you do, you won’t pick it back up again. While it started out fine, reading Dark Disciple eventually became one of those latter times.
Christie Golden’s latest is based on an unproduced eight-episode arc of The Clone Wars television series and finds the Jedi Council assigning Jedi Quinlan Vos to team up with former dark-sider Asajj Ventress to end Count Dooku’s reign of terror.
Like other recent Star Wars book releases, setting this story between the movies leaves the author with a challenge. We already know from the movies how Count Dooku dies, and it isn’t by the hand of Quinlan Vos or Asajj Ventress. So how does this story keep its tension and interest when the outcome of the mission can’t hold that?
The short answer is it doesn’t, really. Too soon the pacing of Dark Disciple becomes the world’s most consistently disappointing rollercoaster with long, info-dumping setups and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it payoffs over and over again. The television show episode structure is still readily apparent, which might not be the worst if you want to imagine this as more episodes of The Clone Wars. But if you want to read it as one big story, it’s awkward.
Probably also due to the episode structure, the beginning of the book feels like it’s Vos’ story. After a bit Ventress comes more into play and it starts to feel more like both their stories. But by the end it’s an Obi-Wan and Anakin episode with featured appearances by our once-leading characters. Part of what drew out the build-up on some scenes in the first half actually was the use of both Vos’ and Ventress’ perspectives, one right after the other without adding much that wasn’t already implied from that character’s words and actions in the previous perspective. So between the info dumps and the repetitions there is an awful lot of tell instead of show, which means there’s not a lot for a reader to discover on their own.
What’s more, I got to a point where I realized the book was doing nothing to make me care about these characters. This is another place where coming in as a big fan of The Clone Wars might be of service to your reading experience. You may already love them enough to look past all the issues and enjoy finding out what was supposed to happen next.
My feelings about the television show varied by episode, but I found Ventress a very intriguing character on it, so I really was looking forward to getting inside her head in this book. She starts out all hard-edged, untrusting, and highly skilled. She’s not without flaws and while some of the insights we gain help explain why she acts the way she does, as the story goes on she turns into someone else entirely.
Author Christie Golden has shown repeatedly in her Star Wars stories a skill for dissolving female characters right before your eyes. Much like Vestara Khai and Jaina Solo before her, Golden turns the tough, self-sufficient Asajj Ventress into a floppy shadow of her former self in the presence of a romantic relationship. Although that transformation doesn’t happen until after she revisits the abusive relationship elements that left many readers unsettled in the Fate of the Jedi series.
Capped off with a less-than-thrilling ending, the bad outweighed the good and made for yet another disappointing entry in the new Star Wars book canon. At least Dark Disciple helped me be less sad about the cancellation of the Sword of the Jedi books.
The publisher provided FANgirl Blog a copy of this book. Image source: starwars.com
Kay grew up wanting to be an astronaut. After seeing Star Wars, she wanted to be Princess Leia, Han Solo, and an astronaut. Life’s taken her on a bit of a different path, but she’s still a Star Wars fan at heart who enjoys surprising people with how geeky she really is. Currently a voice actor, photographer, and artist who also consults in communications and marketing, Kay would pick up more jobs and hobbies if she was a Time Lord. You can follow her on Twitter.
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