[The following is a spoiler free review.]
Growing up I had a Star Wars character I deeply connected with and in recent years I’ve met a lot of people who for them that special character was and is Ahsoka Tano.
They’ve rallied for action figures of her. They’ve bought and made Ahsoka t-shirts. They’ve come together for Ahsoka Lives Day. And while I like the character, I’ve never felt as strongly about her as they did. So I hoped that the new YA novel Star Wars: Ahsoka by E.K. Johnson would help me not only get to know the character better but build a new level of appreciation for her too.
Unfortunately, It did not.
The first two-thirds of the book are rather slow and the tendency to explain away all options for decisions, constantly compare to Ahsoka’s prior life, and foreshadow with a heavy-hand take away a lot of the excitement and suspense that could be there.
The characters are a highlight, at least as far as the good guys go. Female relationships including friendships and sisterhood are at the forefront – a less common feature in many Star Wars stories. On the bad guys side though, the characterizations are flat, leaving them all as a tag-team of literally replaceable cogs in the Imperial machine. That could be a statement on its own but it keeps the dynamics surface-level and contributes to lack of tension.
As for Ahsoka herself, she still has a ways to go to become the character we see on Star Wars Rebels. She displays moments of courage, kindness, and leadership but she also spends a lot of the story stuck in her past and making questionable decisions that seem odd for someone with all the experience she has by this time. For one the name she goes by to hide from the Empire is known in some Legends stories as another name for the light side of the Force. It’s also the name of a fellow Togruta Jedi youngling who was in Attack of the Clones, which seems like an unnecessary gamble when you’re lying low. There’s even a point where Ahsoka leaves a place where she feels she’s put the beings she’s befriended in danger… only to go to a place where she’d previously stated that if she returned to, she’d put the beings she’d befriended there in danger.
Still I was curious as to how Ahsoka Tano went from leaving the Jedi Order to acting as a Fulcrum agent for the Rebellion. And we do get that initial bridge story. Many conveniences line up for our protagonist to get her where she ultimately needs to go. Star Wars storytelling has always had its fair share of convenient moments and the Ahsoka novel does not hesitate in running with that trait.
The biggest revelations in Ahsoka though are for the wider storytelling and worldbuilding elements of the Star Wars universe. Among them we get some behind the scenes of the Rebellion formation, more on those crazy Kyber crystals, and a further look at how the Empire operates planet-side in the Outer Rim. These are all interesting, but ultimately do very little for Ahsoka’s actual story.
The bar for Star Wars YA was set by Claudia Gray’s Lost Stars. In comparison mostly Ahsoka reads more like a Middle Grade book. It didn’t have to be the sprawling epic that Lost Stars was, but it missed its opportunity to provide a deeper, nuanced tale.
In the end, some fans will be able to look past the book’s flaws, but I would have hoped for something better for all those ultra-passionate Ahsoka fans I know.
Star Wars Ahsoka is out now.
The publisher provided FANgirl Blog a copy of this book.
Kay reviews Star Wars books for FANgirl in addition to movies of several genres with a heart for storytelling and a mind that likes to analyze. She also writes about fandom reflections and fashion as well as co-hosts the Hyperspace Theories podcast. She has been known to make appearances on other podcasts including Fangirl Chat, Nerd Lunch, Disney Vault Talk's Rebel Yell, and Assembly of Geeks.
Currently a voice actor, photographer, and artist who also consults in communications and marketing, Kay spends the little bit of free time she has reading, writing, learning and, of course, making pew pew noises. She would pick up more jobs and hobbies if she was a Time Lord.
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