There’s a reason the Jedi discourage emotional attachment, and this book is a perfect example of why.
!!!MILD SPOILERS BELOW!!!
Dark Disciple is, for lack of a better word, truly epic from start to finish. Based on eight unfinished episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the story follows former Sith assassin Asajj Ventress and Jedi Quinlan Vos on a mission to assassinate Count Dooku to put a quick end to the war. The mission was actually the idea of the Jedi Council, an idea which goes against everything they stand for. We never really saw the Jedi Council as a whole falter this much in the show or the films and it illustrates just how desperate the Jedi have become. Even more unthinkable is the suggestion that not only a Jedi, Quinlan Vos, carry out this deed, but that they do so with the help of Asajj Ventress, the only one still alive who was close to him and tried to assassinate him herself…twice.
Things really take off when Asajj and Quinlan first meet (the animatics for their first verbal [and physical] exchange were first shown at Star Wars Celebration this year). The story moves quickly but isn’t rushed, which is perfect for both Quin and Asajj as characters; neither are simple or quick-to-trust people, but Golden takes the time to explore them both and explain through events how their partnership organically grows into something rather special while not detracting from the main story. In fact, the romance angle becomes just as important as the mission to kill Dooku because it becomes such an integral part of nearly everything, a change of pace from the majority of Star Wars novels. Speaking of which…
Anyone who has spent more than five minutes around me knows of my love and adoration of Asajj, so I’ll get this out of the way right now: I’m still not a fan of her and Quin being romantically involved. HOWEVER! Golden takes such care in establishing and building their relationship that my initial distaste of the pairing quickly took a backseat when I read just how sweet and endearing it could be (the moment when Asajj steps out in her ballgown for the banquet on Raxus Prime was priceless).
Where most would expect the confrontation with Dooku to be the climax of the novel, it’s certainly not. Like I said, this is an epic. That fight is just the start of a whole chain of events that leads to one of the most bittersweet, heartbreaking conclusions I’ve ever read in my life. I don’t want to spoil to much, but I will say that if you’re not at least the tiniest bit choked up by the final chapter, you might want to go see a doctor because you clearly have no heart.
As engrossing as the story is on its own, there are some small issues that will hopefully be corrected by the time the final copies are released next month. Inconsistent facts, contradicting dialogue, and a missing word or two didn’t hurt the story too badly, but they did jerk me out of the flow for a moment.
The only other complaint I have is regarding Quinlan’s motivation in the second half, which actually hurt any chance that I might have been more willing to accept he and Asajj as a couple. Again, without too many spoilers, while their relationship is sweet, it starts on lies and Quin is the one who keeps that going even after Asajj has owned up to her own lie (which is a rather massive one). He hides things from her and does things that, even though she had committed terrible things while in the service of the Sith, she would have been horrified to learn about.
The real crux of it all is a choice that Quin makes which is nothing short of a betrayal of trust. Asajj Ventress is not someone who trusts easily, and to betray the faith she has put in you is a grave violation that she really doesn’t need to deal with after so much heartbreak in her past. Quinlan could try to rationalize it all he wanted, but it doesn’t change the fact that his choices changed his relationship with her from a partnership to a power play, with him in command. Not cool, Quin. Not cool.
But overall, Dark Disciple fills in a few blanks from The Clone Wars TV series rather well and handles every character with love and care (yes, even Dooku). There is humor, there is joy, there is action (and plenty of it), there is despair, there is emotion. We learn just how deep Asajj’s guilt over the Nightsister massacre goes, how far Quinlan is willing to go both for the task of assassinating Dooku and to preserve what he has and hopes to have with Asajj, and how one who has fallen can find their way back to the Light in the end. I finished the book in a record (for me) 16 hours over two days. Other readers may want to stretch out their reading time if only to spare their hearts and souls the agony Dark Disciple will instill in them.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Dark Disciple hits store shelves on July 7, but in the meantime read my interview about it with author Christie Golden from Star Wars Celebration Anaheim.
Come talk to me about this book on Twitter or Faceboook once you read it so we can cry together (yes, there were legitimate tears on my face by the time I finished reading).