“I thought I was done with the war, but maybe I don’t know how to do anything else” – Ahsoka Tano.
It is with obvious great pleasure that I am going to summarize and review the new novel Ahsoka, by EK Johnston. Anyone who knows me and/or follows our podcast know I have a very special place in my heart for Ahsoka Tano. I’ve said it may times that after Anakin and Luke, Ahsoka’s journey is the best in all of Star Wars (so far…. we see you Rey…). When she first arrived on screen in the Clone Wars film, I have to admit I hated her. I mean HATED her. I hated the idea of Anakin having a Padawan, and she was so annoying and just too cutesy. Well, as the seasons of the Clone Wars passed, she blossomed as a character, and really became the centerpiece of the entire Clone Wars series in my opinion. Her character arc was so good, and we were so immersed into her character, that when she walked away from the Jedi order and Anakin at the end of season five it was utterly gut-wrenching. It was at that moment I realized just how special her character really was. We literally watched her grow up during the Clone Wars, and watching her walk down those steps was terrible and really gave a sense of gravity to the entire Clone Wars series in my opinion. We all know she had a triumphant return in Rebels, but what happened in-between? Luckily the Lucasfilm story group and EK Johnston have filled in PART of that history for us.
Please be aware there are **SPOILERS** below, so proceed with caution. As usual, I’m going to put an image right below this, which is my way of saying turn back, you’ve been warned…..
Alright, so a brief synopsis. We start out with Ahsoka during the last days of the Clone Wars. She and Anakin have briefly reunited on Mandalore, on the hunt for Maul. Anakin returns her lightsabers to her before he has to rush off to rescue the Chancellor (the start of Revenge of the Sith) and leaves Rex and his regiment of clones with her to hunt down Maul, hopefully for the last time (yeah, right). Ahsoka and Maul battle, with him being able to escape after she has to choose between killing him and saving Rex. We also learn she survived Order 66 because Rex had removed his microchip and when the clones turned against her, he helped her fend them off. They buried one of the clones in a grave marked with Rex’s name, and left Ahsoka’s lightsabers in there as proof he had killed her. It is assumed they then parted ways.
From there the story is a little slow for a bit, as Ahsoka (now going by Ashla) is bouncing from outer-rim world to outer-rim world, trying to make sense of her new existence. She settles on a farm world of Raada, and quickly befriends the locals there. As fate would have it, the Empire arrives shortly thereafter with their sights set on ravaging the planet for it’s food and resources, for their growing battalions of Stormtroopers and officers. The locals mount a resistance and Ahsoka is forced to use the Force to save them, attracting a ton of attention to herself and her new friends. She ends up leaving the planet and has an encounter with a certain someone of significance that has been tracking her exploits – Bail Organa of Alderaan. After explaining the situation on Raada, he agrees to help. In the meantime, Ahsoka realizes she will need lightsabers again, and to build new lightsabers she needs Kyber Crystals. She travels to Ilum, the system where all Jedi learners take their pilgrimage to find the Crystal that speaks to them, in order to construct their lightsabers, only to find the Empire has ravaged the planet. After some meditation she hears two Crystals calling to her, and they just so happen to be on Raada.
After Ahsoka left, the Empire made it really hard for the people of Raada, and sent out an Inquisitor – the Sixth Brother – to find Ahsoka and eliminate her. When Ahsoka returns to Raada she learns of the Inquisitor and finds out he has taken her first friend on the planet, Kaeden Larte, prisoner and killed everyone else that was hiding out, with the exception of Kaeden’s sister Miara. It turns out the Kyber Crystals that were calling out to her were in the Sixth Brother’s lightsaber. She is able to (rather easily) defeat him, retrieve the Crystals, and quickly construct new lightsabers. To her surprise when she ignites them they turn white instead of crimson (more on this below). Bail’s forces arrive and they proceed to help the survivors escape Raada and relocate to Alderaan. Shortly after this, Ahsoka and Bail have a long conversation about the past, present, and future, and Ahsoka tells Bail she wants to help the Rebellion in the form of organizing communication. She chooses he codename Fulcrum and vows to do what she can to help. The novel ends with the Grand Inquisitor on Raada, inspecting the scene and vowing to find the Jedi who caused it one day, as he reports back to Darth Vader that there is another Jedi that lives, although he does not know her name.
What worked really well:
- the intro on Mandalore, while short provided some great insight into the actual last time Ahsoka and Anakin met. It felt good, right even, and I really enjoyed that part. Plus, anything with Maul is always welcome.
- the flashbacks dealing with Order 66, Rex, and their faked deaths. I honestly wished we got more of this, but the small interludes were a nice touch.
- a new take on Kyber Crystals. I LOVED the new canon take on the Crystals and how they sing to the Force user that’s supposed to use them. I also enjoyed the explanation of red blades, how the Dark Side users ‘bleed’ the Crystals to make them crimson. It was a nice touch.
- I loved the way Ahsoka continually reiterated as the story moved along that she was not a Jedi. This may seem like a small plot point, but it’s actually quite huge, and is further reinforced by her Crystals giving her white blades. I get the impression the theme of the Force user that’s in-between the Light and the Dark is going to continue to be explored in depth (see the Bendu), and I like that idea a lot.
- Bail Organa. Quite simply, he was a very welcome addition to the story and his conversation with Ahsoka at the end, as he was quizzing her about how much she may have known about Anakin, Padme, and the kids, was awesome.
- Ahsoka’s avoidance of Kaeden’s advances. Look, this wasn’t completely spelled out, but it certainly seemed like Kaeden was making some sexual advances towards Ahsoka at the end of the book, and Ahsoka was genuinely surprised. It was funny, at least to me.
What could’ve been better:
- I really think the book was too short and could’ve been longer. The entire story of Mandalore, Order 66, Rex, and the clones should’ve been included in detail. My hope is that they are saving this for a future project of some sort.
- Rex. Speaking of Rex, I think they missed it by not including him more in the book. I get it was Ahsoka’s story, but in my eyes there’s no reason why he couldn’t have been included.
- the Sixth Brother Inquisitor. What a freaking dope. Maybe that was the intention, to show how weak the Inquisitors are at this point in the timeline, but man, Ahsoka took him out way too easily. Way too easily.
- Ashley Eckstein’s narration. Yes, I know she IS Ahsoka, I get that. But she was terrible at every other character, save Kaeden and Miara. Her portrayal of the Sixth Brother and Maul were terrible, to say the least. And yes, I do audiobooks, sue me.
Overall, this book was a really good read. I would recommend it to pretty much any Star Wars fan, but if you’re a huge fan of the Clone Wars it’s a must-read. The story is well-written and moves fast. I mean, it is a young adult novel, so I guess it should move fast, huh?