It’s time to catch up with some book reviews! It’s been a few weeks now since I finished reading Claudia Gray’s prequel-era novel, Master & Apprentice, so let’s take a look between the covers and see what it’s all about!
The book is set roughly eight years prior to The Phantom Menace, based on Obi-Wan’s age of 17 when the novel begins. The book is very much an Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon adventure, borne out of Claudia Gray’s wish to write about the Jedi Master, although we do get quite a few flashbacks into Qui-Gon’s youth at the Jedi Temple, and so we also get to see Dooku in his Jedi prime!
It all starts on Teth, where Qui-Gon is investigating some criminal activity involving the Hutts. Along the way, we see that he has a fairly difficult relationship with his padawan, Obi-Wan. Upon returning to Coruscant, Qui-Gon is offered a post on the Jedi Council, and decides to take some time to deliberate upon it. Meanwhile, he is dispatched to Pijal at the express request of another of Dooku’s former padawans, Rael Averross.
Averross has been acting as regent of Pijal while the crown princess comes of age, and with the announcement of a new hyperspace corridor running through the system that would increase trade, things on the planet are becoming heated. The Czerka Corporation has a significant presence there, also, meaning that corporate greed is playing a healthy part in the political situation. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan investigate some terrorist activity that is threatening the upcoming coronation of Princess Fanry, during which time Qui-Gon receives troubling visions of a possible future. At the coronation, Fanry is expected to sign over much of her sovereign power to Czerka, in a treaty that was partly negotiated by Averross in an effort to bring Pijal into the wider galactic community. Fanry, it turns out, has other ideas, and leads something of a revolution against Czerka’s authority. She is only brought to justice when her confidance later rebel against her, too, allowing the Jedi to bring the conflict to a somewhat peaceful conclusion.
Qui-Gon turns down the offer to join the Council, choosing instead to continue his tutelage of Obi-Wan.
Where to begin.
I really wanted to enjoy this book. Disney hasn’t really spent a lot of time or effort on the prequel era, so I thought it was interesting to get a book featuring such a prominent character as Qui-Gon. I had also seen some comment on the SW facebook group I’m in that mentioned how the book delves into the whole issue of Jedi prophecy. So I was excited!
We do get to learn something of Qui-Gon’s history with the prophecies, which goes some way to explaining his belief in Anakin in Episode I. I wouldn’t say that it felt shoe-horned into the book, but it didn’t seem to feel quite in the right place, unfortunately – seeing so much of the book in flashback felt a bit jarring, to me, and I found myself wishing that it had been handled a little differently.
Something else that I wish has been handled differently was the relationship between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. Some of it seems to be put down to the fact that Dooku was a little stand-offish as a Master, and I thought it was an interesting point that Jedi apprentices have something like regular school, and come “home” to their Masters. I suppose I just thought the Master/Apprentice relationship was firmly exclusive once a padawan was placed. But no!
Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan seem to have the kind of relationship that a father has with a child whom he does not properly understand. Qui-Gon was forever worrying that he wasn’t doing right by Obi-Wan, while Obi-Wan was forever worrying that Qui-Gon meant to abandon him and felt like he had been held back in some aspects of his training. It all felt a little bit too much – like, this wasn’t the relationship that I wanted to see them have! So that was a bit sad. I did understand where a lot of those emotions were coming from, and it was well-written in that I could really imagine this would be how two humans in this situation would react. It all seemed to stem from Qui-Gon’s offer of a place on the Council, and I was a bit flummoxed as to why that would even come to pass. Was it meant solely to pay service to Obi-Wan’s line in Episode I? Hm.
At least there are eight more years’ worth of stories that can be told with the two of them improving their relationship and working more on the same team.
I thought it was weird that the sort of major plot point was all about opening up a hyperspace corridor, like the galaxy is still being explored. I mean, Light of the Jedi is only about 200 years before this book, and that novel seemed to show the galaxy as a big fumble in the dark. But by the time of TPM, people are merrily jetting about like it’s no big deal? Odd.
Rael Averross is depicted as a Jedi Knight who has gone native, and is depicted as a fairly interesting opposite to Qui-Gon. The fact that he sleeps around and takes drugs aside, I did find him irritating after a while – if he weren’t meant to be a Jedi, I think I’d be fine with him. But he is, and has been wallowing in self-pity after blaming himself for getting his padawan killed. His assignment to Pijal is seen as something of a remedy for that self-pity, in that he is given Fanry to replace Nim Pianna. That whole situation seemed to contrived and far too weird, but the fact that it served as a significant plot hook did begin to grate after a while.
Oh yeah, and Dooku has already left the Order? I thought it was canon that he had left when Qui-Gon was killed, but maybe I’m getting confused.
The book is definitely interesting, and definitely worth a read. I think I found it far too disappointing that Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were constantly either treading on eggshells or else being passive-aggressive to each other, and Rael Averross was far too irritating and unsympathetic as a character – two points that eventually pulled my enjoyment of the book down. A somewhat minor point, but it also read a bit more like the sort of YA fiction along the lines of Lost Stars, rather than the more regular adult fiction such as Bloodline. Which is a shame, though I suppose I could be taking this far too seriously!
It’s okay, I guess, but it’s not brilliant. I think it possibly suffers quite a bit from being the next book that I read after Light of the Jedi, though. That book was really good…