[Ausnahmweise mal ein Eintrag auf Englisch, aus Gründen.]
I usually blog in German, but a lot of the great people I follow on Twitter because they tweet and blog about Star Wars would not understand it. Because of that I decided to write my thoughts about the Ashoka novel in English. So here is my first English blog entry – please forgive me for making mistakes and not being super-eloquent, I’m not a native speaker 🙂 .
Warning: I talk about all the things that happen in the novel, so there’ll be spoilers.
The Ahsoka novel by E. K. Johnston is the book I was looking forward to since it was announced at SWCE this summer. Ahsoka is one of my favorite characters, not only in Star Wars but of all fictional characters I know. I really liked her in the Clone Wars show, I was superhappy she returned in Rebels and when season 2 of Rebels was nearing its end I basically cried every time she was on screen, because I had a bad feeling about the finale. That panel about the unfinished Clone Wars arcs made me really sad they were never finished, and I really hoped that some of the stuff that happened there would find its way in the novel.
So of course I preordered it and startet reading as soon as it arrived. I must admit I never really read the part of the announcement that said it was going to be a Young Adult novel, I only read that in the review on Wookiegunner (which I skimmed to avoid spoilers while I still waited for my copy to arrive). I was somewhat astonished that the book did not seem very long and the layout was very spacy. But anyhoo, Ahsoka! So I finished it in a week.
I share a lot of Johnamaries opinions in the Wookiegunner review. Yes, Ahsoka sounds like Ahsoka, which made me really glad. I could imagine most of the dialouges in her voice while reading. I also liked how she got her white lightsabers and I think the whole journey she goes on is somewhat meant to be and leads her to becoming the person she is in Rebels. The book was a fast read, there was some good humor and also some drama in it.
But I also see a lot of problems with the novel. It’s not that I don’t liked it at all, but I was hoping it would be great and ended up somewhat disappointed.
First of all, there is the setting. All of the plot takes place on some dull Outer Rim planets and moons with no interesting structure or design. The people Ahsoka meets are mostly human. The planets are either deserted or the reader never gets to know more about them or they do superexciting stuff like … agriculture. I understand that Ahsoka can not flee the Empire to a well-known planet everyone would expect her to, but, holy kriff, was Raada DULL. Especially when you compare it to Gorse and Cynda in A New Dawn, where the story of „The Empire preys on a planet for resources and its people suffer from it“ was done so much more interestingly and set in a much cooler location.
Then there were the characters. I liked Ahsoka, I liked Bail Organa … and then it got lest interesting, because there was hardly a chance to get to know the other characters very well. Kaeden and Miera, the two sisters who Ahsoka befriends on Raana, had the most screentime (booktime?) besides Ahsoka herself, but while I kind of liked how they struggled with each other and the question if Ahsoka could be trusted, there was not so much else going on with them. I missed something interesting or quirky or surprising, altough I really liked Kaedens crush on Ahoksa (I wish there had been a bit more focus on that part). Some other characters like Selda, the Togrutan barkeeper, or Fardi, the rebellious smuggler, seemed interesting, but they appeared to shortly to really find out more about them. And when it comes to the bad guys – I found none of them interesting. The imperial clerk who organized the Raada operation was rather boring, the stormtroopers and their officers had no one who stood out at all and even the Inquisitor who tried to kill Ahsoka in the end was … well, just another Inquisitor. Sadly the book provided no more informations on him and his brothers and sisters that went further than the ones already known from Rebels. (I’d really like some more information on the Inquisitors, by the way.)
What bothered me most is the way the book focuses on the different parts of the story. There are chapters and chapters where basically nothing happens except Ahsoka trying to live a normal life while still thinking a lot about the Clone Wars and her losses. Which is okay, but the way it came up again and again seemed a bit repetitive to me. The most frustrating part for me was when she finally decides to help people and use her powers to do some good in the Outer Rim – and then this part is summarized in just one page, while there were 5 or 6 chapters about agriculture and doing nothing and finding places to hide food. Argh. The pacing did not work at all for me, the rather boring stuff on Raada got lots of pages while the interesting parts were described in a lot less words. At the end of the book, Ahsoka finally became Fulcrum – and with that ends the story, leaving the stuff I would really wanted to know about unwritten.
I don’t really get why that specific point in Ahsokas history was chosen to be the main focus of the story. It would have been possible to tell what she was doing in her early Fulcrum years and describe what happened before in flashbacks or the interludes. Ah, the interludes. I liked some of them, like the one who gave a glimpse of the Siege of Mandalore storyarc from Clone Wars. But some of them seemed rather random to me. I don’t know why Obi-Wans life on Tattoine needed to be in this book, for example.
The novel was less sad or dark than I exspected – maybe because it is an YA-novel, maybe because there is no scene showing Ahoska directly after Order 66. It is fine with me that she found her way of dealing with it all, because that is one thing that makes her a great character. But all of her thoughts about Anakin and Obi-Wan and losing them never really got to me. There were some parts that were done great like her reaching for her lightsabers that are no longer there, or all about how she gets her new lightsabers, but the book did not manage to get me really close to her. One of the things I find so fascinating about Ahsoka is that she went through so much (fighting in a war while still being a teenager, giving up her place in the Jedi order, surviving Order 66) and still managed to be such a kind person with so much inner peace. I hoped the novel would give some insight about this and how she manages that, but there is just the usual „the Force gives her peace“-explanation – which would be perfectly sufficient for a Jedi, but as we all know, Ahsoka is no Jedi. I also would have liked to learn more about her connection to the Force which seems very special to me. That she could destroy an Inquisitor’s lightsaber by sheer will, take out the crystals and make them light again seems to be something not everyone could do, and the white color of the sabers also seems to be a hint of her being different from other force users. Maybe this all is connected to what might happen to her after the season 2 finale of Rebels – but there is no clue in the novel about it apart from the fact she is able to turn the crystals.
Concerning the purpose of the book to get new readers interested in Star Wars (which I assume is one of the reasons it was published as a YA novel): I don’t know how good the novel works for someone who does not know Clone Wars and/or Rebels. I guess the most of the mentioned names and places are very well known if you ever heard of Star Wars. To be honest I sometimes got annoyed when Anakin or Obi-Wan or R2D2 got mentioned for the umphiest time, because it sometimes felt a bit like name-dropping. In any case, I think it is possible to understand the plot of the novel even when you are new to Star Wars, but it has, of course, more impact when you know the rest of the story. I don’t know if the locations like Raada were chosen to make it easier to understand the story and the world if you don’t know the SW galaxy at all. But even in that case it should have been possible to pick a more interesting planet and explain its features on some of the many pages the novel spent talking about farming and hiking.
So in the end I closed the book with the feeling that this was just not the Ahsoka novel I was hoping for. The stuff that really interests me, like Ahsokas special connection to the force or how exactly she survived Order 66 or what her work as Fulcrum was like, was not there, while the plot that was there never managed to get me really interested. I missed some cool and interesting supporting characters or some new and great locations. There was too little sense of wonder, which normally comes easy in the strange and wondrous place that is the galaxy far, far away.
As a conclusion: The Ahsoka novel did not make me as happy as hoped it would. It felt like a reeeeally long prologue to a story that was not told. At least not yet. I hope the success of the book will mean more Ahsoka content for us, maybe a second novel or a comic or finally that Siege of Mandalore-movie on Netflix or whatever. I am happy the novel is such a big success because I am sure a lot of work went into it and a lot of people enjoyed it even if I did not like it as much as I had hoped.
So see you soon, Snips. And may the force be with us.