In the war for control of the galaxy between the armies of the dark side and the Republic, former Jedi Master turned ruthless Sith Lord Count Dooku has grown ever more brutal in his tactics. And when he orders the massacre of helpless refugees, the Jedi Council can see no alternative but to take drastic action: targeting the Empire’s most cold-blooded disciple for assassination. But Dooku is dangerous pretty, so the Council decides to bring both sides of the Force to bear—teaming brash Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos with infamous ex-Sith acolyte Asajj Ventress. Though Jedi distrust for the cunning killer who once served Dooku runs deep, Ventress’s hatred for her former master runs deeper. Determined to have vengeances and let go of her Sith past, Ventress must balance her growing feelings for Vos with the fury of her warrior’s spirit—and resolves to claim victory on all fronts. It is a vow that will be mercilessly tested by her deadly enemy … and her own doubt.
Star Wars: Dark Disciple by Christie Golden is one of the new Disney Canon Star Wars novels, published in 2015. The novel is based on a storyline originally written by Katie Lucas as an eight-episode arc for the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. These episodes were not completed due to the show’s cancellation. Initially this novel felt more like an obligatory read for me. I hadn’t seen through the show yet, but wanted to read the new canon novels, so I picked it up alongside Tarkin by James Luceno almost a year ago. Having recently finished watching the series finally, I became excited to start it. Not without its faults, I’m grateful that it exists, having given some closure on Asajj Ventress, a major recurring character throughout the series.
This novel is driven predominantly by its characters, rather than the pursuit of a plotline or end goal. It is presented as a story about the Jedi attempting to have Count Dooku assassinated, but that is merely a catalyst to bring Ventress and Jedi Master Quinlan Vos together. Even if you’ve only seen the Star Wars films, you know Dooku will not be dying here, so that requires the story to follow a different path than what it sets up. In this case, it is the romantic feelings growing between Ventress and Vos, complicating a plan that already compromises Jedi values, as well as the general consequences of the attempt.
I like Ventress, so having things be a little more character driven isn’t a knock against it. She’d spent a lot of time toward the end of the series distancing herself from the Sith and reforming some of her ways, which helps to justify her willingness to let new people, like Vos, into her life. Vos had been featured in a mini arc before, though was not characterized much beyond being brash. Their chemistry together feels natural enough. I understand why the two are drawn to one another, but the narration could get a little too corny, even melodramatic, for my tastes. In some specific cases, this language is clearly used to avoid talking about sex too directly, but in terms of budding and growing emotions I would have appreciated a little more subtlety.
As a book made to supplement a series cancelled before its time, this book does a great job of capturing the tone of the show. This may be on account of having watched it recently, but I had no trouble imagining everything in the style of the show as it played out in my head. Even though it has transitioned to an entirely new format, it’s fairly easy to see how certain points of the story would have been divided up into episodes too. I think this made it weaker as a novel, which could otherwise tell a more seamless story, but given the context, I find myself much more forgiving than I would be otherwise.
The amount of world building and establishment is respectable as well, though it falls into the typical situation of being more for fans than newcomers. Thanks to narration that allows for more information than the audience would otherwise be privy to, we get a slightly better understanding of how different facets of the Force work, more particularly how people consciously use it, as well as the physical effects when it influences people of its own accord. There was a particularly poignant moment with the light side of the Force that I really liked, though conversely I wish the effect of the dark side on one’s mind was explored a little more firsthand. The story touches a little further upon different approaches to Force-use too. It’s a brief divulgence, but it’s neat to get a distinction between how the Nightsisters, Ventress’s clan, used the dark side compared to the Sith. It shows the galaxy represented as more complicated than simply Good vs Evil.
If you’re a fan of the Clone Wars series I cannot recommend Star Wars: Dark Disciple enough. It’s nothing ground-breaking, but provides a nice send-off for Ventress, a character who became iconic to the series. If you’re only a fan of the films, however, I would not recommend jumping in. It does the legwork to keep new or forgetful readers informed well enough, but to me this is a book made for fans who didn’t get closure on certain characters.