Publisher: Random House Audio (16 April 2019)
Series: Star Wars
Length: 11 hours and 42 minutes
My Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars
2019 is shaping up to be an amazing year for fans of the new Star Wars extended universe, a group of which I consider myself to be a proud member, with so many awesome Star Wars books and comics being released. After reviewing the first Star Wars book for 2019, Queen’s Shadow, a few weeks ago, I have been really looking forward to getting to grips with the franchises second 2019 novel, Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray.
Master & Apprentice is a canon Star Wars novel set around eight years before the events of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. It focuses on two of the main characters from this prequel movie, Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn and his Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Qui-Gon Jinn is an experienced and powerful Jedi Knight, having been trained in the Force by the legendary Count Dooku, who himself was trained by Master Yoda, and is ready to face any threat or danger that lies in front of him. However, his greatest challenge may prove to be his own Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi. The two Jedi are polar opposites to each other: while Obi-Wan is by-the-book and rigid in his respect of rules and protocol, Qui-Gon routinely shows very little regard for the rules and laws that bind the Jedi and constantly finds himself at odds with the Jedi Council. Despite years of working together, the two Jedi struggle to understand each other. Qui-Gon sees every mistake of Obi-Wan’s as his own, while Obi-Wan is unable to understand the reasoning behind Qui-Gon’s actions, nor his obsession with the ancient Jedi prophecies that many see as dangerous and unreliable. Their tenuous and strained relationship is further tested when Qui-Gon is unexpectantly offered a place on the Jedi Council, a move that would likely end their partnership. With feelings of betrayal and failure hanging over both of them, they are suddenly assigned a critical mission that is likely to be their last as master and apprentice.
Fellow Jedi Rael Averross, another former apprentice of Dooku, has requested Qui-Gon’s help with a difficult political dispute on the planet of Pijal. Averross has been serving as regent for the planet’s young queen, who is days away from ascending to the throne and signing an important treaty. A series of attacks which has rocked the planet is apparently the work of The Opposition, a band of political performance artists turned terrorists. Once the two Jedi arrive on the planet, they quickly find that the situation is far more complicated than initially believed. With corruption and secrets around every corner, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan attempt to get to the bottom of everything, even utilising a pair of jewel smugglers to help with their inquiries. However, their investigations are hampered by their opposing points of view, which only worsen when Qui-Gon places great stock in a dark vision of the future he has foreseen. Can they overcome their differences to unravel the plot, or will they fail their mission?
Claudia Gray, also known as Amy Vincent, is a prolific and experienced author, best known for her first body of work, the Evernight series, which started in 2008. Since then she has written a number of other series, including the Spellcaster, Firebird and Constellation series, as well as the standalone novel Fateful. Gray also has a huge amount of experience writing Star Wars fiction, having previously written three Star Wars tie-in novels in the new extended universe, including Lost Stars, Bloodline and Leia, Princess of Alderaan. As a result, the story of Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi is in safe hands as Gray produces an outstanding, compelling and character-driven novel that delves deep into the Star Wars lore to create an amazing story.
Master & Apprentice presents a clever and exciting story that sees the protagonist attempt to uncover the mysterious events unfolding on Pijal, while also dealing with their many personal and emotional issues. The story is told from the perspective of a range of characters in the book, and each of them adds their own thoughts and experiences to the story. The overall story arc on Pijal becomes quite complex, with many different and intriguing sides to the conflict, and the people behind the events are not who you think. I had an amazing time enjoying this book.
In this fantastic piece of fiction Gray goes into some intriguing parts of the Star Wars universe and lore. This is actually the furthest back the new extended universe books go, so it offers the reader a great opportunity to see some of aspects of the pre-movie Star Wars universe. While there are some hints at the events to come, as well as references to some major characters in the upcoming movies, the book contains a significant amount of new content and antagonists. It is actually quite refreshing to read a Star Wars book that is not tied into the Skywalker family or featuring the Empire or the First Order as an antagonist. I quite enjoyed the look at the pre-The Phantom Menace universe, including the new planet of Pijal, and the inclusion of the immoral Czerka Corporation, who previously appeared in the pre-Disney Star Wars universe. While those fans of the Star Wars franchise who like to consume more than the movies will absolutely love this book, Master & Apprentice should prove to be fairly easy to read for those people who have at least seen The Phantom Menace, as it is a pretty intriguing science fiction adventure.
Those readers who are interested in a deeper dive into the Jedi of the Republic era are in for a real treat in this book, as Gray delves into aspects of their history and lifestyle. Throughout Master & Apprentice there are a number of scenes set in the Jedi Temple, as well as a number of discussions about how and why the Jedi do what they do. Perhaps one of the key things highlighted in this book is how the traditional Jedi master and apprentice program worked. Several different apprenticeships are shown, and the reader gets a good idea of what is entailed in this relationship, what training the Padawans go through and how the process turns them into the eventual guardians of peace in the galaxy.
One of the most unique and fascinating aspects of Star Wars and Jedi lore that Gray examines are the fabled Jedi prophecies. The prophecies were created long ago by an ancient group of Jedi sages, and are reputed to reveal events from the future. The prophecies become a key part of the story, as not only do they drive a wedge between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan but they are also shown to have a major influence over Dooku when Qui-Gon was his Padawan. The prophecies have been mentioned in the movies before, with the most famous prophecy about the coming of a chosen one who will bring balance to the Force, referring to Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. While the chosen one prophecy is referenced in Master & Apprentice, several other prophecies are mentioned, including one that comes true in this book. I was really quite intrigued by the author’s examination of the prophecies; while they have been mentioned in the movies, I did not know too much about them. Dedicated fans will no doubt have fun trying to tie some of these prophecies into the movies and other associated pieces of Star Wars media. For example, there is one that clearly refers to Princess Leia that is repeated a couple of times. I personally was very curious about one prophecy that was mentioned towards the end of the book, which was referenced as being obsessed over by Count Dooku. It was a particularly portentous-sounding prophecy, and I wonder if it will have anything to do with recent revelations in the trailer for the next Star Wars movie, The Rise of Skywalker.
The story contained within Master & Apprentice is a strong, character-driven affair which features a compelling central cast, each of whom gets an in-depth analysis from Gray. Not only is there some compelling examinations of the main two characters, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, but Gray also introduces several intriguing and entertaining new characters who really add a lot to the story.
There is a great examination of the younger Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi in this book, as Gray examines not only the relationship between the two characters but also aspects of their past and their personalities. When the two characters are introduced in the first prequel film, The Phantom Menace, very little is known about them, save that Obi-Wan is nearing the end of his apprenticeship and the two of them disagree on certain matters, such as the future of Anakin Skywalker. Master & Apprentice offers a whole new, deeper examination of these characters and explores how these two Jedi came together and appeared so close, despite some differences in their personalities and styles. I thought that this deep dive into the relationship between these key movie characters was utterly fascinating, and it made me reconsider aspects from the movie. The strained relationship between the two characters becomes a major factor of the book, and Gray creates an emotional storyline around it as Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan work to overcome their issues while facing external threats. This was an excellent part of the book which readers will quite enjoy.
In addition to looking at their relationship and how the two characters become close, Gray also looks at other aspects of their past. This is particularly true for Qui-Gon, as Gray spends time highlighting Qui-Gon’s apprenticeship to Dooku and his friendship with Rael through a series of flashbacks. These flashback scenes are quite interesting as they show several key events that were responsible for turning Qui-Gon into the character he was in the movie and go a long way to explain why he was such a hesitant master for most of Master & Apprentice. There was also an intriguing and extended look at how and why Qui-Gon became so obsessed with the Jedi prophecies. Qui-Gon’s research and fascination with the prophecies becomes a major part of the book, which really appealed to me, and which also explains a lot about the Qui-Gon’s actions in The Phantom Menace. For example, it explains why Qui-Gon was so sure that he had found the Chosen One in Anakin Skywalker, and why he was determined to train him, even if it meant defying the will of the council. These storylines also explain certain aspects of Obi-Wan’s personality that occur within the movies. For example, the bond and respect that are formed between Obi-Wan and his master explain why he was so willing to take on Anakin as an apprentice after Qui-Gon’s death in The Phantom Menace. It also adds another layer to Anakin’s betrayal in Revenge of the Sith, as Anakin has not only betrayed Obi-Wan and the Jedi but also Qui-Gon’s memory and his belief in Anakin as the chosen one. This might explain why Obi-Wan, upon defeating Anakin, so passionately shouted “YOU WERE THE CHOSEN ONE.” There were also some cute aspects to Obi-Wan’s life that are explained, such as why he had such an aversion to flying and how he was able to ride the lizard mount in Revenge of the Sith. I quite liked how both characters developed over the course of the book, and I felt that Gray did an amazing job bringing these characters to life and providing an excellent story about their past.
While Gray’s portrayal of the main two characters is really good, I also have to say how much I loved some of the side characters that the author introduced in this book. My favourite has to be Rael Averross, the unconventional Jedi who has a connection to Qui-Gon’s past. Rael Averross is pretty much the opposite of all the Jedi readers would mostly be familiar with. He’s a hard drinking, womanising (which he claims is technically not against the rules of being a Jedi), death stick using scoundrel, who hates nearly every aspect of being a Jedi Knight. He was an extremely entertaining character whose actions and scruffy appearance are part of a persona the character has created to disguise the guilt, fear and resentment from his past. I also liked how he was the only character able to identify and point out what the actual result of someone fulfilling the prophecy and finding the chosen one, something that every other Jedi apparently missed. Rael was such an interesting counterpoint to the other Jedi characters in Master & Apprentice, and his influence on a young Qui-Gon was quite intriguing. It will be interesting to see if Rael shows up again (I believed he is used in a recent Star Wars audiobook, Dooku: Jedi Lost) as he has the potential to be a key character in the new Disney expanded universe.
Other characters utilised within this book are the two jewel smugglers co-opted by the Jedi to be their guides on Pijal, Pax and Rahara. While both these characters are a lot of fun, the standout one has to be Pax. Pax is a gaudy and socially inept character whose inability to interact with other people is due to the fact he was raised by a ship full of protocol droids. Pax is full of sass, sarcasm and insults, and is easily the most entertaining character in this entire book. Rahara is also a great character. A former slave of the Czerka Corporation, Rahara is the more normal of the two characters. However, her former enslavement still haunts her and drives much of her more noble actions in this book. Individually, both these characters are pretty cool, but together they form a great team who play off each other well. Their emotional attachment to each other is another great part of the book and seeing the lengths that the usually pragmatic Pax will go to for Rahara is very heart-warming.
There were also a few flashback scenes featuring Qui-Gon’s mentor and future Star Wars antagonist Count Dooku. All of these scenes were shown from the point of view of Qui-Gon as Dooku’s apprentice, and they paint a picture of a rigid and severe Jedi who was already showing signs of being tempted to the Dark Side of the Force. This was a very intriguing portrayal, although I believe that the audiobook Dooku: Jedi Lost, which was released around the same time as Master & Apprentice, contains a lot more of Dooku’s backstory and motivations, and I am definitely going to check this other audiobook out at some point.
As usual, I was deeply, deeply impressed with the audiobook version of this Star Wars book. The company behind these audiobooks really go the extra mile to make them special, and these tie-in novels are quickly becoming my favourite series to listen to rather than read. The Master & Apprentice audiobook runs for 11 hours and 42 minutes, and I found that I was able to get through this book quite quickly. I always find I absorb a lot more of the story with the audiobook format, and with this book I was really able to enjoy the character strife, as well as the new world building that Gray included. Props need to be given to the amazing sound effects that seem to permeate nearly every single scene in this book. Firstly, I absolutely love how the incredible and iconic music from the Star Wars movies is used during some of the book’s major scenes. The music, especially some of the big orchestral moments that defined key parts of the original Star Wars movies, is quite incredible and it does an amazing job of forcefully dragging the reader into the story. The additional sound effects used throughout the book easily replicate the actions going on around the characters, often using established and recognisable sound from the movies. I also loved how some of the sound effects could be so effective at creating an appropriate background for the scene by adding in engine noises or the susurration of a loud crowd.
The audiobook format of Master & Apprentice is narrated by Jonathan Davis, who has previously provided his voice to several other Star Wars audiobooks. I was deeply impressed with Davis’ incredible voice acting range in this book, as the voices he comes up with for the characters are outstanding. For example, he produces incredible voices for the book’s two main characters, Qui-Gon and Ob-Wan as he damn near succeeds in replicating the two actors voices from The Phantom Menace. On top of that, his Yoda voice is spot-on, and sounded just like Frank Oz in the movies. I also liked the voices that the narrator came up with for some of his new characters. His voice for Rael, for example, does an amazing job capturing the character’s personality, including his more carefree attitude, and the simmering anger that exists for most of his interactions with Qui-Gon. I also quite like the voice and tone he uses for Pax, and the character’s inbuilt arrogance and emotional shallowness really shine through.
Master & Apprentice is so far my favourite Star Wars book of 2019, and I absolutely fell in love with its excellent story and powerful character work. Gray takes her readers deep into the Star Wars lore, allowing fans of the franchise to further examine two of the best characters from The Phantom Menace movie. The combination of Jonathan Davis’ exceptional narration and the production company’s perfect use of classic Star Wars music and sound effects resulted in an absolutely fantastic audiobook that comes highly recommended. This is one hell of a book, and I cannot wait to see how the rest of the year’s Star Wars books turn out.