Top Ten Tuesday – The Star Wars Films (Ranked)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  The topic for this week was fictional crushes, which while interesting, is not my cup of tea, so I thought I would continue a recent trend of mine in these lists and turn to once again looking at some of my favourite film franchises.  In recent weeks I have ranked the MCU and the overall DC Comics based film adaptions, both of which proved to be a lot of fun.  This week I figured I would do something in a similar vein, and so I am going to rank a particularly favourite franchise of mine, with the Star Wars films.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has checked out the extensive Star Wars category of my blog that I am a huge fan of this franchise.  I have loved these films since I was a little kid, and I have fond memories of watching the original movies on VHS again and again.  This love of the franchise has only grown in recent years, as I have become even more obsessed with the extended universe surrounding the film franchise, such as the animated series, the tie-in novels, and the associated comics.  Heck, I am literally listening to a Star Wars audiobook at this very moment.  In addition, I, like everyone, really enjoyed The Mandalorian, and it looks like Disney has a huge swath of other live-action shows on the way that should prove to be pretty damn awesome (out of all the new shows, I think I’m most excited for the Obi-Wan Kenobi show, which has a lot of potential).

However, the focus of this list is the films, so I have pulled together all the films into one list and ranked them from my least favourite to my absolute favourite.  There are 11 live action and one animated Star Wars film currently out now (I’m excluding the Holiday Special and the two Ewok movies), and each of them brings something different to the overall franchise.  Due to how much I enjoy the franchise, I initially had a bit of trouble working out how to rank these films, but I was eventually able to sort it out.  It helps that, while I do enjoy all the films on this list, some have flaws that I dislike and focusing on them helped me figure it out.  I realise that some of my choices are going to be a little controversial, especially surrounding a certain polarising 2017 film.  However, I feel that this list accurately reflects my opinions about the franchise, and I am happy with my final choices.  So let us see how the various movies ranked up.

List (Ranked Descending Order):

12. The Clone Wars

The Clone Wars Poster

First on this list we have the only animated feature, The Clone Wars.  Set between the events of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, The Clone Wars film serves as a sequel to the animated Clone Wars micro-series, as well as a pilot episode to the subsequent The Clone Wars animated series.  Directed by The Clone Wars showrunner Dave Filoni, this movie looks at the war-torn Clone Wars period and sets Anakin and Obi-Wan against Count Dooku and his followers as they attempt to extort Jabba the Hutt.  While this film has its cool moments, it is more childish than the rest of the films and it lacks the complexity that the sequel animated series had.  Still, it is a fun entry, and it has the distinction of being the film that introduced the world to Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice who has gone on to become one of the most beloved figures in the canon.  It also introduced a lot of the key characters and voice actors who would later be used in the series, and for that alone it has my appreciation, even if it falls short of the other films.

11. Attack of the Clones

Attack of the Clones Cover

Next, we have the second film in the prequel series, Attack of the ClonesAttack of the Clones is a film that I really enjoyed when I first saw it, however, my opinions on it have radically changed since then.  It does have some great moments to it, including the massive war scene, the battle between droids and the entire Jedi Order, and of course the reveal of how much of a badass Yoda could be.  However, I feel that its negative features really outweigh the positives, with the worst part of the film being that terrible romance between Anakin and Padme.  This entire romance is just wrong, and the scenes focused on them are laughably bad.  Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman have zero chemistry, and it doesn’t help that the dialogue between them is terrible, such as that cringe-inducing monologue about sand.  Also, did we really need to see one of the great film villains reduced to a whiney teenager.  Frankly I tend to fast forward through these scenes, and they kind of ruin the overall movie.  Still, the rest of the film is pretty watchable, and I have fun watching it.

10. The Last the Jedi

The Last Jedi Poster

So here is where the list starts to get a little controversial, and I know some people are going to strongly disagree with my placement of this movie, although I was honestly considering chucking it down to spot 11.  The second film of the sequel trilogy, Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi will go down as the most divisive Star Wars movie of all time, with fans either loving it or hating it.  I find myself being in the camp of those people who hated the film, and I remember walking out the theatre very disappointed.  Don’t get me wrong, The Last Jedi had some great moments, such as that epic Hyperspace move or that cool fight in the throne room, however, that really did not make up for some of the terrible flaws.  Half the story doesn’t make sense, the entire Finn/Rose storyline was terrible and didn’t achieve anything, and everything could have been avoided if Laura Dern’s character learnt to share.  I didn’t dislike the whole Rey and Luke training part of the film, especially as Luke’s negative feelings about the Force made a lot of sense after everything his family has been through, but all that good will left me when they killed Luke and didn’t even tell Mark Hamill it was happening.  Also, why the hell did Benicio del Toro decide his already dreadful character needed to have a lisp, it made no sense.  Look, I could honestly go on about this film for ages, but I’ve made my point, and its place on this list is very well deserved.

9. The Rise of Skywalker

The Rise of Skywalker Poster

Another controversial positioning on this list is the most recent Star Wars film, The Rise of Skywalker.  While many consider it one of the worst Star Wars films ever, I have a bit more love for it, mainly because director J. J. Abrams was hamstrung well in advance not only by the terrible plot of the previous film, but by the tragic death of Carrie Fisher.  This really limited his story options and it forced him to turn in a sub-par Star Wars film.  Despite that, I think he did a decent job, and I have a lot less issues with this film then some of the previous entries on this list.  While the story is a little clanky in places, and it is kind of weird that the first hints of the Emperor’s return were featured in Fortnite of all places, this was still a good movie, and I enjoyed some of the great sequences contained within.  It wraps up several previous storylines extremely well, and the reveal about Rey’s ancestors was very interesting.  While not perfect, I had a good time watching this film, and it is one I will be able to check out multiple times without any issues.  However, I really hope that the next time they do a Star Wars trilogy, they have one director and writing team for all three films, as having Rian Johnson’s effort in the middle really stuffed this final entry around.

8. The Phantom Menace

The Phantom Menace Poster

The film that started the prequel trilogies, The Phantom Menace is a great movie that mostly holds up to this day.  I first saw this film when I was 8, and it remains a firm favourite of mine.  Don’t get me wrong, it does have some flaws, including Jar Jar, the questionable Trade Federation and their more comedic battle droids, as well as the dramatic move from practical effects to computer graphics.  Still, there are a lot of awesome things going on with this film and it did a really good job expanding the Star Wars universe and introducing the younger versions of several key characters.  I also am a big fan of the pod racing, the more impressive lightsaber techniques, and the clever way they switched around Natalie Portman and Keira Knightley to sell the decoy angle.  The highlight of this film is of course the epic final duel between Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Darth Maul.  The moment that Duel of the Fates starts playing and Maul draws out his double-sided lightsaber is epicness personified, and it ended up being one of the best lightsaber duels of all time.  An overall excellent film that I still deeply enjoy watching.

7. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Solo Poster

A standalone prequel film that explores the origins of Han Solo, Solo: A Star Wars Story, is a good middle entry on this list that I had a lot of fun with.  While not as awesome as it could have been, Solo has a great story to it, and it lacks any major flaws for me to really complain about.  While you could consider it a bit of a safe outing from director Ron Howard, I had a blast getting through it.  This film features an amazing cast, including Alden Ehrenreich doing a great young Han Solo, as well as Woody Harrelson and Emilia Clark, although Donald Glover easily steals the show as a younger Lando Calrissian.  While Paul Bettany isn’t the best villain (he apparently replaced Michael K. Williams, which would have been interesting), I thought he was pretty solid, and the cool reveal about Darth Maul was very satisfying for fans of The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels.  I am rather curious about how much better this film could have been with Phil Lord and Christopher Miller directing it, but unfortunately, they fell victim to conflicts with the studio (and Kathleen Kennedy).

6. Revenge of the Sith

Revenge of the Sith Poster

Ok, we are in the second half of this list, and in sixth spot we have the third and final film in the prequel trilogy, Revenge of the Sith.  The culmination of the entire prequel trilogy, there was a lot resting on the shoulders of Revenge of the Sith and it delivered.  While there are some flaws, mostly around Hayden Christensen and his dialogue, the pros of this film more than outweigh the negatives.  That epic opening sequence where the two fleets duke it out above Coruscant really sets the tone for the rest of the film, which is loaded with so much great action.  The corruption of Anakin is well written, and his eventual fall to the dark side of the Force, is amazing.  The sequence where the Jedi are brutally cut down is spectacular, and while you knew it had to happen, it is pretty tragic to behold.  However, it is the final fight sequence that really makes this film stand out as Anakin and Obi-Wan finally have their long-awaited duel.  This epic fight does not disappoint, and it is still easily the best lightsaber duel out there, with the two Jedi going all-out across a lava planet.  An overall epic film, this was easily the best prequel movie and it is still a fantastic watch.

5. The Force Awakens

The Force Awakens Poster

It did not take long after the massive Disney buyout of the Star Wars franchise for them to make a new film, with The Force Awakens.  Helmed by the legendary J. J. Abrams, this great film successfully introduced another era of Star Wars fiction and is a very strong entry in the overall series.  Not only does this The Force Awakens make use of some amazing modern graphics, but it contains a really good story that pays homage to the original trilogy, while also setting up a great new story of its own.  It also brings together the original cast of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hammill (admittedly briefly), and more, for the first time in years, and each of the characters got a fitting addition to their story.  The tragic death of Han Solo, which was long pushed by Harrison Ford, is an amazing scene, even if it broke your heart a little.  The Force Awakens also introduced an excellent new cast, with Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac becoming household names overnight.  Their new characters are set up really well, and you get a fantastic mix of great personalities.  I really loved what they did with this film, if only a fraction of it could have been carried over to The Last Jedi.

4. Return of the Jedi

Return of the Jedi Poster

How do you end one of the biggest trilogies of all time, with a fun and clever action adventure like Return of the Jedi.  Finishing up the original Star Wars trilogy, Return of the Jedi contained an incredible story that not only successfully wraps up the entire trilogy perfectly and gives closure to each of the main characters.  While the introduction of the Ewoks was a bit silly (I did like them as a kid), the consecutive fight between Luke and Vader, as well as the space fight, more than make up for this, and they produce an epic conclusion.  Easily the best way that anyone has ended a Star Wars trilogy, Return of the Jedi is an exceptional film and a major piece of Star Wars history.

3. A New Hope

A New Hope Poster

The film that started it all, the original Star Wars movie, retroactively titled A New Hope, is an epic space opera that sees a ragtag team of heroes take on an evil empire determined to destroy everything before it.  A western, science fiction adaption of the samurai films The Hidden Fortress, this fantastic film has so much going for it, with a great story, an epic musical score, some deeply impressive special effects and a near-perfect cast.  Not only does George Lucas successfully introduce his bold new universe, but he also wrote an outstanding film, which achieved a lot with a relatively small budget.  There are so many incredible elements to this film, including a memorable villain, some excellent graphics (that still really hold up) and a western style that sets the tone for the entire series.  Serving as an inspiration for so many future adventures and stories, we owe a lot to A New Hope, and this near perfect introduction is still one of the best Star Wars films out there.  If only Lucas could have left it alone and stopped with all the re-releases and additional scenes.

2. Rogue One

Rogue One Poster

Second place on this list is taken up by the excellent standalone film Rogue One, one of the best Star Wars films we have seen in a very long time.  Featuring an excellent, if doomed, new cast, Rogue One serves as a prequel adventure to A New Hope, filling in some plot details, particularly around the Death Star.  This movie has an outstanding story to it, with some impressive character development and some of the best Star Wars action out there.  It really does not take long for you to become obsessed with this film, and the dramatic and powerful ending, that takes out the entire principal cast, is just so very amazing.  I love so much about this film, although nothing can quite top the return of a live-action Darth Vader, especially as he goes full beast-mode on some Rebel soldiers.  An absolute highlight of recent films, all future Star Wars entries can learn a lot from Rogue One.

1. The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes Back Poster

I am sure no one will be surprised about which film takes the top spot on my list, as it could only be The Empire Strikes Back.  A sequel to the incredibly popular first Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back had a lot of expectations, and it delivered on all of them.  Not only did it expertly continue the brilliant story from the first film, but it expanded on the universe, continued to develop the characters, and took the narrative in some fantastic directions.  I loved all the cool inclusions in this film, including Lando and Yoda, and I have an extremely hard time thinking of any flaws this film has.  The original graphics are still very impressive, even after all these years, and it contains some of the best acting in the entire franchise.  It also features some massively iconic moments and quotes which populate the cultural zeitgeist even till this day.  This includes one of, if not the most memorable quotes in all of film, occurring during the amazing reveal about Darth Vader’s true identity.  A legendary film, there is nothing better in the entire Star Wars franchise.

That is the end of my list ranking the various Star Wars films.  While I am sure that people will disagree with some of my choices, I think that this accurately reflects my feelings on the entries in this great franchise pretty well.  While I may have been a little harsh with a couple of the above films, I will probably end up watching them again multiple times.  I had a lot of fun bringing this latest list together, although it does not look like I will have the chance to revisit it any time soon, as there is only one movie on the horizon.  Still this upcoming film, Rogue Squadron, which is set for release in December 2023, has some potential and could end up quite high on the next version of this list.  Let us hope that the studio does not stuff it up like it did with some other projects and replace the director/writer halfway through production.  While we wait for the next film to come out, let me know what your favourite Star Wars films are, and if you disagree about my choices, let me know in the comments below.

Throwback Thursday: Star Wars: Dark Disciple by Christie Golden

Star Wars Dark Disciple Cover

Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio (Audiobook – 7 July 2015)

Series: Star Wars

Length: 11 hours and 11 minutes

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed as part of my Throwback Thursday series, where I republish old reviews, review books I have read before or review older books I have only just had a chance to read.

For this week’s Throwback Thursday, I go back and check out an amazing piece of Star Wars fiction with Star Wars: Dark Disciple by tie-in fiction extraordinaire Christie Golden. Dark Disciple is a compelling and intense Star Wars novel that features two fan-favourite characters from the extended universe in a fantastic adventure that is deeply connected with The Clone Wars animated series.

A Jedi shall not know anger. Nor hatred. Nor love!

For years, the galaxy has been locked in one of the most destructive struggles it has ever known, the Clone Wars. Led by the ruthless Sith Lord Count Dooku, the Separatists have engaged in a gruelling and bloody conflict with the Republic that has led to the death of countless innocents. While the guardians of the Republic, the Jedi, have tried in vain to capture Dooku and end the war, their methods appear inadequate to stop him. After a particularly brutal massacre, the Jedi Council do the unthinkable and sanction the assassination of Count Dooku, believing that only his death will bring peace to the galaxy.

To that end, the Council turns to maverick Jedi Master Quinlan Vos. Unpredictable, brash and experienced in undercover work, Vos is the perfect candidate for this dangerous mission. However, this is not a one-man job. In order to track down Dooku, infiltrate his defences and defeat him in battle, Vos is going to need a partner. At the suggestion of Master Yoda, Vos seeks out the one person who knows the Count better than anyone else, Dooku’s former apprentice and assassin, Asajj Ventress.

After losing everything she held dear at the hands of Dooku, Ventress is desperate to leave her past as a Sith behind. But her hatred for Dooku is all-consuming, and she jumps at the chance to finally kill him. However, Ventress believes that Dooku can only be defeated by someone empowered by their emotions and able to access the dark side of the Force. Tutoring Vos in the methods of her race, the Nightsisters, Ventress is able to make Vos stronger and more powerful as he sits on the knife’s edge between the light and the dark side. But this balance is fragile at best, and all it will take is a single push for Vos to fully embrace the darkness. Between the machinations of Dooku, terrible secrets from the past and his growing feelings for Ventress, can Vos remain true to his vows and complete his mission, or have the Jedi have unleashed a great new evil upon the galaxy?

Dark Disciple is an intriguing addition to the Star Wars canon which not only has some major connections to the popular Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series but also contains a cool and at times dramatic story about love, darkness within and redemption. Dark Disciple was actually based on a script for eight unproduced episodes of The Clone Wars that were never made due to the Disney buyout of Star Wars and the subsequent cancellation of the animated show. These episodes were written by The Clone Wars screenwriter Katie Lucas (who provides a foreword for this book) and subsequently adapted into this book by acclaimed science fiction and fantasy author Christie Golden. Golden has authored many tie-in novels for various franchises, and I have previously enjoyed her World of Warcraft novels, including War Crimes (probably my favourite piece of Warcraft fiction) and Before the Storm. While Golden had written a few pieces of Star Wars fiction before this book, Dark Disciple ended up being her first novel in the current canon. In the end, this turned out to be an excellent read and I was really impressed in the way that Golden ended up turning this cool script into a deep and compelling novel.

Seeing as it is based off an unused script for the show, this book obviously has some strong connections to The Clone Wars television show. This book is set a little while after the events of the already aired episodes of The Clone Wars and continues their range of storylines a little further. Not only does Dark Disciple contain several characters whose main appearance was in the animated show, but it also refers to events from several episodes, including episodes that Katie Lucas wrote herself. As a result, Dark Disciple is probably best enjoyed by those readers who are familiar with the show, who will have a greater appreciation of the book’s various story elements. That being said, anyone who has seen the Star Wars prequel movies will be able to easily follow what is going on, and will no doubt enjoy the complex story it contains.

Fair warning to fans of The Clone Wars series, though: you are going to experience some sense of crushing disappointment after reading this. The book itself is pretty damn awesome, but it’s supremely disappointing that the story contained within this novel never featured as the amazing extended arc for the animated series it clearly would have been. While I really loved this novelisation, I cannot help but imagine how emotional and explosive it would have been acted out and animated as part of the show. As I review this book, it is actually less than a month until the release of the seventh and final series of The Clone Wars. While I am deeply excited for this final season, after reading this book I am a little sad as I know that the storyline contained within Dark Disciple is unlikely to be featured in it.

That being said, I really enjoyed the fact that this book focuses on two amazing characters from the animated series, Asajj Ventress and Quinlan Vos. Ventress and Vos are fan-favourite characters who have had significant appearances within the expanded Star Wars universe. Ventress is best known for her role within The Clone Wars universe (first appearing in the original 2003 Clone Wars show), where she first served as a major antagonist, before developing into more of an anti-hero. Ventress ended up being the focus of several major arcs within The Clone Wars series, some of which were written by Katie Lucas. Her success in the animated series saw her utilised in several books and comics set in the same period, although most of these are no longer canon. Vos also has an interesting origin as he was first seen as a background character in The Phantom Menace. Thanks to his cool look and some fan interest, the character was given a fleshed-out origin story as a Jedi and subsequently utilised in several works of expanded fiction. This included books and comics and an appearance in one episode of The Clone Wars. While Ventress and Vos had several interactions in the old Star Wars Legends canon, Dark Disciples is actually the first time that they meet in the current canon. Their whole relationship is a major part of the story, and I liked how it formed and developed throughout the course of the book.

I really enjoyed how Ventress was utilised in this book. Ventress is one of the best original characters in The Clone Wars, and I have always loved the gradual journey to redemption that occurred within her story arc. As a result, a book where she is one of the main characters is deeply intriguing to me and I was excited to see how she continued to evolve after her last appearance in the animated series. There are some major developments for Ventress in this book, and if you ever enjoyed this character in the animated series and wanted to know her ultimate fate than you need to read this book. Personally, I think that this was an amazing continuation to the character arcs that had been featured within the shows, and as I mentioned above, I am disappointed that it was never included as part of The Clone Wars. In adapting the script into this novel, Golden makes sure to really cover the background of this character, so those readers who are unfamiliar with the shows will be able to understand her complex and tragic backstory. I also think that Golden did an amazing job of capturing the complex character that was Ventress in this book, getting past her prickly outer layer to see the more complicated emotional person within. This was a near perfect examination of one of the best Star Wars characters who never appeared in a movie, and after reading this book it will be a shame not to see more of her in any of the planned animated shows.

Perhaps the most compelling part of this book is the complex and gripping central tale about Quinlan Vos’s fall to the dark side of the Force. This was an intrinsic part of the book’s overall plot, as Vos and Ventress both believed that having the easy power obtained by dark side users was the only way to defeat Dooku. This turn to the dark side is spurred on by lies, revelations and intense emotions, and it necessitates some deep dives into Vos and Ventress’s respective psyches, resulting in some dramatic and personal moments from both of these great characters. Watching Vos’s slow decline as he slips further and further away from the light side is painful at times, especially when you just know he is eventually going to turn. Even then, despite realizing it was coming, the point when he fully breaks bad for the first time (yellow eyes included) is pretty powerful, as he lashes out at the only person he has, and will ever, truly love. In many ways, Vos’s fall reflects Anakin’s later turn in Revenge of the Sith, in that he believes learning about the dark side is for the greater good, the Jedi Council pushes him to do something he has moral issues with and his emotional connections to a women push him over the edge. There are also some amazing scenes in the later part of the book where the reader is unsure whether Vos is actually evil or is just pretending to have fallen to fool his foes, which leads to a lot of uncertainty and hostility from the other Jedi and Ventress as they try to work out his plan. Overall, this was an outstanding centre for this book, and the complex web of deceit, deeper examination of how one falls to the dark side and all the drama surrounding this part of novel, was really cool to read.

One of the other parts of the story that I found to be interesting was the depiction of some of the other Jedi in this book. Throughout this story the Jedi, particularly the members of their ruling council, are shown to be walking a bit of a darker path thanks to the impacts of the Clone Wars. While not attempting to learn more about the dark side of the Force, members of the Council are beginning to propose action that they usually wouldn’t consider, such as the assassination of Dooku, or the execution of Vos and Ventress. This is a really intriguing take on their characterisation which plays in well with the future events of Revenge of the Sith, where their boldness in attempting to take over the Republic to protect it or Mace Windu’s attempt to kill Chancellor Palpatine backfires on them. Windu in particular comes across as a bit of an arse in this book, and the rest of the council (with the exception of Yoda and Kenobi) seem like meek followers going along with him. I thought that this aspect of the books was pretty interesting, and it liked seeing some hints of this once wise and noble Jedi Council beginning to act more rashly and dramatically.

Like most of the Star Wars books that I look at for my Throwback Thursday articles, I ended up listening to the audiobook version of Dark Disciple, which was narrated by Marc Thompson and ran for just over 11 hours. I have mentioned several times before about how I find Star Wars audiobooks to be a step above most other audiobook productions I listen to, and Dark Disciple was yet another awesome example of just how cool they can be. This audiobook in particular does an excellent job of utilising the huge range of iconic Star Wars sound effects to create an exciting or appropriate atmosphere for much of the story, and there is nothing cooler than hearing lightsaber or blaster sound effects during a battle sequence. In addition, this format also features some of the incredible and memorable music from the films. John Williams’s epic score from the prequels was on full display in this book, with some of his most awesome pieces being used throughout several scenes to great effect. Nothing amps up an action scene quite as much as having the pulse pumping Duel of the Fates playing in the background, while hearing the mournful composition known as Anakin’s Betrayal playing during the scenes where Vos is turning to the dark side of the Force is a real emotional gut punch that brings back memories of Vader and the Emperor killing all the Jedi. This was actually one of the best utilisations of Star Wars music in an audiobook that I have so far experienced, and I really loved how much it increased my enjoyment of this fantastic audiobook.

In addition to the cool sound effects and dramatic music, the audiobook also benefited from the talented voice work of Marc Thompson. Thompson is a veteran narrator of Star Wars audiobooks, having worked on a huge number of their tie-in books since 2007. I have previously listened to two Star Wars books narrated by Thompson, Thrawn and Scoundrels, and with both of these I was really impressed with the realistic and clever voices that he came up with for some of iconic Star Wars characters. Dark Disciple is another exceptional example of Thompson’s skill, as he was able to reproduce the voices of several of the book’s major characters. Not only does he do an amazing job replicating Ventress’s voice, but he also produced excellent examples of Yoda, Count Dooku and Obi-Wan Kenobi’s voices from The Clone Wars show. This is some first-rate voice work which, when combined with all the extra sound effect and musical inclusions, made Dark Disciples an absolute treat to listen to, and I cannot recommend this format highly enough.

Star Wars: Dark Disciple by Christie Goldie is an outstanding and highly enjoyable piece of Star Wars fiction that I had an amazing time listening to. Featuring a first-rate story that revolves around two amazing characters and their complicated relationship to the force (and each other), Dark Disciple is one of the better Star Wars novels that I have had the pleasure of reading. A perfect tie-in to the amazing The Clone Wars animated series, this book is a must read for all fans of that series, especially before the seventh and final season is released. Dark Disciple comes highly recommend and is a force to be reckoned with.

Throwback Thursday: Star Wars: Ahsoka by E. K. Johnston

Ahsoka Cover.jpg

Publishers: Disney Lucasfilm Press

                        Penguin Random House Audio

Release Date – 11 October 2016

 

Reviewed as part of my Throwback Thursday series, where I republish old reviews, review books I have read before or review older books I have only just had a chance to read.

The apprentice lives.  One of the best Star Wars characters that originated outside of the live-action movies returns in this action-packed, character-driven novel, which follows Ahsoka Tano’s adventures after the destruction of the Jedi Order.

Those people familiar with my previous reviews may have noticed that I am a bit of a Star Wars fan, having reviewed several pieces from the current Disney Star Wars extended universe in the last few months.  Therefore, it should not come as a surprise to anyone that I have watched and enjoyed the Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels animated television shows.  Both of these shows are very well done, can be appreciated by a varied audience and contain a large amount of the classic Star Wars heart and respect for the franchise’s lore and history that was missing in some of the more recent movies.  While many memorable characters were introduced in these shows, perhaps the most significant to the lore is the titular character of this book, Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice.

For those of you failing to remember Anakin having an apprentice in the live-action movies, you are not going crazy; Ahsoka has yet to appear in any live action movie.  She was instead introduced in The Clone Wars animated movie and served as one of the main characters of The Clone Wars television series, all of which take place in the years between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.  Despite being one of the most popular characters on the show, Ahsoka would leave the Jedi Order at the end of the fifth season of The Clone Wars and only appear in the sixth season as part of a short vision sequence.  As a result, fans of the both the show and the character were frustrated and confused about what Ahsoka’s fate was and whether she had survived the events of the third prequel movie.  Fans didn’t get their answer until a couple of years later, at the end of the first season of Star Wars Rebels, where it was revealed that Ahsoka had survived the Jedi purge, becoming a member of the early Rebel Alliance.  Ahsoka, now wielding a pair of white lightsabers, became a key character in the second season of Star Wars Rebels, in which she was still an incredibly cool and powerful warrior.  She was utilised to perfection in this new show and had what is easily the best scene in the entire run of Star Wars Rebels: her long-awaited confrontation with Darth Vader.  The sheer emotion and intensity as Ahsoka finally came face-to-face with her old master and discovered that he was responsible for the fall of the Jedi was just amazing and is one of my favourite moments from all of television.

Following her appearance in Star Wars Rebels, Disney commissioned a young adult Ahsoka book, which was announced on 31 March 2016, one day after the Star Wars Rebels season 2 finale.  This book was released in late 2016 and was written by young adult author and Star Wars fan E. K. Johnston.  Ahsoka was Johnston’s first foray into Star Wars fiction, although she is currently working on Queen’s Shadow, a young adult novel focused on a post The Phantom Menace Padme Amidala, set to be released next year.  I have no doubt that a review for Queen’s Shadow will appear on this website in due time.  Now, with the recent announcement of a seventh season of The Clone Wars and the reveal that Ahsoka will be appearing in this new season, I decided to check out this book to see if it did the character any justice.  I chose to enjoy this as an audiobook, rather than read a physical copy.

During the Clone War, Ahsoka Tano was a fierce warrior and a commander of the Republic’s clone troopers.  However, after the devastation of Emperor Palpatine’s Order 66, which saw the clones turn on the Jedi, everything changed.  Fighting on Mandalore, far away from her master, Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka is unaware of his fall to the dark side of the Force, and only just manages to escape the purge of the Jedi Order.

Now, one year after the fall of the Republic and the rise of the new Galactic Empire, the former Padawan is in hiding on the outskirts of the galaxy, trying to avoid any Imperial attention.  Living under an assumed name and with her trusty dual lightsabres gone, Ahsoka scrapes a living as a mechanic, intentionally distancing herself from the Force in order to hide her Jedi abilities.

Ahsoka journeys to a remote farming settlement on the Outer Rim moon of Raada.  Settling into her new life and making connections with its inhabitants, Ahsoka believes that she has finally found her sanctuary.  But her hopes of a peaceful life in her new home are quickly dashed when the Empire arrives, imposing their totalitarian rule on the people of Raada.  The agricultural potential of the moon is vital to the future of the Empire, and the workers are being forced to farm a new and mysterious plant.  Determined to help her new friends and wanting to make a difference, Ahsoka uses her wartime experience to help form a resistance in order to undermine Imperial control.

But when she is forced to reveal her full powers in order to save her friends, she once again finds herself on the run.  However, this time her actions have not gone unnoticed.  Her old ally, Senator Bail Organa wants her to join his fledgling rebellion, while the sinister Inquisitor, the Sixth Brother, arrives on Raada with plans to capture her, using Ahsoka’s friends as bait.

Because I am a fan of the titular character, I did go into Ahsoka with some rather high expectations.  Luckily I quite enjoyed Ahsoka, powering through this book quickly while appreciating how Ahsoka’s new adventure fit into the existing Star Wars chronology.  This story is very good, with an excellent blend of character development, Star Wars lore and some scintillating action and adventure.  The book contains a well-paced narrative that not only features Ahsoka’s personal story, but also examines the viewpoint of several side characters, in order to move the plot along, while also showing the impacts of Ahsoka’s actions from a different viewpoint.

This book is mainly focused on the adventures of Ahsoka, and fans of the animated show will appreciate seeing how she not only managed to survived the purge of the Jedi, but how she became the hardened rebel agent we encountered in Star Wars Rebels.  I feel that anyone who reads this book will appreciate the considerable amount of character development and insight that occurs with the titular character.  At the start of the book, Ahsoka is afraid, hiding who and what she is from the world while also denying herself access to the Force.  She is filled with regrets, concerns for her missing Jedi family and guilt not just about surviving but also about leaving the Jedi Order before its fall.  Throughout the book, her adventures, the new friendships she develops, the people she helps and the role she plays on Raada all help her to find a new purpose, as well as re-establishing her connection with the Force.

There are a number of great scenes featuring or concerning Ahsoka in this book.  These include her battle with the Sixth Brother, the forging of her new white lightsabres and the epic scene where she unleashes her Force abilities for the first time in a year.  It was also intriguing to see her advising the farmers in guerrilla tactics and helping them sabotage the Imperial occupation.  Fans of Ahsoka will appreciate the similarities this has to one of the character’s most significant arcs from The Clone Wars that featured her training a guerrilla army to combat a Separatist invasion, including a young Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker’s character in Rogue One).  I also enjoyed Johnston’s focus on the connection between Ahsoka and the female character Kaedan Larte.  It was great seeing this character help get Ahsoka out of her shell, and the subtle romantic feelings between the two of them was an interesting character direction for Ahsoka.  Overall, I thought Ahsoka contained an incredible take on its titular character, as Johnston not only provides the reader with a much clearer picture of Ahsoka’s fate following The Clone Wars, but also provides a powerful look at her thoughts and feelings following the destruction of the Jedi.

In addition to exploring the fates of one of their favourite characters, fans of the franchise are also treated to another intriguing look at events in the Star Wars universe not covered in the movies or television shows.  Ahsoka is set one year after the events of Revenge of the Sith, and shows the early days of Imperial control in the galaxy.  There is a palpable and well-utilised feeling of dread throughout the book as the various point-of-view characters encounter the steady increases in Imperial control as their military expands its influence.  It is fascinating to see the early Imperial military machine in action, especially when it comes to controlling and pacifying smaller planets and moons.  One of the most interesting aspects of this is the type of troops being utilised.  By this point in the Star Wars’ chronology, the Empire has started to phase out their clone troopers, replacing them with the human stormtroopers that appear in the original trilogy.  During her encounters with them, Ahsoka notes that these stormtroopers are still quite green and are nowhere near the clones’ level of competency when it comes to battle, controlling territory or dealing with Jedi.  This changeover in troop type for the Empire has not really been covered in too much detail before and is quite fascinating to see.

The exploration of the Empire’s methods of hunting down the remaining Jedi is also intriguing, as one of Vader’s Inquisitors serves as the book’s main antagonist.  The Sixth Brother is shown not only hunting fully trained Jedi like Ahsoka but also tracking down Force-sensitive children for his masters.  The extent of the Inquisitor’s power and influence is explored in some detail here, and I enjoyed seeing Ahsoka’s impression of these Inquisitors’ skills and actions, especially as the Inquisitors were also trained by Darth Vader.  Readers will also note the obligatory hints at the creation of the Death Star throughout the plot of the book, which is an important part of the overall Star Wars chronology.

These early days of the Imperial military is not the only thing covered in the book, as Johnston also explores the opening actions that would lead to the formation of the Rebel Alliance.  Johnston uses minor Star Wars character Bail Organa to great effect here, showing the work he beings immediately after his heroics in Revenge of the Sith to oppose the Emperor.  Ahsoka also features several cameos from other characters in the Star Wars cannon, and readers can look forward to seeing fan favourite characters Darth Maul, Obi-Wan Kenobi, R2D2, a young Princess Leia and the Grand Inquisitor.  This is a compelling and insightful addition to the Star Wars extended universe, and readers will be amazed by this new viewpoint into one of the franchise’s most volatile periods.

As I mentioned above, I chose to listen to the audiobook version of Ahsoka rather than track down a physical copy to read.  This was mainly because the creators of the Ahsoka audiobook managed to score Ashley Eckstein as the narrator.  Eckstein is the actor who voices Ahsoka in both The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, and I loved the idea of having the definitive voice of the character narrate this crucial Ahsoka story to me.  As Ahsoka is the most prominent point-of-view character, this works out incredibly well, and the reader can enjoy hearing Ahsoka tell the story of what is around her.  Eckstein also provides excellent voice work for all the other speaking characters that feature in the book, as each of these characters were given a distinctive voice that does not feel out of place.

While I really enjoyed hearing Eckstein narrate the story, another benefit of listening to Ahsoka on audiobook is the use of the iconic Star Wars music, as well as the book’s cool use of sound effects.  The creators of the Ahsoka audiobook have inserted John Williams’s iconic score from the movies into a variety of the book’s scenes.  While this is slightly distracting in one or two places where the music did not quite fit properly, it works incredibly well for most of the book.  Several of the story’s big scenes, such as the pivotal battle sequence where Ahsoka reveals her Jedi powers for the first time since she went into hiding, are underscored by this music.  With this grand and powerful music playing in the background, these scenes are given a real epic quality that you just do not get from reading a psychical copy of the book.  It also serves to make Ahsoka feel a lot more connected to the movies, as the listeners are provided with a score that is instantly recognisable as belonging to this franchise.  In addition to the spectacular musical inclusions, the audiobook also features a range of relevant sound effects that really add to the book’s atmosphere and authenticity.  These sound effects range from droid noises and the sounds of ships starting up, to background music when the characters hang out in the cantina.  None of these sound effects distracts from the story and for some of the battle scenes, the lightsabers and blasters sounds really add to the reader’s excitement and involvement in the action.  Another thing I found fun while listening to Ahsoka on audiobook was the producer’s use of some sort of voice modulator for when Eckstein narrates the voices of stormtroopers or other characters wearing helmets.  This is a nice touch and really speaks to the producer’s attention to detail.  I am unsure how effective this would have been if Darth Vader had appeared in the book, but I’m sure I would found the end result amusing one way or another.

Clocking in at just over seven hours long, this is an easy book to get through and the inclusion of the classic Star Wars music, fun sounds effects and the definitive voice of the titular character make it an excellent way to experience this fantastic story.

Ahsoka has been written with a young adult audience in mind, and is definitely an enjoyable book for younger readers who are curious about the Star Wars universe, are fans of the animated shows, or are just looking for an exciting adventure in space.  That being said, the book does not pull any punches, and features an extended torture scene and quite a few deaths, including one particularly gruesome kill by the Sixth Brother.  While some of this can be a tad heavy, I personally feel that anyone mature enough to be familiar with the Star Wars franchise is probably going to be mature enough to not be affected by this violence.  Despite being intended for a young adult audience, Ahsoka, like many of the Star Wars young adult range, is definitely a series that can be appreciated by an older audience, especially those familiar with the franchise and the titular character.

Overall, I was very happy that I checked out Ahsoka, as it not only provided greater insight into the history of one of my favourite Star War’s characters but also painted a detailed and intriguing picture about the early days of the Empire.  Featuring a surprisingly deep and emotional story, this is a fantastic addition to the Star Wars extended universe that will appeal to fans of the amazing animated show, while also offering character based adventure to the more casual reader.  Definitely best to check out in the audiobook format, readers will love how this morphs this impressive Star Wars story into a memorable experience that becomes very difficult to turn off.

My Rating:

Four stars

If you enjoy Star Wars fiction, check out some of my previous reviews:

https://unseenlibrary.com/2018/08/12/star-wars-thrawn-alliances-by-timothy-zahn/

https://unseenlibrary.com/2018/05/30/star-wars-last-shot-by-daniel-jose-older/