STAR WARS: AHSOKA (8 out of 10) Written by E.K. Johnston; 400 pages; Published by Disney Lucasfilm Press; Released October 11, 2016
This review endeavors to remain spoiler free, but mild spoilers might be present.
The time between the television shows "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" and "Star Wars Rebels" must have been an interesting time for Ahsoka Tano. At the end of "The Clone Wars" we discovered that she had left the Jedi order and she disappears, not to be seen again until she's found by the crew of the Ghost, acting as an agent named Fulcrum, trying to put together what would become the Rebel Alliance.
About a decade and a half passed between the two moments and a lot has changed. Fans like myself have been asking many, many questions about this time period and author E.K. Johnston, with the help of Dave FIloni and Lucasfilm, gave us our first helping of answers with this new book.
The book begins with Ahsoka facing off against Darth Maul on Mandalore. Anakin has given her lightsabers and asked her to deal with Maul as he races back to Coruscant to save the Chancellor. This gives us a firm date: Empire Day is about to happen. Order 66 is inevitable. And then we race forward about a year and see what Ahsoka's life is going to be like during the Dark Times.
Like any Jedi in this era, she becomes embroiled in a good versus evil conflict that she can't possibly ignore. The Empire, of course, plays a heavy hand here, and all the ingredients you might expect are present. From Star Destroyers to Inquisitors, it's all here.
Johnston crafts a deft tale, weaving in and out between past and present. Ahsoka is working through the issues of her purpose in ways that I found completely fascinating. It actually offered a lot of insight, indirectly, for Obi-Wan Kenobi. Kenobi has to put away the lightsaber, but that's in order to protect Luke. Ahsoka has no mandate other than to hide. How does she put a lifetime of training and war away without giving herself up to the Empire?
As for the structure of the book, I only had one small quibble, but it's almost not enough to worry about. At one point, Ahsoka leaves the planet she's been on, leaving behind the people there that she was protecting. And she goes for a while. It felt in the narrative too long for her to have left those people in distress. But that's not enough to take away from what I loved so much about this book.
I loved the characterization of Ahsoka and the tidbits of imagery we got about what must have happened to her, from the Siege of Mandalore and her relationship with Rex, to how she gets her white-bladed sabers and how she hooked up with the Rebellion.
I love how every book we get in this era peels away the layers of how bad things got during Palpatine's reign. There was a particularly striking scene on Ilum that might have been my favorite moment in the book. It's all adding up to show us a picture that I can't wait to see in its entirety. These books and cartoons are the puzzle pieces we have to put together individually to show us a broader picture of a larger universe and that's a game I love.
Another thing I found fascinating about this book was the exploration of sexuality regarding Ahsoka. I think asexuality is something that needs more representation and to see the edges of it explored here were refreshing. Johnston brought a wonderful relationship together with Ahsoka and one of the local girls she's trying to save and every part of this story works for Ahsoka as a character and for her upbringing.
The story is moving, the prose is excellent, and the questions raised are as satisfying as the questions answered. This is a great piece of new fiction focusing on one of my favorite "Star Wars" characters and I would say this book is a must read (or listen!) for any fan of "The Clone Wars."
We're going to have a spoiler-filled discussion of the book and the implications of the book on the Full of Sith podcast in the next couple of weeks (in order to give everyone time to read the book), so be on the lookout for that. This book means a lot for the state of the galaxy, the mythology of the Jedi, and might even play into the Death Star situation. We'll get into that soon enough.
"Star Wars: Ahsoka" comes out October 11. You can buy a copy wherever books are sold or order online now.