Retro Reviews: ‘Dark Disciple’ by Christie Golden

June 23, 2020 at 10:42 am | Posted in Books, Del Rey, Random House, Reviews, Star Wars, Star Wars Books | Leave a comment
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Dark Disciple by Christie Golden is the first novel in the canon to utilize unproduced scripts from The Clone Wars television series, originally written by Dave Filoni, Matt Michnovetz, and Katie Lucas. It was released in July of 2015.

The first thing I have to say is that Christie Golden did exactly what any novelizer should do. She added information and beats to the story to make it flow better, but kept true to the facts and spirit of the original story. She made something made for kids television translate into a novel for adults. That would be a daunting enough challenge, even if it wasn’t a Star Wars property, and yet Christie Golden met that challenge head on and did a great job.

The best part of this story, in my opinion, is the way Golden nails the voices of the characters. Any time an author has to deal with a tie-in property, they have to make sure that all the characters’ dialogue sounds like it’s something that the characters would say. Golden not only nails Ventress and Voss, but she also does a great job with Dooku, Yoda, Windu, and most impressively, Kenobi. I could perfectly picture all of the actors from The Clone Wars series saying all of these lines. This is partially because Golden has a background in theater, which puts a heavy emphasis on dialogue. Golden focuses that strength here and really makes this book stand out among its fellow canon counterparts. The only quibble I’d give about the voice of the character is that some of Anakin’s lines felt a little off. His tone was always consistent, it just felt like he might have had a little different dialogue if anyone else was writing him. As I said, it’s a minor quibble.

One thing about this book that I found interesting was it’s pacing. The book averages about seven pages a chapter, and that makes the story go by really quickly. It really does feel like scenes (or “acts”) of television. Every 4 or 5 chapters really felt like it could be an episode of television (and in a way, it was). As a result of this pacing, I never got bored with the storyline, because there were so many twists and turns that I was on the edge of my seat. The plot changed from an assassination story to a rescue to a heist story to an assassination story and so on that while the characters grew, the plot continued to be strong, which is something that some canon books have struggled with.

Regarding the writing style, I found that Christie Golden is quite the funny writer. Her other canon novel, Battlefront II: Inferno Squad, is a much more serious piece, and I forgot how much humor she can inject into her stories. Not only did Voss have a lot of funny one liners, but Anakin got quite a few zingers in, and even Kenobi had a few lines that made me chuckle. It helped distract the reader from the breakneck pace and the serious topic of the story.

Ventress was a well written and fleshed out character in this book (obviously). She had such an enormous character arc that I was quite impressed with her. She already had probably the biggest arc in The Clone Wars series, and yet Golden (and the original show writers) were able to make her have another complete arc here. I didn’t entirely buy the idea that she’d so quickly pair up with Voss on bounty hunting, let alone fall in love with him and agree to hunt down Dooku. However, as that is the whole premise of the book, I accepted it and she surprised me throughout her story. I really felt bad for her at several points in the story. I was even cheering for her and Voss at the end, even though I knew what would happen. Her story conclusion is still one of the best character endings for The Clone Wars (yes, even better than Ahsoka’s in my opinion) and I’m so thankful we were able to get it.

Voss was quite an interesting character, as I didn’t particularly love him in the one episode of Clone Wars that we got him in. However, Golden was able to deftly write him in such a way that I felt like I already knew him well. Throughout the story, particularly in the second half, I really didn’t know his endgame. I was shocked so much by his character that every single time I thought I had him figured out, I didn’t. He was an “enigma” at times. Golden kept me on my toes, which is something you like in mystery heavy stories. His ending was also well done and I would not mind getting more projects about his life in the future.

The standout of this book in my opinion was Christie Golden’s writing of Kenobi. He really felt like the anchor of the story. While Voss and Ventress were the A-plot, Kenobi was the readers way of understanding what’s happening “back on the ranch”. His compassion and firm belief that the Jedi were wrong in this book is some of the best character work for him in the canon. I was so pleased by him, especially in this reread, knowing how much he holds to his convictions. His occasional instances of going against the council reminded me of his master, Qui-Gon Jinn, at times. 

One side note I have is that there are so many references and cameos and easter eggs to other Clone Wars planets, characters, and events that I just squealed with delight. Obviously this was supposed to be a part of the Clone Wars show, but even in novelized form it really connects well. I particularly liked the inclusion of Boba Fett (and company), Christophsis, and the references to General Krell. 

Overall, Christie Golden turned in a fantastic book about wonderful characters. The characterization, plot, voice, and tone of the book was spot on. With only minor problems, Golden made me appreciate all the longform storytelling of The Clone Wars even more, which is the entire goal of media tie-in fiction. At that, she passed with flying colors. Dark Disciple gets a 4.5 out of 5! Great work Golden!

My next review will be Aftermath by Chuck Wendig. I’m sure it’ll be exciting and not full of controversy at all.

Written by Jonathan Koan

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