Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Dark Disciple Or: 10 Things I Hate About Doo...ku
The Taming of the Shrewd
In my opinion, the overarching story is told in three parts; the first of which being the Star Wars version of 10 Things I Hate About You, a movie loosely based on Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew (if you don't know what either of those are, or, public school forbid, you don't know who Shakespeare is, get ye to Google and remedy that forthwith), except instead of the male lead being paid off to get a girl to date, he's tasked with getting her to aide him in assassinating a rival leader...only slightly different. The whole premise of the Jedi Council assigning someone the task of a cold-blooded killing seemed very farfetched, then add in that the plan involves soliciting the help of a former dark side adept under false pretenses and you've got a super big side-eye moment, but it was handled well in that it didn't come across as a flippant decision. I thought the writing of Mace Windu was particularly well done throughout, but especially so when he is quick and unperturbed in calling for more harsh, violent actions than are typically associated with the Jedi. It lines up well with the matter of fact way he lopped off Jango Fett's head, and how he decided Palpatine was "too dangerous to be left alive." So, the plot is set, and the far, far away R-rated rom-com begins.
This part of the story remained mostly lighthearted and fun, despite the violence involved in bounty hunting and the ominous end goal. I will say it started to drag a little in places and the romance was, I wouldn't say forced, exactly, but obvious, maybe? Definitely a little cabin fever-ish what with them being stuck together all the time (though, as I mentioned, I had no vested interest in these characters to start with, and was only starting to care about them at this point, so that might have been part of it too). I understand that a bond had to be developed, or, when the inevitable cat got out of the bag that Vos was a Jedi, Ventress would just leave without second thought, and, on the other side of the coin, when Ventress edged Vos into the dark side he would have fully resisted, but I was definitely ready for a shift when the happy-go-lucky duo went from bounty hunting to focusing on the ultimate task at hand, assassinating Dooku.
One of my favorite subsections of the book is the time spent training on Dathomir. I've loved the planet since back in the old EU days because of the rancors, so it was nice to spend some time there (albeit rancor-less time). Having more light shed on Nightsister culture was very interesting, with the Sleeper definitely being the highlight. I was always kind of "meh" about the whole idea of Nightsister "magicks," but I can reconcile it better in my "head canon," as they say, now that I know that the source of said "magick" was pulled from the life force or Living Force of an ancient creature and not just conjured out of thin (or somewhat thick, green) air. Ventress's insistence on Vos indulging heavily in the dark side did come off as unnecessary, and, unlike the romance, did feel forced. I think he'd reached the right balance when he called and commanded the Sleeper, insisting that he kill it seemed more like something Dooku would have him do rather than a supposedly reformed dark sider. Granted, I get that she was trying to make him as "strong" as possible, and the dark side is what she knows as strength, but I feel like she would have a chip on her shoulder about the kind of pushing she had to deal with from Dooku and wouldn't want to then inflict that on someone else...but I guess, in the end, you go with what you know...
When the loves birds finally got around to facing their target, I was both excited and confused. I was sure a compelling scenario would take place, but I was also sure that they were going to ultimately lose...that's pretty straitlaced and easy to follow, the confusing part was in looking at how much book was still left...what were they going to do, fail several times? Fail once and say "oh well" and really delve into the dark side by making this a full-on romance novel? Most of the potential storylines I quickly concocted in my head made me drop my shoulders and roll my eyes (which is probably why I never made it as a writer), but it also certainly encouraged me to keep reading to find out just how this tale was going to end.
Quintessential Clone Wars
Alright, so we made it through the mildly predictable, rom-com portion of the book and now Vos is captured by Dooku, Ventress's big lie is being exposed, and she's reaching out to Boba Fett for his syndicate's help in a rescue mission. I think of this section as the second of the three parts, and it's hands down my favorite section as it reminded me vividly of a Clone Wars episode. Now, I'd be lying if I said I hadn't been visualizing everything as if it were animated from the get-go, but this section just leaped off the page and into my mind's eye so perfectly that I almost feel like I watched it rather than read it. Also, I'm a big fan of Embo, so having him sprinkled in with the rest of the bounty hunter crew was a nice surprise. What wasn't surprising was Vos's reaction to being "rescued" after having to feel what his Master went through at the hands of his rescuer. Vos turning on Ventress and not just putting it all aside was the obvious, and, really, only way the story could feasibly and believably go at that point. The damage was done and was too severe to be resolved in the small window given for the rescue. So, with Vos now aligned with Dooku and Ventress broken, the conclusive third act of the story begins.
First Ventress thinks Vos has gone completely dark and they Jedi disagree, then he manages to convince Ventress that he's back to normal but the Jedi become wary...it's a little wishy washy and probably one of the more humdrum parts of the book, but it's also obvious Vos is up to something because, again, there was too much book left for it to end with him being his old self with a secret girlfriend on the side - that would be following in Anakin's footsteps, essentially, but, instead, Vos is, as I'm calling him, the "Anti-Anakin," he makes his plan to be with Ventress and sacrifices everything, including being a Jedi, to be with the woman he loves. But, also opposite of Anakin, Vos ends up being saved, literally and "spiritually," by Ventress sacrificing herself at the end, where, and this is only my opinion, but I've always taken to the notion that Padme doesn't "die of a broken heart" at the end of Revenge of the Sith, she dies from Anakin using their bond in the Force to feed off of her Living Force to keep himself alive, with the unfortunate side-effect of her being killed in the process (when he's reborn in the iconic black suit and asks about Padme, Palpatine says "you killed her" but Vader responds "She was alive! I felt it!" - I think he felt her being alive and unbeknownst even to him was using that feeling to keep himself alive, otherwise he would have been dead several times over). So, yeah, short version, Vos gets saved by his lover and turns back to the light instead of killing his lover and turning completely (until Return of the Jedi) dark...he's the Anti-Anakin...
Overall, like I said early on, I enjoyed the book very much. It didn't turn out exactly like I thought it might (I thought Vos and Ventress were both goners) and it had a very, very heavy Clone Wars vibe (especially the rescue section) that made it easy to get into. I think I'd give Dark Disciple a solid tie for second with Tarkin, right behind A New Dawn, in my new canon novel ranking. So, if you're on the fence about the new EU but you're a big Clone Wars fan, I'd say this is a must-read to flesh out your Clone Wars experience, and, well, who am I kidding, if you're into Star Wars enough to read this blog and you aren't up to date on all the new canon material out there shame on you, go get busy! Read it all, in any order, and at your own pace, and, however that may be, may the Force be with you...