How do I review a book? I’ve never really done it before. I’m not going to pretend I know what makes something a critically better piece of writing than something else. So instead I’m going to approach this post and talk about the aspects of Star Wars I always like to get into; how this piece of extracurricular fiction contributes to the wider lore of the franchise and how easily it slots into the greater story.
Master & Apprentice is what is now dubbed as a Canon novel, as opposed to that suitcase of books I have in my spare room that are now referred to as “Legend Novels”. Released in April of 2019 and written by Claudia Gray, Master & Apprentice is a story following Qui-Gon Jinn and a 17 year Obi Wan Kenobi, set eight years prior to The Phantom Menace.
The story deals with the discord between Qui-Gon and Obi Wan, as their divergent personalities and outlooks on operating as Jedi cause a rift between them, one that tests their continued relationship. Qui-Gon is a much more impulsive Jedi, one that has a more roguish approach and “ends justify the means” attitude towards how he does things. This goes against Obi Wan’s much more straight-laced approach to all matters. Much preferring to do things by the book.
It’s a great look into Qui-Gon Jinn’s character throughout this story, a character I’ve always had a big fondness for ever since Episode I. Qui-Gon is someone who has realised what the modern Jedi have become; little more than a police force for the Galactic Senate. What were once a sect of warrior monks, spending time exploring the force and helping those in need, have now become a group who have confused doing the right thing with following the law.
Something that’s far from right when the laws are all being made by power-grabbing politicians. Thus his main story arc in the story begins with the revelation that he is being invited to have a seat on the Jedi Council, an offer Yoda seems hesitant to reach out, despite the rest of the Council being all for it.
Thus Qui Gon finds himself in a position of being able to affect change from the inside, the expense being that he would need to spend more time on Coruscant playing politics and he would have to hand his Padawan over to a new master. The second caveat he seems more uncertain about as he has regret that he is failing Obi Wan as a master.
After that opening, the main story of the novel focuses on the planet of monarchic planet of Pijal, where a revolution is threatening to take place as the Crown Princess is shortly due to be coronated, shortly thereafter signing a treaty essentially handing control of the planet over to Czerka Corporation that would open the previously isolated planet up to galactic trade routes.
Czerka is a company that’s been floating around in the Star Wars lore for a long time, first showing up in the West End Games sourcebook before featuring more heavily, and more famously, in the two Knights of the Old Republic games. I was surprised to see them creep their way into the new canon, as writers tend to air on the side of creating new lore over reusing the older stuff from what I’ve seen.
Czerka, like their older iterations, suck. They operation in a highly dystopian corporate manner and still operate in slave trade, something Qui-Gon takes high exception to. When arriving on the world, we are introduced to Rael Averross; a Jedi Knight and the former student of Dooku. And as a result, an old friend of Qui Gon’s being the student Dooku trained before him, and the one who helped Qui-Gon better deal with the stiff Form II master. Averross is acting as the Lord Regent of Pijal, teaching Crown Princess Fanry before she becomes what is essentially a figurehead monarch.
Averross is even more of an atypical Jedi than Qui-Gon, dressing slovenly, flirting with women and struggling with his emotional connections to others. And yet, despite this, seems as stalwart a Jedi as you may ever find. At least when it comes to his apparent lack of brushes with the dark side whatsoever.
From here, the story jumps between several point of view characters, including the crown princess Fanry and a couple of jewel thieves who act as unlikely allies to the Jedi, who have a personal stake in Czerka’s operations considering one of them is an escaped slave.
I don’t really want to spoil anymore than that, because at the end of the day you might as well be reading the book.
This was a quick read through. One that expands upon Qui-Gon Jinn’s character the most, establishing his obsession with Jedi prophecy and scrolls of prediction. Hence why he is so quick to believe that Anakin Skywalker is the “chosen one” when he encounters him nearly a decade later. It also explains some of the character quirks that Obi Wan was eventually pick up from his former master in the later movies.
While Obi Wan starts out as a big of a rules freak, he eventually comes to see the benefit in how his master operates, something this book implies are things he begins to emulate himself as he becomes a more mature man. The story itself is a fun, swashbuckling adventure that delves into terrorism, revolution, espionage and a group of performance artists getting framed as a militarised hit squad. It’s fun stuff.
And while there generally aren’t that many twists and turns in these kinds of Star Wars books, this one does do a good job of misdirecting your attention a few times to come to a climax that certainly defied my expectations. For the most part though, I enjoyed getting to read this story taking place in a peacetime Republic while giving us some insight into what kind of man Qui-gon Jinn was.
Several chapters even flashing back his time as a Padawan under Dooku, and how that shaped him. Qui-Gon realised the thing about the Jedi Order that I have been quietly thinking to myself throughout my time watching the Clone Wars these past few months; that they’ve lost their way and utterly become pawns of the political power in the galaxy.
It’s funny, we’ve spend so much time seeing the Jedi in all these movies, video games and books. and yet I’m not sure we’ve ever really spent that much time with the idealised version of the Jedi, being the enlightened, peacekeeping forces of good they’re always reported to be. Instead they’re always too busy fighting some war.
Finishing this book just makes me all the more excited for the High Republic series that’s due out some time next year. And Master & Apprentice was a nice little taster for what will eventually come I hope.