With the new films, TV shows and cartoons it is sometimes hard to keep up with the Star Wars Universe and all its moving parts. Some of the less fashionable elements could be ignored in favour of big flashy characters like Han Solo or Boba Fett. Thankfully, the Star Wars books are continuing to explore the entire timeline including the somewhat maligned The Phantom Menace. I am an apologist for this film and particularly liked the relationship between Jedi Knight, Qui-Gon Jinn, and his Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi. There must be numerous great adventures this duo had before Jinn met Maul? Claudia Gray agrees in Master and Apprentice, a novel that explores the relationship before the films began.
Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi are not the best match. Jinn is impulsive and will on occasion bend the rules, whilst Kenobi is a stickler for them. They do not always gel together. This is a problem in most work places, but for a Jedi your life is in the hands of those you fight with. When Jinn in invited to the planet Pijal he takes along his Padawan only to find themselves in the middle of a terrorist plot to overthrow the incumbent Queen. With various methods of investigation on offer, will Jinn’s heart or Kenobi’s head win the day?
If you believe that Star Wars is just action you need to think again. The films are as much about intergalactic politics as they are lightsabre duels. This was no more evident than in Menace as the Emperor worked unbeknownst within the political system. Master continues with this mixture of politics and action, but actually manages to make sure that the fun elements stand out.
It is hard to really glean a whole amount of information from the films about Jinn and Kenobi. This book acts as a great primer for the film as you see how they evolved to become reliant on one another. Kenobi is a teenager at this point and is more impulsive. He is yet to grow into the wise Ben Kenobi of the future. Jinn himself is not much better as he is known for clashing with the Jedi Council. The relationship between the two is almost one of father/son, in which neither really understands the other.
Gray does an impressive job making the friction between the two characters feel real and actually drive the plot. It would have been easy to have a warring master and apprentice in terms of dialogue and simply ignore it when the action starts. However, Gray understands that the relationship between a Jedi and their Padawan is symbiotic. Therefore, a breakdown in communication will affect their efficiency. The opposing styles of the two Jedi here has knock on effects for the plot.
The clash of personalities is only part of this book, but acts as a great way of enriching the sauce. The usual Star Wars action is also on offer too. There are some great set pieces on the alien environment of Pijal including an otherworldly hunt and an epic space battle. Gray is able to create action that you can easily imagine, keeping it clean and not overcomplicating things with technobabble.
The balance between characterisation and action is just about right in Master. Paying service to Qui-Gon Jinn is also great as he is easily a character that could have fallen by the wayside. Star Wars fans will enjoy the book as it feels very much of that universe, even leaning towards The Phantom Menace era in terms of style. Your average science fiction fan can also find some worth within the pages as the relationship between the two leads is well developed and is not reliant on knowing a huge amount of the wider picture.
Written on 16th April 2019 by Sam Tyler.
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