The Star Wars universe is huge. Films, radio dramas, multiple television series, novels, comic books, prequels, sequels (and this December an in-between story — Rogue One: A Star Wars Story)—these all make up a rich mythology that tell the story of a galaxy filled with magic and characters and technology that have inspired generations. At one point in the not-too-distant past, it was possible to enjoy the films without having to digest the other varieties of Star Wars properties, but beginning with Phantom Menace in 1999, some of the Expanded Universe character began to seep into the films (Aurra Sing? Quinlan Voss? Aayla Secura?).
I suppose that one could ignore them and still find the movies as entertaining as ever, but to understand and appreciate the characters, one must dive into the full world of Star Wars. And the best place for one to begin this journey is the new Star Wars novel Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston— out now from Disney-Lucasfilm Press).
Ahsoka Tano was a Padawan to famed Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker. After a series of events during her time in the Clone Wars left her confused and disenchanted with the way of the Jedi, she left the order and set out on her own in the galaxy. These adventures were detailed in the very well done animated series The Clone Wars, which took place between the events of films Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Soon thereafter, a new animated series, Star Wars: Rebels was released, and we find ourselves encountering Ahsoka once again (I won’t say how in case you haven’t had the chance to see this very good series). The novel Ahsoka bridges the gap between these two series, and does a fantastic job of uniting the film franchises with expanded universe characters and plot lines.
When we join Ahsoka, she has been living in secret as Ashla. Careful to avoid Imperial entanglements, she is working as a mechanic for a family that runs a freighter business. Like her maturing montrals (the bumps or horns on top of a Togruta’s head), Ahsoka is growing. Despite her overriding desire for self-preservation, she has a difficult time seeing others suffer and does what she can to help, though she is unable to help fully; to avoid being destroyed she must hide her true nature of Jedi, or near-Jedi. Order 66 left the galaxy free of Jedi, or at least free from the Jedi Order. Any Jedi that may exist are in hiding, as they are being hunted down by the Empire, who are either killing the Jedi, or twisting the powers of any Force-sensitive children to the sick will of the Emperor. As she learns, just because she walked away from the Jedi Order does not mean that she will ever be entirely free from her connection to the Force.
Having to pull up and run again, she lands on the agricultural moon Raada where she sets up shop as a mechanic, repairing farming equipment for locals and trying to stay as unattached as possible. But the Empire needs food, and Raada fits their profile, so Ahsoka’s planned detachment is put to the test. Should she stay and fight with local armies against the Empire, risking her true nature as a student of the Force? Or let them fight their battles and preserve her own life? It doesn’t seem to matter when or where Ahsoka runs, the Empire stands heavy over all that happens in the galaxy. No place is out of the reach of the Emperor’s cold grasp.
Ahsoka builds off of some of Star Wars’ common themes. One of these is the importance of teams and alliances, joining them and choosing the right ones. These groups seem can come from anywhere and the most enjoyable stories come from the least likely of connections. Another theme is that a common character can unite many to do great things. Luke did it in Star Wars: A New Hope. In this book, Tano not only brings many together to fight the common good, but her novel also seems to band together all of the Star Wars properties into one great line of continuity. Her connection to Anakin and Obi Wan from the Clone Wars, her role in Rebels, and now the events that unfold in her solo novel act as a unifying force between film, television, novels and comic books. Not an easy task to accomplish, but one that Johnston does well.
It was no surprise that I should enjoy the book. Johnston’s writing flows easily, even during times of exposition and description. I noticed that from the first page, she drew me into the Star Wars universe very quickly. She includes all of the cues that a reader would need in order to know that they are in the world of Star Wars—an intro/flashback that puts you at Ahsoka’s side as she battled Darth Maul, the Force, the Jedi Order, distaste for the Empire—these are all invoked early and allow the mind and spirit to happily return to a galaxy far, far away.
(A word on content: this is by no means a kid’s book. There are brutal battles and violence that help to establish the seriousness of the threat facing the people of Raada and Ashoka. Some would see the female protagonist as a way to introduce Star Wars to a younger generation, but this female Togruta is ready and willing to fight, as is her adversary, who pulls no punches as he tries to lure Ahsoka out from hiding. You’ve been warned—the violence depicted in this story is every bit as grown up as it can get.)
I hope that this isn’t the last we hear from Ahsoka Tano. Her adventures are sure to keep many a Star Wars fan dreaming of lightsabers and lightspeed for years to come. If you are looking for a way to pass the months until Rogue One, or just eager to continue learning about the Jedi, pick up Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston, available everywhere now.