Master & Apprentice: Novel Review
Claudia Gray has quickly risen to the top in regards to Star Wars fiction. I would say she's held a position no Star Wars author has held since Timothy Zahn. Every novel she writes seems to prove how strong her understanding of Star Wars is. Her next project in the Star Wars universe is an Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon novel called Master and Apprentice.
The book takes place prior to all the prequel movies, and I'm pretty sure its the first Star Wars novel to do so since the start of new canon. Obi-Wan Kenobi is a 17 year old padawan of Qui-Gon Jinn, and the pair are a bit of a mismatch. To the point where they never really truly understand each other. Qui-Gon is offered a position on the Jedi Council, which would mean that Obi-Wan would have to continue his training under another master. During the time Qui-Gon considers the offer he and Obi-Wan are sent to the planet Pijal that is being attacked by terrorists and the young princess has been threatened. The princess is protected by a Jedi friend from Qui-Gon's past, so he chooses Qui-Gon and his apprentice to help him get to the bottom of this plot.
Claudia Gray is already fairly familiar with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan because of the small short story she wrote for From a Certain Point of View. She has a very good grasp on both characters and is very aware of what makes them different. In a lot of ways Obi-Wan is a prototypical Jedi. He seems to follow the code very closely, but Qui-Gon will bend the rules if he needs to in order to do what he thinks is right. Both of them obviously care for each other, but are uncertain that their partnership is what is best for both of them. Qui-Gon is still very confident in Obi-Wan's ability at the time of The Phantom Menace and of course, his final request is that he trains Anakin Skywalker.
Gray has also proven to be fairly effective with her own original characters. Ransolm Casterfo from Bloodline is probably my all time favorite original canon character right now and she introduces a few new characters that could become immediate favorites. The most prominent is probably Rael Aveross. Like Qui-Gon, Rael is a former apprentice of Count Dooku, who has a dark past with the Jedi order.
Count Dooku is a character that makes a big impact on this story although he mostly appears in flashbacks. At this point in the timeline Dooku has left the order, but is a few years away from appearing again as a Sith. With Dooku serving as the master to both Qui-Gon and Rael he has shaped both of those Jedi, but they both took two very different directions as Jedi. Qui-Gon especially continues to be influenced by his time as Dooku's padawan. There is still lots of mystery surrounding Rael, so I really hope more is coming with him, maybe as soon as Dooku: Jedi Lost.
Also among the story are two other likeable new characters. Rahara and Pax. Rahara is a former slave with a grudge against all who still allow slavery and Pax is one of the more quirky and original characters I've seen in a while. He's a young man who was raised by protocol droids while they were stranded on a ship. So Pax talks very much like a protocol droid, and he's very well written. His upbringing has effected his social skills severely.
I would say that the plot of the book is actually rather complicated and in the hands of lesser author it may have been a mess, but Claudia Gray is able to tie it all together and offer some shifts when needed. There are a lot of characters in the book, and they represent plenty of different groups, but still this is very much Qui-Gon's story and while I was already a huge fan of that character this book only took that love further. It almost makes you curious if Qui-Gon may have been able to keep Anakin Skywalker from turning to the dark side if he had not died at the end of The Phantom Menace. The book shows the Jedi at the peak of their power and Qui-Gon seems to be the only one aware that they are starting to lose their way. Obviously, we know that conflict with the Sith is on its way. Qui-Gon's character at this time is acutally quite loyal to the Qui-Gon we meet in The Phantom Menace, but Obi-Wan is actually much different. Its interesting to see Obi-Wan as a young man is very unsure of himself and doesn't always feel like he can be on the same page as his master. As he gets older Obi-Wan is always quite confident, so this shows him at a much different stage of his development as a Jedi.
Gray uses this book to tell us a lot about the Force, as well as the prophesies of the Jedi. As far as I know its the first time that the groundwork has been laid in new canon. While Qui-Gon and Obi Wan are still a few years away from meeting Anakin Skywalker it seems that his presence in the story is somehow felt. These prophesies may also give some hints into some of the conflicts that are going on in the sequel trilogy, although Kylo Ren and Rey's conflict is decades away.
Who actually is behind the terrorist attacks remains hidden until pretty much the end of the book. Gray offers some twists along the way and it makes for a really shocking final moments. It seems like the blame shifts several times over the course of the book until finally everything comes out. The planet Pijal has a corporation heavily involved in its operation called Czerka, and there are plenty of debates on whether their intentions are good or bad.
There is a lot more than can be said about this book, but its probably in my best interest to close it off here and avoid spoilers. At this point I'd say Master & Apprentice is one of the strongest canon novels out there, and another very welcome work by Claudia Gray. I would even say that this book is possibly her most complex yet, but also one of the most rewarding reads for Star Wars fans. It gets a big recommend from me.