This week we’re taking a break from our usual reviews to bring you an exciting new feature on RandomChatter.com, a round-table review of the latest Star Wars Novel, Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston. Last night I sat down for a virtual discussion with Derek, Keri and Jared and we shared our thoughts about the story, the characterisation, and more.
(Q) Alright Derek, let’s get things started with you. What are your feelings towards Ahsoka as a character, and what were your expectations going into this book?
(Derek) Ahsoka didn’t make the greatest impression in her first appearance, but by the end of the Clone Wars she had become one of my all time favourite SW characters. I was delighted at her eventual inclusion into Rebels and I’ve been dying to see the story of her missing 20 years told. So I had some pretty high expectations for this book to explain how she went from leaving the Jedi Order to being Fulcrum in the Rebellion.
Star Wars sometimes has a lack of positive female role models, and Ahsoka definitely became that, particularly for younger girls.
(Keri) I thought Ahsoka was really annoying when she was first introduced. But as Clone Wars went on, she really grew on me, to the point where her leaving the Jedi Order was one of the more aggravating aspects of losing the series (the Clone Wars).
When the rumours started circling that she would be coming back, for Rebels, I was interested, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. So to have her come back and be even more of a bad ass was just.. cool!
As far as my expectations for the book. They weren’t high. I was hoping for some questions to be answered, such as where she’s been since Clone Wars ended. But I wasn’t expecting too much detail. Especially once I got my hands on the book and realised that it was relatively short.
(Jared) I started Clone Wars after if had been cancelled so I already knew Ahsoka’s story before I had “met” her. With a lot of hype on who she was it took me a while to warm up to her but once I did she quickly became one of my favourites to watch.
She took aspects of both Anakin and Obi-Wan and made them her own. I was definitely sad when I made it to the end of the Clone Wars and didn’t know where her story went. Rebels took Ahsoka and made her even more amazing. I love the fact she’s a force user who doesn’t call herself a Jedi. It’s something we’ve not seen a lot of in Star Wars.
I was hoping for “Ahsoka” to give me the start of her journey in becoming the person she was in Rebels. It did not disappoint.
(Zachary) Like Jared, I watched Clone Wars post cancellation, but I didn’t know her arc going into it. I grew to love her as the show went on, and was really emotional when she left. Her return in Rebels was great, and her exit even better.
I was expecting this book to be a multi-year story about her life after the Jedi order, leading up to the time near Rebels.
(Q) Jared has already touched on this, but after reading the book, what are your thoughts? Did you enjoy it, did it live up to your expectations?
(Derek) I definitely enjoyed the book, but I was disappointed the story wasn’t bigger and covered more plot. My greatest fear was that this novel would just be another “Kenobi”, ie. an exiled Jedi in hiding trying to lay low and inevitably getting drawn into helping some people on some unremarkable planet. And in some ways, that’s what this story is, though there are certainly larger elements sprinkled in as well. And there were certainly some twists in the second half of the story that really elevated the material beyond what I was expecting at that point. I just wish we’d learned more of her missing 20 years.
(Keri) I had hoped that the book would be a little longer, but otherwise it exceeded my expectations. I think my only complaint was that I would have wanted more than we got, but I really enjoyed it, otherwise.
(Jared) The book definitely lived up to my expectations. I wasn’t expecting a huge story arc. I’m glad it didn’t expand up until Rebels, I’m hoping we can get more of her story in more books or comics.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book as well. I thought it did an amazing job of transitioning the Ahoska we knew in Clone Wars to the one we know in Rebels
(Zachary) I very much enjoyed this book, but like Derek the story was on a much smaller scale than I’d hoped for. I thought that it handled Ahsoka finding her way very well, with her constantly comparing her actions to Obi-Wan and Anakin’s. Like Jared mentioned, she blends their characters, and this book really covers the point in her life where she finds out what being “Ahsoka” really means. It gave us just enough glimpses into the larger universe to keep me satisfied. The ending was a little rushed for my tastes though.
(Q)Was there a particular scene that jumped out at you? Why?
(Derek) The opening prologue during the Siege of Mandalore was definitely an attention grabber, suggesting we would be getting some big answers after all. Sadly it was just a brief tease. Aside from that, the most interesting aspects were the guest-starring characters who I won’t spoil, showing us the larger picture of where the world is going at that point in time.
(Keri) The prologue on Mandalore and the interlude that followed. I loved those little tidbits we got between her and Maul and her and Rex. They added layers to this last season of Rebels and I love that.
(Jared) The opening was amazing as Derek said. And as Keri mentioned it added many layers to Rebels last season especially the reunion between Ahoska/Rex which became much more emotional for me.
(Zachary) Unlike Derek, I’ll just jump out and spoil it. I loved the scene where Bail first showed up. Seeing him balancing the needs of the rebellion and the needs of his family were wonderful, and it helped show that even though the Galaxy got an injection of hope in Luke, the torch was always lit by people like Bail.
(Q) Did you feel the characterisation of Ahsoka was consistent with both Clone Wars and Rebels? Did you come to appreciate Ahsoka more, or less as a character?
(Derek) They definitely nailed Ahsoka’s character, and did a great job showing the progression from the teenager we saw in “The Wrong Jedi” to the experienced woman we meet again in “Fire Across the Galaxy”. I already feel a deep connection with Ahsoka and this book really explored her inner thoughts in a way we’ve never seen before.
(Keri) Oh yes! Definitely!! I loved watching her trying to figure out her place in the galaxy now. Adding what this book gives us to what we saw of her, in Rebels, I do appreciate her more. Especially knowing how much she tried to do by herself, before (since Zachary has already spoiled it) Bail steps in and points out that she can’t save the galaxy on her own.
(Jared) I came to appreciate her even more. In the book medium we are able to look deep inside her mind and learn much more about her. I love learning how she is dealing with no longer being a Jedi and also dealing with knowing she may be the only experienced force user alive anymore. I think the book did an amazing job living up to the name Ahsoka.
(Zachary) I too felt like the characterisation was spot on. It expanded on her character, by letting us see what she thinks and feels, but it always felt consistent. It helped me see how unsure she was of herself, which made her even more likeable.
(Q)Do you think you will ever reread this book? Where would you rank it in terms of the new Canon novels we’ve got so far?
(Derek) Oh I eventually reread every Star Wars book no matter how bad it is. I would rank this below Dark Disciple and Bloodline, placing it third. It just wasn’t big and important enough to take the top spot. Too much of the story was too small. But it was definitely a fun read.
(Keri) This is a book I can see myself rereading. Or, at the very least, flipping through, to refresh my memory. I’m not entirely sure where I would rank it among the new canon books. I want to say that it’s definitely in my top 5 or 10, but I haven’t gotten to enough of the books yet, to really have a top 5, let alone 10.
(Jared) I can definitely see myself rereading this book on the future. Out of the new canon novels I would say it’s in my top 5 and quite possibly in my top 3.
(Zachary) Yes I’ll likely reread it. It was a quick read, and I had a lot of fun with it. It wasn’t my favourite of the new Canon. Much like Derek, Dark Disciple takes that cake because I love Ventress’ story arc in Clone Wars, but since it was a continuation of Clone Wars stories,and led into Rebels so well, it’s not far behind.
(Q) What was your favourite quote from the book?
“In my position it’s difficult to trust someone who employes a tractor beam before a hello.”
“The Force felt different now, and Ahsoka wasn’t sure how much of the difference was her. By walking away from the Temple, from the Jedi, she had given up her right to the Force—or at least that’s what she told herself sometimes. She knew it was a lie. The Force was always going to be a part of her, whether she was trained or not, the way it was part of everything. She couldn’t remove the parts of her that were sensitive to it any more than she could breathe on the wrong side of an airlock. Her authority was gone; her power remained.”
“Ahsoka watched. Ahsoka waited. Ahsoka was not afraid.”
(Q) People talk about what Character will be the next to get the James Luceno treatment, given his awesome work on Plageuis in the old Legends, and Tarkin in the new Canon. Who would you like to see be the next character to get the E.K Johnston treatment, and why?
(Derek) I would love to see a second Ahsoka novel showing what she did after the ending of this one. As I’ve said I didn’t get nearly as many answers as I wanted, and this one ends in a big place for the character where I would love to see what comes next. And that could be a story that gives us some big answers about the 20 years between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. I can’t think of another character that could be more interesting, unless you did a day in the life of Darth Sidious book that really gets into his thoughts and shows what it’s like to rule the Empire day to day, and deal with that big ole whiner Vader.
(Keri) THRAWN!! Nevermind, we’re getting that one. Oh…. That’s a tough one. I would like to see either a novel (or maybe a short story) about what happened to Rex, after he left Mandalore. Or maybe a story about Hera, pre-A New Dawn. Or, even as Derek suggested, a sequel to Ahsoka.
(Jared) I would like to see her go to the Dark Side and give us a glimpse into where Maul has been beteeen Clone Wars and Rebels.
(Zachary) Yes! No one took mine. I’d love to see a character like Sabine get the same treatment. Give us another Small scale story, this time about her time in the Imperial Academy and I’m sold. That or Star Wars: Darklighter, telling Biggs story post Tatooine, but pre-A New Hope
(Keri) Oh those are good ones!
(Zachary) Well in fairness I’m the only one who knew the questions before hand.
(Q) Any final thoughts before we wrap things up?
(Derek) The second half of the book was a LOT more interesting than the first half. There’s an event that happens halfway through that really elevates the material into something a lot more interesting. I really enjoyed seeing how everywhere Ahsoka went she inspired people, particularly young girls. I took as a commentary on the effect the character has had on young female fandom in the real world. I will also say this story had a villain problem, in that it didn’t have any particularly interesting or powerful ones. Ahsoka was never in any personal danger from any opponent she faced, which can be death for drama. I’d also like to add that while technically a “young adult” novel, this is definitely just as violent and dark as anything you’ll see in Star Wars, right down to graphic murder and torture.
(Keri) As I said, I enjoyed this book more than I expected to. Which isn’t to say I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it, but it was definitely much better than I was hoping for. It did leave me with some questions that I would like to see answered someday, such as what happens to the Fardi children and if Ahsoka ever finds out about Obi-Wan and/or Yoda. But those are rabbit holes that my brain can wander down, until someone tells us what happened.
I loved watching Ahsoka try to figure out how to be on her own and coming to the realizaton that she’s just not meant to be. I loved watching her figure out her place in the galaxy and with the Force.
(Jared) Overall I think it was a solid book. As Keri said it does leave some things I’d like to see answered. But overall it was my type of Star Wars book.
(Zachary) Even though it was a smaller story than I’d have hoped for I really like this book. When it opened up in the second half we actually got a lot of information about the Galaxy and it’s state during The Dark Times. I really wish the ending conflict had been a little more epic in scope, because it wrapped too quickly for me. I look forward to reading whatever other novels Johnston does in SW, and will even read her other works in time