Star Wars: Master & Apprentice is a new book written by Claudia Gray. It features Qui-Gon Jinn and his relatively recently appointed Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi. As you’ve probably guessed, it takes place before Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.
I looked forward to reading this book for two reasons. The first is that Qui-Gon Jinn is a fairly enigmatic figure in the Star Wars mythology. I haven’t seen much of him in other books, graphic novels, cartoons, or movies. I felt excited not only to learn more about him as a person, but to also examine his dynamic with Obi-Wan Kenobi.
The second reason is that I enjoy Cladia Gray’s Star Wars voice. Her novel, Star Wars: Lost Stars, remains one of my all-time favorite Star Wars stories due not only to its unique characters but also because it connects seamlessly to major Star Wars events. True, I didn’t find her two Princess Leia books as engaging, but I hoped Master & Apprentice would recapture the magic of Lost Stars.
Unfortunately, Master & Apprentice suffered the same fate as those other two Star Wars books featuring Princess Leia in that it gets far too bogged down in political complexities without any actual character growth or revelations occurring.
It started off on a good note. Several references were made to Count Dooku which led us to believe he could make an appearance in this novel, especially because Dooku trained both Qui-Gon and a newly revealed Jedi named Rael Averross. Rael is older than Qui-Gon, so it’s initially interesting to see that new side of Master Jinn. There are also ample teases that Darth Maul could be working from the shadows. This would make perfect sense as he’s later revealed to be the Phantom Menace.
Furthermore, early on in the book, Qui-Gon is invited to join the Jedi Council, which would mean he would have to relinquish his role as teacher to Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan feels betrayed by this possibility, which further damages their already-strained relationship. In this book, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon rarely see eye-to-eye on much of anything and are typically not on the same page. I found this refreshing, though, to be honest, it is not especially innovative compared to other Master/Padawan duos that we’ve encountered.
So, as you can see, there is a great deal of rich character conflict available for exploration in Master & Apprentice. Sadly, most of it falls by the wayside in favor of a political story pertaining to a child about to be named Queen and her connection to an intergalactic corporation hoping to gain control of a hyperspace corridor.
Frankly, I found the first two hundred pages of the novel a little uneventful. Things started heating up for the last one hundred and thirty pages, but, in the end, nothing substantial happens to our favorite characters. They are primed and ready for The Phantom Menace, but, other than improved communication skills, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are basically unchanged.
More often than not, this seems to be a theme in the Star Wars novels that I’ve read. They delve far too much into political intrigue without any serious ramifications to the characters we care about. Lost Stars proved special in that it created two brand new characters, made them important to us, mixed them in with major beats from the Star Wars movies, and then sent them through some serious character development.
Master & Apprentice had wonderful potential. Acknowledging Dooku was really cool, but it went nowhere. We really didn’t get that much of a better feel for Qui-Gon than we do in The Phantom Menace. Obi-Wan is also virtually the same as he’s depicted in The Phantom Menace. Rael seemed like an important addition, but even he remained unchanged by story’s end. And those hints at Darth Maul? Nothing came of them. I hope that’s not a spoiler, but I don’t want you to be disappointed.
I really get the feeling that the authors of these books are being hamstrung by a corporate influence. While they create complicated conflict, in the end, none of it really matters to the overall Star Wars story that we know and love. Perhaps it’s just me, but if these books don’t somehow improve upon the characters or events that draw us to them, then what is the point of their existence?