Written By: Mike Chen
Published By: Del Rey
Reviewed By: Melissa Minners
Del Rey has been looking to “fix” things now that the original storylines have been changed by the newer Del Rey-owned Star Wars movies and television series. They are also working on filling gaps in storylines from the prequels. Star Wars: Brotherhood, by Mike Chen, seeks to fill in gaps between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. I was interested in reading this new tale and I recently received it as a gift.
As Brotherhood begins, Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi are receiving new roles. Anakin has been promoted to full Jedi Knight status, while Obi-Wan is currently holding a temporary seat on the Jedi Council. But before the two can get an opportunity to adjust to their new positions, tragedy strikes. An explosion on Cato Neimoidia kills many innocent people and threatens to change their status in the war between the Republic and the Separatists. Cato Neimoidia and the Trade Federation have declared neutrality in this war, but this terrorist act can sway them to pick a side. Count Dooku is already pointing fingers at the Republic.
Obi-Wan suggests sending an unbiased emissary from the Jedi to investigate the incident. The Neimodians agree, but the emissary must agree to their terms, one of which is staying out of contact with the Republic while conducting the investigation. Though the terms are not exactly agreeable, the Council chooses Obi-Wan to conduct the investigation, putting their faith in his abilities. Neither Anakin and Obi-Wan are happy about the conditions and both will have to adjust with the fact that they are no longer working as a team. Instead, Obi-Wan must adjust to working without Anakin and find allies amongst the Neimoidian people…a difficult thing to do, considering the history between the Trade Federation and the Republic.
Meanwhile, Anakin gets his first assignment as a Jedi Knight: working with younglings. On his first day, he discovers a youngling presenting a peculiar void within the Force. Mill Alibeth fears opening herself to the Force because of her special ability – Mill can sense the emotions of others around her. The power of the emotions of so many people threaten to overwhelm her, so she shuts down, fearful of her powers and unable to control them. Despite Anakin having fought hard against being given an apprentice, it would appear that Mill Alibeth needs his help. As he works on getting Mill to fear her abilities less and to learn how to control them, Anakin learns that his former master is in danger. He has no choice but to take Mill with him, but has he made the correct decision in defying the Council? Even worse, what kind of danger is he putting this youngling who doesn’t trust her own abilities in?
This book takes place at a time when Obi-Wan and Anakin are at a crossroads in their lives. They have been working together for so long and have been such a great team, despite their bickering and frustration, they are not quite sure how to work apart. Obi-Wan begins to notice Anakin’s growing closeness to Senator Amidala, and despite his misgivings about this violation of the tenets of the Jedi Order, he wonders how he can counsel Anakin. After all, he is no longer Obi-Wan’s padawan, and besides, hadn’t Obi-Wan had just such a relationship with Mandalorian ruler Satine Kryze all those years ago?
After reading this book and seeing the outcome of Anakin’s mentorship, we can understand his misgivings regarding taking on Ahsoka Tano as his padawan. Anakin didn’t want to mentor anyone and sort of fell into mentoring Mill Alibeth. The outcome of that mentorship was nothing like what Anakin expected and this, coupled with the idea that he never wanted to be in charge of a padawan in the first place, would have soured him toward the idea of taking on Ahsoka’s training during the Clone Wars.
I did like the introduction of Asajj Ventriss to Obi-Wan in this novel. He has never actually faced the Sith apprentice before the events of this novel and their animosity is evident even at this stage. It gives the reader some idea as to why Obi-Wan was so focused on this one enemy of the Republic in later years. I also liked how Mike Chen was able to express Ventriss’ ability to discover weaknesses in others and manipulate them to her own nefarious ends. We get an idea of how dangerous she can be without the use of her lightsaber or other Sith fighting techniques.
The addition of Neimodian characters Ruug Quarnom and Ketar Nor, the former a soldier with a great deal of experience, and the latter her apprentice of sorts, offered up a new look at the Neimoidian civilization. We soon discover that not all Neimoidians are like the ones that invaded Naboo. Ruug Quarnom is a tough warrior with a strong moral and ethical focus. She is intelligent enough to see more to the explosion than meets the eye. Meanwhile Ketar Nor is young and inexperienced. His anger and anguish coupled with that inexperience make him easily manipulated into seeing what others want him to see instead of the truth.
For Mike Chen’s first Star Wars novel, I think he did a great job. He was able to write the characters of Obi-Wan and Anakin in a way that is consistent with previous novels, movies, and television series. He had Asajj Ventriss’ attitude, dialogue, and movements down perfectly. The descriptiveness of his writing was such that I was instantly transported to locales like Coruscant’s upper and lower levels and Cato Neimoidia. I could see every detail and every event in my mind’s eye as if I was actually there. I found the story of Mill interesting and loved the plot twist there. I would love to read more of Ruug Quarnom’s adventures. I’m sure they would be quite entertaining.
In Star Wars: Brotherhood, Mike Chen has filled in some of the gaps between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith in a captivating way that fits perfectly with all of the other media that can be read or viewed during this era. The story was enjoyable and relevant to future storylines and the tale contained just enough slow concentration, fast-paced action, intrigue, drama and more to keep any Star Wars fan rooted in place while reading this book. Great job!