– By J. W. Fox –
Ahsoka Tano is one of my favorite characters from Star Wars, one that I believe has a lot of potential. She did not get off to a good start in Clone Wars, but as the series progressed we saw glimpses of what could be a great character arc. Her inclusion in Rebels confirmed some of that, although her demise atop the Sith Temple cut that short (or maybe she survived?). E.K. Johnston’s novel was an opportunity to fill in an annoying gap in her story and maybe elevate her role in the epic. Unfortunately, the novel Ahsoka does not quite accomplish that.
After Order 66, Ahsoka is alone. Her feelings tell her everyone she knew from the Jedi Order are dead. Anakin, Obi-Wan, Plo Koon. All of them. She wanders the outer rim, hiding from the Empire, but her compassionate nature compels her to intervene in the many injustices taking place in the Galaxy. At first, she hides her identity well but in the end the Empire picks up her trail. She must decide whether to continue fleeing from the Empire or stop and fight to protect the innocent.
The novel fills in some of the gap left between Clone Wars and Rebels. Ahsoka Tano left the Jedi Order and has roamed the galaxy as a masterless warrior, until she joins the Rebellion and becomes the operative Fulcrum. In a way, the premise is a double edged sword. On one side, she is a popular character. There was an opening for her to be a major player in the rise of the rebellion. There was also the chance to depict her growth from padawan to full-on force wielder and bad ass. Fans got to see a glimpse of it in Rebels when she defeated two inquisitors alone with relative ease. An older, wiser Ahsoka has all the makings of an iconic hero.
The Ahsoka we meet in the book is a mixture of the snippy padawan and stoic Fulcrum. Given the preceding events, I expected something a little different. Even a Jedi would despair after all her friends die, not to mention her loss of purpose. Plus Ahsoka was not your typical Jedi. Combine that with her lack of experience (never obtained rank of knight), a more distraught, unbalanced character would’ve been far more realistic and compelling. My expectations aside, she was impressive, compassionate, and a little witty.
Now for the other side of the sword: everyone who picks up this book probably knows the ending. Gaps present opportunities for writers but also require them to generate their own suspense. You can’t just write a story that carries a character from point A to point B. Ahsoka generates some suspense but could’ve had more.
The story read like a two or three-part episode of Clone Wars. Younger readers will like it but older, hardcore fans may not be too impressed. There was a lot of uniformity in the book as well. The planets are all new but have similar environments. Johnston doesn’t go into much detail, relying on the reader’s familiarity with the Star Wars Universe. The secondary characters are also a bit bland and a little too alike. Most of them are young human girls, and adore Ahsoka as soon as they meet her. The villains get limited screen time and are stereotypical sadistic bad guys. The big climax of the story was solid but won’t amaze.
Generally, younger readers will be pleased with Ahsoka. It accomplishes what it set out to do, tell an Ahsoka adventure. My expectations were higher. Ahsoka Tano had the potential to be a fully-formed complex character and iconic hero in her own right, not just a cartoon character for kids to relate to and admire. It is time for her to grow up.
It is unclear what writers and producers have in mind for the character going forward. In Rebels, most fans believe she is alive and will return soon. There may also be more Ahsoka novels coming. I doubt she will be featured in any of the movies going forward. The movies are moving away from the prequel era of the trilogy, which means they are moving away from her time. Ahsoka is an operative in her prime during Rebels, so it is very possible she lives to see the Empire fall. Unfortunately, there isn’t a good gap in the original trilogy to write her in. Her time to shine is between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope.
J. W. Fox is the Editor of Prescientscifi.com and author of two novels under the pen name Jacob Foxx: The Fifth World and the sequel The Fifth World: The Times That Try Men’s Souls. When he is not reading or writing science fiction, he works as a regulatory affairs consultant for small biotech companies in Raleigh, North Carolina.