Book Reviews, Science Fiction

Review: Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray

A Jedi must be a fearless warrior, a guardian of justice, and a scholar in the ways of the Force. But perhaps a Jedi’s most essential duty is to pass on what they have learned. Master Yoda trained Dooku; Dooku trained Qui-Gon Jinn; and now Qui-Gon has a Padawan of his own. But while Qui-Gon has faced all manner of threats and danger as a Jedi, nothing has ever scared him like the thought of failing his apprentice.

Obi-Wan Kenobi has deep respect for his Master, but struggles to understand him. Why must Qui-Gon so often disregard the laws that bind the Jedi? Why is Qui-Gon drawn to ancient Jedi prophecies instead of more practical concerns? And why wasn’t Obi-Wan told that Qui-Gon is considering an invitation to join the Jedi Council–knowing it would mean the end of their partnership? The simple answer scares him: Obi-Wan has failed his Master.

When Jedi Rael Averross, another former student of Dooku, requests their assistance with a political dispute, Jinn and Kenobi travel to the royal court of Pijal for what may be their final mission together. What should be a simple assignment quickly becomes clouded by deceit, and by visions of violent disaster that take hold in Qui-Gon’s mind. As Qui-Gon’s faith in prophecy grows, Obi-Wan’s faith in him is tested–just as a threat surfaces that will demand that Master and apprentice come together as never before, or be divided forever.

I’ve always been curious about the Star Wars novels… I’m a huge fan of the original trilogy, and have a soft spot for the prequels, but feel deeply betrayed by the sequel films. I wondered if the novels, especially written by so many different authors, would just be more of the same and, even if they weren’t, I wouldn’t know where to begin with them! And then, while looking through the audiobooks available on my BorrowBox account, I saw Master & Apprentice and, since I love Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, I thought I’d give it a go! Reader, it was the best audiobook decision I’ve made since starting the Rivers of London series and I am now thoroughly hooked on the Star Wars books.

First, I must praise Jonathan Davis for his narration, because he absolutely nailed all the voices. It felt like Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, and Christopher Lee had stepped into the room whenever he voiced their characters. And his tone and pace in general were superb and really brought the story to life. I’m sure I would have enjoyed it in written form too, but it was a real joy to listen to it. Second, I must say that the plot itself was excellent; it had the perfect blend of character tension and external tension and I was surprised a few times by the twists that came up.

The focus of this book is, of course, the relationship between Qui-Gon Jin and Obi-Wan Kenobi. They have been master and apprentice for a few years now, but still many things are difficult about their partnership… Obi-Wan struggles to understand his master and why he so often follows a different course to what the Jedi Council advises, or why he is so fixated on the ancient prophecies. Despite their many missions together, the two still cannot see eye to eye, and Qui-Gon is almost relieved when he’s offered a position on the Council because it would give him an easy way out of his awkward partnership. Before Qui-Gon can make his final decision, though, he and his padawan are sent on one final mission to the planet Pijal where an old friend has requested his assistance. Enter Rael Averross: a Jedi loner who trained under Master Dooku before Qui-Gon and has been sent to a remote world to act as regent in the hopes he will recover from his previous errors.

I liked Rael and what he brought to the story. He’s an outside force to the already familiar characters, and his own tale is full of emotion. He’s the kind of character with rough edges but a soft heart, and he adds a rogue element to everything, as he’s as much apart from the Jedi as part of them. And Rael wasn’t the only character that made this tale fresh and exciting… there were two other point of views I had not been expecting, and they are Pax Maripher and Rahara Wick, jewell thieves. Their coincidental presence on Pijal’s moon means they become entangled in the uprisings and plots occurring on the planet in the build-up to the young princess’ coronation. Pax is quite the character. Having been raised my protocol droids for years means he is very literal and logical, so it took me a while to warm to him, but once I did there was no going back! And his partner and pilot Rahara made up for it by being instantly likeable, with her quick wit, strong moral compass, and her great strength despite her difficult past.

I have strayed away from Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, despite their central role, but the beauty of Master and Apprentice is the complex web of events and people that it lands these two characters into as a way to test and deepen their bond. Though I know from Phantom Menace that the two did not end their partnership, I was fully invested in the emotional turmoil they each found themselves in during the course of the book and waited eagerly to see whether they would find common ground. I also enjoyed the focus on the prophecies because it was something of a throwaway in the films and I appreciated a deeper dive into them as a topic.

I would happily read this book again already, and I can’t think of a higher sentiment than that! I definitely recommend it, and will say that if you can get hold of the audio version then it’s worth doing, because you will immediately be drawn in by Jonathan Davis’ smooth voice!

Book Info

Published: 24th September 2019 by Penguin
Genre: sci-fi
Pages: 480
Narration style: third person past tense, multiple points of view
Format read: audiobook
Content Warnings: violence, death, terrorism, slavery

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