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Star Wars Ahsoka Hardcover – October 11, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Ahsoka Tano holds a special place in the hearts of many "Star Wars" aficionados. The breakout character of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV show finally gets her story told, and fans will not be disappointed. After leaving the order of the Jedis and her teacher Padawan Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka embarks on a journey to discover who she is and how she can move on after leaving the group that has defined her for so long. She ends up on Raada, a small, out-of-the-way moon base, and begins a new life. When the evil Imperial forces rear their heads, Ahsoka's newly idyllic life starts to sour, and she can't help but heed the familiar call of the Rebel Alliance. Teens will be able to relate to Ahsoka's emotional journey of attempting to find her place in the world. The plot moves at a slow pace in the first half as Ahsoka tries to deal with her emotions and figure things out. Those who have little to no knowledge of The Clone Wars and Rebels TV shows will be lost, as Johnston gives almost no background on the title character's previous adventures. VERDICT "Star Wars" devotees will rejoice in reading this long-awaited chapter in the life of a fan favorite; others may want to skip this one.—Christopher Lassen, BookOps: The New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library
"A great treat for young--and not so young--Star Wars fans that provides a thrilling backstory for a compelling character."―Kirkus
"Full of action, emotion, and yes, plenty of answers, Ahsoka is a must-read for any Star Wars fan."―TV Source
"Ahsoka is a character exploration with sides of action, politics, and drama with an emotional center that gives me a greater appreciation for Ahsoka's role in the galaxy."―Nerdist --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano was first introduced in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series and quickly became a fan favorite. Viewers watched her grow from a “snippy,” brash padawan learner to a confident young warrior who frequently saved the day for her master, Anakin Skywalker. Thrust into the crucible of combat with the besieged clone battalion and their Jedi on the planet of Christophsis, Ahsoka had to learn quickly and be a strong warrior from an early age. Through the remainder of the Clone Wars, Ahsoka was present at several key battles and forged tight relationships with many, including Clone Captain Rex, the astromech R2-D2, and Senator Bail Organa. All three of these characters figure into Ahsoka in important ways.
*** VERY MILD SPOILERS FOLLOW***
The novel features many flashbacks, interludes, and scenes which answer some lingering questions since the end of The Clone Wars, raise a few more, and provide detail that help link the prequel and original trilogies. Here are some of my favorites:
' Maul and Ahsoka at Mandalore
' Ahsoka’s last interaction with Rex (until Star Wars Rebels reunites them)
' Insight into Anakin’s thoughts as “Obi-Wan’s new padawan” approaches Christophsis
' Obi-Wan’s solitude – and finding an old friend – on Tatooine
' The origin of Ahsoka’s white lightsabers and the codename Fulcrum
' Ahsoka’s thoughts about Barriss Offee
Most of the plot of the novel centers on Ahsoka’s life as she maintains a low profile to avoid attention from the Empire. She has to find odd jobs to get by, and tries not to form close relationships with others. Her connection with the Force is weakened. She thinks of the “family” she has lost due to the destruction of the Jedi Order, and searches her feelings to try to discern Anakin’s fate. Readers can feel her loneliness. Ahsoka has always been a jovial, outgoing person, quick to make friends and gain others’ trust. As it turns out, her charisma and leadership qualities have not suffered since the end of The Clone Wars; she continues to draw others to her and gain their trust, despite her efforts to live a simple life. As can be expected, she quickly finds herself at the center of a conflict. Also as can be expected, she must decide between using the Force to save the day, thus exposing herself, and maintaining her anonymity and allowing her new friends to suffer.
Overall, E.K. Johnston absolutely matches the feel of The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. Ahsoka does a fantastic job of bridging the gap, though it does not account for the entire time period between Ahsoka leaving the Jedi Order and her first appearance at the end of the first season of the current cartoon series. Perhaps there are more books forthcoming – hopefully also penned by Johnston!
Ahsoka is also available as an audiobook narrated by Ashley Eckstein. Eckstein, of course, is the only actor who has ever voiced Ahsoka's character. For what it's worth, I could hear Ashley reading all of Ahsoka's lines in my head when I read the print version. It's unavoidable.
Fans of Ahsoka Tano, The Clone Wars, and Star Wars Rebels will devour this book. Highly recommended.
"I have to sort this out on my own. Without the Council. And without you."
And with those words, former Jedi Ahsoka Tano walked off into the sunset three long years ago, bringing "The Clone Wars" to a powerful and poignant end, but leaving millions of viewers in an emotional lurch, wondering where her loyalties would turn and what path she would follow now that the entire foundation of her 18-year old life had been torn asunder.
Two years later, in her celebrated return to the screen on "Rebels", we'd learn what she'd become - an intelligence agent for the burgeoning Rebellion, but not how she decided to walk that path. "Rebels" was told through the eyes of the Ghost crew, not her, so she remained closed and mysterious, while fans clamored for answers.
And now, finally, three and half years of viewer speculation, mind-canon and fan stories, the gloves have come off. For the first time, LFL takes us directly into the mind of this fascinating character that for many, including many outside her surface demographic, has become the eyes and ears through which they view the GFFA. Her feelings and conclusions about the Jedi Order, the Republic, the betrayal of Barris Offee, her abandonment of the Order that had failed her, and how she'll cope with her post-Jedi life - it's all here now in this 350+ page work by EK Johnston in her inaugural Star Wars novel.
This is a unabashedly character-oriented story, and the first to be crafted not under the direct control of the titular character's creator Dave Filoni, and as such, the most important question is does Johnston understand what makes Ahsoka tick?
And the answer is, absolutely. This is the authentic Ahsoka. Even though I'm reading the dead-tree version rather than the audiobook, I had not the slightest problem hearing Ashley Eckstein's voice or picturing a slightly older version of the "Clone Wars" Ahsoka (despite the fact that for whatever reason, the Rebels version of the character has dominated LFL's marketing and merchandising the past year.)
More importantly than the mental aesthetics, her emotions and motivations make sense. This is a war-weary and emotionally damaged Ahsoka - stripped of the innocence and naiveté about the true nature of the Jedi she held through so much of the series, but her persistence, kindness and basic optimism hasn't been destroyed - merely severely tested.
And tested it is. The story makes clear from the outset what a dire position our favorite Togruta is in. Everyone she once counted on and valued is gone. She remains powerful in the Force but cannot reveal it or use it in combat, for that would endanger her and those around her. But far more than the physical threat, every path she could take feels like a trap. She's rejected the doctrine of the old Jedi Order and for good reasons - she can't detach from everything and everyone and become a cold, unfeeling monk like Kenobi laser-focused on a single investment for the future - that's just not her. But nor can she become the warrior and general that she once was - she's seen in the most personal way what that can lead a Jedi to. The horrific transformation of her best friend Barris Offee from a gentle healer to a murderous terrorist who could only lash out destructively at what the Jedi had become still tears at her. Her trust in people has also been shaken - Ahsoka has seen the corruption and fall of every institution she was once loyal to, and faced personal betrayal at their hands. This shows up in the story when even when joyously reunited with a dear old friend that's fought beside her for countless battles, there's a distance - neither one can be fully open or forthcoming with other about the secrets they hold.
And on top of all of that, she bears a heavy burden of survivor's guilt as (to her knowledge) all the other Jedi were wiped out in Order 66. She had good reasons to leave the Order but still feels like she abandoned her Master and her friends. Even knowing that much of that time was spent helping build the very Empire that's now oppressing the galaxy.
Is that enough feels, anyone?
Another plus is that much of "The Clone Wars" lore is present and impactful in the story - Johnston has clearly done her homework. Though introduced in 2008 as the padawan of Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka was actually a planned character in the series long before Lucas insisted on giving Anakin and other prequel characters a major role in the series. And fittingly, Ahsoka did not spend the series merely following Anakin around as his sidekick. She had a character arc of her own and many characters, including those outside the Jedi orthodoxy, influenced her education and growth. From Padme Amidala, she learned that the direct approach (Anakin) wasn't the only way to tackle a problem - this influences Ahsoka's strategy at one point in the story. The friendships she formed with various senators - a life form often viewed as lower than anything short of a Sith by many in the Jedi upper echelons, pays off here as one particular Senator, Bail Organa has worked with her and knows that she can be a trusted ally. All this serves to make Ahsoka the layered, multifaceted character she is. She bears no malice against the Jedi but understands how they failed during the Clone Wars and the rise of Palpatine and how her personal path can't be the same as theirs.
And finding that path is what this novel is about. It's about connecting and communicating with people and the importance of that. The prequel-era Jedi were well-meaning but had lost touch with the ability to communicate with those that don't fit their mold. When Hayden Christensen talks to Yoda about his fears of losing a close on in Episode 3, Yoda's advice amounts to "About to lose a loved one are you? Rejoice!" Real helpful there. Insulated in their ivory tower, the Jedi lost their connection with the everyman and this only served Palpatine in turning public sentiment against the Jedi and solidifying his power. Through the events of this novel, Ahsoka finds the middle ground between detaching entirely from the affairs of the galaxy and suffering of the common people under the Sheev Administration, and repeating the mistakes of the old Jedi Order - spreading war and darkness throughout the galaxy that helped conceal the darkness that was right under their noses. She becomes the shadowy vigilante, bringing acts of kindness to people and increasing the amount of light in the galaxy. Knowledge and communication becomes her weapon against the Empire as she takes on the mantle of the intelligence agent Fulcrum.
Having said what this book is about, it's important to understand what the book isn't (and doesn't strive to be.) This is not a story about the yet unproduced arcs of The Clone Wars. Filoni clearly still hopes to produce these in animation some day, as that's the medium those stories were written for. This is also not a chronicle of the entire 15 year gap between Clone Wars and Rebels - the story picks up about a year after Order 66 and covers maybe a few months of her life. This is not the definitive story of Ahsoka (there's a little show called "The Clone Wars" that serves that purpose.) There are still plenty of stories to tell about her. Though the path of Fulcrum is probably the best for Ahsoka at this point in her life, nobody who knows this character would believe it's an easy one. She'll still be making decisions that send people to their deaths (as in "Rebel Resolve" in season 1 of Rebels), and it's a life of subterfuge and deception - not one of her core strengths. The PR for the book did say "her story will begin to be told." and there are plenty of stories left to tell, some of the seeds of which this book seem to be laying.
So thank you, LFL for bringing this novel to us, but know that we still have an appetite for more. Bring on "Star Wars: Fulcrum!"