Master & Apprentice
Writer: Claudia Gray
Publisher: Del Rey
Year Published: 2019
Claudia Gray’s Master & Apprentice (2019) focuses on the relationship between Qui-Gon Jinn and young Obi-Wan Kenobi. In the novel, Qui-Gon struggles with his role as Jedi Master. While Qui-Gon has always been improvisational and open-minded, Obi-Wan becomes increasingly more rigid under his tutelage. Qui-Gon Jinn finds himself in a staggeringly difficult position when the Jedi Council offers him a place among them. Qui-Gon feels drawn to the position, but it would be nearly impossible for him to continue training Obi-Wan. This is both a blessing and a curse since the two find themselves more and more at odds. Matters escalate when Obi-Wan discovers the Council’s offer through a third party. Fortunately, they have one final mission to fix the bond between them.
This particular mission involves a princess, a disgraced Jedi, and a treaty. After a tragedy, the Jedi Council sent Jedi Rael Averross to Pijal to act as regent for a young princess. After years of looking out for her best interests, an Opposition rises and the task of protecting her becomes difficult for the Jedi. When the Opposition’s acts grow violent, Rael contacts the Jedi Council for assistance. He specifically requests Qui-Gon Jinn be sent to Pijal. Having both been trained under Dooku, the two have a lot of history. Qui-Gon isn’t enthusiastic about the assignment, but he and Obi-Wan will do their best to discover the truth behind the attacks.
Qui-Gon Jinn is one of the more enigmatic characters of the Star Wars universe. While his influence is long, he only plays an active role in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999). In that film, he discovers Anakin Skywalker but promptly dies before he can train him, leaving Obi-Wan Kenobi to take up the task. His planning and strategizing may pay off in later films, but he remains mostly a specter throughout the franchise. Thankfully for us, the Star Wars universe is beginning to expand on the Prequel Era (outside of The Clone Wars (2008-2014), of course). Master & Apprentice focuses on Qui-Gon Jinn, expanding on his past and demystifying his future.
Master & Apprentice deals expertly with the complicated relationship between masters and apprentices, the rot within the Republic, and the mysterious power of the Force. While in many Star Wars novels, the author is bound by the events and character development of the films, Master & Apprentice has fuller reign to explore new ground. Claudia Gray does a particularly excellent job building Qui-Gon into a full and interesting character. We learn not only about Qui-Gon’s difficult relationship with Obi-Wan but also his history as Padawan to Dooku. It’s his early relationship with Dooku that heavily impacts the plot of Master & Apprentice.
While apprenticed to Dooku, Qui-Gon developed a passion for the prophecies of the ancient Jedi. As he aged, the interest became more intellectual than faith-based, but the events of Master & Apprentice test his beliefs. The focus on prophecy creates an interesting dynamic in the novel, especially as Qui-Gon transforms from skeptic to believer. Obi-Wan, Rael, and the Jedi Council remain unconvinced, but Qui-Gon slowly begins to believe in his own prophecies and those of the ancients. While his prophecy guides him toward solving the mystery of the Opposition’s attacks, it’s his long-standing interest that directs him on the path toward the events of The Phantom Menace. As his transformation takes place, Qui-Gon develops before our eyes into a full character with flaws, beliefs, and deep compassion.
In a similar vein, we discover more about young Obi-Wan and how Qui-Gon’s training influenced his relationship with Anakin Skywalker. Padawan Obi-Wan is still struggling to find himself and his place within the Jedi Order throughout the book. While at times, he’s recognizable as the character from the films, he needs to find peace in his relationship with Qui-Gon before he can develop into the Jedi he’s destined to become. His path leads to him acting out against his Master all while learning what values he holds most dear.
Claudia Gray’s Master & Apprentice is completely fantastic. The pacing, characters, and plot all work together to make an unputdownable book. Much happens in the novel, and it is truly impressive how Gray balances all of the characters and their individual plots. From the new characters to the old ones, each gets a full character arc, quirks, and desires. Jewel thieves Pax and Rahara are particularly endearing and could (and should) make appearances in other Star Wars stories. As for Rael, he shows up in the new audio drama, Dooku: Jedi Lost (2019)–if you’re looking for more of that conflicted Jedi in your life.
While some Star Wars novels don’t recreate the tension and heart of the films, Master & Apprentice succeeds at both. If you have never read a Star Wars novel or are simply looking for your next one, Master & Apprentice is an excellent place to start.