Star Wars: Master & Apprentice is the fourth book in the Star Wars canon by author Claudia Gray. She previously wrote the YA novel Lost Stars (which is one of my favorite books in canon), Bloodlines, and another YA novel, Leia: Princess of Alderaan. I have said this about Gray’s Star Wars work before, but I’ll say it again: she writes some of the best fiction that has ever graced the galaxy far, far away’s page. I will tip my hand here — this may be my favorite adult novel in the new canon.
Master & Apprentice continues what was started in Queen’s Shadow, which is an expansion on early prequel era story-telling. This time we are focusing even further back and looking at a time before The Phantom Menace. A time when Obi-Wan Kenobi was still the padawan of Qui-Gon Jinn.
This is also a novel that overlaps significantly with the recently released audio-drama Dooku: Jedi Lost. The two stories were released almost concurrently, but I chose to begin my adventure with Dooku: Jedi Lost first, then tackle Master & Apprentice, which happened to be released two weeks prior. Although a portion of Master & Apprentice takes place during the early phases of Jinn’s apprenticeship to Dooku, the vast majority of the novel takes place partway through Obi-Wan’s apprenticeship.
The novel takes place approximately eight years before The Phantom Menace. It is a time of crisis (aren’t they all?). But the crisis is between Kenobi and Jinn. They aren’t getting along and something needs to be done. Jinn is offered a seat on the Jedi Council, which would seriously impact Kenobi’s apprenticeship, however they aren’t getting along that well to begin with. Fortunately (or unfortunately from your point of view), there is one last mission Qui-Gon is asked to go on with Obi-Wan at his side. And that’s how we start the story.
When we, as an audience, sit down and watch The Phantom Menace, we notice that there seems to be some strain between Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon. By that point in their history they are comfortable with each other but there are still some issues, especially when Qui-Gon tries to take on Anakin as an apprentice. It is this relationship that we see evolve. I find that often in books, characters and relationships that we see in the movies don’t often feel like they evolve naturally between the mediums. However, this book is spot on with Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon. The way they act together, the way they talk to each other, the strain in their relationship, is all spot on. This book expands upon the movie so much that you can see little dialogue snippets from The Phantom Menace explode upon the page here.
One of the biggest surprises of the book is Rael Averross, who was a minor part in Dooku: Jedi Lost but becomes a main player here. I was not expecting to see as much of him as we got here and I was not expecting his character arc to play out the way it did. I don’t want to go into spoilers, and anything discussing Rael would lead to at least minor spoilers for the novel. But I will say that he is not what you would expect of him.
Looking at the story as a while, there is little to nothing I can find to complain about. The book is written as an action-adventure mystery. We are tasked with finding the “bad guys.” Gray puts in so many misdirects that I just give up trying to guess who the bad guys are because I never can actually tell. Even when I’m right, I’m constantly questioning myself. The story bobs and weaves throughout the entire thing to the point that I was on the edge of my seat during the last quarter of the book, unable to guess at what would happen next. At one point I thought I was so smart, just to be proven wrong by the next part. And to top it off, by the end everything has been flipped on its head. This book was just so much FUN!
My preferred method of absorbing Star Wars literature continues to be through audiobooks. This book was read by Jonathan Davis and he does a phenomenal job. His Yoda was a bit jarring, but otherwise a very enjoyable read. His Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were both so spot on that it sounded like the actual actors. His method of mixing up the voices worked really well here and may have even given the full cast for Dooku: Jedi Lost a run for its money.
Overall, I loved it. This may be my favorite book of the new canon. Rarely have been so enraptured by a Star Wars audiobook that I had to sit down and stop what I was doing just to listen to it. I give it a perfect 10, which I haven’t given to any of the Star Wars books I have reviewed yet. I was practically in tears by the end, which also rarely happens for me (Republic Commando: Order 66 being the big exception to that rule). Time may temper my feelings for the book but for right now I recommend you just go and check it out. It’s a fast paced, fun, funny, mystery-action/adventure story, and everything a Star Wars story should be. I’d recommend you seek out the audiobook version as well, but really any version of this book will leave you satisfied.