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Saturday, 17 December 2016

AFICIONADO REVIEW: 'STAR WARS: AHSOKA'

A new life and new dangers for Ahsoka Tano in STAR WARS: AHSOKA.

Back in July 2016, I don't think there was anyone attending the Dave Filoni and Pablo Hidalgo hosted Ahsoka Tano panel who wasn't excited about hearing of what happened next in the life of their favourite former Jedi Padawan and female role model from the time she deliberately chose to leave the Jedi Order and the singular adventures she'd be caught up in leading to EPISODE III and beyond. So when the subsequent announcement was made that she'd be the singular star of a special book during this incredible historical period of the Prequel era, STAR WARS: AHSOKA was surely going to be one of the year's must-have titles for any fan of THE CLONE WARS wanting to immerse themselves in witnessing those potentially great storylines so wonderfully and enthusiastically described- finally come to life on the printed page. Sadly, despite the fine pedigree and talents of Lucasfilm/ Disney Books chosen writer in E. K. Johnston, AHSOKA ultimately, rarely, features any of that epic material beyond some mild referencing, instead choosing to tell a whole new story, within a more intimate and less epic background acting primarily as a lead-in to her ultimate reappearance from STAR WARS REBELS onwards.

Getting past the necessary bare basics needed of how Ahsoka survived the Order 66 purge along with her friend in clone Captain Rex, after an intense battle on Mandalore against the returned Darth Maul and the after initiation of Palpatine's murderous actions, our hero is now on the run, going from planet to planet towards the Outer Rim and living on her wits and skillsets via a stolen ship, working under her new name of Ashla (the originally conceived name for her given by George Lucas back in 2005).


Using her talents in a variety of jobs, but never trying to get too friendly with the people she has an everyday albeit meagre existence with, Ahsoka is sadly never able to escape the shadow of the Empire, spreading its disruption out further with the the dominance of Palpatine's desires. Eventually, across two planets (the agricultural world of Raada and the commercial Thabeska), and featuring two sets of characters whom she has come to like, Ahsoka, becoming a one woman Robin Hood-type across the space lanes, knows she'll have to make a stand soon enough, especially when Thabeska   reveals a young Force sensitive girl soon under threat from one of the Empire's sinister new Inquisitor baddies, and subsequently back to Raada, where a bold resistance force of farmers soon faces extinction from a newly arrived enemy presence without her guidance and powers.

The book reveals how Ahsoka gets her unique new lightsabers. Image: DISNEY/LUCASFILM.

It's all nicely written, and well paced, easy to read, with the enthused Johnston fully psyched up on Ahsoka, her history and her emotional yet adaptive state, but there's actually nothing new at all about the story she's telling- it all feels bog standard and done before- another variation on the space western. Parts of it even feel similar to the John Jackson Miller book Kenobi, which dealt with Obi-Wan's unique isolation on the far-off world of Tatooine, trying not to get involved in local affairs but ultimately knowing he has to when his presence attracts attention. The new characters Johnston weaves around Ahsoka also fail to make an impact- a teen heroine on Raada with a clear crush on her new friend and ally proves irritating at times, though its best to remember that this is a book primarily geared to grabbing the attentions of the younger reader market- she's their connection to Ahsoka. Thankfully, there's enough old school referencing and some nice cameos from the likes of Artoo and Bail Organa, plus some subtle referencing to ROGUE ONE and possibly even EPISODE VIII, to keep it chugging along.

Personally, I'd have instead preferred a book more along the lines of Christie Golden's memorable Dark Disciple, at the time a welcome starring vehicle for villainess Asajj Ventress, whose plot comprised the scripts of never finished episodes from THE CLONE WARS lost seasons. Clearly slanted towards DISNEY's first animated STAR WARS incarnation than the previous Lucas era, if AHSOKA sells well enough, perhaps a second book will provide an opportunity to be more ambitious with celebrating and showcasing the past (her unseen battle with Darth Sidious is crying out for adaptation!). It's clear that there is still lots more to be discovered and enjoyed of this popular and relatable Togrutan...

AFICIONADO RATING: Die-hard Ahsoka fans will find much to savour, but general STAR WARS fans may be less impressed with a novel that lacks originality. 3.5 out of 5

Get AHSOKA here: Star Wars: Ahsoka: Amazon.co.uk: E.K. Johnston: 9781484705667: Books

With thanks to DISNEY UK.

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