“Dooku: Jedi Lost” is 2019’s unique Star Wars project. Recently published, it is an audio drama with complete cast – as opposed to “just” an audiobook. Dooku, Asajj Ventress, but also Sifo-Dyas, Qui-Gon Jinn and other, previously unknown characters appear to shed some light on the mysterious Count’s backstory.
Filling the Gaps
“Dooku: Jedi Lost” is first and foremost Dooku’s backstory. It is therefore primarily targeted at lore-seeking fans, those who wish to know what was Dooku like before he had joined forces with Darth Sidious and before he became the head of Separatist alliance.
This is continuing the current trend of Star Wars novels that focus on so far neglected time-periods in some characters’ lives, especially at the time before Episode II (both are true e.g. also for recently published “Queen’s Shadow”). I welcome this trend, not the least because even the old canon had been very vague in terms of describing Dooku’s life as a Jedi. We are largely treading a completely uncharted territory here.
I should also add that “Dooku: Jedi Lost” is as much about Dooku’s backstory as about Asajj Ventress’s, or even Sifo-Dyas’s. The first few chapters, in fact, are much more focused on Ventress as on Dooku. Large part of the book pays them equal amount of attention, since everything is narrated from Ventress’s point of view as she delves into Dooku’s private archives.
Sifo-Dyas, on the other hand, is presented as Dooku’s childhood friend, his closest fellow Jedi. Introducing him was a brilliant move, as it provides a link to the mystery of the Clone Wars army’s creation that Sifo-Dyas was credited with.
From Padawan to Master and Count
The story follows two narratives: one regarding the “present” of the Clone Wars, as Asajj Ventress receives the task to search for Count Dooku’s sister. The other narrative follows Dooku’s past life as a Jedi, as described by Dooku in his private memoirs. It shows young Dooku as he becomes a Padawan, rediscovers the connection to his family on Serenno, eventually becomes Knighted and at last, a Master. The story also portrays the circumstances of his leaving of the Jedi Order. Dooku’s relationship to his family and homeworld is the red thread we can follow throughout the whole book.
We also learn something about Dooku’s flirting with the Dark Side. This is further expanded in his relationship with Lene Kostana, a Jedi Master who believes that the Sith are returning and to prepare the Jedi for that, she seeks and studies ancient Sith relics (I could not help but reminisce the character of Atris in KOTOR 2).
The presence of these elements adds an interesting, mythological level to the story. Dooku has visions of a Dark Side beast struggling to break free. Several ancient Sith Lords as well as some of the Lost Twenty, the Jedi who had left the Order in times past, are mentioned by name. Sadly, none of those are any famous characters, generally they are newly invented and we learn very little besides their names.
I was struggling with the names a little for one reason – as mentioned above, “Dooku: Jedi Lost” is a fully voiced audio drama. It does not even exist as a paper novel. For that reason, it is also hard to determine the spelling of some newly invented names.
As a sound project, however, I must call “Dooku: Jedi Lost” a success. The cast is superb. It includes, among others, the classic Star Wars audiobook narrators January LaVoy and Marc Thompson. In the lead roles, Orlagh Cassidy as Ventress is perfect and sounds just like Ventress from the Clone Wars (even though Ventress’s voice may not be the best suited to use as narrator). Equally great is Dooku – Euan Morton (the voice of male Sith Inquisitor from SWTOR; outside the geeky culture known for his music career and roles in Hamilton and Taboo musicals). Euan is not Christopher Lee; in fact, he sounds very different, but it does sound like young Dooku could, and overall he does a great job. Jonathan Davis deserves extra credit for portraying a very believable young Qui-Gon Jinn (especially in his first scene as a youngling to be selected for a Padawan).
What could be criticised about the sound is what audio dramas are often having a problem with: capturing action scenes. “Dooku: Jedi Lost” is no exception. One particularly bad scene that remains etched in my memory was an attempt to portray a podracing course: for several minutes, I could not follow anything besides the announcer’s muffled, unintelligible speech. Fortunately, there are only a few cases like these in the entire book, and most of them are not bad – they just are not very good, either.
What Is Missing?
Despite its undeniable qualities, the story suffers from some unfortunate setbacks. The most prominent one is what I call the “we-can’t-tell-too-much” syndrom. Literally every Star Wars novel published in the recent years has suffered from it (but many of the old canon did, too).
The idea is that presumably, Disney does not want to put all the definitive answers about a character’s life into a niche medium. What it creates is a hybrid that sort of starts answering everything that a Dooku fan may be interested in, but omits some crucial points. That results in some parts of the book feeling rushed, such as the ending.
It also creates a bit schizophrenic image of Dooku, not dissimilar to that of Anakin Skywalker in the prequel trilogy. The story shows that e.g. the protagonist has some issues with anger or non-Jedi behaviour, but subsequently, he seems to get it under control – which clashes with our awareness of the fact that he must, eventually, relapse. The story, however, does not sufficiently explain the reasons for this relapse.
I also got somewhat lost in the large amount of Dooku’s apprentices (apparently, he had more than just Qui-Gon). They did not play a significant role, which is a pity, and I would have preferred more time given to just one of them. The whole mess sort of reminded me of the thing I disliked about the pre-Disney canon: every author that wrote about, say, Han Solo felt the need to invent a new girlfriend for him, which resulted in the problem that once somebody decided to write a comprehensive story of Han in its entirety, it had to include fifty different girlfriends. This is exactly the same problem.
Overall, however, “Dooku: Jedi Lost” is very much worth listening to. I would have loved to have it as a paper book as well, if only to be able to see the proper spelling of some names – and to be able to just leaf through it and double-check the lore that it, after all, contains.
“Dooku: Jedi Lost” offers a unique window into the pre-Clone Wars inner workings of the Jedi Order. We see many characters, including Dooku himself, in unfamiliar context – Yoda as Master of his own Padawan (however briefly), Qui-Gon as apprentice (also briefly. The number of chapters including both could have been doubled. But they are good!). We finally learn something about Sifo-Dyas and perhaps surprisingly, a little bit about Ventress’s Jedi Master, too. The new characters, like Master Kostana, are very multi-layered and interesting (not to mention well-portrayed).
There are plenty of nods to other sources in the Star Wars universe. One example may be the Convor owl, another may be the monster Dooku keeps seeing – I don’t know how its name is supposed to be spelled, but it sounds very similar both to terentatek (ancient Sith monster known e.g. from the Old Republic materials) and to Dooku’s later Sith name, Tyrannus.
Most importantly, “Dooku: Jedi Lost” offers a unique insight into its protagonists’ psychology – meaning both Dooku and Ventress. Both are amazing and not always the way we know them, while remaining true to their selves. In the end, Jedi-Dooku is perhaps presented as too much of a good guy – and in fact, so is Ventress – but so it is. “Dooku: Jedi Lost” clearly took the endeavour to present the villains from their “humane” side, to show that they are not only villains. And it does that in a believable way, with the help of amazing cast.