E.K. Johnston’s “Ahsoka” provides some of the last puzzle pieces into the tale of Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice. It is a book for all “Clone Wars” enthusiasts as well as for those interested in Ahsoka Tano’s complete life story. It is especially ideal for those who are eagerly waiting for the return of The Clone Wars and who need a dose of Ahsoka in their lives.
Imperials, Rebels, Inquisitors
“Ahsoka” takes place in the time period between the end of the Clone Wars and the beginning of the Rebellion. It starts roughly a year after the formation of the Empire. It does not only answer the questions about Ahsoka – what did she do after Order 66, how did she join the Rebel cause, how did she get her white lightsabers – but it also provides some background on the humble beginnings of Bail Organa’s resistance effort, about the Inquisitors, and the state of the Galaxy overall. It does not go very deep into these matters, but paints a clear enough picture that the reader can make sense of it.
The story itself tells about Ahsoka’s adventures in the Outer Rim, but more than the events themselves, the plot centers on the Togruta herself. The character and her perception of events, her decision-making is the center of the book. The struggle between not being a Jedi in name, but still being one in spirit; the struggle between wanting to help others yet not being discovered by the Empire that is still searching for Jedi survivors. There is a lot about Ahsoka’s personal perception and feelings and these make the story very compelling.
Subjectively, “Ahsoka” read better to me than most of the other new Star Wars novels. The style was neat, the plot was flowing and did not get stuck. It was not such a page-turner as e.g. “Phasma” was at times, but it maintained my concentration better than “Aftermath” and even more than “Thrawn”. In many of the contemporary SW stories, I have stumbled upon the problem that at some point, the plot turned uninteresting when the main character left the stage known from the films and went to unfamiliar places to interact with unfamiliar characters, and the book often stopped feeling like Star Wars.
That was not a problem with “Ahsoka”, despite the fact that it takes place almost exclusively in unfamiliar places and the heroine interacts with unfamiliar characters. Much of it can be attributed to the story’s strong centering on Ahsoka’s point of view. Wherever she is and whatever she does, we can see that it is still the same Ahsoka from The Clone Wars, evaluating the situation, weighing everything on the scales of her life experiences as a Jedi and then as an outcast.
The prose is in the right place between too simple and too complicated. E. K. Johnston’s writing style is not too flowery, but not too bland. The story is intended to be easily accessible also for young readers. I appreciated the virtual absence of gore and brutal scenes (I still think it does not belong in Star Wars). “Ahsoka” describes things like death, violence and even torture in a manner that acknowledges them, but does not revel in their gory descriptions.
A Gem (Or, Crystal) Among SW Novels
There are small details in the story that refer to earlier events from The Clone Wars, or point ahead to Rebels, or beyond. When Ahsoka decides to rebuild her lightsabers, she logically wishes to go to the planet Ilum where she had once helped younglings get their lightsaber crystals. (The book has some interesting pieces of lore regarding lightsaber crystals, by the way. And I loved the way Ahsoka acquires her new crystals, definitely one of the most interestingly written pieces of the plot.) The way Ahsoka fights one of the Inquisitors echoes the same moves she later uses in Rebels. Plus, the book has a short prologue refering to Maul, Rex and the events on Mandalore around the end of the Clone Wars – just to give the story a bit of a frame.
All in all, “Ahsoka” is light, relaxing reading (which does not mean in any way “simple”). The book is not even very long, reads well, and has overall fairly positive tone. As Star Wars novels go, I would definitely place it among the top titles.