One of the less usual Star Wars releases of this summer is The Clone Wars: Stories of Light and Dark. It is a collection of stories that retell some of the central episodes from The Clone Wars TV series. The book comes out on 25th August and is planned to be available also as audiobook.
The Clone Wars: Stories of Light and Dark will contain stories written by eleven authors – ten adaptations, plus one original story about the Nightsisters. The audiobook’s cast including Catherine Taber (Padmé in TCW), Sam Witwer (Maul in TCW), Matt Lanter (Anakin), James Arnold Taylor (Obi-Wan), Nika Futterman (Asajj Ventress) or Corey Burton (Cad Bane and Dooku) likewise promises a high-quality experience.
The Central Stories
(Almost) nothing important is missing. The book opens up with “Sharing the Same Face” (written by Jason Fry), the adaptation of TCW‘s opening episode where Yoda starts to see the clones as individuals. There is retelling of the “Dooku Captured” arc (written by Lou Anders) and “Bane’s Story”, the arc with Cad Bane and undercover Obi-Wan (written by Tom Angleberger).
Grittier elements come in the form of “The Shadow of Umbara” (Yoon Ha Lee). Sarah Beth Durst wrote “Almost a Jedi”, a story from the perspective of Katooni, one of the younglings who went with Ahsoka to get their lightsaber crystals. There is the reintroduction of Maul based on the “Brothers” episode (“Dark Vengeance”, by Rebecca Roanhorse) as well as Asajj’s story after becoming a bounty hunter (“The Lost Nightsister”, by Zoraida Córdova).
The classic “senate” stories are represented by “Hostage Crisis” (Preeti Chhibber) and “Pursuit of Peace” (Anne Ursu). And the famous end of Obi-Wan on Mandalore arc is represented in “Kenobi’s Shadow” by Greg van Eekhout. The eleventh, original story, “Bug”, loosely tied to the massacre of the Nightsisters episode, is written by E. Anne Convery.
Same Old Stories?
Just like the recently announced Doctor Aphra audiobook, “Stories of Light and Dark” is something of a strange project. The idea is essentially translating several of The Clone Wars episodes into a novel and audiobook format. Just like with Aphra, one could ask the question: why rehearse the same stories and not bring more original content?
One can talk about how this provides versatility. We can talk about visually impaired audience who get much more out of the story presented in the audio form, or vice versa, the text novel without the audio. It also makes some of the central events of TCW accessible to more casual audience. Namely those who do not feel up to watching hundreds of hours of cartoons in order to learn who is Ahsoka Tano, Captain Rex or Asajj Ventress, or how Maul came back. This element may very well be the chief reason for this book’s existence.
Broadening The Audience
I believe this is a symptom of Disney’s recent focus on interconnecting the canon, bringing some of its popular elements that at the same time remained contained within their (fringe) niche into different kinds of media. Just like it’s happening with Doctor Aphra. It may also be preparing the grounds for introducing popular heroes from comics and TV series into the forefront of the canon.
In other words: it is part of the solution to the problem that there are certain very popular characters (like Ahsoka Tano) who, however, may not be known to the “mainstream” audience. There are rumours of Ahsoka appearing in second season of The Mandalorian. It makes sense to give the fans a tool to quickly check some important elements of her earlier life without the need to watch the entirety of TCW and Rebels.
The same goes for events that mean rather big changes in the canon. Everyone would remember the moment Maul appeared in Solo. Yet many fans, not familiar with the extended canon, were understandably confused. Explaining events that may end up the building blocks of future video releases (I, for one, can imagine a TV series based on Maul’s activities post-Episode III) seems like a logical choice.
The Clone Wars: Stories of Light and Dark gives the impression of a sound, very well-thought idea executed in an interesting form. If it turns out to be successful, I can see more similar projects appearing in the future: the retelling of remaining crucial episodes of TCW (like the Ahsoka and Barriss arc) or even something from Rebels.