Heroes Deserve A Good Death & Dark Disciple Delivers
The way I see it, it’s pretty simple. You love Star Wars. You adore The Clone Wars. You are part of the community that continues to demand it be resurrected or at least see what was started get finished in some form or another.
If that describes you, do yourself a bantha-sized favor and pick up a copy of Dark Disciple and do it now.
Christie Golden’s canon novel is available for purchase as of today. Eight Clone Wars episodes that were written and only partially animated were transformed beautifully by Golden into written form with the support of the Lucasfilm Story Group. The result is an adventure unlike any I’ve experienced before as a devoted fan of Star Wars and The Clone Wars.
OK – disclaimer time before I go any further.
The remaining of this post contains mild spoilers, so I recommend clicking here to jump right to my Q&A with Ms. Golden if you haven’t read Dark Disciple yet. The Q&A can be enjoyed without revealing the story. For those reading on, I attached my Q&A with Christie at the end of this post.
OK – back to my commentary about Dark Disciple.
With Lucasfilm powered by Disney injecting as much Star Wars into us the next four years than it seems we’ve seen released over the last four decades, I have a growing problem that really reared its head reading Dark Disciple.
You see, I struggle mightily with the fact we must face the demise of many of the characters we have grown to love. The Clone Wars with all its amazing story lines and development of new faces and their adventures has one significant “draw back” – if that’s even the right phrase. We’re going to learn how their stories end. There isn’t going to be any mystery about how it ended for them. I love it and hate it. As borderline anal retentive, my Star Wars Universe is out of balance if I don’t know the culmination of something or someone. In the end, I just hope their personal conclusion is glorious.
A “good death,” if you will.
Case in point. Star Wars Rebels has returned two of our favorite characters from The Clone Wars – Ahsoka and Rex. However, neither of them appear in Episode IV and beyond. Yeah, you see where I’m going with is.
But I digress.
Dark Disciple is the story of Quinlan Vos and Asajj Ventress. I won’t bore you with their back stories. If you are reading this, you know who they are. Ventress much more so because of her heavy appearance in The Clone Wars. Heck, we were introduced to her in all her “Sith-ness” in Season 1, Episode 1 facing off against Yoda. True, Jedi Master Vos comes in with much more mystery around him, but Dark Disciple changes that.
Golden’s writing style pairs well with the telling of this story because it demanded going deep on the psychology of these two unlikely partners while providing us the action and adventure that makes this the Star Wars we love.
The Jedi Council, in all their supposed wisdom and foresight – continually clouded by the Dark Side – hatches a plan to end the war once and for all. Vos must partner with Ventress to become the ultimate assassin duo and cut off the head of the Separatist snake. Of course, Ventress can’t know Vos is a Jedi, and he must somehow reignite Asajj’s rage against her former master Count Dooku to make this work.
Obi-Wan Kenobi, having faced her numerous times, provides some counsel for dealing with Ventress, who has since left the war behind and has turned to bounty hunting. Most interestingly is Kenobi’s mention of Ventress’ beauty.
Vos is flawless in his push-pull techniques to win Ventress’ respect and commitment to join him. He ends up with her heart, too. We saw Asajj deftly wield a lightsaber, sometimes two. Thanks to Golden’s eloquent passages, we find her passion is even more powerful than her skill as a swordswoman. Dark Disciple drowns you appetizingly in a sea of flirtatious and delicious banter between Vos and Ventress.
Asajj was one of my favorite characters in The Clone Wars and I found myself rooting for her often, especially in her attempts against Dooku’s life – albeit knowing it wouldn’t happen. My fondness for her swelled when she aided Ahsoka in Season 5. She deserved much more in a way.
Ventress falls deeply for Vos and their chemistry becomes a prominent part of the story. Of course, Vos is extremely conflicted as anyone could predict he would be. Getting to know the real woman that is Asajj Ventress causes Vos to see his partner as much more than an instrument to complete his mission.
When truths are revealed and the stories plays out, the outcome leaves you absolutely breathless. Golden is masterful in her approach to novelizing the eight-story arc and finishes a heaping portion of what The Clone Wars cancellation left unfinished – an epic adventure complete with romance, intrigue, and tragedy.
A good death.
Bottom line: Four-and-a-half stars and my favorite canon novel to date (beating out Lords of the Sith and A New Dawn).
Pro tip: After you read the chapter on Vos and Ventress’ meeting in Dark Disciple, watch the scene as shown at The Untold Clone Wars panel at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim to accentuate the story if you’ve not already seen it.
What did you do to prepare for Dark Disciple in terms of researching the main characters and their back stories?
First of all, I had eight terrific, complete scripts in front of me, plus the animatic treatment of the first four. I read and watched these repeatedly, and I also watched all the aired episodes of The Clone Wars–again, many of these episodes I watched more than once. All the source material was available to me in order to complete my research in a very pleasant fashion. 🙂
Whose character did you like writing about more and why – Vos or Ventress?
I really enjoyed them both! Ventress was a challenge in that she was so well-developed and well-known to readers from The Clone Wars. Vos was, if not a blank slate, at least more open to development. We only saw him in TCW in a single episode as these eight were never aired, so there was much less to draw on, and more room for me to develop his character. They are both characters that I call “good traveling companions,” i.e., characters that, whether or not you like or dislike, you still enjoy reading about and writing for. I had a fantastic time hanging out with this pair. They really came alive for me as I wrote their story.
Is there a message in Dark Disciple that you want your readers to grasp?
Hmm….I hesitate to say something like “the moral of this story is…”, but I do think something we see crop up, again and again, is that you cannot sacrifice who you are for what you think you want. Be careful when you say “the end justifies the means,” because you can’t really see the “end.” Throughout, we see the tragedy of what happens when characters aren’t true to themselves–when they are in denial, or doing something despite what their gut tells them, or hiding who they are.
What was your favorite part of Dark Disciple to write?
Too many to list. I think one of my favorites, though, was the buildup of trust between these two characters. Neither of them trusts easily, so to get them to a point where not just a partnership, but friendship and then love, was a careful process I really enjoyed. Also, banter. 😉 There’s a lot of darkness here, but a lot of humor that comes from how Ventress and Vos interact and play off one another.
Did you find anything particularly challenging about writing Dark Disciple?
I really wanted to honor Asajj Ventress without “hero-worshipping” her. She’s got a lot of strengths and traits to admire, but she is flawed, and makes mistakes. She came with a huge following who wanted to see her story told well and with respect, and that meant a lot to be entrusted with that. It was an interesting line to walk, but I enjoyed it. In the end, I really just trusted in what the character had become to me, how it felt to be “inside her skin”, and trusted in that. Thus far, from what I am hearing, that seems to have been the right call.
Have you previously used already-written scripts and/or stories to adapt into novel form like you did for Dark Disciple? If so, which works of yours were produced using a similar process?
Yes, I’ve done this quite a few times before. I adapted the Warcraft novel, “Lord of the Clans,” from an unproduced Blizzard Entertainment game. While that wasn’t a novelization of scripts, it certainly was an adaptation from a preexisting source. I also novelized Arthas Menethil’s story arc from the scripts for the Warcraft games in “Arthas: Rise of the Lich King,” which was my (and Blizzard’s!) first NYT-bestselling novel. And earlier even than these, I had worked with the late Harve Bennett to adapt the first five episodes of Steven Spielberg’s too-short-lived anime TV show, “Invasion America.”
Can you explain the process of translating eight Clone Wars episodes into novel form and what did you find particularly easy or difficult about it?
It’s its own thing, that’s for sure. It’s different from an original media work and a script, somewhere in-between. As I said earlier, I watched and read the episodes and the animatics, and all TCW episodes. There were a few conference calls about what everyone wanted to see, and where we should stick completely to the scripts and where expanding the ideas or perhaps additional conversations were necessary, and a lot of emails back and forth. Like all media work, you must honor the source material and the creators of it. Fortunately in this instance, I was quite happy with what I had to work with, and found it readily sparked my own creativity and imagination.
Is working with Dave Filoni as fun as it would appear to be and why?
Alas, I had no direct communication with Dave. Most of my contacts were Shelly Shapiro, Jen Heddle and Story Group, but now and then we’d bump something we wanted a ruling on to Dave. I do remember we went back and forth on one particular scene and what we ended up with was much more gut-punching and powerful than either of our initial thoughts. That’s what good collaboration can do!
What question have you been wanting to be asked about Dark Disciple that you haven’t been asked yet – and how would you answer it?
Did I want to change the ending, and yeah, in some ways, I kinda did. 😉
Who/what is your favorite Star Wars character and why?
First, ever, and always, Luke Skywalker. I was at the impressionable age of 13 in 1977, and Luke was my first major crush. As I got older I grew to appreciate his journey and admire it even more. To have written for him, was a dream come true–as was meeting Mark Hamill at Celebration this past April. Without a doubt, I wonder where the heck I would be in my life now if it weren’t for Luke. Not just as a SW fan, not just as a writer, but as a person.
As to characters I’ve gotten to create, that’s got to be Vestara Khai and Wynn Dorvan. Vestara was just so much fun, and Dorvan was a totally unexpected character whose deadpan, calm demeanor saw him through being created as a throwaway “assistant” to becoming head of the GA. Oh, and can’t forget Pocket!
Do you have anything specific you’d like to say to the readers of Dark Disciple?
“As always, thank you for supporting my work, and allowing me the ability to continue to create and tell stories. And I hear how you love Asajj, and I hope my treatment of her and her story is one you enjoy.”
What will you be doing now (post release) to promote the book?
I’ll be signing books at San Diego ComicCon, and I also have two book signings scheduled, one in Houston at Murder By the Book, 6:30 7/28, and on in Austin at BookPeople, 7:00, 7/30. Hopefully I’ll be attending some conventions in the fall as well!
Would you consider writing more Star Wars cannon novels and if so, are there specific characters or stories you’d like to be involved with?
Absolutely, I’d love to keep writing in this universe. Obviously, I love Luke Skywalker, any one of the Big Three, really, and I enjoyed writing a short story about Lassa Rhayme. Wouldn’t mind at all doing more with her. 🙂
What books have you read that have influenced your writing career the most?
Wow that’s a hard one. I loved Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni books made me want to write fantasy rather than just read it. A book that really helped me organize my thoughts and structure and still does is “The Writer’s Journey” by Christopher Vogler.
What book are you reading right now?
Listening to “A Storm of Swords” by George R.R. Martin. No spoilers, please!