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YODA: DARK RENDEZVOUS

A novel by Sean Stewart (2004, Del Rey)
A Clone Wars Novel
Set 20 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

After receiving a note of truce from Count Dooku, Yoda takes two Jedi and their Padawans on a mission to spring the obvious trap.

 

 

Read October 26th to November 1st, 2007  
    Finally, a good clone wars novel! Too bad it's the last one; or perhaps that's a good thing, because I don't know if it would last.

This author is a character writer. He has Yoda down perfectly, although it is the Yoda of The Empire Strikes Back, and the one hinted at in Attack of the Clones ("Obi-Wan has lost a planet... how embarrassing..."). Yoda is so much fun in this book that I wanted to skip the scenes he wasn't in. Whether he is teaching, or fighting, or confronting Dooku about his choices, he is amusing. He has a 900 year old sense of humor, and I suppose that's what is required to live that long! The funniest parts, however, have to be Yoda hiding as a R2 astromech droid, and the way the author as narrator treats him. The way the "droid" looked grumpy, or went off looking for food, was written in such a way that it was quite funny.

The other two main characters are young Padawans. Scout has very little Force ability, which everybody notes, even up to Mace Windu. I liked Yoda's take on her, liking her because of her determination. She actually won the tournament, because of her tricks and her compensation for her lack of Force sensitivity. The others think she doesn't fight fair, but the seasoned Jedi know that neither will the Darths. I liked the tournament tribute to The Rising Force, as Scout fights to be chosen as a Padawan instead of being sent to the agricultural corps, as Obi-Wan was (of course, I still don't understand the point of that, as I mentioned during that review). The other Padawan is Whie, the teenage boy who is killed by Anakin in Revenge of the Sith. He is very strong in the Force, and he has Force dreams, like Anakin. He even dreams the moments before his own death, seeing that he will be killed by a Jedi. By the end of the story he is still alive, of course, leaving the dream unfulfilled for the moment.

I am getting really tired of Assaj Ventress. I don't find her to be an interesting villain, or even character. The author does a good job at filling out some of her thoughts, and finding vulnerability in her, because he is an excellent character writer, but I still don't like her as a character. Here, we are given that she is afraid of failure, afraid of Dooku, though she goads him all the time. She takes it upon herself to kill Yoda when she hears that he is going on a mission. Of course, Yoda is hiding in the shell of a droid, so she actually captures an imposter (she didn't kill him when she realized it couldn't have been him because he was so easily disabled). When she finds out where Yoda actually is, she takes a dozen battle and destroyer droids and shoots up a space station. She ends up killing both Jedi who are accompanying Yoda, devastating their Padawans. Meanwhile, Yoda escapes and takes on battle droids of his own, helping the imposter disable Ventress' ship and sending it out into space.

There was a lot of time spent in the Jedi Temple, giving us an excellent buildup to all the things that were happening. There is a definite pinpointing of the date of this book, as it contains references to the poisoning of Honoghr, as did Armor in the On the Fields of Battle collection. We also get a small glimpse of Qui-Gon in his spirit form. It is such a quick passage that I wonder if it made some readers do a double-take -assuming they read it before watching Revenge of the Sith.

On the planet Vjun, where Dooku has his headquarters, and I think Vader will later have his temple if I recall correctly, Whie is betrayed by his newfound servant droid. The droid has been waiting for ten years for the boy to leave the Jedi Temple, as Whie was born on Vjun, but was given to the Jedi when the whole planet went mad -the result of a midi-chlorian experiment gone bad. The planet is steeped in the Dark Side of the Force, which everybody can tap into, from Dooku to Whie and even to Scout. Yoda even feels the pull of the Dark Side, or so he confesses to Dooku. Ventress uses a neural net to destroy both Whie's servant droid Fidelis (who is loyal to Whie's mother, who still lives in the manor where Dooku is living) and the droid's duplicate Solis (who betrayed Yoda to Ventress), so we no longer have these powerful droids roaming the Star Wars universe. Ventress tries to seduce Whie to the Dark Side through his teenage desire for Scout, but he chooses the good path instead. The result is predictable, as Ventress goes into a rage. Thankfully, Obi-Wan and Anakin arrive in time to frighten Ventress away (yet again). I liked the dynamics between Obi-Wan and Anakin, especially again referring to Anakin's piloting skills. Obi-Wan's dark humor shines through in the few scenes he gets. It seems like this would be the last time Anakin gets to see Padmé before Revenge of the Sith. Even though they don't meet during the course of the book, it is obvious that they would have if the book continued for a few more pages. The result, if I have the timing right, would be her pregnancy.

I have not found Count Dooku to be an interesting character when he is portrayed in the Clone Wars. Typically, he is portrayed as a stock, two-dimensional villain. Here, however, he is given enough depth for several books. We see how he uses his power sparingly, and how he must really believe in the Fall of the Republic. Sidious is a schemer, he says, while he sees that they could storm Coruscant and end the war quickly, if they wanted to. Of course, that would not lead to the consolidated power that Sidious/Palpatine wants. Dooku seems to think he is on the good side, fighting against the corrupt Republic. He even seems to miss the Jedi Temple. We see how Dooku likes being the lieutenant, not wanting the real power -as he says, these things become less important with age. He is intensely jealous of Sidious' interest in Anakin Skywalker, knowing that if Anakin can be turned to the Dark Side, then Dooku will be cast aside, for he knows the Rule of Two -one Master, one apprentice. Although Ventress urges him to kill Sidious, so he can make her his apprentice and a Sith Lord, he knows he couldn't do it. He is, actually, a failure as a Sith Lord, because all Sith apprentices end up killing their Masters -that's the way of the Sith (even to Darth Vader).

The confrontation between Yoda and Dooku is a battle of philosophies. Yoda urges Dooku to convert him to the Dark Side, and they counter each other with arguments for both sides. Yoda, of course, has everything he wants. He has all the power in the galaxy, all the wealth he could want. The only thing that could be better for him would be keeping his Jedi family alive and out of this terrible war. Yoda uses this philosophy on the orphaned Padawans, too. He tells them that space is dark and lonely, but Ventress is wrong, because if there is no hope, no happiness, then there is no point to living, and life is definitely worth living. The arguments are perfect, and could be used on anybody who despairs even today. These arguments are very much worth listening to.

There are a few inconsistencies in the book, probably a result of an uncertain timeline of events when the book was written. Anakin repeatedly calls Obi-Wan Master, and himself a Padawan, even though Anakin (inexplicably) gained Jedi Knight status in the last book, Jedi Trial. By the end of the book, however, the author admits that Anakin is no longer Obi-Wan's Padawan.

I was also distracted by the author's use of the noun "one", as in "one could analyze one's soul on one's own time..." and so on. It becomes cumbersome, and I have always disliked the use of that noun. There are other ways of rearranging sentences so that the author doesn't have to use it (like I just did in this sentence), but that would be the author's preference. I, for "one", found it to be very distracting.

However, there is very little, if anything, to complain about in this book. It is a solid story, with very well written characters. The middle, especially Ventress' hunt for Yoda, was a little long, and could have used some trimming, but most of the story had good pacing. Most of all, people did logical things and reacted logically. There were no stupid or mundane actions, by anyone. And that's a first, I think, for the Clone Wars series. 

 
   

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