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A novel by Jude Watson (2000, Scholastic Paperbacks)
Jedi Apprentice, book 9
43 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

Obi-Wan and another Padawan learn to trust each other after they are detained in an unforgiving school on a planet where freedom is an illusion.



4 stars

Read on April 10th, 2003  
    Truly a pleasure to read, this is a superb tale of working together.

I liked this book from the very first page. It was refreshing to return to this series -it has been far too long. Obi-Wan has changed since the last book. He has been accepted, finally, by both the Jedi Council and his Jedi Master. Now he is trying to adapt his attitudes towards the Jedi Way. I think he is succeeding. The best way to show this is exactly how the author does it: she pairs him with another, younger Padawan, who knows nothing beyond her skills.

Siri is Adi Galia's new Padawan -what I wouldn't give to be in her position -I just love Adi! She is better than Obi-Wan is in terms of lightsaber fighting, and she seems to look down on him, probably because he left the Jedi back in Defenders of the Dead. Siri, however, is definitely not a team player.

The author gets into Obi-Wan's head right at the beginning, showing his frustration at Siri's lack of cooperation. When he finally takes a cue from her in a training session, successfully defeating their seekers, he has, of course, failed the test!

It is inevitable that when Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are sent on a mission to check out a potential Force-sensitive baby from a xenophobic world, that Adi Galia and Siri are sent with them. Both Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan fret about this, because they think the Council is watching over their shoulders. It is only their insecurity, however, as the only reason the others are along is to help cement the new Master-Padawan relationship, and to teach Siri a little about cooperation.

The planet of Kegan is really strange, right from the start. It is easy to see that something is wrong, that these perpetually smiling people are not happy. It turns out that the leaders of this planet have had a vision, one of masked warriors invading their world and a planet-destroying weapon reducing it to rubble. I looked up Kegan in my SW Encyclopedia, but found no mention of it, so the author is not building on previously established continuity, that I am aware of. Undoubtedly, they will experience stormtroopers in their future, but I don't think they will see the Death Star, so that portion of the vision is wrong. However, the leaders probably could not have prevented anything if they isolated themselves, either- the Empire would have found them, anyway.

Qui-Gon and Adi Galia get a lesson on trusting each other, as well as their Padawans. Qui-Gon has a lot of unconventional ideas, and Adi is much more conservative. Their styles clash, so they must learn to compromise. That's a good lesson to give in a children's book -that adults have to work out their differences, too. They cannot, as Qui-Gon suggests, do their own thing, ignoring the opinion of the other person.

The two Jedi find out about a resistance to this planet's government, which keeps surveillance on everybody. They obviously keep everybody in one city to facilitate this. Attempting to track down the Force-sensitive baby, as well as their missing Padawans, they discover the Learning Circle, and gauge the likelihood of all of the missing people to be in that "school". I just loved the way the author managed to make Qui-Gon sound so much like himself. Every word that was quoted to him could easily have come from Liam Neeson's mouth!

Obi-Wan and Siri, meanwhile, having escaped so that the Guides would search for them, leaving their masters alone with the infant's parents for the first time. They are captured and sent to the Learning Circle. It's hilarious to see Obi-Wan's frustration towards Siri as she tries to correct everything the teacher is telling the students. He knows better, that the best way to go unnoticed and to find a chance to escape is to keep his mouth shut! Siri has never been outside the Jedi Temple, so doesn't have enough sense to avoid correcting the teacher, especially since it doesn't do anything to correct the situation.

Later, however, when they form a coordinated attack, correcting and questioning the teacher about everything, they do a great job, because they start the students on a questing path. They know that once the people start to ask the right questions, others will listen and eventually the unrest will lead to uprising. I liked the way the guards were constantly called Guides; it makes them sound so much less threatening.

So instead of getting sent to kitchen detailing, Obi-Wan and Siri are sent to the Re-Learning Circle, where they suspect their only friend in this place has gone, because he kept animals as pets. There, things are much more severe. This time, Siri's impulsiveness coincides with Obi-Wan's as he plans to use his lightsaber to break out of his cell just as she is cutting through his door! They rescue their friend Davi and manage to get to the door just as Qui-Gon and Adi Galia are breaking in.

The author writes terrific character stories. This one even has a plot that requires the characters to be smart. As Obi-Wan points out, there is a time to fight, but they were not at that point until the end. Although Siri starts out lacking respect for him, and resenting his advice through part of the story, she eventually recognizes his wisdom.

The only weakness in the book is the short, clipped sentences that so many of the characters use. I can't figure out if this is because of their situation, though. Being forced to talk through a perpetual smile, for fear of being taken away, must do terrible things for conversation. Not to mention that they are told not to trust their neighbors.

Otherwise, the author did a good job depicting a society that is trying to make itself inconspicuous. Through the conversations between the Jedi, it is obvious that such a society is bad for the people, even if the leaders have their best interests at heart. This is the wrong way to go about saving people, because freedom is the most precious thing we have, and it can't be saved by restricting freedoms.

So the baby is taken back to Coruscant, and the parents seem to know that they will never see her again. Unfortunately, this is never addressed, probably because this is a young reader book. The Learning Center is closed down, the leaders voted out of office, and a new way of life is beginning for these people. I wonder why it is never mentioned that the two leaders might be Force-sensitive, as they had visions like the Jedi do. Of course, they would be too old to begin their training, but the Jedi could have at least mentioned it. The conclusion seems a little rushed, but it is really a sideline to the story, which is about Obi-Wan and Siri. Hopefully, there will be some repercussions, because they did interfere with the planet, against orders.

As a side note, I really liked the sequence where Adi Galia out-flies those Kegan pilots. She's beautiful and so skilled, too!

The story flowed very well from beginning to end. It actually felt too short, simply because I wanted the adventure to continue. It's definitely good to see these characters again.


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