This week led to one of the more difficult decisions I had to make logistically about doing these reviews. Legends canon contains a number of series aimed at younger readers that are still techincally part of the canon. The first of these chronologically is Jedi Apprentice by Dave Wolverton and Jude Watson. There are eighteen books in this series, but each book is very short, so instead of spending 18 weeks on a kids series we’re going to spend three and just do a third of it each week.
Welcome to Legends of the Hydian Way, the chronicle of my attempt to read through and review all the novels that make up mainline Legends canon in chronological order. May the Force be with me.
Jedi Apprentice starts around twelve years before The Phantom Menace and stars Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn as it focuses on the beginning and early years of their partnership as master and padawan.
Book one, The Rising Force is the only book in the series as far as I’ve yet read written by Dave Wolverton. The rest are penned by Jude Watson. Our story begins with Obi-Wan Kenobi only a few days away from his thirteenth birthday and terrified because he hasn’t yet been chosen by a Jedi Knight as a Padawan. Apparently, if you aren’t chosen before you turn thirteen, then you’re kicked out of the Jedi Order and shipped off to the Agri-Corps to use your Force talents to help grow crops on needy planets. I have many problems with this, but two stand out.
Number one, this is like reverse Hogwarts. Don’t get picked as a surrogate child by an older Jedi by the time you’re thirteen? Well out the door you go, guess you aren’t special after all. Not to mention the fact that if this system is as it appears to be (and it is, according to the rest of Legends) them the Jedi take infants from their parents and tell them that they will be Jedi. These kids are then raised and told from birth that they will be special super awesome Jedi Knights, unless they suck hard enough not to get picked. If that happens, the Jedi basically drop them cold with no support network. Who came up with this idea?
Secondly it devalues the arguable much more important work of an organization that goes to starving planets and creates food with the Force. This seems like a much more necessary thing in the galaxy than a bunch of glowstick-waving arbiters of justice, but this system makes it literal punishment and ensures no one in the Agri-Corps wants to be there.
Oops, I’ve been rabbit trailed immediately. Back in our story, Obi-Wan’s last hope is to be chosen by visiting Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn, whom Yoda thinks will accept him. Qui-Gon, however, is still reeling from the betrayal of his previous Padawan, a boy named Xanatos. Qui-Gon obviously never watched Gargoyles, or he would have seen this all coming.
Qui-Gon refuses another Padawan and Obi-Wan is shipped off to the Agri-Corps. Yoda, being a mischievous little scamp, makes sure that Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are berthed on the same transport to Bandomeer, where he’s also assigned Qui-Gon a mission. Trouble with miners aboard the ship forces Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan to work together, which doesn’t convince Qui-Gon to accept Obi-Wan, but does convince Obi-Wan to accept his role in life.
On Bandomeer in book 2, The Dark Rival, Qui-Gon receives a cryptic note from Xanatos which causes him to push Obi-Wan even further away, obviously resulting in Xanatos kidnapping him to get to Qui-Gon. With the help of an alien callied Guerra, Obi-Wan stages a daring escape and Qui-Gon arrives in a boat to help at the last minute. The two are lured into a trap by Xanatos, and only when Obi-Wan offers to intentionally set off a bomb collar he’s been fitted with to help Qui-Gon escape and stop Xanatos does Qui-Gon realize this kid might actually be Jedi material.
The two escape without requiring Obi-Wan to explode and in the aftermath Qui-Gon finally accepts Obi-Wan as his Padawan. The two set off for their first official mission together but are sidetracked by Guerra in book 3, The Hidden Past, to help him free his homeworld from a crime cartel.
Not much of note happens in book three except for Obi-Wan incapacitating and impersonating the royal prince of a nearby planet and Qui-Gon worrying he’s going to get Obi-Wan killed in the line of Jedi business, and with the crime cartel hobbled the two resume their original mission.
Book 4, Mark of the Crown, finds Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon overseeing the first elections a former monarchy has ever held. The two spend the majority of the book apart as Qui-Gon goes to convince the true heir to the throne to allow her people to vote and Obi-Wan puzzles out some palace intrigue to learn the Queen is being poisoned.
Obi-Wan learns that Xanatos’s mining company, Offworld (who’ve come up in almost every book so far) are linked to one of the candidates and helps thwart a coup attempt on election day as Qui-Gon leads in swarms of new voters who surely must have missed the registration deadline yet are allowed to vote anyway.
Book 5, Defenders of the Dead, shifts to a new mission to rescue a Jedi Knight named Tahl from one of two warring forces on the planet of Melida/Daan. The planet has been at war for generations between two tribes, the Melida and the Daan, and although the pair accomplish their mission, Obi-Wan finds himself caught up in the cause of a group called The Young. The Young are the children of Melida and Daan who are sick of the war and want to force it to end. Qui-Gon insists they stick to the mission and escort a heavily injured Tahl back to the Jedi Temple, but Obi-Wan decides what’s happening here is more important than his Jedi life, and renounces his membership in the Jedi Order. More on that later.
The final book for this week is book 6, The Uncertain Path, which follows Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan separately as Qui-Gon and Tahl investigate a series of escalating crimes at the Jedi Temple and Qui-Gon is continually told he was wrong to leave Obi-Wan behind and Qui-Gon responds that a thirteen year old boy being an idiot wounded his trust too deeply to ever bestow again .
Meanwhile, Obi-Wan learns that a bunch of young teenagers and children is in no way prepared to run an entire planet even after they somehow manage to force both warring sides into submission. Their new government begins to fall apart almost immediately and Obi-Wan finds himself ostracized as an outsider from the people he thought were his closest friends despite having only known them for a few days.
Eventually Obi-Wan swallows his pride and requests help from the Jedi Temple, who send Qui-Gon to rescue him. The two both want to reconcile but both understandably feel awkward around one another. They manage to salvage the situation on Melida/Daan, and Obi-Wan decides he does want to be a Jedi after all, but Qui-Gon isn’t sure he wants to take him back.
Book 6 closes with the shocking reveal that the situation has gotten worse at the temple and that someone has just tried to kill Master Yoda!
I have mixed feelings about these books overall. The characterization of Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon is usually very good and suprisingly nuanced for a book series aimed at 12-13 year olds. However, the series to this point has a bizarre need to create fake drama about whether Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon will end up as a team. Really the middle two books are the best because they’re the only two of these six where there isn’t a will-they-won’t-they pseudodrama going on about Obi-Wan’s status as Padawan.
Secondly, and this is a minor if confusing concern, lightsabers are portrayal really inconsistently. Granted, dismemberment and death aren’t really appropriate for this book’s target audience, but usually that just results in characters not hitting people with deadly weapons. In this though? They sometimes seem like literal glow sticks, with Qui-Gon even being described as whacking a guy’s hand with it to make him drop his gun and Obi-Wan’s bouncing off a door when he strikes it. Other times lightsabers are seen cutting through steel or being appropriately dangerous, so it’s just inconsistent.
The real low point of this series for now is the whole Melida/Daan arc. The drama is forced like I said above. Obi-Wan spends four books with one goal in life: become a Jedi, and then suddenly abandons that when he meets two people his own age. Qui-Gon suddenly stops having the ability to empathize and doesn’t even try to understand what Obi-Wan might be feeling and everyone involved seems to forget that Obi-Wan is thirteen years old and acts like he’s an adult with full knowledge and understanding of the repurcussions of his actions.
Ultimately it feels like the plot cul-de-sac it is because as soon as we start up next week the metaplot of the series begins again.
So, should you read Jedi Apprentice? I’ll reserve judgement until I finish the series, but so far I’d say it’s a good series for understanding some of what will become Obi-Wan’s character and it’s a cool peek at the galaxy pre-Clone Wars when the Jedi were peacekeepers. On the other hand it manufactures somewhat pointless drama and exploits it’s structure as a large number of short books to indulge in some truly pointless sidetracks.
Next week we’ll cover the next six entries in this series, as Xanatos re-enters the picture!