In 2008, I dutifully took my son, then seven years old and a budding Star Wars fan, to see Star Wars: The Clone Wars at our local movie theater. I wasn’t happy about it. No cartoon could count as a real Star Wars movie, I grumbled to myself. (Well, and to my wife, who told me to relax.)
I became even unhappier when, right out of the gate, this cartoon introduced an apprentice for Anakin Skywalker. A padawan? Anakin didn’t have a padawan! And their cutesy names for each other—“Snips”? “Sky Guy”? Give me a break!
I know I wasn’t the only Star Wars fan skeptical of Ahsoka Tano when she made her debut. Fortunately, she proved all of us wrong.
During The Clone Wars’ five televised seasons, Ahsoka grew into one of the entire Star Wars saga’s most dynamic and engaging characters. Her journey from energetic and idealistic adventurer to a disillusioned but wiser and stronger survivor was a coming-of-age tale every bit as rich as Luke Skywalker’s. And her return, in Star Wars Rebels’ first two seasons, as a pivotal figure in the fledgling Rebel Alliance sealed her importance.
It also didn’t hurt that, in Ahsoka, we were given a female hero for a fictional universe that, until recently, hasn’t featured all that many. Rey and Jyn Erso can both count this strong, quick-witted, tenacious Togruta as a forerunner.
Rise of a Rebel
I had hoped novelist E.K. Johnston’s Ahsoka would be a full-length “biography” of the character. It’s not. It’s something better. It’s the story of how Ahsoka finds her true calling, and that focus gives it a resonance with real life that makes it richer than many Star Wars novels.
The action begins during the siege of Mandalore, a conflict referenced during Rebels’ second season but never seen (it would have been key to The Clone Wars’ unproduced series finale). Ahsoka, who has returned to fight alongside the Republic’s clones, faces down Darth Maul. The scene is a dramatic and welcome glimpse into a crucial moment in Clone Wars history, and Johnston immediately claims readers’ full attention with it.
The story then leapfrogs one year ahead. Having escaped death when Emperor Palpatine triggered Order 66, Ahsoka is alone, traveling from planet to planet under an assumed name as she tries to keep ahead of the Empire.
Her journeys take her to Raada, a small agricultural moon, where she falls in with a struggling farming crew. Her emotional ties to these people—especially to Kaeden, a young woman who first helps Ahsoka when she arrives—and the unexpected appearance of Imperial troops force the former padawan to decide whether she will continue to live as a loner whose only agenda is survival, or as someone connected to others and to a larger cause—despite that path’s risks to her life, and to her heart.
An Exciting Story of Vocation
Given her role as “Fulcrum” in Rebels (and in these pages we learn that code name’s origin), Ahsoka’s ultimate choice won’t surprise any Star Wars fans. But the story Johnston tells of how Ahsoka reaches that point is interesting and exciting. Ahsoka’s time on Raada occupies only about half the book; the other half reunites Ahsoka with some familiar faces from the prequels and The Clone Wars, and also introduces another Inquisitor, hot on Ahsoka’s trail.
Johnston crafts engaging action sequences and keeps her story moving forward at a brisk pace. She also fills the book with an impressive number of genuinely emotional moments; Ahsoka’s visit to her own, fake grave is one good example. And the farmers on Raada feel like fully realized individuals, thanks to Johnston’s good ear for dialogue and deft use of detail.
But it’s the author’s obvious affection for and thorough knowledge of Ahsoka that really set this book apart. Ahsoka’s journey will be familiar to anyone, not just the young adults to whom the book is marketed, who has struggled to discover a sense of direction and purpose. As so many of us do, Ahsoka discerns and determines her destiny in fits and starts. Her journey will inspire anyone who has felt stymied by life, convinced, as she is, “There must be another way,” but not always able to decide how to move forward.
When Ahsoka hears the call of the crystals that will power her new, white-bladed lightsabers (and there is an especially cool bit of lightsaber lore finally explained in this book), she realizes, “The song was hers, if she was willing to fight for it.” This novel offers well-written and encouraging entertainment for all Star Wars fans who’ve rooted for Ahsoka, especially to the ones who are still listening and willing to fight for their songs, too.
Have you read Ahsoka? What did you think? Let’s talk in the comments below!
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