Monday, July 3, 2017

Ahsoka: A Star Wars Story

For fans of the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, E.K. Johnston’s novel Ahsoka is required reading.  In the TV series, we saw Ahsoka Tano transform from the brash and sassy Padawan, to the experienced young general, to the Jedi who left the Order after a loss of faith.  Johnston continues the Ahsoka character arc we deserved in the tragically cancelled Clone Wars.  Ahsoka, who was already struggling to find her new place in the world, has become even more untethered now that most of the Jedi have been wiped out and she can no longer sense her former masters.

(Source: Wikipedia)
Ahsoka spends most of the novel on a moon called Raada in the outskirts of the galaxy, where she meets a small, quiet community of farmers - including a young woman named Kaeden.  I assume Kaeden is a black woman from the description of her skin color and hair, but what I know for sure is that Kaeden is the first (confirmed) gay character that I’ve come across in the Star Wars universe.  Kaeden’s unrequited feelings for Ahsoka are obvious to everyone except Ahsoka - which is unfortunate, but perhaps for the better since the Star Wars universe has not proven to be relationship-friendly.  Meanwhile, the Empire starts to wreak havoc on Raada, and Ahsoka has to navigate her secret identity and her desire to help people.  I liked getting inside Ahsoka’s head in a way that I never got to while watching her in The Clone Wars.  Because I was reading a novel, I could see her in her tactical mode, her meditations, and her moments of vulnerability in a more intimate setting.

I love how Ahsoka has come into her own in this novel.  She’s always had a strong tactical mind and sense of empathy, traits that she has had to sharpen without the guidance of Anakin or Obi-Wan.  However, she seems to have achieved a balance and control that Anakin never could.  Ahsoka keeps her emotions in check when she is strategizing for her survival or for a mission, but she allows her loyalty and emotional ties to her friends motivate her to save them despite personal risk.  She’s taken the best of Anakin’s heart and Obi-Wan’s mind to become a tempered, quick-thinking, and compassionate fighter under pressure.  It hurts to see how much she misses them.  But if nothing else, they trained her well.

Ahsoka leaves the Jedi Order
The novel is interspersed with flashbacks, mostly from Ahsoka but also from Anakin and Obi-Wan.  All of them will make you sad.  If you’re a masochist like me and want to increase your suffering, linger on the first flashback from Ahsoka featuring the old nickname “Snips” or, even worse, the flashback from Anakin: “Anakin had never put in for a Padawan of his own.  He didn’t want it to look like he was pushing Obi-Wan aside.  Now, Obi-Wan had gone and done it first, and Anakin still wasn’t sure how he felt about it.”  THESE ARE NOT THE TEARS YOU’RE LOOKING FOR. *sniffle*

During The Clone Wars, Anakin and Obi-Wan were like Ahsoka’s bickering adopted dads.  If you don’t believe me, check the Tumblr memes.  If you don’t believe the memes, check the scene where Kaeden's sister asks Ahsoka if her “adopted parents” ever fought and tell me if Ahsoka’s smile doesn’t crush your heart into itty bitty pieces.  The Jedi could talk all they wanted about no attachments, but when you’re Anakin Skywalker’s Padawan, there’s no avoiding them.  Ahsoka’s feelings about the ones she left behind paint the novel with a tender grief that heightens the tragedy in her life as well as Anakin’s and Obi-Wan’s lives.  Now, I don’t want to imply that Ahsoka merely serves as a boost for their story, because that would reduce her character to a prop, and anyone who’s familiar with her character will now that’s not who she is.  But their stories have always been and always will be intertwined.  Ahsoka allowed us to see the prequel trilogy's universe in a different light.  Hopefully, her presence in Star Wars Rebels and other Star Wars installments can help us see the original trilogy’s universe in a different light, too.

The best part of this book is that even after finishing it, I know Ahsoka’s story is not finished.  She’s not a Jedi.  She’s still figuring out what she will be instead.  And if anyone can relate to that, it’s a recent college graduate who has no job and no idea what she’s going to do with her life now that she’s not a student.  (Hint: that’s me.)  I think a lot of people can relate to her storyline, whether they’re having a mid-life crisis, a quarter-life crisis, or any other identity crisis.  Ahsoka shows us that even when you’re forging your own path, it’s okay to acknowledge what the past has done for you, and it’s okay to let go of that past.  One day at a time.

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