By Rob Siebert
I’ve got more than 60 Star Wars novels under my belt. I won’t say that makes me an expert. But it does give me a sense of when I’m reading one that stands out among the franchise’s extensive library.
Brotherhood by Mike Chen quickly became one of my favorites. It takes us through the transition Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker take from a father and son, master and apprentice relationship in Attack of the Clones, to the brotherly bond they have through The Clone Wars and Revenge of the Sith. It’s a cool, clover, and sensible premise for a Star Wars story. Chen, on his first try, proves he’s more than adept at navigating everybody’s favorite galaxy far, far away.
Here’s what I came away from Brotherhood thinking about…
1. It’s a bridge between Attack of the Clones and The Clone Wars. Not just figuratively in terms of Obi-Wan and Anakin’s dynamic, but literally. There’s an argument to be made that the 2008 Clone Wars movie, where Ahsoka becomes Anakin’s apprentice, should be set immediately after the events of this book. That’s how well it all fits together.
2. Anakin and other Padawans were hurried to Jedi status to accommodate for the war. For me, a head-canon thing that Brotherhood actually put into print. With a war broken out, it makes sense that there would be a need for more Jedi to serve and protect the Republic. Thus, Anakin and other apprentices were given the rank of Jedi relatively quickly. Perhaps even before they were fully prepared?
3. Anakin and Padme once clandestinely banged on a blanket somewhere on the streets of Coruscant. Is this a childish thing to take away from this book? Why, yes. Yes it is. And does Mike Chen actually write a sex scene between Anakin and Padme? Of course not. But he does directly indicate that it happens.
Oh c’mon! I can’t help it! The idea that Anakin and Padme had discreet sex somewhere on the streets of Coruscant is the kind of thing I just can’t forget. It is a little romantic, I suppose. From a certain point of view…
4. Neimoidians struggled to establish an identity within the Republic away from the Trade Federation. When the average Star Wars fan thinks of a Neimoidian, they inevitably think of Nute Gunray. And when they think of Nute Gunray, they think of the Trade Federation. It makes sense, given what we see in the prequels. Chen, to his credit, took that association and wrapped it into Brotherhood. It’s a nice reminder that you can’t judge an entire race based on the actions of one or two individuals.
It’s a lesson that’s not inapplicable to real-world scenarios, either.
5. Qui-Gon believed in them. I’m a Qui-Gon Jinn fan. Maybe I’m in the minority among fans in that sense. But I enjoy him. So when Star Wars creators find a way to tie him into things, be it directly or indirectly, it hits a soft spot with me.
Chen talks a lot about Qui-Gon Jinn as he’s wrapping up Brotherhood. Specifically, what Obi-Wan and Anakin have in common as it relates to him. He doesn’t frame it as the centerpiece to their new brotherly bond, nor should he. But it is there, and it’s worth acknowledging.
6. Not all Jedi have to be warriors. Chen creates a character for Brotherhood named Mill Alibeth, a young Jedi initiate who is apprehensive about tapping into the Force and wielding a lightsaber. As someone who’s lived with mental illness, it occurred to me that she might actually be the first Jedi we’ve seen with anxiety. Now that’s something different.
Through her time with Anakin, Mill learns there is more than one path to the Force and being a Jedi. We’re reminded that it’s not all about swinging lightsabers. And in a franchise that loves to overemphasize lightsabers, that’s a very welcome notion.
Email Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check us out on Twitter.