Star Wars Book Review: Clone Wars-Stories of Light and Dark

Clone Wars: Stories of Light and Dark is a book that contains ten stories that retell an episode of the Clone Wars from a particular character’s point of view; it also has one original story at the end.

The book is written for a younger audience, about 8-12, but can be enjoyed by adults who are content with simple retellings with a little bit of insight into the character who’s telling it.

Here’s a list of the stories and brief comments on each:

  1. Sharing the Same Face by Jason Fry. This is a retelling of the Season One first episode (on Disney+’s listing) called “Ambush.” It’s a Yoda-centered story, wherein he and three clone troopers travel to Toydaria to discuss the Toydarian king joining the Republic. However, Asajj Ventress is already there to “persuade” the king to join the Separatists. It turns into a confrontation between Yoda and the clones and the droid army to win the king’s allegiance. What’s great about this story (and the episode) is how Yoda understands and treats each of the three clones as separate individuals with their own skills, fears, and goals. They’re not just faceless, expendable soldiers, they’re human beings. An insight that’s not in the episode is Yoda’s unease at the clone’s marked desire to please their superiors and follow orders, a foreshadowing of Order 66.
  2. Dooku Captured by Lou Anders. This story follows the episode of the same name in Season One, where Dooku is captured by the pirate Hondo Ohnaka and his minions, along with Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Chained together, the erstwhile enemies must try to work together to escape. The story is told from Dooku’s point of view, and we can clearly hear the arrogance that permeates his character. It’s in the form of a holo-recording that Dooku is apparently making for his master, Darth Sidious, telling him what happened; but in the end, he decides to erase the recording because he doesn’t want Sidious to know of his humiliation at being caught by pirates, and having to work with the Jedi.
  3. Hostage Crisis by Preeti Chhibber. This story corresponds to the episode of the same name, the last episode of Season One. It tells of Cad Bane’s infiltration of the Republic Senate and holding Padme Amidala, Bail Organa and others hostage so his compatriots can free Zero the Hutt from prison. Earlier, Anakin had given his lightsaber to Padme to hold, as a token of his love and commitment to her; she has the lightsaber when she’s taken hostage. Anakin must free them without his Jedi weapon.
  4. Pursuit of Peace by Anne Ursu. This one combines “Heroes on Both Sides” and “Pursuit of Peace”, episodes 10 and 11 of Season 3. Padme Amidala travels to Raxus to meet with her old friend, Mina Bonterri, who is now a Separatist, to try to convince her to get the Separatist Senate to make peace overtures. She needs this in order to convince the Republic Senate not to order more clones for the war. Initially, the speech was to be given by Bail Organa, but he is attacked the day of the speech, and Padme must speak in his stead. I like the last few lines of this story, which I posted as a quote in a recent blog post.
  5. The Shadow of Umbara by Yoon Ha Lee. Combining “Darkness of Umbara,” “The General,” “Plan of Descent,” and “Carnage of Krell,” (Eps 7-10 of Season 4), this one tells of the attack on a Separatist stronghold on Umbara by Captain Rex and his battalion, initially under the command of Anakin Skywalker. But at the beginning of the attack, Anakin is recalled to Coruscant, and is replaced by the hateful Besalisk Jedi General Pong Krell. Krell is a curt, arrogant, sadistic commander with a disrespect for clones and who expects complete obedience from them. He repeatedly commands Rex and his troops into reckless battle, with little interest in how many casualties they suffer. Rex is torn between obeying his commander and concern for his fellow clone troopers, who are dying in huge numbers under Krell’s murderous orders. Rex’s loyalties are pushed to the limit as he tries to balance his obedience to his commander and his responsibilities to his men. This was a fantastic arc in the show, and here we get to see Rex’s inner thoughts as he deals with the odious Krell.
  6. Bane’s Story by Tom Angleberger. This story corresponds to Episodes 15-18 of Season Four (“Deception,” “Friends and Enemies,” “The Box,” and “Crisis on Naboo.”) This is the arc where Obi-Wan fakes his own death to go undercover as bounty hunter Rako Hardeen in Cad Bane’s group to stop an assassination attempt of Chancellor Palpatine. This one was fun to read simply to hear Cad Bane’s cynical yet entertaining voice (I bet you’re hearing it in your head right now, picturing him with his wide-brimmed hat and the toothpick sticking out of his mouth.) I loved it when he called several politicians, including Dooku and Palpatine, “gas bags.” He’s a baddie, but he’s kind of cool, too.
  7. The Lost Nightsister by Zoraida Cordova. This story corresponds to the episode entitled “Bounty” (Episode 20 of Season 4), centering on Asajj Ventress. After being abandoned by Dooku and Grievous’ attack on Dathomir, Ventress flees to the Outer Rim. On Tatooine, she joins a group of bounty hunters led by a young Boba Fett. Their mission brings them to the planet Quarzite, where they must protect a box with precious cargo on a tram to its destination. Turns out, there’s a young girl in the box that has been kidnapped and is being forced to wed Otua Blank, the leader of the planet. Once Ventress realizes the girl is a helpless hostage, she turns the tables on everyone: she puts Boba in the box, frees the girl, and takes her payment. Ventress isn’t particularly sentimental, but this girl reminds her of herself when she was young: powerless and ripped away from family. Now, she could find her own path. “Ventress had been so many things. Slave. Jedi. Sith. Nightsister. Survivor. Bounty Hunter. She had never been nothing. She had never been no one. She was Asajj Ventress, and the Galaxy was waiting.”
  8. Dark Vengeance by Rebecca Roanhorse. This story corresponds to the last episode of Season 4, Ep 22 called “Revenge.” It’s from Maul’s point of view, and tells of when his brother Savage Opress saves him from madness on the junk planet Lotho Minor and takes him back to Dathomir. Mother Talzin restores his sanity, and with the clearing of his mind, he plans his revenge on Obi-Wan, who had cut him in two on Naboo in The Phantom Menace. You can hear Maul’s menacing, almost whispery voice as he narrates how he and Savage lure Obi-Wan to a planet called Raydonia. He is nearly defeated, but surprisingly, Ventress shows up to take her revenge on Savage Opress. The four fight, with Ventress and Obi-Wan making unlikely allies, and they narrowly escape. My favorite part, in the story and in the show, is when Obi-Wan says to Maul, even though he’s beaten bloody, “I like your new legs. They make you look taller.” There’s nothing like Obi-Wan’s witty repartee in Clone Wars.
  9. Almost a Jedi by Sarah Beth Durst. This story follows Episode 9 in Season 5 called “A Necessary Bond.” It’s the last episode in the youngling’s arc, where Ahsoka had escorted a group of younglings to Ilum to find their kyber crystals, but on the way back home they were attacked by pirates led by Hondo Ohnaka. Ahsoka prevented the pirates from taking their priceless crystals, but she was captured by Hondo. The younglings manage to rescue her, but during their escape the pirates catch up and capture them all again. Now, in this story, the pirates and Ahsoka and the younglings must band together to rescue Hondo from Grievous, who has taken over the planet they’re on, in order to escape. The story is told from the point of view of Katooni, one of the younglings in the group. Katooni is the only one of the group that has not assembled her lightsaber yet. Of all people, it’s Hondo who inspires her to try again, and this time she succeeds. I loved the little bond here that develops between Katooni and Hondo–it shows that Hondo often has a soft spot for children, and his attachment to Ezra in Rebels makes more sense to me.
  10. Kenobi’s Shadow by Greg Van Eekhout. This one follows the events of Episode 16 of Season 5 called “The Lawless.” This is the one where Maul, now in charge of Mandalore, kills Satine Kryze, finally taking his revenge on Obi-Wan. This is the story I read first, and is the one that made me want to buy the book in the first place. It gives some insight into Obi-Wan’s thoughts and emotions as he’s rescuing Satine, and then as he watches her die. Ultimately it becomes a story about Obi-Wan’s struggle with the darkness inside himself, the hatred and rage he feels for Maul at the murder of the woman he loves. But the flavor of the rage was different than I had expected. He feels her loss personally, of course, but in typical Obi-Wan fashion, it’s not himself or his own loss that he focuses on. It’s the loss of Satine’s life itself, the extinguishing of her light in the galaxy to be replaced with darkness by Maul, and Maul’s act of using her as a tool to get to Obi-Wan–these are the things that enrage him the most. For a few moments, he indulges in a fantasy of murdering everyone in the room, anyone who stop him, anyone. But he realizes that his giving in to the Dark is what Maul wants. And it’s exactly what Satine would never want. So he allows himself to be dragged away, while “only he knew of the victory he’d just won–and how he could not have done it without drawing strength from Satine Kryze, duchess of Mandalore.”
  11. Bug by Anne Convery. This is the only original story in the book, and I enjoyed it. It takes place during the Clone Wars, on an Outer Rim planet called Sidi that is home to a 12-year old girl called Bug. It’s not her real name; her cruel parents began calling her that when she was quite young, and she can’t remember her real name. She hears about the attack on Dathomir and the witches on the comm her parents have near their inn, and soon after, a mysterious woman with yellow eyes comes to their inn on a refugee transport. The woman is strange and mysterious, and weaves a tale for Bug that ends with a surprising twist for both the reader and the characters themselves.

I really liked this easy read. Even though the stories don’t bring anything revelatory to the Clone War episodes they retell, they’re still entertaining and fun to read. The original story was a great addition, and now I want to read more original stories from other books like From a Certain Point View.

Each story also somehow showcased the struggle between light and dark within oneself–the point of view characters had to make a decision to do the “right” thing, or grow beyond what they were.

If you’re a Clone Wars fan, you’ll love this book, even if you’re an adult. If you want a little bit more meat to your stories, more complex characterization or insight, or more original stories, you may want to pass and just rewatch Clone Wars (always a good decision anyway!).

I give it 3 out of 5 lightsabers.

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