Star Wars Book Review: The Approaching Storm

  • Author: Alan Dean Foster
  • 363 Pages
  • Published in 2002
  • Legends
  • Place in Timeline: Just Before Episode 2 Attack of the Clones

What It’s About

Jedi Masters Luminara Unduli and Obi-Wan Kenobi, along with their Padawans Barriss Offee and Anakin Skywalker, are sent to the planet Ansion as representatives of the Republic on a delicate negotiation mission. They must try to convince the Ansionians not to vote to secede from the Republic. Ansion is not an important planet or system on its own, but it has a web of treaties and agreements with other systems, and if Ansion decides to secede, the other systems will leave with it.

This fact is being taken advantage of by individuals who have much to gain by the secession: Shu Mai, the president of the Commerce Guild, Senator Mousel of Ansion, and others. They secretly pull the strings of Ansion’s web of business ties, to prevent the Ansionians from voting to stay within the Republic. This group is further sponsored and encouraged by someone even higher than themselves: one who is not named initially, but who the reader will correctly suspect is Count Dooku (who of course is under the command of Darth Sidious).

The Ansionians are divided into two distinct types of inhabitants: city dwellers led by the municipal body Unity of the Community, and the people of the plains called the Alwari, who are further divided into clans. The two groups are often at odds, and each believe the Republic favors the other in political matters. The Jedi must work with both groups to convince them to act as one people and not secede from the Republic.

The Jedi manage to convince the Unity that if they, the Jedi, can get the Alwari to agree to a treaty that benefits both parties, the Unity will not vote on the matter before they return. But now the Jedi must find the nomadic Alwari out on the great plains of the planet. Before they can do this, the Jedi are attacked by thugs, and then Barriss is kidnapped by two Ansionians who are in the employ of one Ogomoor, an Ansionian who is in the employ of Soergg the Hutt, who runs his business on Ansion and has reasons for wanting the planet to secede. Soergg himself takes orders from Shu Mai. You get the idea–a long line of sinister influence is working against the Jedi in this mission.

The two Ansionians who kidnap Barriss are clanless Alwari, shunned by their people for physical and mental disabilities. Barriss heals them with the Force, and they’re so grateful that they decide to help her and the other Jedi find the Alwari on the plains. They inform them they must find the Borokii, the Alwari overclan. Whatever this clan decides, the others will follow.

But once they set off from the city in search of these Borokii, the Jedi encounter challenges that may prevent them from getting the treaty signed in time.

My Thoughts

So I wanted some books that centers on Obi-Wan Kenobi, since I’m a little obsessed with him right now, and bought this book along with Rogue Planet and The Cestus Deception. And while Obi-Wan is an important player is this story, he’s more of a supporting character rather than the star. That designation belongs to Luminara Unduli, and most of the Jedi point of view is hers (though there are some from Obi-Wan, Barriss, and Anakin. In fact, the POV often switches from paragraph to paragraph, which I find distracting).

Anyway, though I was hoping for more Obi-Wan, I was happy to learn more of Luminara’s character, and that of her Padawan Barriss. She is a lovely Mirialan, calm, wise, and patient with her often excitable apprentice. She has a deep respect and affection for Obi-Wan, and he for her, and I had to remember they’re Jedi and resist the urge to “ship” them, as the young ones say; though they do share a longer than necessary gaze at one point in the story. That’s as far as it goes, but that probably qualifies as suggestive bordering on flirting for Jedi.

The interpersonal relations between the Jedi was something I enjoyed about this book; as I said, Luminara and Obi-Wan are quite compatible, and often talked of his singular apprentice, Anakin Skywalker. Luminara and Barriss don’t quite know what to make of him, and Obi-Wan admits he can be challenging, but has unwavering faith in his abilities.

Anakin himself is restless and impatient for the mission to be over, as he fervently wishes to “be elsewhere.” It’s not said outright, but it’s implied that he wishes to somehow see his mother again. (Once back on Coruscant, of course, he meets Padme again, and thoughts of Mom take a backseat to protecting his “angel.”) Barriss questions him about his mother, asking what it’s like to know her. He and Barriss are often at odds in the story, bickering and prickly; and at other times, they’re just two young people trying to understand each other, and sometimes, having fun.

Much of the story is spent exploring the Ansionian plains, its people and its beasts, and the challenges these things bring to the Jedi. Once clan they encounter, the Yiwa, expect them to perform for them in return for their hospitality: Barriss dances a lightsaber show, Anakin sings a lullaby he remembers his mother singing to him as a child, Obi-Wan tells a riveting tale, and Luminara uses the Force in an impressive sand-show.

I love that I found this artwork of Barriss entertaining the Yiwa on Pinterest. I can’t find any artist information; anyone know?

Barriss Offee
Barriss Offee dancing a lightsaber show for the Yiwa.

Anyway, this was an entertaining book that kept my interest, a Legends book that doesn’t overtly contradict any canon that I know of. It was interesting getting to know Barriss, as I only knew of her from Clone Wars and her ultimate betrayal to the Republic and the Jedi Order. She spends some time here in this book defending the Republic to Anakin, but clearly she comes to see things differently in the future. I feel sad for Luminara, for she truly cares for her Padawan; happily they’re on the same page in this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Lightsabers

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