Review: Star Wars Ahoska by E.K. Johnston (Hardcover and Audiobook Review)

Ahsoka LIVES! At least for a while longer in the new novel by E.K. Johnston, Star Wars: Ahsoka. On sale now from Disney/Lucasfilm Press with an audiobook by Penguin Random House’ Listening Library imprint.

Ahsoka marks the debut Star Wars novel from veteran author E.K. Johnston (A Thousand Nights) and I am confident in saying that fans will demand more tales in the galaxy from this talented author.

Ahsoka marks the second in a line of full length hardcover Young Adult novels from Disney/Lucasfilm Press. Lost Stars, perhaps the best new canon books is a tough act to follow but Ahsoka does an admirable job trying.

Publisher’s Summary:

Fans have long wondered what happened to Ahsoka after she left the Jedi Order near the end of the Clone Wars, and before she re-appeared as the mysterious Rebel operative Fulcrum in Rebels. Finally, her story will begin to be told. Following her experiences with the Jedi and the devastation of Order 66, Ahsoka is unsure she can be part of a larger whole ever again. But her desire to fight the evils of the Empire and protect those who need it will lead her right to Bail Organa, and the Rebel Alliance.

Set between the events of The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, this novel takes Star Wars Young Adult storytelling into the fugitive and western genres in a way that feels natural and mature, perhaps most similar to John Jackson Miller’s adult novel Kenobi mixed with one of the early Anakin and Obi-Wan Clone Wars novels.

Ahsoka is a must read novel for fans of the character, it gives us a glimpse into unproduced stories involving Ahsoka on Mandalore from Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the immediate aftermath of Order 66 and sets Ahsoka on her path of Rebellion.

Set primarily on the Outer Rim farming moon Raada and the planet Thabeska, we meet Ahsoka living under the alias of Ashla. The use of the name Ashla has deep Star Wars roots, being both a name George Lucas used for the light side of the Force, the name of a Togruta youngling in Episode II and the working name for Ahsoka during The Clone Wars‘ development.

On Thabeska Ahsoka lives and works for the Fardi family and takes a special interest in one of their children a young girl named Hedal until the gaze of the Empire gets too close for comfort.

When she arives on Raada, where a majority of the action takes place, Ahsoka befriends a group of workers and an old Togruta bar keep and tries to stay out of trouble and earn enough money to get by fixing farm equipment and preparing her escape routes in case the Empire gets to close once again.

On Raada Ahsoka becomes friends with the sisters Kaeden and Miara Larte, Vartan, Malat, and the twins Hoban and Neera. When they weren’t out working the fields the crew along with Ahsoka spends a great deal of their time at Selda’s cantina eating, drinking and playing a board gamed called crokin.

The problem with being a Jedi in the galaxy is that trouble always seems to find you and for Ahsoka even on Raada she could not escape Imperial entanglements that threatened to ensnare her friends and their community.

As the novel unfolds we meet some new villains, an old friend, and have some dramatic moments in Ahsoka’s new life that will play a pivotal role in the woman she is when we see her again in Star Wars Rebels. I don’t want to ruin all that for you, so I won’t say anymore.

I will say there are a few things that I really enjoyed about this novel and a few things I had some issue with.

Lets start with some of my issues with the book. The first major issue I have is that there is a section later in the book that involves a time jump and a litany of heroic acts that Ahsoka commits that occur off the page. Now to me these are some of the parts of the story that I would most want to see, yet they are simply skipped over. We are told that Ahsoka daringly did X,Y, and Z instead of actually seeing her do it. Instead we get a lot more time on Thabeska with the Fardis, which leads me to my second critique.

Unless there is a rather immediate storytelling plan for Hedal Fardi in canon, it feels like Johnston spend far too much time focused on this set of characters and this subplot. There needs to be a payoff for Hedal’s story to justify the amount of attention it gets in this book.

The good news is that those are my biggest issues with the book and are far outweighed by what I liked and in some cases loved.

Structurally I really like how Johnston crafted her story, the story circle backs twice first back to Thabeska and then back to Raada. This theme of returning is also echoed in the character of Ahsoka herself as she returns to her outwardly heroic nature and even other aspects of things that she returns to in the story.

I loved the inclusion of the flashback scenes sprinkled throughout the book. Some from Ahsoka’s perspective and some from other perspectives that help provide more context. The presentation of these passages in the hardcover on darker pages and in italics is a very nice way of clearly visually interrupting the narrative.

I love the inclusion of crokin in the story. Anytime authors can add a sport or game to the Star Wars universe it makes it feel a little more real and a little more grounded. After all these folks aren’t staring at holoscreens all day they need other things to do. I can’t wait to reread and try to figure out if a real world crokin game is feasible to create.

I enjoyed the layers of antagonists, from the Empire generally, to a bureaucrat to Inquisitors. It gives a sense of the scope and scale of the threat that the Empire presents, particularly to fugitive Jedi and those who may be collateral damage in their lives.

The good news is that Johnston absolutely nails Ahsoka’s characterization. She reads as pitch perfect to me in terms of how Ahsoka would think and how she would act. The bad news is that despite the cast of characters that Johnston builds around Ahsoka, I am not sure if any of them are memorable enough to return in other stories. I didn’t fall in love with any of the supporting cast.

Further this book provides some answers to questions left hanging after The Clone Wars and not answered so far during Star Wars Rebels. This is something that I appreciate to a great deal as an intense follower of the larger quilt of Star Wars storytelling.

Thoughts on the Audiobook:

Released by Penguin Random House the audio book for Star Wars: Ahsoka is read by actress Ashley Eckstein. The unabridged recording is a real treat for The Clone Wars fans who get to see Eckstein return to her role, as the Togruta we all know and love.

The production quality on the audiobook is high as usual with music and sound effects included. Ashley may not have the most diverse vocal range of the typical audio book narrators but she does an admiral job and her portrayal of certain characters such as Maul is down right charming. She may be coming after Sam Witwer’s job.

The only critique of the audiobook I have is kind of silly and not really Eckstein’s fault. There is a family name that is used frequently in the novel, the Fardis which in the audiobook sounds a little too close to a  certain bodily function and made me giggle just about every time it was mentioned. You may be more mature than me, in fact you likely are, but if you aren’t enjoy the giggles.

One final note on an issue that I don’t think is actually an issue but will likely spur some discussion and that is the revelation of a character having a same-sex attraction towards Ahsoka and what reads in the subtext as at least some level of reciprocation from Ahsoka. It is interesting that this is something with Ahsoka that has been discussed and sometimes more in fan fic and art since the introduction of the close friendship between Ahsoka and Barriss Offee in The Clone Wars. It doesn’t really fit with what Dave and team had created in Ahsoka’s first crush of Lux and the unproduced story arc involving Ahsoka and having another male love interest in Nix Okami. Johnston leaves it open enough that Ahsoka’s reaction to the romantic interest could simply be friendly and compassionate or there could be reciprocal feelings making Ahsoka possibly the first or at least the most prominent bisexual character in Star Wars.

Star Wars: Ahsoka is without reservation a must read for any fan of Star Wars: The Clone Wars or Rebels and any fan who wants to expand beyond the films.

On a personal note I would like to thank E.K. Johnston for handling the character so ably because Ahsoka is hands down my wife’s favorite Star Wars character. Marriage can be challenging, especially in the early years but Ahsoka was the character that sucked my wife into The Clone Wars and every week allowed me to share my passion for Star Wars with the most important person in my life.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *