Review by Cory Clubb of Coffee With Kenobi
I’ve read my fair share of EU novels over the course of my years of fandom and have felt different about each one ranging from lukewarm to captivating. Notably, Darth Plageuis being one that has stuck with me for quite some time. I bring that up considering John Jackson Miller’s hotly anticipated Kenobi had much to live up to in my opinion.
I heard this novel was debuting around the time the new films were being announced and I was eager to jump back into the EU and read up on all my favorite characters. I had a hard time not thinking about all the glorious events and action that would take place within its pages. Very exciting to think of Ben Obi Wan Kenobi, one of my favorite characters, the center of a pre-Rebel storyline a gap in the saga that has yet to be ventured into all that much! This was a novel that surely couldn’t miss. Or could it?
In the opening pages we are treated to a familiar scene and atmosphere that echoes one in Episode IV. A dusty, dirty, low life of a place, where only scum and villain breed. From that I was engulfed into the plot and couldn’t wait ’till lightsabers started taking limbs and wisdom was being duel out. Although, as I got deeper into the chapters, an uneasy feeling grew over me. This wasn’t the Kenobi adventures I was hoping for.
Instead we are dropped into a way of life and community on the desert planet of Tattoine. Miller introduces readers to new characters that long to be met and have their story told. For example major character, Annileen Calwell, whose past and relationship with other citizens burdens her way of life. Yet she’s a strong character and is ready when, just like any good old western, trouble starts a brew’n. Enter: The Tusken Raiders.
Aside from the settlers and their likable ways, the author writes the Tuskens in such a manner that had me turning pages to read their story faster and faster. Especially A’Yark, the party leader, such a fascinating character. I found myself really drawn into that thread of the story and really enjoyed it.
Don’t worry there is plenty of Ben Kenobi, but the story is told from a point of view that isn’t directly aimed at the aging Jedi. He’s out of his element here in this new place and Miller shows us his writing skills of describing how it all affects Obi Wan given his new role. What we see is the cross over between a battled hardened Jedi into the crazy old recluse. Although, Ben wouldn’t have it any other way in order to compete his mission. I would have liked to have seen some more inner turmoil with Kenobi’s mixed feelings fresh from his best friend’s betrayal and supposed defeat.
All in all, Kenobi is a very well written and enjoyable book. The story is told in a way I didn’t expect, but found myself liking the narrative style very much, seeing Obi Wan’s new life told through the eyes of each of the characters. The author also has the ability to key into the fine details and explores them in nice gradients as events progress. We even get a lesson in moisture farming. It all ties together to become a more personal story and will captivate readers as they come to realize not all great EU books have to be told on the galactic level. Some rise out of a small desolate community just trying to get by.
When cracking open a new Star Wars novel, I look back to previous titles and align the weight of them against the newest offering like I did here. Yet, where Darth Plagueis was so rich in vocabulary and thought provoking ideas, Kenobi stands tall in its own right with its solid character studies and perspective. It’s not your typical Star Wars EU novel, but then again it doesn’t have to be. I’m glad Miller wrote the story he wanted to write, because now I couldn’t see it told any other way. I’d happily pick up a sequel or expansion on any of the characters and story lines driven from this release.
As we fans crawl our way into a brand new Star Wars era of films, Kenobi is a great marker in the EU timeline as a reminder there are still great stories to be told and it gives me hope of what is to come.
4.5 out of 5
Kenobi is my first official written review for a Star Wars EU novel.
Copy of the novel provided by Del Rey Press and Net Galley.