Ricky Church reviews Star Wars: Brotherhood…
With Obi-Wan Kenobi now having premiered on Disney+, Lucasfilm and Del Rey picked the perfect time to revisit the early days of the Clone Wars as Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker become a freshly minted Jedi Master and Jedi Knight respectively. Written by Mike Chen, Star Wars: Brotherhood explores the bond between Obi-Wan and Anakin as they adjust to their new roles and grow beyond the confines of their dynamic as teacher and student, setting the foundation for what their relationship will become in Revenge of the Sith.
Brotherhood begins in the earliest days of the Clone Wars just as Anakin is officially made into a Jedi Knight. After a tragedy strikes Cato Neimoidia, home to the Trade Federation which claims they are a neutral faction and former Viceroy Nute Gunray leads a breakaway extremist faction, fingers are pointed at the Republic for the destruction. Sensing a chance to deescalate the war and gain the Trade Federation as an ally before the galaxy is truly engulfed in the conflict, Obi-Wan offers to investigate and clear the Republic’s name by finding the true culprits. It doesn’t take long for the case to become more complicated than it initially seemed and Anakin is forced to either follow his own mission or break rules to help Obi-Wan.
This is a brief time that has not really been covered in much depth in Star Wars media as Anakin transitions from Jedi Padawan to Knight, completely changing the dynamic of his and Obi-Wan’s relationship. Chen captures this period very well as he explores Anakin’s uncertainty over what to do even as he’s still a little resentful of Obi-Wan being (from his perspective) judgemental, pushy and too much of a helicopter teacher. Meanwhile Obi-Wan, who has been given a temporary seat on the Jedi Council, recognizes Anakin’s potential but worries over his impulsiveness and commitment to the Order as he’s noticed his infatuation with Padmé has changed because of, unknowingly to him, their marriage. The pair’s journeys are paralleled quite nicely as they slowly come to realize more about the other now that the titles of teacher and student are replaced with peers and, soon to be, brothers.
Chen is able to utilize each of their voices to emphasize the shift in their perspectives well as his dialogue is true to their characters. He also mixes in a ton of Star Wars history from The Clone Wars and other stories, such as Obi-Wan’s own youthful romance witch Duchess Satine of Mandalore, his friendship with Dexter Jettster or the origins of his reputation as the Jedi and Republic’s “Negotiator” (not to mention exploring what exactly happened on Cato Neimoidia as Obi-Wan teased in Revenge). Chen even ties some of Anakin’s thematic imagery to Matthew Stover’s classic novelization of Revenge of the Sith, teasing how Anakin’s caring nature and his driving need to rescue people will later be manipulated for evil. The connections to the larger Star Wars mythology will be enjoyable for fans, but even if you’re not a big enough fan to the point some of those connections will fly over your head Chen’s story and character work is enough to interest any casual fan reading the book.
Aside from Obi-Wan and Anakin, Brotherhood is full of new faces. Mill Alibeth is a young Jedi Initiate on the cusp of becoming a Padawan, but she is very different from her fellow initiates as she not only doesn’t want to fight but is sickened by very idea of fighting. Her connection to the Force is a unique one in how it affects her and she calls upon it because of this sickness and a chance mission with Anakin makes the two of them bond in very unexpected ways. Chen writes Mill very interestingly with how her perspective on the war grows, especially as she thinks on the contradiction of the Jedi being peacekeepers yet are generals leading a war. Her relationship with Anakin also helps him develop out of the brash Jedi (well, a little bit) into someone the Council views ready to take on an apprentice of his own. Through Mill, Chen once again teases aspects of the mythology that become significant through the course of the Clone Wars as the Jedi drift further and further away from their stated purpose, setting the stage to be blindsided in the worst way.
A huge advantage to the book is the setting on Cato Neimoidia. This is a planet that has rarely been explored and it is even rarer for the Cato Neimoidians’ culture to be highlighted. Ever since The Phantom Menace and subsequent Prequels and stories in The Clone Wars, Cato Neimoidians have often been painted as one note villains obsessed with their greed and riches. Brotherhood explores more of their culture as Obi-Wan teams up with Ruug Quarnom, a Cato Neimoidian security specialist, to investigate the tragic bombing. Ruug is an interesting and capable character with her own sense of justice and loyalty to her planet. Through her and other characters, Cato Neimiodia is painted in a different light as more of their culture is given insight to show they’re not all in line with the Trade Federation’s actions, past or present. The presence of a certain fan-favourite antagonist to Obi-Wan and Anakin will also make lots of fans happy with how they complicate Obi-Wan’s investigation.
The story is well paced and plays out as much more of a mystery than an action adventure as Obi-Wan collects evidence, examines crime scenes and makes deductions. It shows how insightful and intelligent he is while offering a different type of Star Wars story than Jedi infiltrating enemy lines, though there is plenty of action to be had later in the book. The nature of the mystery and how Obi-Wan intends to solve it without causing a diplomatic incident is tense, all the more so when Anakin decides the time has come for Mill and him to break rules and help Obi-Wan no matter the cost. Mike Chen crafts a story that is a balance of captivating mystery and character driven analysis of two iconic Star Wars characters, made all the more significant as they are about to have a painful and tragic reunion in Obi-Wan Kenobi, while opening the door to new facets of the galaxy far, far away that challenges previous characterizations.
Ricky Church – Follow me on Twitter for more movie news and nerd talk.