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[ Star Wars Books & Comics ]
Staff Review.


[Kenobi]

Kenobi
Author: John Jackson Miller
Published: 2013

Reviewer: Ewan, Star Wars Books & Comics
Reviewed: 2013
Review rating: 4.5 / 5

Disclaimer:
Spoilers are kept to minimum however cannot guarantee spoiler-free.

Although publisher supplied copy for review purposes, all opinions are those of reviewer.

Publisher's Summary:
The Republic has fallen.
Sith Lords rule the galaxy.
Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi has lost everything...
Everything but hope.

Tatooine, a harsh desert world where farmers toil in the heat of two suns while trying to protect themselves and their loved ones from the marauding Tusken Raiders. A backwater planet on the edge of civilized space. And an unlikely place to find a Jedi Master in hiding, or an orphaned infant boy on whose tiny shoulders rests the future of a galaxy.
Known to locals only as “Ben,” the bearded and robed offworlder is an enigmatic stranger who keeps to himself, shares nothing of his past, and goes to great pains to remain an outsider. But as tensions escalate between the farmers and a tribe of Sand People led by a ruthless war chief, Ben finds himself drawn into the fight, endangering the very mission that brought him to Tatooine.
Ben, Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, hero of the Clone Wars, traitor to the Empire, and protector of the galaxy’s last hope, can no more turn his back on evil than he can reject his Jedi training. And when blood is unjustly spilled, innocent lives threatened, and a ruthless opponent unmasked, Ben has no choice but to call on the wisdom of the Jedi and the formidable power of the Force in his never-ending fight for justice.

Review:
Kenobi is essentially billed as a Star Wars western with frontier settler people who, in their eternal struggles with the elements and native peoples, are distrustful of outsiders and in the case of Obi-Wan Kenobi, outsiders don't come much bigger. However, Miller takes this established genre and flips it as he examines Kenobi's internal conflict to hide himself from the galaxy at large while his Jedi heritage argues he should always help those in need. To wit, on his first real encounter with the locals, where he saves the daughter of the local store with surreptitious use of the Force, Obi-Wan assumes the pseudonym 'Ben'. And this is the essence of Miller's story: the split persona of Obi-Wan, former Jedi Master and hero of The Clone Wars, and Ben, an outsider come to live as a hermit.
What makes this story stand out is that Miller chooses to examine Kenobi's personality conflict through the eyes of those he is forced to come into contact with. And here we have a small but strong cadre of characters: Annileen Calwell, a local storekeeper and mother to teenagers Kallie and Jabe; Orrin Gault, a moisture farmer and entrepreneur; and A'Yark, a Tusken war leader. Although this core group of characters each see Ben differently, their lives are forever changed by their contact with him. Interestingly, Miller takes certain preconceptions of protagonist/antagonist roles and twists them so that we are unclear of role definitions and builds on this giving us controlled revelations throughout the story. The reader cannot take anything at face value.
Since Kenobi must hide his Jedi heritage from all those around him, Miller creates some imaginative solutions for Ben when situations become too dangerous that only Obi-Wan can resolve: when Tuskens attack the local store he rushes in and sets off an extinguisher as a smoke screen to hide the use of his lightsaber; or when he rescues Orrin from nefarious money-lenders by using methods even the Dark Knight would have been proud to have used. It is therefore not surprising that after just a few such exploits he is nicknamed "crazy Ben". Not quickly enough Obi-Wan understands that it is very difficult to keep to oneself and preserve personal secrets in a small town, especially when Kallie, who idolises Ben for saving her, discovers Ben's surname.
Miller also examines Kenobi's transformation from Obi-Wan to Ben through the eyes of the native Tuskens' war leader, A'Yark. First dismissive of Kenobi as yet another "invading" settler, A'Yark soon begins to learn that there is more to this new arrival than initial observations led them to believe. Kenobi further cements his "crazy Ben" name when he approaches and converses with A'Yark and the Tuskens - something no other settler has done.
Fan-boys will enjoy how Miller expands A'Yark and the Tusken Raiders' story by incorporating the shared history from Timothy Truman's Outlander comic book story and the Episode II Tusken raid that resulted in Shmi Skywalker's death and Anakin's vengeful slaughter of the Raiders. However, not so cleverly done was Kenobi's recollection of Zayne Carrick and Kerra Holt, characters Miller created in his Knights of the Old Republic and Knight Errant comic stories. That such individuals from so far back on the Star Wars timeline would have any connection for Kenobi felt tenuous to say the least.
Not forgetting that Kenobi's mission on Tatooine was two-fold: one, to look over and protect the infant Luke; and two, learn to converse with his former master, Qui-Gon Jinn; Miller's telling of the latter at the end of each day on Tatooine does at times feel like exposition by Kenobi, but on the whole, it is carried off with serenity. Especially as the days unfold and Kenobi reflects on his individual encounters he begins to slowly accept that he is no longer Obi-Wan.
As in Miller's comic book story, Knights of the Old Republic, comedy has it part to play in the story: whether it is Annileen's almost daily struggles with her children's antics; or Kenobi's recollection of Yoda's teachings at what would appear to be inappropriate occasions; or when Kenobi's surname is revealed and his fears of Imperial attentions are alleviated when he discovers that Kenobi is actually a common name on Tatooine!

Kenobi's near two-decade long exile on Tatooine begins here and Miller's examination of his adjustment from Jedi Master and hero of The Clone Wars to hermit is wonderfully told. The pacing is spot on as we are introduced to the various characters and learn all that motivates them, their fears and their hopes. Miller reveals just enough at each turn so that we must read on and in doing so he never fails to pique our interest in all the characters. This is a story all will enjoy: whether you've seen only the six films or have a greater interest in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.


Star Wars: Kenobi by John Jackson Miller is available now in paperback from Arrow Books in the UK and Del Rey in the US.


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