Book Reviews

Book Review – Star Wars: Kenobi by John Jackson Miller

Star Wars fans: If you’ve ever wondered what Obi-Wan Kenobi did in the years between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, here are some of the answers. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, this book is not for you.

From the moment Obi-Wan arrives on the planet, he is challenged to keep from being noticed. Carrying baby Luke, he inquires at a local watering hole for directions to the Lars’ moisture farm and ends up using his light-saber against local gangsters. Luckily, the only witnesses are drunk, but it’s a sign of things to come as he tries to keep from drawing attention to himself.

Having deposited the infant Luke with Owen and Beru Lars, Obi-Wan’s intention is to stick around and watch over him. Owen points out that his hovering near the Lars’ moisture farm is apt to do more harm than good, so Obi-Wan sets out to be a desert recluse not too far from their home.

Being a desert recluse on Tatooine is harder than he thought. He adopts the name “Ben” and tries to slide into obscurity. Unfortunately, the location he’s chosen draws him into a tangled web of intrigue, rivalry, gang wars, and Sand People. Try as he might, he’s enticed to use his Jedi powers over and over again, just trying to keep the peace among the group of neighbors.

What seems like people trying to defend themselves against the Sand People is actually much more. Ben finds himself thrown together with the widowed Annileen again and again as he slowly discovers what is really happening between these moisture farmers and this band of Sand People.

I found Kenobi to be a really great read. The Star Wars books have been hit or miss for me. The early ones written about the aftermath of Return of the Jedi before The Force Awakens was made were all great. Since then, the offerings have been less than stellar. Kenobi, though, is a great read that doesn’t counter anything that’s already known about the Star Wars universe.

The reason for this is the plethora of new characters introduced. The farmers Ben meets up with are people who exist on the fringes of society. Knowing what we know about Tatooine with the lawlessness and gangster-like rule of the Hutts, the dynamic taking place here is no surprise. They are left to figure out how to take care of situations themselves, and the end result is hardly a surprise. Time and time again, Ben feels forced to use his Jedi training and power of the Force to fix what is happening, possibly revealing his identity as he tries to hide away from the new Empire that has formed and its leadership.

Miller goes beyond just this setting Ben is involved in and draws in the Sand People and their culture. They are not the animalistic, savage beings hinted at before in the movies. There is a reason for everything they do, and some of it goes back to what happened with Anakin in Attack of the Clones, although Ben does not know about what happened.

The new characters are fleshed out nicely and needed to make an interesting story. Some might say there’s too much on them and not enough of Kenobi, but it has to be that way. He’s trying to fade into the background and not be recognized as a Jedi. Following the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi as he tries to work out what he’s supposed to be doing while he waits for Luke to grow up could be very boring. It’s hinted that there is some communication among the cabal of conspirators who separated Anakin and Padme’s twins and are keeping them hidden. With the new series announced for Disney +, it will be interesting if anything from this story survives.

I’d recommend Kenobi to Star Wars fans. I’d give it 4 stars, simply because most of the story focuses on brand new characters, even though it’s well-done. There’s no way to portray a hermit on a desert planet that would be interesting without new characters, so it had to be that way. I would suggest reading it before any new series comes out, though.

3 replies »

  1. I have this book. I don’t remember if I bought it when it was first published or sometime later (I could check my Amazon history, but it’s not THAT important), but I do recall buying (and beginning to read) it when I still lived in Miami.

    I liked what I read of “Kenobi,” but if I bought it while my mother was still lived (and considering that my copy bears the Legends label, it’s quite possible that I did), I was too tired and otherwise occupied to devote much time to it.

    • I believe it’s the last of the “Legends” books. It will be interesting to see if anything carries over to the new series. I liked it a lot. Many people complained about all of the new characters who dominate the story, but what else are you going to do with it?

  2. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lucasfilm brings some of the novel’s characters into the series; after all, JJM wrote the first new canon novel, the prequel to the Rebels TV series. And from what I recall, the novel’s characters would probably be easy to add to the canon.

    As for “complainers,” well, I rarely pay attention to them. JJM had to make sure that his novel was interesting, entertaining, yet didn’t go beyond the bounds of what was possible for Obi-Wan Kenobi to do, story-wise, regarding what George Lucas established in the films.

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