Mike Chen’s Star Wars: Brotherhood is the Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi team-up that I have been waiting for since I was twelve years old. Over the last couple of years, Star Wars has been exploring moments in between major events—like with War of the Bounty Hunters—and Brotherhood answers all of the questions that arose after a throwaway line in Revenge of the Sith about a “messy business” on Cato Neimoidia. Situated after Anakin and Padmé’s nuptials in Attack of the Clones and right at the onset of the Clone Wars, Brotherhood has the unique task of setting into motion a lot of events that come to fruition in both the animated series and the final film of the trilogy.
Chen does this with extreme care and a thorough understanding of the source material. Anakin and Obi-Wan have both popped up in ancillary stories over the past few years, but this is the first time that their voices have perfectly matched the known trajectory of their arcs. Anakin has entered this new phase of adulthood where he’s balancing not only new and stressful work responsibilities, but he’s also balancing being a husband. Brotherhood approaches Anakin with understanding and grace, something that he hasn’t always been met with in previous stories. We get to see him working through these big emotions—emotions that the Jedi Order has tried to iron out of him—and we get to see him grappling with who he is as a person. Yet, even with the looming weight of knowing the dark path that his journey takes, Chen still treats us to moments of levity with Padmé as they share intimate moments on date nights and hushed, longing-filled conversations.
As someone who is an unrepentant Anakin Skywalker fan and someone who adores the early days of the relationship between Anakin and Padmé, it was a relief to get to see them get a chance to revel in the honeymoon era in their relationship, something that we got far too little of in The Clone Wars. And while the relationship is very much a subplot in Brotherhood, there are threads of it throughout the novel that influence and inform how Anakin reacts in certain situations. Chen also draws a clear line between Anakin and Padmé and the dalliance that Obi-Wan had with Duchess Satine, which is sure to satisfy fans of that tragic pairing. It’s quite fun to see Obi-Wan explore his own shades of regret as he watches his now-former Padawan flirt with the Senator.
Brotherhood introduces a slate of new characters, all of which are exceptionally crafted, fully realized, and integral figures in the book, but there was one who I instantly adored. Mill Alibeth (who Chen says was inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind) is a youngling that Anakin encounters when he’s asked to teach them. And yes, Anakin teaching the younglings is beautiful and painful set up for what we know comes to pass in Revenge of the Sith. Mill is very uncertain about her place within the Jedi Order and through the adventure, she gets swept up in with Anakin, she gets to explore her connection to the Force and decide if becoming a Jedi is the right path for her.
While Mill is completely different from Ahsoka Tano, I did notice some similarities between them. Whether they are intentional or not, I think the fact that Anakin finds himself paired with younglings and padawans that have an inherent issue with how the Jedi Order functions is not a simple coincidence. With all the little references to Qui-Gon Jinn throughout Brotherhood, I couldn’t help but think of his own fundamental issues with the order and how that seems to have been passed down to Anakin, even though their time was short together.
Brotherhood is an ensemble story that showcases not only Obi-Wan and Anakin’s points of view, but also the experiences of Mill, Asajj Ventress, and the newcomer Ruug. Chen manages to interweave all of these story elements without backtracking or repetition to create a fast-paced and exhilarating adventure. There’s romance, political intrigue, introspection, and a lot of friendship and compassion. What’s so compelling about the novel is the fact that Anakin and Obi-Wan are each given space to express themselves, both outwardly and inwardly.
Obi-Wan struggles with the change in his relationship with Anakin, he’s no longer his padawan, he’s his peer. He can no longer counsel him in the ways that he once did, though he often wonders if he did enough to guide Anakin to this stage in his life. There are a lot of self-doubts, guilt, regret, and the kind of emotions that will undoubtedly track into the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series. This is the kind of storytelling that so many of us have been longing for—not just surface-level hijinks, but the introspection that strikes right at the heart of what makes these characters tick. To put it simply, Chen gets it. In the same way that The High Republic’s authors have delivered a nuanced approach to the Jedi and the Republic, Chen delivers on presenting flawed characters, that are stripped down and allowed to make mistakes, even as they fall upward.
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Image Credit: Penguin Random House.
Maggie Lovitt is a writer at Wealth of Geeks where she covers her favorite topics: Star Wars and pop culture nerdery.
In her free time, she is also a novelist, screenwriter, actor, and member of the Screen Actors Guild.