The galaxy is full of creatures that are nothing like us at all…even if we accept that they’re doing what comes naturally, one is not beholden to comply when the sarlacc asks for dinner.
John Jackson Miller’s novel Kenobi, which centers on the early life of Obi-Wan Kenobi post-Order 66, is what Disney could have and should have done with their show. That may seem like a pretty tall statement, but I can explain why. Miller knows Obi-Wan exceptionally well and crafted an immersive tale that warmly invites all audiences, long-time Star Wars fans or not, to engage in Obi-Wan’s initial struggle in starting his new life protecting Luke on Tatooine while trying not to be involved in the locals’ lives.
Miller has been a long-time author for Star Wars literature. His list of other works is:
- Star Wars: Knight Errant
- Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith: The Collected Series
- Star Wars: A New Dawn
He also was the main writer for the comic series: Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, a spin-off series of the videogame of the same name.
Star Wars Kenobi was released back in 2013 and numbers 418 pages, not including excerpts and writings of Miller’s other works which total up to 442 pages.
What is Kenobi About?
Taking place after Order 66 and his duel with Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi brings baby Luke Skywalker to Owen Lars on Tatooine. To ensure the safety of the family, Obi-Wan adopts the new name that we all know and love: Ben. He decides to settle down in an area that’s a respectable distance from the Lars homestead known as the Jundland Wastes. However, after saving one of the locals from almost being crushed by a Dewback, Annileen, he is unfortunately dragged into a series of violent conflicts between the Tusken Raiders and crafty businessmen Orrin Gault and his growing army.
Innocent lives are lost that forces Kenobi into an extremely difficult position where he must intervene using his knowledge in the force while simultaneously try to conceal his background as a Jedi and general in the Clone Wars. In the meantime, he struggles mentally and emotionally with the recent events of Order 66, seemingly believing that he may be one of the last few remaining Jedi alive. Not to mention, he is still recovering from the recent betrayal of Anakin Skywalker, who was not just his padawan, but a treasured brother in arms.
War between A’Yark the Tusken Raider and Orrin Gualt the Local Leader
Diving a bit deeper into the story of Kenobi brings us to an impending war between A’Yark, a ferocious leader among a vicious tribe of marauders and feared monster to the locals, and a much-respected businessman and leader Orrin Gualt.
Orrin has set up a sort of community security system called Settlers’ Call. For a fee, local farmers can ring an alarm when marauders appear and have Orrin, as well as several other armed members of the community to ride in and defend the people. This system brought a lot of praise and recognition to Orrin and his family, resulting in him pursuing an expansion of this system.
A woman by the name of Annileen Calwell runs her late husband’s establishment, Dannar’s Claim which is a general store, inn and cantina all in one with her two teen children, Kallie and Jabe. Annileen has known Orrin for many years. In fact, Orrin had introduced her to her husband Dannar. Due to this as well as losing her husband to the Tuskens years prior, Annileen feels as she has no choice but to humor Orrin whenever he brings up the expansion.
One day, Kallie takes off on one of the family’s dewbacks and Annileen gives chase. Things take a dramatic turn when one of the dewbacks nearly crushes Annileen, but Obi-Wan happens upon the ordeal and saves her. Mystified by this strange man, Annileen invites him to visit the Claim, where Obi-Wan reluctantly finds himself at the worst of times. Orrin, who is slightly jealous of Annileen’s attention to mysterious man, then develops a suspicion of Obi-Wan after he rejects his business offer of expanding the Settler’s Call.
Praise and Critique
I think it’s safe to say that we can probably agree that we enjoy subtle homages to other characters in the franchise. We love to see these little connections that enforce how vast the Star Wars universe is. One of the most striking references in this book were of Sharad Hett, the Tusken Jedi (not really Tusken but a man who joined the Tuskens).
These references weren’t just placed there for simple fanservice as some might initially be led to believe. References to Sharad Hett were really crucial to one of the main character’s developments, and we see it come to play later on in the book. What’s more, the way Hett was weaved into the story could make readers who are not familiar with his character develop a new interest in exploring more of him in other works. That is something that can be pretty hard to achieve, but Miller does it well. When pieces of media can work things in like this to really drive their story home, their story is given more insightful and meaningful layers. Kenobi definitely accomplishes this.
While re-reading this novel, it was hard for me to really pinpoint any serious issues with the story. The only thing I can point out that always remained a constant deterrent was the pacing of the beginning. Ben isn’t a background character by any means, but it does take a while for him to make a solid appearance and for his presence to take an effect on the other characters. However, once the setup is finished, the ball really does get rolling and it turns into a rollercoaster towards the end.
Is Kenobi worth the Read?
Absolutely. While I and many others did appreciate what Disney tried to do with its show and direction, for me, the book just set the bar way too high. After the end of the show, I didn’t feel as satisfied nor did I really feel like Obi-Wan was given the justice he deserved. Again, that’s not to say I still didn’t enjoy my time watching the show, but I expected so much more.
Re-reading this novel only cemented my opinion, and reenforced my love for the expanded universe. This is a realistic take on how exactly Obi-Wan adapted to life on Tatooine. He was by no means a shell of a man that the show portrayed him to be. He was the Ben Kenobi that fans recognized and loved. Despite all the past tragedies and internal turmoil this man went through, he never abandoned the force or the principles he learned from Qui-Gon Jinn.
With its faithful writing to the story’s titular character, diverse and interesting cast of side characters and antagonists, as well as its fine-crafted depictions of the lives of the Tusken Raiders, it’s very close to perfection.
If you’re new to the franchise and are looking to start reading your first Legends novel, I highly recommend picking up Kenobi if you haven’t. The story is riveting and emotional, and it will keep you invested until the very end.
- THE GOOD
- Focused Plot
- Well-crafted action scenes
- Faithful to established characters
- Well thought-out twists and story pivots.
- Great antagonist
- THE BAD
- Slow Beginning Pace