Having just released into bookstores, Kiersten White’s Star Wars Padawan has already stirred up a bit of controversy amongst some Star Wars fans. That’s what good stories do, right?
Ultimately, Padawan is a well-told story about how one of the most well-known Jedi in the universe overcame his doubts, fears, and sense that he didn’t belong. It is also a story about how our actions affect everything around us and how the pursuit of power corrupts.
Some heavy themes, for sure. However, White addresses them in a way that makes for a fun, engaging stand-alone Star Wars story that reads much faster than its 400-plus page length.
Star Wars: Padawan Plot
Padawan is a Young Adult novel, so it is fitting that Obi-Wan Kenobi is experiencing many of the same things that teenagers face in our society. No longer an initiate, we find Obi-Wan as a new Padawan learner here. He is attempting, and struggling, to forge a relationship with his new master, Qui-Gon Jinn. Qui-Gon specializes in navigating the living force, growing through meditation, and negotiation – all things that Obi-Wan struggles with. Kenobi wonders why they were placed together.
Obi-Wan’s strength is lightsaber combat, and he wants to focus on that instead of meditation. His constant exposure to things that are outside his comfort zone fills him with uncertainty about where he fits in and whether he belongs at all. He experiences a constant fear that he will ultimately be a failure in the Jedi Order.
While attempting to meditate, Obi-Wan discovers a message left long ago by Orla Jareni and Cohmac Vitus (familiar names if you’re read The High Republic novels). Jareni was a Wayseeker as well as a Jedi, which piques Qui-Gon’s interest in the message. Master Jinn agrees to take Obi-Wan to Lenahra to investigate the message.
Obi wan gets everything planned, and when the day arrives, Qui-Gon is nowhere to be found. Frustrated and angry, Obi-Wan decides to go by himself. He is accompanied only by A6-G2, an astromech droid with a definite attitude. He feels that maybe accomplishing the mission by himself will show Qui-Gon that he is ready for more.
Characters in Star Wars: Padawan
Early in the novel, we see some familiar characters, including Qui-Gon. By the end of the first act, however, everything is new and original. This new cast of characters is one of the most refreshing things about Padawan.
Upon landing on Lenahra, Obi-Wan discovers a group of young people that live on the planet. They are lead by Audj, a Mikkian who is fiercely protective of her people. Her brother, Casul, is a moody and passionate addition to the story. Zae-Brii is a shape shifter and Audj’s partner. These three characters receive much of the attention from White, and certainly more than the rest of the group. However, the love and care the entire group has for one another is apparent throughout, and that is a key factor in the story.
As the story progresses, the planet itself and life native to it become key characters in themselves. I won’t spoil too much here, but Lenahra itself is a driver of Obi-Wan’s journey throughout Padawan.
As for the baddie, you’ll figure that out on your own. I don’t want to ruin that for you here.
Obi-Wan himself is different in Padawan than we are used to seeing him. Die-hard Star Wars fans are used to the stoic, wise, balanced Jedi Knight and Master. In Padawan, we find Obi-Wan conflicted, unsure, and questioning if he even wanted to be a Jedi. This new, teenage version of Kenobi is perfect for a Young Adult novel and gives any reader a new take on a familiar hero.
Related: Star Wars: Shadow of the Sith Review
A Journey of Self-Discovery
When Obi-Wan lands on Lenahra, he is a young man struggling to find his place. In about every way, he feels lost. Not sure if he belongs in the Jedi Order, on Coruscant, or with Qui-Gon, we find the young Jedi in a place of deep inner turmoil.
What we do know of Kenobi, even when struggling with this, is that he cares. About life, the beings around him, and the environment he inhabits. This is demonstrated when he meets the clan of young people, in his interactions with different creatures, and how he affects the planet itself. Obi-Wan is guided by his compassion at all times.
That compassion makes him feel an attachment to everything and everyone around him. It also exacerbates his feeling of not belonging. While he feels connected with everything and everyone, he does not feel like he belongs – or is at least not sure that he does.
The closeness of the group he spends time with makes Obi-Wan reflect on his own family, or lack thereof. Kenobi spends much of the second act wondering if he should abandon his life on Coruscant and join Audj, Casul, Zae-Bril, and the others. They have everything he wants, and he feels that joining them would fill the gaps in his life too.
Complexities of sexuality and romance are also discussed in Padawan. Both Casul and Audj are gay, or at least bisexual. In a sequence in the novel, it is suggested that Obi-Wan might be as well. Casul indicates that he might be interested in kissing Obi-Wan, and Kenobi does not outright reject him. Instead, he states that he is unsure of what he wants or is interested in when it comes to sex or romance.
Some readers took this as White “making Obi-Wan bisexual.” I read it as Kenobi facing the fact that he had never thought about these things in the past, and that he had no idea what he liked or wanted. At the strongest, it might be suggested that at this stage in his life, Obi-Wan is asexual or demisexual. Before some people get upset, it is not a central theme of Padawan, and it is covered in the span of about a page and a half. It is not a focal point; it is simply another thing Obi-Wan is uncertain of.
The Pursuit of Power
Each young person in the group led by Audj has abilities like Obi-Wan’s Force powers. They are not, however, Force sensitive. Instead, they fuel their power in an unusual way. No spoilers, but it is a key component of the story.
The key questions in this part of the narrative are simple: what would you do to hold on to the power that you have? Who and what are you willing to hurt to keep your power or gain more? While those questions are simple, they are also deep and revealing.
In telling this part of the story, Kiersten White is not exactly subtle. The abilities that the young people have are referred to by them as the power. The ability to jump higher and farther, run faster, and be stronger give them an advantage on the dangerous planet – but at what cost?
Audj, Cason, and the rest of the crew must face what their pursuit of more power has done to both everything around them as well as themselves. This is where Obi-Wan’s compassion shines through, as well as his ability to negotiate.
Whereas Obi-Wan believed that he was only a good swordsman, his ability to care for others and guide them to see the right path – the things Qui-Gon specializes in – are what helps him on Lenahra. Kenobi must embrace the living Force and connect with everything around him in order to help these people. In doing so, he finds his way.
Kiersten White’s Padawan isn’t necessarily essential reading for Obi-Wan fans – you can understand the character fine in other books and films without experiencing this story. With that said, Padawan examines the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi in a way that has not been done in the past. We learn that he had the same vulnerabilities, insecurities, and fears that all young people have. We also learn that he gained strength by allowing himself to be connected to everything around him.
Padawan is a fun, exciting tale about fear of change, thirst for power, and the difficulties in learning who you really are. It is a wonderful addition to a beloved character’s journey. Most of all, it is a fantastic Star Wars story.
- THE GOOD
- Wonderful look at how Obi-Wan faced the same things many young people do
- Original cast of characters and environment
- A well paced, fun story with a lot of heart
- A6-G2 is fantastic
- THE BAD
- White could have fleshed out more of the characters on Lenahra than just the three primary ones
Star Wars: Padawan is a wonderful Star Wars tale about a beloved character, giving us a new look at how he became the Jedi we all know.