With the Obi-Wan Kenobi show just weeks away from arriving on Disney+, all eyes are turning to the iconic Jedi. Brotherhood by Mike Chen is the latest Star Wars novel and is published today. The story it tells is set shortly after Attack of the Clones, during the very early stages of the Clone Wars.
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Brotherhood deals largely with the “business on Cato Nemoidia” that Obi-Wan mentions at the beginning of Revenge of the Sith. A terrorist attack has just occurred on Cato Nemoidia, killing and injuring thousands on the planet which has so far remained neutral in the Clone Wars, and now the Republic is being blamed. Leaning into his abilities as a diplomat, Obi-Wan manages to persuade the Neimoidian government to allow him to travel to the planet alone as an ambassador for the Republic and investigate the crime himself, along with an ambassador for the Separatists: Asajj Ventress. Working with a Nemoidian guard more interested in the truth than in politics, Obi-Wan discovers a cunning plot buried in the mists of the planet but soon finds himself staring down the barrel of more trouble than he can handle.
Meanwhile, the newly knighted (and secretly married) Anakin Skywalker is facing his first mission without his former master, and it involves something far scarier than the Separatists: Jedi Younglings. While attempting to balance his responsibilities to the Jedi with his desire to spend time with his new wife, Anakin finds himself forging a surprising bond with a conflicted youngling. However, when he realizes his old master is in trouble, the orders of the Jedi Council won’t stop him from rushing to help—even if doing so puts the entire Republic at risk.
In Brotherhood, we get to see Anakin and Obi-Wan navigating a significant shift in their relationship. From almost the day they met, Anakin has been Obi-Wan’s padawan, placing the older Jedi in something of a fatherly role that required him to discipline and mold his young charge even though he was still only a young man himself. However, following the Battle of Geonosis, Anakin has been knighted and Obi-Wan promoted to the rank of Master—placing them on equal footing and making their relationship more akin to brothers than father and son. Throughout the book we see how both men are struggling with this change in their first missions apart from each other after so many years of relying upon the other’s very different skills and perceptions.
Obi-Wan is struggling in particular. Although he knows that Anakin is entirely capable of standing alone having successfully taken the trials, he worries for his friend. His senses—both his extra-sensory Jedi perception and his ordinary eyes and ears—are also showing him that Anakin is growing far too close to Padme, yet now that Anakin is his own man and no longer Obi-Wan’s charge, he finds himself unsure of how to proceed. This is a hesitation that will have enormous repercussions many years later so it’s fascinating to watch how Obi-Wan deals with the situation. I also loved watching Anakin’s response to working apart from Obi-Wan. While at first, he seems to revel in the freedom that comes with knighthood such as clones immediately following his orders rather than requesting confirmation from a more senior Jedi, it’s obvious he also feels somewhat lost. Anakin is still reeling from the events on Tattooine during Attack of the Clones and he has now lost not only his mother but has also been separated from his father figure as well. It’s both hilarious and also rather tragic watching him drop everything to race to his former Master’s side at the first hint that Obi-Wan is in too deep.
My one criticism of Brotherhood was that for a book focused primarily on the relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan, they spent much of the book apart, literally on different planets. While this separation is clearly needed—it’s this distance and lack of communication that helps them see how much they rely upon one another—it was a shame to miss out on so much of the banter we love to hear between them. The relationship between the two is the true heart of this book which is great to see when so many recent Star Wars novels (looking at you Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy) spend so much time away from their central characters. While there are a few chapters seen from the perspectives of others here, the vast majority stick with Anakin and Obi-Wan, helping the plot stay tightly focused and making this a truly character-driven story.
Brotherhood is a powerful story that explores a significant shift in the Star Wars universe that happened off-screen, and also answers a question many fans have asked about just what it was that happened on Cato Nemoidia (for the record, I am on Anakin’s side here, it absolutely did count). It’s precisely the kind of Star Wars story I love, focusing closely on the characters and exploring how they react when faced with a changing galaxy, while also expanding the wider universe around them. The new characters introduced here were both well-developed and I hope to see both Mill Alibeth and Ruug Quarnom again in the future.
For me, Brotherhood is one of the best Star Wars books released in the last few years and it has me even more excited for the premiere of Obi-Wan Kenobi in a few weeks’ time.
GeekMom received a copy of this title for review purposes.