So now that you’ve finished Claudia Gray’s masterpiece, Master and Apprentice, and binged Dooku: Jedi Lost, the new audio drama by Cavan Scott, you may not want to leave the pre-TPM world! If so, allow me to recommend a lost jewel of the Expanded Universe: the Jedi Apprentice series by Jude Watson (a pen name for Judy Blundell) and Dave Wolverton, published by Scholastic from 1999–2002.
What you need to know
The Jedi Apprentice series holds a special place in my Expanded Universe experience.
I was first introduced to Star Wars in 1997 when I saw the Original Trilogy (Special Edition) in theaters. The next two years of anticipation for Episode I were imagination-fueled madness—I would take anything Star Wars I could get my hands on. This mostly consisted of endlessly rewatching the OT on VHS tape, burying my Boba Fett in the sarlacc pit I had dug in my backyard, and listening to the abridged versions of Mike Stackpole’s X-Wing series on audio cassette on loan from my local library. But being between five and seven years old, tackling a 300-plus-page adult novel like Heir to the Empire was out of the question.
So, when I found Dave Wolverton’s Jedi Apprentice: The Rising Force in my elementary school book fair, with its striking cover featuring a young Obi-Wan Kenobi, I was shocked! A Star Wars book with an original plot in unexplored territory of the timeline, featuring the mysterious Qui-Gon Jinn, written on my reading level?!
This series felt like it was written just for me.
Over the next three years, Jude Watson would pick up where Wolverton had gotten started and go on to write an astounding 19 more books in the series. If 20 books isn’t enough for you, Scholastic essentially creates a “Judy-verse” with two ten-book follow-up series: Jedi Quest featuring Anakin’s apprenticeship under Obi-Wan, and Last of the Jedi (not to be confused with Episode VIII!), which follows Anakin’s former rival, Padawan Ferus Olin, during the Dark Times following Revenge of the Sith.
Overwhelmed? Don’t be! Each book is a light read, averaging 130 pages of large print. I—by no means a speed reader—averaged two hours per book.
While I was fortunate to find a number of these titles at my local library, the entire series can now be found on Amazon for you to get started on your journey!
At its core, Jedi Apprentice is an extended look at Qui-Gon Jinn’s training of Obi-Wan Kenobi. It chronicles the oft-tumultuous, frequently surprising relationship between the seemingly perfect Jedi-to-be and his rebellious Jedi Master.
At first glance, there are two major misconceptions one might have before reading Jedi Apprentice. The first is that with twenty books, the author must have churned these out in her sleep with little to no effort. But rather than simple, repetitive stories, Watson ties the series together with multi-book arcs similar to the model that would be used by The Clone Wars animated series. I considered each multi-book arc to essentially equal the length of a standard full-length novel.
The second misconception is that the content must be childish. Much to my surprise, Jedi Apprentice deftly steps into dark territory—Qui-Gon’s former apprentice turned to the dark side, Xanatos, represents the main threat in the first arc of books. Qui-Gon’s guilt over failing his first Padawan forms the emotional heart of the series as he develops a relationship with Kenobi.
He was learning how to be a Master as surely as Obi-Wan was learning how to be a Padawan.
"Learn not to teach, you must, Yoda had told him. As surely as you must guide, you must also be led." – Qui-Gon Jinn
I was often left aghast by the directions the books would take with political intrigue, betrayal, forbidden love, and even multiple major character deaths! The characters, settings, plots, and world-building Watson manages in this series makes it well-worth one’s time.
Jedi Apprentice’s Unique Place in the Expanded Universe
Over the past few months I have found the Jedi Apprentice series to be an incredibly enjoyable, fascinating read, especially considering them as an artifact of Star Wars publishing and of Jude Watson’s work ethic. Not to mention, they’ve served as a wonderful companion piece to Master and Apprentice. What’s so strange is that Watson wrote the vast majority of this series before Attack of the Clones was released! What that means is that we’re given no details about Qui-Gon’s relationship with his master, who would later be revealed as the infamous Sith Lord, Count Dooku.
There are many places where it would have been really helpful to get inside Qui-Gon’s head, as he can sometimes be aloof and distant. However, remaining vague about certain storytelling elements is really what made the Legends line of books so unique—authors made the most of the swath of space they were allotted and did their best to fill in details as the movies were still in development. In particular, reading the Jedi Apprentice series is a really fun thought experiment now that we know so much about the Prequels. Some of the more fun examples include when Dexter’s Diner becomes a set-piece for the middle series of books, the development of the character of Adi Gallia, and an early appearance by Jocasta Nu.
One thing the Expanded Universe has been lacking until recently has been a glimpse at Jedi just being Jedi. We have dozens of books, comics, and an animated series in excess of 100 episodes chronicling the Republic versus Separatist conflict in the Clone Wars. Then, there’s the Galactic Civil War with the Rebellion versus the Empire. But what about the status quo for the Jedi before Palpatine’s upheaval? Jedi Apprentice gives us a beautifully in-depth look at the peacekeeping adventures of Jedi that perfectly complements the recent additions of Master & Apprentice and Dooku: Jedi Lost to the pre-Phantom Menace line of stories.
Comparison with Master and Apprentice
Recently, Claudia Gray delivered a masterpiece with Master and Apprentice. However, she had the benefit of twenty years with The Phantom Menace, whereas Jedi Apprentice was one of the first forays into expanding the Prequel time period! That broader awareness of the Prequels enhances Master and Apprentice in several key areas.
For instance, Gray seamlessly weaves Count Dooku’s impact on other characters, the significance of the Chosen One prophecy, and the overall trajectory of the downfall of the Jedi Order into the story. However, in addition to having deep knowledge of The Phantom Menace, I believe Gray demonstrates familiarity with Jedi Apprentice as well.
Two things in particular from Master and Apprentice could be referencing the events of Jedi Apprentice. First, in Master and Apprentice, Qui-Gon’s former mentor-turned-rebel Jedi, Rael Averross, makes reference to Qui-Gon once having been in love. Mysteriously, we’re left wondering about the details. I’d like to think that this is Gray giving a subtle nod to the wonderfully written romance captured in Jedi Apprentice between Qui-Gon and Tahl. Secondly, in what is without a doubt some of the most beautiful writing in all of Star Wars literature, Gray inserts a cryptic comment in response to a monologue by Qui-Gon:
“It matters which side we choose. Even if there will never be more light than darkness. Even if there can be no more joy in the galaxy than there is pain. For every action we undertake, for every word we speak, for every life we touch–it matters. I don’t turn toward the light because it means someday I’ll ‘win’ some sort of cosmic game. I turn toward it because it is the light.”
Rael turned off his lightsaber then, but the contest wasn’t completely over. “You’ve made mistakes, Qui-Gon. You’ve touched darkness.”
Apparently, there is a canonical counterpart to the non-canonical story of Qui-Gon’s brief stint down the dark path presented in Jedi Apprentice.
When it’s all said and done, reading Jedi Apprentice gives tremendous depth to both Master and Apprentice and the Prequel Trilogy as a whole. And Claudia Gray’s new masterpiece, Master and Apprentice, takes the seeds planted twenty years ago to develop Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan’s relationship in dynamic and believable ways. Reading Jedi Apprentice works well as preparation for Master and Apprentice as well as in celebration of The Phantom Menace’s 20th anniversary! If you’re looking for more backstory on the Jedi Order in the prequel era, I would highly recommend it!
"Leave you, the Force cannot. Constant, it is. If find it you cannot, look inside, not out, you must." – Yoda
Have you read the Scholastic Star Wars books? Let's talk about them in the Youtini Discord!