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In the infinite galaxy of Star Wars tie-in novels, there are few brighter star than Claudia Gray, whose acclaimed Star Wars: Lost Stars, Star Wars: Bloodline, and Star Wars: Leia helped deepen and illuminate the vast Star Wars Universe for fans of all ages.
Now Del Rey Books is releasing her latest foray into the great space opera's sandbox with yesterday's launch of Star Wars: Master & Apprentice, which occurs prior to the conflicts of The Phantom Menace by delving into the bonds between Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi — and SYFY WIRE has an exclusive chapter excerpt to explore alongside a chat with Gray just fresh off her appearance at Star Wars Celebration.
The absorbing Jedi storyline begins as an unexpected offer threatens the close bond between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, as the pair of lethal Jedi navigate a hostile new planet and an uncertain future in the very first canon Star Wars novel to take place before the pivotal events of 1999's Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.
In many ways, Master & Apprentice was a dream project for Gray as Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan have always been her favorite characters, so how could she not leap at the chance to tell their story?
"It’s my second SW book for adults — the first was Bloodline — and I enjoyed getting into the heads of both the teenage Obi-Wan Kenobi and the older, wiser Qui-Gon," Gray tells SYFY WIRE. "The story takes place during the time when the Republic is starting to show signs of strain, but almost everyone assumes the peace that has lasted for thousands of years will last for thousands more. They’re all innocent of what will come."
Despite her passion for the project, Gray found it difficult to weed through all the interesting things to explore with Qui-Gon and discover the essential story to tell.
"Ultimately it had to be about Qui-Gon’s belief in the prophecies," she explains. "Most Jedi don’t share his faith in them. So why is he different? And what does it mean to believe you can know the future — is it an advantage or something more dangerous? Digging into all of that wound up taking the story in directions I never anticipated. I hope readers will enjoy the kind-of-unusual SW story as much as I did in the end."
Now enjoy this exclusive chapter excerpt from Del Rey Books for Star Wars: Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray:
By the Force, I’m brilliant.
Modesty was not a virtue where Pax had grown up, which might be why he’d never acquired it. In his opinion modesty sounded boring.
Obviously I am not the first to study the potential of kyber crystals, Pax reasoned as he prepared to take the Meryx out of hyperspace. However, almost all such studies will have been conducted by the Jedi. Any results that could create an ever greater market for kyber would not have been shared openly. Yet possessing the crystals is not illegal on any world I’ve ever heard of.
This might have been simply because Pax never much bothered finding out what was “legal” or “illegal” on every single world, details details, blah blah blah. That was Rahara’s department. She was a worrier, that one. Then again, who could blame her?
“Almost there?” Rahara asked cheerfully as she returned to the cockpit. Her silky black hair was tied back from her face, which was aesthetically pleasing.
“You know perfectly well that we’re almost there.”
She leaned back in her chair, resting her feet on the console—a liberty Pax would’ve allowed for no one else. “And you know that pleasant conversation sometimes begins with everyone affirming what they already know.”
“I was brought up to believe that directness is a virtue.”
Rahara sighed. “You were brought up by protocol droids. They’re not exactly experts at normal human communication. But you could get the knack of it, if you’d practice.”
“Waste of time,” Pax said.
Her lips pursed, but she said nothing else. On the whole, Pax felt he should be relieved.
He liked Rahara more than he liked just about any other biological life-form he’d known. When he’d taken her on several months ago, he’d known she was a perfect fit for the work he did, but hadn’t realized how easy she would be to get along with. Nor how pleasant it would be to talk with her, or hear her laugh. It had taken him a while to recognize that the energy between them had shifted from co-workers to friends—and then from friends to something more. One evening, as they’d shared a bottle of wine, it had seemed as though things might . . . as though they might get out of hand.
So Pax had taken that opportunity to explain that, really, human emotions were short-lived and fallible, and no basis for rational people to interact. Rationality was the only thing that really mattered, wasn’t it?
To judge by Rahara’s reaction that night, she didn’t agree. But they continued on as before, albeit with a few more awkward pauses. Pax felt he should be satisfied with that.
Surely, eventually, he would be.
He grinned as he put his hands on the controls and said to her, “Now allow me to present to you the happily obscure world of Pijal.”
The Meryx slipped out of hyperdrive at standard approach distance, revealing a planet dominated by abundant blue oceans, ringed with broad green-and-gold islands at its equator and tropics. To his surprise, ancient planetary shield generators orbited Pijal, which meant a few other vessels were also hanging back, waiting for landing clearance. In Pax’s opinion, a planetary shield that ancient was probably too weak to keep out any ship larger than a Theta-class shuttle; probably the wait for landing clearance was a mere formality.
Anyway, Pax didn’t need to go to Pijal itself. Instead he gestured at its darkly verdant moon. “Behold what I believe to be the single best source of kyber in the entire galaxy.”
Rahara stared out at the scene before them, her face expressionless.
“You might show some enthusiasm,” Pax suggested. “Or at least interest.”
She said nothing, only rose to her feet. Not once did she glance toward Pax.
Had he violated some unknown social etiquette rules? The 3PO protocol units who’d raised him had taught him how to recite etiquette rules for a thousand different planets . . . but very little about how to put them into practice. Sentients’ behavior was rarely clear-cut, often complex, and invariably nothing like the simulations. Pax mostly responded to this by ignoring etiquette altogether. Yet he also knew that, when he ignored the rules, Rahara’s feelings could be hurt. She was the last person in the galaxy he would wish to hurt.
He ventured, “Ah, of course I’m aware, highly aware, that I could never have analyzed the planetary data if not for your preliminary analysis of the mineralogical tables—a brilliant calculus for the data—”
“You didn’t say Czerka ships would be here.” Rahara’s voice was dull and flat.
How had he missed it? Pax inwardly cursed himself as he picked out the Czerka Corporation cruiser Leverage, long and bulky, probably capable of carrying ten thousand souls. Other Czerka ships showed up on scans, indicating that the company did considerable work on Pijal and its moon. “I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”
“Of course you didn’t know,” she said. Her dark eyes stared at the ship as though it were an enemy; in some senses, he supposed, it was. “You didn’t check. You can’t know unless you check.”
Pax didn’t feel it necessary to check for the presence of Czerka Corporation in every single system, regardless of what Rahara had endured in her youth. However, this was a subject to raise at another time, when she wasn’t pale and trembling, and Czerka wasn’t represented by a ship large enough to haul away a reasonably large percentage of an entire asteroid belt in its cargo hold. Doing his best to speak gently, he said only, “If you’d rather we left, there are other jewels in the galaxy.”
“No. I don’t see why Czerka should get to keep me from a major score.” Rahara pushed up her sleeves, a gesture that usually meant she was strengthening her resolve. With a sidelong look at him she added, “Besides, if you flew away without checking for the kyber, you wouldn’t be able to stand it.”
“I salute both your courage and your compassion for my base nature. To the moon we go.”
Pax steered the Meryx in that direction, pretending not to notice the way Rahara stared at the Czerka vessel until it had all but vanished in the distant night.