Spoilers ahead for Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston.
Ahsoka Tano is one of the best characters in Star Wars. Thanks to both The Clone Wars and Rebels TV series, her story has been developed over the course of a powerful arc that has made her one of the most important characters in the franchise. However, with the cancellation of The Clone Wars and the time jump to Rebels, there was a hole left in Ahsoka’s story filled with many unanswered questions about how she became the woman we meet in the new series. Some, but not all, of those are addressed in author E.K. Johnston’s Ahsoka.
The novel takes place a year after the Empire’s rise with Ahsoka trying to lie low in the Outer Rim, staying off the radar by moving around and going by the name “Ashla” to hide her identity. She moves between two different planets, but no matter where she goes she can’t escape the reach of the growing Empire. As she faces the arrival of Imperials and the reaction to their presence by the people around her, she also deals with the continuing grief she feels at no longer being able to sense the Jedi in the Force. Believing they’ve all been wiped out by Order 66, she struggles with making her way in this new world while not letting her sorrow consume her. It leads to an internal struggle, forcing her to decide whether to continue to hide who she is or reveal herself in order to help those around her.
It’s probably no surprise that it’s this debate within Ahsoka that is the best part of the book, which really serves as the answer to the question of how she decides what her place is in this new world while working through her guilt at surviving Order 66. It’s an excellent evolution of her journey after leaving the Jedi Order at the end of The Clone Wars Season 5. She’s clearly been through a lot since then that we don’t know about, but she’s still trying to find her place in the galaxy. She’s still the Ahsoka fans came to know, who can’t resist trying to make a difference in an increasingly terrifying galaxy. Yet, there’s so much to see her go through before she becomes the confident woman revealed in Rebels and I hope that's what we see explored next. From here her story needs to feature her making mistakes, celebrating victories, and becoming even more of a leader as she accepts this as her new life. The book is a great jumping off point for her character who now, in books or other media, needs to be shown growing and learning during this time frame.
All of this is not to say none of the other characters are interesting. For the most part they are, especially Kaeden, who I would love to see interact with Ahsoka again in the future, and it’s fun to see some familiar faces like Bail and Leia Organa show up. It also offers a closer look at how both the Empire and Rebellion are functioning during these early days, and fans will like the throwbacks to The Clone Wars with mentions of people like Captain Rex and connections to Rebels including an Inquisitor, the Sixth Brother, who fights Ahsoka. These ties to previous shows though are not explored too much and are really no more than nods to each. The one connection to Rebels that is explained in depth, however, is how Ahsoka receives the white lightsabers we see her wielding. It turns out the lightsaber crystals came from the Sixth Brother and she explains to Organa they were red when he was using them because they were “corrupted by the dark side” and bent to his will in a process called crystal bleeding. It’s an interesting concept, and she goes on to describe how they became white because she restored them and set them free.
Ultimately Ahsoka does add an important piece to the puzzle of the character's already powerful story, giving readers a glimpse into her mindset after Revenge of the Sith, her inner conflict, and what eventually convinces her to take action. The Ahsoka in the book is the Ahsoka fans will recognize from the series; Johnston does an excellent job of bringing her and her voice to the page. Still, the novel does disappoint in some areas. If you don’t know much about Ashoka in advance, her struggle and some of the references will be harder to follow. I imagine those fans are the ones reading it for the most part anyway, but there shouldn’t be a barrier to new fans getting to know Ahsoka well enough to care about her fate in this story. It’s something that feels like it could have been avoided with a bit more explanation and detail.
The book also feels rushed in trying to bring Ahsoka from one series to the other. It all leads into Rebels in what seems like a slightly forced fashion. It would have made more sense for more time to pass before she takes on her new role in the Rebellion, especially since Rebels is set 14 years after Revenge of the Sith. Rushing the story is counter to what has made Ahsoka a great Star Wars character over the years. I’ve discussed before how she is really the only character who's been given time to grow and develop well in the franchise. That shouldn’t disappear as her story moves offscreen. Her evolution should continue its steady pace rather than being glossed over like Anakin's character development. Her journey gives us greater insight into the franchise. By taking time to tell it, fans learn so much about things like the failings of the Jedi and the corruption of the galaxy through Ahsoka's story.
So what should the next steps be for Anakin’s former padawan after this book debut? It feels like a larger question now more than ever. It’s safe to say this won’t be the last time we see her, considering her importance to Star Wars and her popularity, but where does her story pick up? Ahsoka gave us a glimpse into the beginnings of how she becomes the person we meet in Rebels, but leaves any other questions about the character largely unanswered. Frankly, they might have been much more interesting a topic to explore in a book. I wanted to learn all the details about what happened on Mandalore, not be given a brief peek of what happened during and after. What happened when Order 66 hit and how exactly did Rex and Ahsoka survive? It would be worthwhile for another novel to go into more detail about events, and go into more depth with Ahsoka’s story and the characters and proceedings around her. I can especially see this working for Mandalore or what happens immediately following this book that covers Ashoka's role in running the Rebellion's intelligence networks.
Another option is to give the former Jedi her own solo comic book series. This can pick up right when Ahsoka leaves the Jedi Order in The Clone Wars and follow her travels leading up to the events on Mandalore, then continue on as a prequel to this book. Or, a comic book run could pick up the story where Ashoka left off, possibly kicking off the series with her just starting out as Fulcrum.
It's still possible that Rebels may cover more of her story. At the end of the Season 2 finale, her fate was left up in the air. It's likely that will be continued on the show or in other media. The possibilities are endless for where Ahsoka can go from here. Ahsoka felt like a rough start to expanding on the tale of such a great character, but one that also showed the amazing potential there is in telling it. Johnston’s work proved the character’s journey can be told well on the page. The next entry in her arc just needs to take the time to delve deeper into characters and events. As such an important character to the franchise, Ahsoka deserves no less.