Sean Stewart’s 2004 Star Wars novel Yoda: Dark Rendezvous is the story of not one but two Padawans. Whie is strong in the Force, very much so, but he is tormented by nightmares. Scout is weak in the Force, and that makes her all the more determined to succeed. Their growing friendship is the heart of one of the best Star Wars novels ever written.
As the Clone Wars are devastating the galaxy, Count Dooku reaches out to Master Yoda and offers him peace. Yoda knows a trap when he sees one, but he has a reason to confront Dooku (and it’s a jaw-dropping doozy of a reason). Off he goes to the planet Vjun, where Dooku has headquartered, with the Padawans and two masters in tow. Of course, the rendezvous goes exactly as the reader fears. Particularly when we learn more about Whie’s past.
Stewart’s writing is clean and engaging, and in that same year, he was nominated for the Nebula Award for his novel Perfect Circle. This novel is filled with delightful touches that enrich the Star Wars universe. A flashback to when Count Dooku was a Padawan himself. Yoda’s wisdom and love of a good bargain. Machinations and battles as the Clone Wars rage.
What makes this my favorite Star Wars novel is that for all of its adventure and action-packed fight sequences, Dark Rendezvous has a dark heart. Stewart is a skilled enough writer to hold secrets in, only to reveal them when they hurt the most. And Whie’s nightmares? They’re about being killed by a Jedi. Knowing that his nightmares are actually visions of his fate and the fate of every Padawan makes each reference to them painful and poignant.
The moment when Whie meets Anakin has haunted me since 2004.
But as with any Star Wars story, it’s peppered with hope. It’s a terrific balance, even if the scales are tipped slightly in the wrong direction.
Dark Rendezvous is no longer considered canon by Disney, which is a shame. But as long as it exists on my bookshelf, I will continue to re-read it and enjoy it. Even the parts that hurt.