'Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Stories Of Light And Dark' Does Not Cover Enough New Ground

Clone Wars Stories of Light and Dark

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Stories of Light and Dark is a new anthology book filled with short stories that are mostly adaptations of episodes from The Clone Wars animated series. Ten of them focus on specific main characters, with the perspectives being either first person or third person limited. The final story, “The Bug,” is the only story that tells of events that are new to the fans. I listened to the audiobook, which included voice actors from the series.

Perhaps fittingly, the anthology begins with Jason Fry’s retelling of “Ambush,” the first episode that ever aired. Titled “Sharing the Same Face,” this one is narrated by James Arnold Taylor. While his Yoda voice is decent, it sounds odd hearing him sound like Obi-Wan Kenobi when reading Asajj Ventress’ dialogue.

While this is a pretty straightforward adaptation of the episode, it does provide a bit of insight into Yoda’s inner thoughts this early on in the war. Yoda sees the clones as variations of a musical theme, which I think is a rather beautiful metaphor. He also finds it disturbing, and rightly so, that the clones are so conditioned to follow orders. He even has visions of the clones from the episode, the implication for Thire being that it is a vision of him searching for Yoda in Revenge of the Sith after the duel with Sidious.

Surprisingly, Yoda also wishes that Dooku had been sent to Rugosa in Ventress’ stead because he believes that he can still try to redeem his former apprentice. This brings up a missed opportunity of the TV show. There was never really an episode where Yoda confronted Dooku and tried to redeem him, something that we have seen attempted with Anakin Skywalker and Ben Solo. In Legends, the novel Yoda – Dark Rendezvous touched on this, but by and large, there is not enough exploration of the Yoda and Dooku relationship in the TV series.

Lou Anders’ “Dooku Captured,” which perhaps could have used a more creative title, is Dooku (voiced once again by Corey Burton) recounting the events of “Dooku Captured” and “The Gungan General.” The only new interesting thing that I got out of this one is Dooku’s belief that there is a bit of him in Anakin. Since they are separated by Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon in the master-apprentice lineage, however, whatever came from Dooku is diluted in Anakin.

Preeti Chhibber’s “Hostage Crisis” is another one that could have used another creative title. Then again, since it is just that episode told all over again, it might as well be the same title. Matt Lanter reads this, and it is odd hearing him say Padme’s lines. With Catherine Taber taking part in this project, I do not understand why she could not have read Padme’s dialogue. She reads the next story, Anne Ursu’s “Pursuit of Peace,” which, like the episode, brings up how politicians approach talking about issues, but it does not add anything that was not already known to those who viewed the episode.

Yoon Ha Lee’s “The Shadow of Umbara,” read by James Arnold Taylor, adapts the four-episode Umbara arc from season 4. To me, it did not feel like it added much. And the Umbara arc is actually one that I feel, while it does good things for the clones’ characterizations, does not flesh out Krell as a villain very well. He wants to be Dooku’s apprentice for reasons, whereas I think it would have been more interesting if he had a vision of the clones executing the Jedi, thus leading him to come up with a plan to have them turn against each other. That, however, is an issue I have with the episodes themselves. It is just that it affects my enjoyment of this short story.

“Bane’s Story” by Tom Angleberger also adapts a four-episode arc from season 4, this one consisting of “Deception,” “Friends and Enemies,” “The Box,” and “Crisis on Naboo.” Corey Burton is back to do the voice of bounty hunter Cad Bane. Since he is reading the story, however, pretty much every character sounds like Cad Bane. The modulation is not removed for anyone. This is a problem. However, I find it interesting that Cad Bane sees himself in Boba Fett, as it reminds me of an unfinished arc that would have seen them have a showdown. “The Lost Nightsister” by Zoraida C√≥rdova sees the return of Nika Futterman to do the voice of Ventress, adapting the episode “Bounty.” Again, it delves into Ventress’ thoughts, but not much more than what we already knew. Sam Witwer returns for Rebecca Roanhorse’s "Dark Vengeance: The True Story of Darth Maul and His Revenge Against the Jedi Known as Obi-Wan Kenobi.” This short story with a needlessly long title adapts “Brothers” and “Revenge” as Maul retells the events to a child, apparently. Again, this one felt rather “been there, done that.” Olivia Hack, the voice of Padawan Katooni, returns for Sarah Beth Durst’s “Almost a Jedi,” which sees Katooni geeking out about Ahsoka Tano as “A Necessary Bond” is retold.

“Kenobi’s Shadow” by Greg van Eekhout, however, adds a bit more to “The Lawless” by inserting a couple of scenes in which Obi-Wan interacts with Anakin. In one of them, Anakin offers the ship The Twilight to aid Obi-Wan. The other is Obi-Wan’s return to the temple, and Anakin offering to accompany him to tell the Council what happened with Maul and Satine. This adds a bit more to their bond, and James Arnold Taylor once again adds emotion to the moment when Kenobi loses his love and even feels the pull of the darkness for a moment.

The biggest thing that sticks out to me, however, is that the story says that Kenobi would be back on Mandalore someday. After this, Mandalore does not appear until the final arc of The Clone Wars, where Kenobi is absent from the Siege of Mandalore due to the events of Revenge of the Sith. Could this perhaps be a clue that Kenobi could return to Mandalore in his Disney+ series? Or is there an untold story between “The Lawless” and the final arc of the series? It really makes one think.

The final story, the only original one, is “Bug” by E. Anne Convery. Read by Catherine Taber, this one takes place on Sidi and follows a girl who takes on the name Bug. Taking place after Grievous’ massacre of the Nightsisters, it expands a bit on Nightsisters lore. However, I cannot help but think that this story, being the only new one, feels like when a short story is added to a Star Wars paperback book a while after the book’s story has been told in hardcover format. It comes across as something new that was added to convince consumers to buy something with which they are already super familiar. Of course, this practice is not out of the ordinary. With home video releases from different franchises, one might get something exclusive to a certain version of the film. This is just something that kind of bugs me. (Pun not initially intended, but now definitely intended.)

Overall, Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Stories of Light and Dark does not cover enough new ground to justify its existence. Some of the film novelizations have added new layers that may even enhance the films, but there is not enough of that in this collection. I understand that it is aimed at readers between the ages of 8 and 12, so this might be their introduction to The Clone Wars before actually watching the series. If that is the case, however, I feel that this has major spoilers, especially in regards to “The Lawless” and the Umbara arc. So I believe this is not a very good introduction.

Even though I knew that this collection would consist mostly of familiar stories, I am still disappointed that it was not, instead, a collection of new stories set during The Clone Wars. The points of view, being those of the major characters, are not as entertaining as the ones seen in Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View, a collection of short stories sharing the points of view of various characters experiencing the events of A New Hope, ranging from the major characters to the most minor characters. If there is ever an attempt at doing another The Clone Wars anthology book, From a Certain Point of View could be looked at for inspiration, or there could simply be completely new stories told.

I would not recommend this book if you are looking for a whole lot of new, nor would I recommend this as an introduction to The Clone Wars. Even the audio version, with all the returning voice actors, feels too “been there, done that” since we have heard the voice actors go through these stories already on the TV show. And at times it feels odd hearing certain voice actors read the dialogue of certain characters they have not played. The stories are not bad, but they are too familiar. The collection has bits of new layers here and there, but it is not something that one needs to rush to acquire. If you skip it altogether, even, you will not be missing much.

Score: 6.5/10

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