The nostalgic reappraisal of the Star Wars prequel trilogy is one of the best things to happen to the saga in recent years. The decades since Revenge of the Sith concluded Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the dark side have seen the astonishing Clone Wars TV show, as well as the newly-released Disney+ series based on Obi-Wan Kenobi himself. Also continuing this trend is Star Wars: Brotherhood by Mike Chen, a new novel set between Episodes II and III that digs into the Skywalker-Kenobi dynamic even further.
Set shortly after Attack of the Clones but prior to the start of The Clone Wars, the book follows Anakin and Obi-Wan as they investigate a bombing on the Trade Federation homeworld of Cato Neimoidia. With the Republic themselves accused of masterminding the bombing, Kenobi — no longer Master to the newly-promoted Jedi Knight Anakin — heads there alone to investigate, bumping into sinister Sith forces, while Anakin finds a new ally himself.
Brotherhood fits very neatly into the established Star Wars mythos, often feeling like an extended, more developed episode of the Clone Wars TV series. There’s some really deep introspection of Anakin and Obi-Wan’s relationship, which Chen handles with plenty of inner thoughts and home truths. They get along, better than when Anakin was still Obi-Wan’s Padawan, but there’s still a rivalry simmering between them, with Kenobi almost jealous of Anakin’s refusal to accept the Jedi Order’s emotional detachment. It leads to some interesting ties to further lore, such as Obi-Wan’s relationships with Duchess Satine, and takes the questions about Jedi policy seen in the films one step further.
Yet even more than that, Brotherhood is Chen’s love letter to a period of Star Wars history that is only now getting its fair dues. References are abound to beloved prequel characters like Dexter Jetster and Asajj Ventress, as well as the more polarising, but loveable, Gungan Jar-Jar Binks. Combined with an ending that leads very nicely into the start of the Clone Wars show, and it all lines up perfectly. Chen of course adds his own spin though, with the original character Mill Alibeth functioning as a precursor to Asohka, proof that Anakin can take on a mentee of his own.
And aside from a few very minor gripes, it all comes together with aplomb. Chen occasionally overuses certain words or phrases, which can suck you out of the experience while reading. There were a few points where ‘troops’ was used three times in one sentence, and ‘at this point’ was used in consecutive sentences, which was slightly distracting.
But those are small problems in a book that delves even deeper into the decades-old relationship between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. It finds new ways to quantify their bond, through the ties that hold them together, and the ways they keep secrets or wish things were slightly different. Most crucially, it makes the ultimate downfall of Anakin, and his encounter with Old Ben on the Death Star, even more tragic. If new Star Wars media can continue to enrich these beloved stories, then long may they continue.
Star Wars: Brotherhood by Mike Chen is out now from Del Rey Books.