Review: "Star Wars Brotherhood" by Mike Chen
Updated: May 4, 2022
May is the month of Obi-Wan Kenobi and it is certainly kicking off with a bang.
Well, quite literally. Mike Chen’s Star Wars: Brotherhood, the latest adult novel from Del Rey, propels us right into that "business on Cato Neimoidia” at the onset of the Clone Wars when an explosion devastates the Neimoidians’ capital city. It's a story that’s been seventeen years in the making since its brief mention in Revenge of the Sith, and the wait has definitely paid off.
This isn’t your average Star Wars action-adventure story that just runs through the motions and calls it a day. Brotherhood exposes the beating heart that inextricably links Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi together. As the age of heroes begins, Chen doesn’t just scratch beneath the surface but instead takes a pickaxe to it and mines for the richest gold: it’s a story that bears the weight of two mourning souls; it’s a political thriller that challenges what happens when extremism is left unchecked; it’s a mystery shrouded by the ever-growing presence of the Dark Side; and it’s a story that faces the harsh ideological truths of wartime as the Jedi Order moves beyond its original peacekeeping edicts.
Can you tell I love this book yet?
This is Mike Chen’s second time writing in a galaxy far, far away — he previously penned the Palpatine-centric story “Disturbance” in From A Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back (2020) — and he once again proves he is someone Lucasfilm Publishing should work with more often. Chen is a prequel-era fan through and through and you can feel that love oozing off the page, whether it’s the subtle nods to the Clone Wars micro-series or the heavy influence of Matthew Stover’s Revenge of the Sith novelization, one of Chen’s favorite works that he has paid homage to in all of his Star Wars writing thus far.
One aspect of the book that immediately stood out is how it somewhat blurs the lines between where Attack of the Clones ends and Brotherhood begins. I started this right after an Episode II rewatch and it felt as if I were continuing where George Lucas left off in 2002. In many ways, Brotherhood is a direct-sequel that recontextualizes the beginning of the Clone Wars and shows how the Republic is reaping what it sowed, both politically and morally, after approving the use of a clone army.
All this to say, I couldn’t have timed my reading experience better and I’d strongly recommend revisiting the film before diving into Brotherhood to heighten your appreciation of it.
As the Republic and the Jedi Order face a new reality, so do our heroes. Brotherhood explores Anakin’s graduation from Padawan to Knight as well as his new responsibilities of being a husband — if you’re looking for some extremely wholesome “Anidala” moments, you came to the right place. Chen puts Anakin’s intense passion for people he loves most on full display while also allowing him plenty of room to grow.
Through Anakin’s mentorship of Mill Alibeth, an original character who has a compelling arc of her own, you start to see him forming the leadership qualities that he’ll need to eventually take on his own Padawan. This working partnership, along with the trustworthy R2-D2, is easily one of the most, if not the most, compelling parts of the novel and illustrates Anakin in such a fresh and respectable light.
Opposite of Anakin, Obi-Wan is facing struggles of his own as he is sent to uncover the truth behind the Cato Neimoidia bombings in the hopes of deescalating the war. Despite dealing with a very precarious situation on a divided homeworld, he still finds enough time to sit with his thoughts. He ponders his evolving and increasingly equal-footed relationship with Anakin while also coming to terms with his own insecurities after filling in a recently-vacated spot on the Jedi Council.
Yes, you heard that correctly: Obi-Wan has imposter syndrome! We love a relatable king!
Brotherhood also adds a confounding variable in the form of the ever-elusive Asajj Ventress, who goes toe-to-toe with Obi-Wan during his time on Cato Neimoidia. Although Asajj is familiar to fans who’ve watched several seasons of The Clone Wars, Chen does a great job of establishing the character for those without that context. It becomes wildly fun to watch Obi-Wan and Asajj play coy with each other amidst the backdrop of a high-stakes investigation. She represents the many unique and dangerous challenges in the war ahead, and I’m thrilled that Chen included her in-universe introduction.
Between the Attack of the Clones 20th anniversary and the upcoming premiere of the Obi-Wan Kenobi limited series, it feels like an incredible time to be a Star Wars fan. Adding Brotherhood into the mix only amplifies the excitement and creates the perfect celebratory storm. Brotherhood is Mike Chen’s love letter to the prequel era and it captivated me on an intellectual level while providing a highly entertaining Star Wars story. It truly is a must-read that you can’t ask much else from.
Turns out that time on Cato Neimodia did count for something really special.
Star Wars: Brotherhood hits bookshelves on May 10th. Stay tuned to Friends of the Force for more coverage of this release. Thank you to Del Rey for sending us a review copy!