Set several years before The Phantom Menace, taking place on the planet Pijal, Master & Apprentice sees Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan travel to Pijal to oversee the coronation of princess Fanry. The pair must navigate a complicated struggle between ancient monarchies, the slave-owning Czerka Corporation, all while dealing with personal conflict.
The mission could be their last mission together since Qui-Gon has been invited to join the Jedi Council, where he will not be able to train an individual apprentice. Claudia Gray’s Master & Apprentice fleshes out some of the key themes explored in The Phantom Menace, themes like slavery, corporate disputes, and the Jedi Order’s role in galactic politics.
Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon clash in The Phantom Menace; Obi-Wan is at a point in his life where on one hand he is able to be independent, but on the other hand, he is still insecure and needs guidance. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are very different people, Obi-Wan is a by-the-book conservative, while Qui-Gon is a maverick—a wilful eccentric who likes to bend the rules and ignore the advice of the Council which leaves Obi-Wan sceptical at times more often than not. There was always friction between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, and this mission proves to be the tipping point. They both yearn for acceptance from each other, but they’re constantly tripped up by their clashing personalities and inability to communicate.
Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are joined on their mission Pax, a jewel thief raised by protocol droids, as well as Rael, a Jedi known by Qui-Gon who as described in the book “had never given a damn about etiquette.” His clothes are a mess, he races for fun, and has also slept with a multitude of women.
The Phantom Menace explored the Jedi and how they had behaved at the height of the Republic, revealing that they were more like diplomats and investigators rather than the supernatural warriors Luke Skywalker had imagined during the event of A New Hope. There’s also a great exploration of the Jedi Temple, offering moments with Jedi Masters Yoda, Mace Windu and the rest of the council.
Master & Apprentice delves into slavery in the Star Wars universe as the Jedi realise that they shouldn’t be helping a princess who condones the Czerka Corporations dealings in human trade. It’s good to see people trying to solve the problem rather than letting it be a common thing as seen with the introduction of Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace and his mother Shmi.
Claudia Gray’s previous Star Wars novels, Lost Stars, Bloodline and Leia: Princess of Alderaan are among the best in the new canon, but Master & Apprentice could be her best; there is strong character development from start to finish and the topics and conflicts explored throughout are remarkable.