"That business on Cato Neimoidia doesn't... doesn't count," Obi-Wan Kenobi says to Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith. It's one of many intriguing throwaway lines Star Wars creator George Lucas included to enrich the universe, hinting at an unseen history and opening up storytelling possibilities down the line.
Your reaction to the Jedi Master's words reveal what kind of Star Wars fan you are -- most will say "That's fun, I wonder what he's talking about?" and forget all about it. A select few will think "I must know the full backstory behind that." Luckily, this is the kind of franchise that caters to both lines of thinking.
Attack of the Clones, in the early days of .reveals the business Obi-Wan is talking about, and writer Mike Chen uses that line to craft a colorful, engaging tale of political intrigue. The novel, which came out Tuesday, is set shortly after
A mysterious bombing leaves Cato Neimoidia devastated and the Galactic Republic sends Obi-Wan to investigate. Normally he'd have plenty of support from the Jedi Order, but Cato Neimoidia's neutral status forces him to go alone in the hope it can be swayed over to the Republic's side.
This happens shortly after Anakin's elevation from Obi-Wan's apprentice to Jedi Knight, so the pair must adapt to their new dynamic as equals prior to the mission. Chen's sharp dialogue captures the awkwardness nicely -- it's a bit like running into one of your old teachers shortly after leaving school. You're supposedly equals, but old habits are tough to kick.
Obi-Wan's mission is wildly suspicious from the start, since Separatist leader/secret Sith Lord Count Dooku set the terms of Obi-Wan's mission and sent his own emissary. Cato Neimoidia is also the homeworld of Trade Federation leader (and secondary villain from) Nute Gunray.
It's always a pleasure to spend time with Obi-Wan, and it feels like Chen enjoyed writing the polite Jedi's efforts at diplomacy with the Neimoidians and Ventress. He goes on an engaging detective adventure to find out the bombing's true perpetrator, with the stakes getting extremely high when he uncovers some damning evidence.
The Jedi gains an ally in Neimoidian special forces sniper Ruug Quarnum, giving us a more rounded view of Neimoidians -- they aren't all cowardly opportunists like Gunray and his ilk. Her shaky partnership with Obi-Wan and internal conflict over a wayward student make her an unpredictable, exciting character.
The other chunk of Brotherhood's 352 pages are spent with Anakin, who encounters a Jedi youngling struggling to get to grips with her Force abilities. She feels like a prototype, the apprentice he'll be assigned soon after these events, and it's heartwarming to see them form a bond.
Chen even slips in a scene with Palpatine and Anakin; it's always delicious to be a fly on the wall as the sneaky Sith Master whispers in the troubled young man's ear and pushes him along the path to becoming Darth Vader. The author previously wrote a Palpatine story for the 2020 anthology, so seeing him return to the character is satisfying.
Also representing the dark side is Asajj Ventress, Dooku's apprentice and an iconic villain of The Clone Wars. This is her earliest chronological encounter with Obi-Wan and Anakin -- it's entertaining to see their early reactions and the seeds of a deadly rivalry being planted.
Chen's subtlety is the key to all this. All of the characters feel true to who they are at this point in the timeline, with plenty of clever emotional callbacks and references, and the writing doesn't lean too hard into who we know they'll become. There's a sense that their paths aren't set yet, creating genuine tension even though we know the movie and TV show characters have to make it out alive.
If you're looking to spend a little time withahead of his Disney Plus series , Star Wars: Brotherhood is a breezy, exciting way to do so. And the moment when we finally find out why that business on Cato Neimoidia doesn't count is absolutely excellent.