Here’s a novel for the less original!
Ronin, it is a novel signed by Emma Mieko Candon, of which this is the first foray into the Star Wars universe. Completely out of continuity, this novel picks up and greatly expands on what was created in the first episode of the anthology TV series. Star Wars Visionsavailable for almost a year on Disney+.
Be careful though: if you’ve ever been hoping for a re-release of Pocket in paperback format in a few months, you don’t have to wait, the novel is not currently planned in this format. You have been warned! 😉
So what is this beautiful cobblestone of more than 500 pages worth? To answer this question, I offer you my review based on the VF copy of the novel, a copy offered by Outrefleuve, whom I take this opportunity to warmly thank in passing. But first the cover, synopsis and editorial information:
A mysterious ancient Sith wanders the galaxy in this incredible Star Wars tale. A brand new story, inspired by the universe of one of the animated shorts in the Visions series: The Duel!
At the far end of the galaxy, a lone wanderer roams the outer rim. Despite Imperial edicts, Rōnin do not hesitate to wield a very special blade. His name is unknown to anyone and no one knows what he is looking for. All that is known is that death and disaster flourish in its wake. This forgotten name, there is no doubt that the gods themselves have cursed it….
Outrefleuve, €22.90, 528 pages
The review of L2-D2
Have you seen Visions ?
If so, don’t be surprised: the first two chapters resume on stage after the episode The double. The novel actually turns out to be a sequel to this episode, but it is necessary to explain the beginning of it all to us again so that all readers are on the same level.
If not, welcome to the club: I’m in the same situation as you. Ronin, so it’s quite a unique exercise in style, the complete rewriting of the Star Wars universe by a Japanese-American person. Forget Darth Vader, forget Luke Skywalker, Clone Wars, Kylo Ren and postology: absolutely anything can happen in this novel. And that’s good.
But what is a Ronin?
In Japanese culture, to sum things up, a Ronin is a samurai without a master. An outcast, forced to wander in disgrace, either because his master is dead or because of defeat: the perfect breeding ground for a Star Wars novel, and an expression that would fit the saga perfectly.
In this version of Star Wars, the Jedi Lords are the loyal generals of the Empire. But twenty years ago, one of them rebelled against this organization and gathered all the disaffected around him to form the Sith Order. After the conquest of the Empire’s religious capital world, the planet Rei’izu, the Sith have all disappeared… And twenty years later, we meet Ronin, who has spent the last two decades hunting down the survivors. eliminate them. Except this Ronin also has a red lightsaber, the color of the Rebels!
A galactic plot…
The risk was great to see in this new novel an additional plot, almost useless, based on the hunt for an old grump. The good news is that it’s not: sure, we don’t know this version of Star Wars, but in this novel it’s not a more or less interesting video game side quest. No, not at all: As the novel progresses, the reader understands that the events that take place there will have a major impact on “this” Star Wars galaxy. In a sense, but perhaps even more so than in High Republic novels, anything can happen. And by placing ourselves in “this” Star Wars universe, what happens is essential and we actually follow characters that are of real importance.
The other excellent point is the rewriting with Japanese sauce of the ingredients of a Star Wars. Star Destroyers, Jedi, Sith, Empire, the Force: it’s all there, but it’s all different. The pleasure of rediscovery is there. The characters drink tea, there are pagodas, we talk about spirits, witches, ghosts embodied in cyber crystals. At this point, the stylistic exercise works.
… in the hands of a handful of characters…
Actually, Ronin very similar to an RPG on consoles: the adventure begins with a single character who, as it goes, will associate with others, not necessarily voluntarily, and they will travel aboard a common ship. That reminds you Knights of the Old Republic ? There is actually quite a bit of that!
The protagonist is therefore Ronin, an anonymous character whose past will be revealed to us little by little in bits and pieces. And what a past! Of course, the attentive reader will have understood quite quickly what it is about, and will therefore be interested in the character’s motivations. The motivations are a little vague, I’ll admit… but we’ll get back to this. The Ronin therefore very quickly finds himself flanked by more or less voluntary companions, including a Sith revived and guided by a mysterious witch, even though he has just killed her (I leave you to imagine the interactions, necessarily tasty, between the Ronin and her !). Also, be careful, it’s not uncommon for certain characters to be named differently by certain protagonists. This will be the case with Ronin…but also with Renard.
Fox. This is perhaps the most fascinating character in the novel, even more so than Ronin himself. It is finally on him for the reader to lean, try to perceive the motivations, whether he is playing a double game or not, his past, what interests him. Fox is an unpredictable character. But, and I have to admit it: Renard is quite a “disturbing” character. Not because it’s non-binary, but more because of the, in my opinion, anachronistic use of the pronoun “iel” in feudal Japan. This denomination confused me somewhat by taking me out of the time so faithfully transcribed by Emma Mieko Candon.
If my criticism stopped there, the note would be fine, we would go to a well-deserved 90%! Yes, but there is one last point to address, unfortunately not the least…
… but weighed down by the style of Emma Mieko Candon
Emma Mieko Candon’s style is heavy. Very heavy. It is actually anything but fluent, as the descriptions are numerous and, above all, long. I even learned words thanks to this novel.
But what’s actually most annoying are the countless moments where the characters act a certain way…but don’t know why! How many times is one of them about to say something only to change their mind, how many times is one of them answering something without really knowing why? How many times can we be shown Kouru acting the same way, along the same lines, without evolution? How many times can we show the characters betraying each other and then teaming up again like nothing happened… especially when we understand Ronin’s past exactly?
Similarly, the famous mirror of Rei’izu, a concept that is fascinating to say the least and could evoke for you, depending on your sensibilities, the planet Mortis of The Clone Wars or Abeloth’s cave i Fate of the Jedi gradually becomes something that is actually not very comprehensible. How does it work ? Are we to understand that the last character we meet lived inside? I don’t mind a little mystery aspect, a little fantasy, we are almost there with this novel, but still it is necessary, without explaining everything to us, to give us a little crack, a few explanations here and there. There are almost none. The role of the witch might have given itself there, but even there it will not be the case.
Finally, it’s a shame that the final twist is actually revealed in the form of flashbacks, which do explain many elements of the plot, but make the main characters totally passive during this reveal.
Ronin, it is an exercise in style in the prose itself drawn from an exercise in visual style. Total reinvention of the saga based on Japanese folklore, it’s finally a fair return for a license which, at its origin, was largely inspired by the same folklore. The loop is now complete, as we like to say. A heavy novel, but worth the detour!
Note : 75%
As a reminder, Pocket Editions has no plans to reissue the novel in pocket format in a few months, so no need to wait: you’ll have to go through the large format box!
Don’t hesitate to let us know what you thought of the novel by going to its page or the forum thread!
Thanks again to Outrefleuve publications for the copy offered for review, and we’ll meet again in a few weeks for the review of another long-awaited novel as well, but on the side of the “canonical” official universe. burial horizon by Daniel José Older, the final novel in Phase 1 of The High Republic!
See you soon for the next literary publication! 😉