Audiobook Review: New “Clone Wars” Anthology Tells Star Wars “Tales of Light and Dark”

Audiobook Review: New “Clone Wars” Anthology Tells Star Wars “Tales of Light and Dark”

When Disney made its canon cleanse and hit reset on the Star Wars storyline in 2014, dozens of books and comics were swept into “Legends” status. All Disney kept were the original six live-action films…and, oh yeah, The Clone Wars.

The animated series created by George Lucas and inaugurated in 2008 with an underwhelming feature film has always been a bit of a litmus test for Star Wars fans: are you invested enough in Lucas’s lore to spend hours and hours exploring the events that transpired between two of the prequels?

Fans who tuned in, though, were rewarded with a rich storyline that explored some of the franchise’s central themes more deeply than any individual movie had time to, notably delving into the poignance and pathos of war itself. By the time Luke Skywalker ignited his father’s lightsaber, there was an unambiguously evil Galactic Empire to take down; during the Clone Wars (glancingly mentioned in the original Star Wars movie), there was a Galactic Republic crumbling from within.

The entire six-season series is now streaming on Disney+, along with a new seventh season that finally completes the journey of Ahsoka Tano: Anakin’s apprentice who grows, over the course of the show, from a spunky tween into an imposing young woman who saw the future more clearly than her master. To complement the series, Disney has published a new middle readers’ anthology of stories adapted from Clone Wars episodes and characters.

Eleven authors from the stable of series stars contribute stories; among them Zoraida Córdova (A Crash of Fate), Rebecca Roanhorse (Resistance Reborn), and Jason Fry (The Last Jedi). For the audiobook, various narrators sink their teeth into stories like Tom Angleberger’s “Bane’s Story” (with Corey Burton reprising his role as the blue-faced bounty hunter who can give even Jedi a run for their money) and Anne Ursu’s “Pursuit of Peace,” a Padmé Amidala story read by Catherine Taber, who voiced the character in Clone Wars.

In keeping with the target audience, the anthology spends less time plumbing the material’s dark depths than having fun with characters like Count Dooku, who records a report to Darth Sidious in Lou Anders’s “Dooku Captured”; listening to Burton (who also voiced Dooku on TV) read the story, you can practically hear the Emperor-to-be sighing with boredom. Sarah Beth Durst’s “Almost a Jedi” tells the story of the episode “A Necessary Bond” from the perspective of Katooni, the Jedi youngling who struggles to build her lightsaber; voice actor Olivia Hack returns for her recurring role.

While the audiobook is unfortunately missing Kevin Kiner’s original music for the TV series (John Williams’s score for the original six movies growing increasingly threadbare as a near-universal Star Wars audiobook soundtrack), it will be a boon for fans young and old who want to spend a little more time with some of the best Clone Wars stories, and hear them through new ears.

Jay Gabler