REVIEW: Star Wars Visions – Ronin: A Visions Novel (2021)

A Book by Emma Mieko Candon

Last year, Disney+ released a Star Wars anthology series called Star Wars: Visions that sought to look at the tropes and themes of the franchise through the styling of Japanese Anime. For me, the best chapter was easily the very first episode, The Duel, which I mentioned was ripe for a continuation if they ever saw fit. Little did I know that a continuation happened in novel form and was released soon after the TV series was broadcast. I mean, I knew the book was there, but I honestly assumed they would figure out a way to make the full book the same thing we saw in the cartoon. Luckily, those events are depicted in the first five or so chapters and the rest is entirely new material.

The Jedi are the most loyal servants of the Empire. Two decades ago, Jedi clans clashed in service to feuding lords. Sickened by this endless cycle, a sect of Jedi rebelled, seeking to control their own destiny and claim power in service of no master. They called themselves Sith. The Sith rebellion failed, succumbing to infighting and betrayal, and the once rival lords unified to create an Empire . . . but even an Empire at peace is not free from violence. Far on the edge of the Outer Rim, one former Sith wanders, accompanied only by a faithful droid and the ghost of a less civilized age. He carries a lightsaber, but claims lineage to no Jedi clan, and pledges allegiance to no lord. Little is known about him, including his name, for he never speaks of his past, nor his regrets. His history is as guarded as the red blade of destruction he carries sheathed at his side. As the galaxy’s perpetual cycle of violence continues to interrupt his self-imposed exile, and he is forced to duel an enigmatic bandit claiming the title of Sith, it becomes clear that no amount of wandering will ever let him outpace the specters of his former life.

Images from the anime

I enjoyed this book quite a bit because it didn’t just drop samurai into Star Wars, but rather re-imagined the entire mythos in the guise of classic samurai fiction. I’ve seen other initiatives like Marvel Manga that miss the point entirely and churn out cringe-inducing content, but this seemed organic and far more interesting. The relationship between the Jedi and Sith is re-interpreted as a struggle between a caste of lords that became too far detached from the perils of the everyday farmers toiling in the fields, and a rebellious sect within that hierarchy that attempted to overthrow the whole thing. The Jedi are not necessarily “the good guys” and The Sith not inherently evil which makes the book VERY surprising at times and subverts expectation whenever you think you have a grasp at what is happening.

The Force is also somewhat re-interpreted as a dualistic inner balance that, if tipped into the wrong direction, could cause serious issues. The equal parts are The Black Current and The White Flare of the Force. Just like The Dark Side, The Black Current coursed and flows through all beings who are Force-sensitive. It provides guidance and power, but its waves can also be too powerful and destructive.

I think the only reason some could take issue with this book is the writing style. I absolutely loved it because it was poetic and seeped with the styling of old Samurai comics and films. That said, the verbiage is very ornate and the sentences are sometimes intentionally done in a far too poetic way that could scare some away if they are unaware of what the author was going for. The POV also changes quite often, and characters do not have a uniform name when this goes down. For example, depending on who is talking, The main character could be known as “The Old Man”, “The Ronin”, or “Grim”. I thought this was pretty interesting and fleshed-out some characters that would otherwise not be too deep if everything was told from one vantage point.

Emma Mieko Candon understands how Samurai stories are plotted and does a great job of capturing that vibe in this. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you take as a genre piece rather than a typical science fiction novel, I’m sure any fan will appreciate the creative use of the franchise themes. It’s not a straight drag and drop of samurai themes into Star Wars which I appreciate more than a nonsense story of “look at this Japanese planet!” which is how many others would have handled this. I enjoyed this book a lot , and hope they continue doing more of these, if not for The Ronin, but more of the Visions storylines. While the story doesn’t entirely end, the majority of the overall plot is wrapped-up for the most part and anything further would be brand new territory.

Information on where to purchase this can be found HERE

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