“Begun, the Clone War has,” Master Yoda states in his familiarly awkward way, at the end of second Star Wars prequel, Attack of the Clones.

Mike Chen’s novel Brotherhood picks up soon after, with Anakin having been promoted to Jedi Knight, along with many other Padawans, as a matter of necessity for the Jedi Order; stretched-thin and moving from their roles as peacekeepers into more military positions.

When a terrorist attack targets Trade Federation homeworld Cato Neimoidia, Obi-Wan Kenobi is dispatched to investigate the situation and handle it as best he can from a diplomatic point of view. While gathering evidence, he’s introduced to his Separatist counterpart, a mysterious woman named Asajj Ventress.Obi-Wan finds himself in more trouble than he bargained for during his investigation, Anakin – accompanied by strongly empathic Jedi Youngling Mill Alibeth – disobeys orders in order to assist his Master and friend on Cato Neimoidia.

Obi-Wan finds himself in more trouble than he bargained for during his investigation, leading to Anakin – accompanied by strongly empathic Jedi Youngling Mill Alibeth – disobeying orders, in order to assist his Master and friend on Cato Neimoidia.

Despite a strong start, Brotherhood is a bafflingly dull and pretty pointless affair; despite the title, Obi-Wan and Anakin spend the vast majority of the book completely separated and instead, the focus is on Kenobi’s investigation which, confusingly, is never actually resolved.

It’s always great to be reunited with Asajj Ventress – one of the very best prequel era characters who has yet to feature in live action – but here she does little of note and it’s odd that no one at all seems to realise – or sense – that she’s up to no good until it’s too late.

Anakin’s sweet companion Mill feels shoehorned in with very little need or consequence; perhaps the one impact she has on the ongoing story is that she makes Anakin consider that he may be ready to train a Padawan, thus paving the way for Ahsoka.

Perhaps due to the time period the story is set in, there’s little tension anyway, though it must be said that animated series The Clone Wars still managed to derive drama and tension from plenty of situations, despite viewers knowing exactly who survived the period in most cases.

The one genuinely good thing that Brotherhood does is to humanise the Neimoidians somewhat, taking them away from the one note, racist Asian caricatures that they’ve been since their first appearance in The Phantom Menace. Though somewhat paper thin in characterisation, a female Neimoidian named Ruug gets a lot of attention in the narrative – and does a great deal to separate the ordinary Neimoidian people from the caricatured figureheads who helped to kick off The Clone Wars.

The climax does a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of justifying the book’s title, but by then it’s far too little, far too late. The second act takes up so much of Brotherhood that it feels as if Mike Chen either didn’t have the time to polish and trim his script, or his editor just wasn’t paying much attention.

So it’s an unfortunately frustrating, aimless and dull read; its central mystery leads nowhere and the Brotherhood of the title – as well as what’s promised in the blurb – really doesn’t come across at all.

It does seem to have been a very good cure for insomnia though; I can tell you that from first hand experience.

Star Wars: Brotherhood by Mike Chen is available in hardcover or digitally now; you can purchase it from Amazon here.

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