Book Review | Star Wars Visions: Ronin
Despite being maddingly tortuous to read Star Wars Visions: Ronin is a creative and invigorating tale. All in all, a miraculous book.
Star Wars Visions: Ronin is the first novel in the Disney continuity that has been deemed non-canon or perhaps pseudo-canon. It’s very unclear. I initially was disappointed that the Visions media was said to not be canon. But a tweet from Emma Mieko Candon gave me a new sense of imaginative reassurance that I could read this book. She said that when she wrote Ronin, she imagined it as a fairytale set in the Star Wars Universe. That has become my head-canon for this book’s very existence.
EMMA MIEKO CANDON
It’s a story within a story, something mothers tell their younglings before tucking them to sleep. Emma Mieko Candon is a phenomenal writer. Her vocabulary is magnificent, and throughout the book, utters words that I did not recognize. Candon is a 4th generation Japanese immigrant and to my knowledge, one of the few openly gay Star Wars writers.
Ronin is a difficult nut to crack as it is very different. It invokes the fantasy in the sci-fi feel that George Lucas always wanted. Only with an added dimension of being stylized as feudal Japan, and imagining the scenery, I feel like I was watching Samurai Jack. Candon name-drops tons of alien races of characters like any Star Wars book, but it still feels like feudal Japan no matter what you do.
Ronin is a wanderer, alone but for his astromech. It isn’t clear why he hears a voice in his head, and originally I thought it was the voice of the Force, guiding him. Lightsabers work much differently in Candon’s vision (see what I did there) and it reminds me all too well of Japanese katanas. Candon describes the usage of the Force, constantly as “white flare” and “black current” and it invokes the colors of Yin and Yang, black and white. Very artful. Ronin meets the being known as the Traveler in the countryside after killing a Sith bandit attacking a town. Yet, she doesn’t, well die. She regains consciousness and goes after the Ronin.
Ronin escapes with The Traveler and they end up on a ship called the Poor Crow. The book starts off making sense but soon spirals into extreme confusion that is hard to follow. The Traveler is Force-sensitive and goes by Fox. But we really don’t know what the Ronin is out to do. Despite this, I can’t help but marvel at Candon’s beautiful writing imagery, which she employs non-stop throughout the book. One of my favorite descriptive lines is “He saw what would come next in the fragment of his mind’s eye where he at times beheld such things, a flash colored by the visceral shades of shifting possibility”. Absolutely magnificent.
THE POOR CROW
It becomes clear that this odd crew on the Poor Crow is looking for Ronin to help with hunting down the last of the Sith. Which Ronin was (and possibly still is) of. The crew consists of The Traveler, a fearsome mysterious old woman named Chie, and a snarky pilot named Ekiya. All of the names invoke heavily on Japanese roots, and it is quite a sight to see Japan come to life in a GFFA. Words like kimono and miso are thrown around without a second thought, and it would appear that Japanese culture is ubiquitous in the galaxy.
Early on, we don’t know why Ronin turned on the Jedi for the Sith and then turned on the Sith. And Candon expertly writes around this mystery by not revealing anything when writing Ronin‘s thoughts. Ronin does not think of what he has done and the audience is none the wiser.
In this iteration, the Jedi serve the Empire and can be regarded as just as bad as the Sith. The plotline is a confusing web as we get deeper into the book, and sometimes I was at a loss for what was going on. So many secrets. The dialogue between The Traveler and Ronin is tedious, as they have an odd relationship that is SO different from the foil of say, Han and Luke. Never would anyone think in 1977 that Star Wars would one day turn into this. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing.
The most “human” and easy-to-understand character is Ekiya, who grounds the rest of these mysterious people with her sassiness and sensibilities. Her goal is simple. Return the kyber crystals to her former home, Rei’izu, a planet that has seemingly disappeared. The most lucid plotline is at the beginning, where this odd crew has to retrieve a Sith artifact in a cave under the nose of a Jedi and their lord. Jedi Lords as a concept was explored in the Legends non-canon works, and they share a resemblance here as well.
So, is the Sith bandit, Kuruo dead? Yes, she died but comes back to life. Huh? It is so slowly relayed, but piece by piece, you, as a reader can understand what is going on here. The voices in Ronin and Kuoro’s heads are that of a remote Sith witch, who raises fallen warriors back to life as demons and has them do her bidding. Yet, is Ronin also one of the undead? He can ignore the voice, but Kuoro struggles to have control. She wants to kill Ronin for killing her. But also does not want to as well, since the witch wishes that, and Kuoro does not want to bend to her. The Sith relic is revealed to be something Ronin left behind years ago, and they fail to retrieve it. Ronin crosses blades with the Jedi Lord, Hanrai who proves to be more than a match for Ronin.
Eventually, they all get to Rei’izu which the Sith witch has removed from the greater galaxy with her magic. That’s also a very cool Force feat. My favorite character, however, is Ronin‘s astromech B5-56 since he is the only character whose intentions I can truly follow.
Star Wars Visions: Ronin is maddingly tortuous and there isn’t a single thread you can follow. The tedious dialogue ties up the excellent plot, and you need to power through to get to the good stuff. One of the Travelers applications of the mind trick was inconceivable. And I wanted to note that because I’ve never seen such complexity in mental manipulation in all of the Star Wars mythos. He can make everyone (including other Jedi) disregard him as he walks by, using his powers to have them overlook him. That would’ve been an excellent power for Kanan or Ezra. Yet, this is a fairytale and the Force powers are proportionately stronger in all aspects. So I’m feeling assured it’s a fictional depiction within fiction.
Candon really makes you work to understand this story and I advise all readers not to get frustrated. Things will make sense in the end. Emma is such a talented writer, and when you get past all the confusing parts, it really is a creative and invigorating tale. I think Ronin should be read as an intellectual challenge for someone who enjoys reading, as it challenged me. With great writing skills, I hope we haven’t seen the last of Candon, and I have to say, all in all, this was quite a miraculous book.
Star Wars Visions: Ronin is published by Del Rey Books/Penguin and is available to order from Amazon NOW!
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Max Nocerino is a regular Staff Writer for The Future of the Force. He is a passionate Star Wars fan and loves the literature of the galaxy far, far away. Follow him on Twitter where he shares his love of the Force frequently!