Page Count: Paperback, 336 pages
Author: Terry Brooks
Timeline: Precedes Attack of the Clones
Main Characters: Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, Anakin, Padmé, Jar Jar, and more!
Brief Synopsis: As the beginning of the Skywalker Saga, this novel sets up the first steps of Anakin’s journey during a troublesome time for the Republic.
I first want to point out that I’m fairly certain that the Prequel novels are still considered Canon, even though they were written before Disney took over. From what I learned, as long as nothing is said in the novel that contradicts current Canon, all the content is considered Canon. As the reader, you just have to pick some bones out of the reading that are no longer Canon. Obviously, most of the content of the book follows the same events of the movie, but there are many added scenes and some interesting lore. Some of this info has been contradicted in future Canon work, so it will not be considered Canon within the book, but the rest of the book is still Canon. Hopefully, that makes sense.
My gut reaction is that I really enjoyed reading this book, but I must admit that I am a fan of the Prequels, so it makes sense that I would enjoy reading the book as well. Brooks did everything that I want for an author of a movie novelization to do. He added lots of new content. The first two full chapters were exclusively new content. He also added much to the existing scenes, letting us know what was happening within the characters’ minds and setting more context. This was all the good stuff, but I also, unfortunately, realized that my affection for this story is largely based on the visuals of the movie and nostalgia. To no fault of Brooks’, this book opened my eyes up to some of the weaknesses of The Phantom Menace. But I will get into that later.
Characters were one of the strongest points of the novel. Since the characters are already existing, I look to what additional content we can get about the characters to add to their development. Since most of the story is already known, this requires exploring existing scenes with more depth or adding completely new scenes for development. Brooks did both of these things excellently. As mentioned earlier, the first two chapters of the book were brand new content. I won’t give details, but they were about Anakin and gave us a glimpse into his life before the Jedi found him. It gave his character at the time more depth with the added context.
Anakin was not the only one who received attention in the book. Almost every character did in fact. We learned more about Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan’s relationship (which parallels well to what happened in Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray), Padmé and her handmaidens (which parallels well to Queen’s Shadow by E. K. Johnston), Shmi Skywalker, Darth Maul, the Neomodians, and we even got significant details on Jar Jar. You may not be pleased about that, but I was! Jar Jar is an interesting character and we got a peek inside his brain in this book. Overall, Brooks did a great job of adding depth to these existing characters. I am giving 19 points.
Score: 19/20 pts
Going back some years, Terry Brooks is one of the first authors that I have reviewed that I haven’t known much about. But the standard seems to be similar, there are no poorly written Star Wars novels! Brooks’s style in this book is certainly detailed, which normally means that it is difficult to read, but I do not feel that it was the case. This can be attributed to the writing style, but also the fact that I’m reading a story that I’m familiar with. So, both things together made it an easier read. What is really important about this style is that it is what I expect from a novelization of the movie. I don’t want a simple style that simply re-tells the story in written form, I want many details that help the story come to life. So, because Brooks’s style fit what was needed and he pulled it off so well, I am giving 19 points for the writing style.
Score: 19/20 pts
Because the main points of the story are already set in stone, I look to what Brook adds to the existing scenes and what extra scenes he adds to the story. The existing scenes did have more depth and context behind them. This gave me more understanding of what was going on and sometimes gave the scene more meaning. A downside I have is that sometimes the scenes did not go exactly as they did in the movie. I am very familiar with the movie, so these instances stood out. Either the dialogue or some other detail would be different at points, which left me scratching my head because it is supposed to be the exact same story, just with extra, not different, adaptations. But these slight deviations did not really take away from the overall plot, so I am not too worried about them, but it is worth noting.
The most significant strength for the plot is the additional content that Brooks wrote. There was a decent amount of it, and I think it all served strong purposes. The downside is that it caused the story to move slowly at points, but this is also due to some plot weaknesses in the original story and not to the fault of Brooks. The plot just moves slowly sometimes, which I am now understanding is a weakness of the movie. But the novelization should not be penalized for that. Everything Brooks did was good for the plot, so I am awarding 18.5 points.
Score: 18.5/20 pts
Whereas I do not think the novel should be penalized for the movie’s story, it does have some effect on the intrigue. It, combined with the detailed nature of the story and additional scenes, did hurt the intrigue. If you’re like me and really love any added content, this won’t be much of a problem. But even I had to admit that the story had too many valleys and not enough peaks. And most readers will naturally have less interest in the story than I did. But even though it did move slowly, because it follows the events of the movie, it was somewhat easy to read. I think all novelizations will benefit from that factor for this section. That saves this score from being even lower, leaving the score at 17 points for the intrigue.
Score: 17/20 pts
What Does it Add?
This is the weakest section of the novel. Since it follows the events of the movie, I look at what content the book adds that is independent of the film. Brooks did add some interesting content considering Sith and Jedi lore, but not all of it added up with what is currently considered Canon. This is because a lot has changed in Canon since the time the book was written and now. There was nothing that was drastically different, just small deviations. Some of the lore content was interesting and Canon, but not enough to receive a high score. Other novels during this time period do a better job of adding content to the Star Wars universe. I am giving 16.5 points for this section.
Score: 16.5/20 pts
Since I believe the reader should be picking out pieces of the novel that are no longer Canon, I don’t believe I can take away any points for the logic. Since it didn’t add to the logic of Star Wars, I will neither add nor take away extra points for this section.
Score: 0 pts
So, my final grade for the novelization of The Phantom Menace is a 90/100, or right at a low A-minus. If you enjoyed the movie, as I did, you will most certainly enjoy this novelization. It added many new significant scenes and gave more depth to the existing ones. But the book also suffered from some of the weaknesses of the movie, like the slow-moving plot and odd characters. So, if you did not like the movie, this book probably won’t change your mind- especially considering that one of the strengths of the movie is the visuals, which are lost in book form. But overall, Brooks did an excellent job of writing this story in book form.
I hope you enjoyed this book review and if there is a book that you want me to read or review, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. As for now, I will only be doing Canon books (but in the future that might change).