Tuesday, February 7, 2012

39 BBY: Restraint

Restraint: A Nightsister Trilogy Prequel, is how I would have subtitled this little piece of Star Wars fiction.
Authored by James Luceno, Restraint, a new short story found at the end of the re-release of Shadow Hunter, gives Star Wars fans further insight and backstory into the figure of Darth Maul  - the Sith apprentice we all took for dead. 

As a chronologist it’s sometimes frustrating to backtrack into the timeline because it obviously colours what I’ve said about other works.  If I were reading this in its correct chronological order, Restraint (and not Saboteur) would be the first time we meet Darth Maul in the chronicle of Star Wars. 
What I find particularly frustrating is that I found Restraint much more enjoyable than Saboteur, because in Saboteur I was never really was convinced that Maul would ever be a threat to Sidious.  The obvious reason for this is because in Saboteur we meet Maul when he’s older, and we all know he gets cut down by Kenobi shortly down the road.  But in the story Restraint we are witness to a 15-year-old Maul, and he carries with him the promise of youth – the promise that things just might work out in his favour.  “Maybe he doesn’t get cut down by Kenobi” we muse to ourselves as we read about a young Maul surviving in the wild and passing his Master’s tests.  “Maybe he’ll amount to something” we hope upon hope.

But no.  The reality comes crashing down.  He gets his butt handed to him, almost quite literally, by a young and plucky Jedi Padawan.  Bummer. 
We’ll see what Maul’s ultimate fate will be in the season finale of The Clone Wars season 4.  The re-emergence of Maul into our collective Star Wars conscience is heading towards this new revelation – that in some capacity Maul did survive his duel with Kenobi in 32BBY.

To be honest, this prospect irks me, as I feel Lucas is pulling the rug out from under his fans once again.  But I’ll hold off on my opinions until I’ve seen the episode – it may not be what I fear.
As for Luceno’s story itself, like all Star Wars short stories, it was a great little tale.

Indeed, the story did operate as almost a prequel episode to Katie Lucas’ contribution to her father’s mythology.  In the Nightsisters trilogy, Katie Lucas introduced us to Mother Talzin, the head Mistress of the witches of Danthomir, herself a powerful darkside user. 
On this note, I want to digress for a bit and quickly comment that I enjoyed Katie Lucas’ contribution to her father’s story.  What I liked most, and Luceno echoed it in his own story, was the prominence of magic amongst the Nightsisters.  I’ve said this before, and made reference to the book Star Wars on Trial in my past posts, that Star Wars is not Science Fiction; rather, it is Fantasy.  Some people argue that “magiks” as Luceno terms it in his story, does not belong in Star Wars, where I feel it rightly does.  When one looks at the definition of Fantasy, it’s clear (to me anyway) that Star Wars fits its definition more so than it does Science Fiction.  But I’ll talk more about this when I do eventually get to the Nightsister Trilogy, which admittedly may be a while.

Getting back to my point: after I saw these episodes my immediate thought was on the possible history of Palpatine and Talzin.  Had these two meet prior?  In the trilogy it is not given that Palpatine knew about these darkside witches, as it was Talzin herself who contacted Dooku and offered him a new apprentice.  The question of whether or not these two came in to contact prior to the Nightsister Trilogy was answered.  

“A human male stepped into view.  Of average height, he wore a dark robe whose hood was raised over his head, concealing his face.  Talzin could feel his power, not only in the Force, but in the dark side, as it was known to some.  Even the Nightsisters could sense the man’s strength, and fell back a step in uncertainty…for a long moment, he and Talzin regarded each other in portentous silence” (425)

Palpatine then begins to order Talzin around, and she wisely obeys the Dark Lord of the Sith, their social hierarchy within the darkside quickly decided within a few glances.  In this encounter I think we are given to understand that this was an initial meeting between the two – each now aware of the other’s existence. 
This scene also provides an explanation as to how Savage Opress will find his brother many years down the line.  Mother Talzin, brushing past an injured Maul, quickly took a sample of his blood:

“Then she walked, limping slightly, to the boarding ramp.  There she brought her left hand to one of the talismans that dangled from her neck, and impressed Maul’s blood upon it.  With this, I will always know where to find you” (426).
We shall see soon enough where Mother Talzin’s medallion will take Savage Opress.

My final comment on Restraint circles back, once again, to an idea I’ve been talking a lot about in my blog: the idea of intertextuality.  In one page of the book, there was mention of Maul’s mother, his brother, and even Asajj Ventress:

“’This one’s markings suggest that he is of the same clan as Savage Opress and Feral…‘Did you, Mother, not allow Asajj Ventress to be taken from us?’” (404).
The theories of intertextuality like to challenge the notion of ‘authorship’, in that, one can state that Luceno did not ‘write’ this story on his own, but perhaps the authorship of this story is irrelevant.  Daniel Chandler, in Semiotics for beginners says of the writer:

“[We should] treat the writer of a text as the orchestrator of …the 'already-written' rather than as its originator”
He then goes on to quote Roland Barthes on what he means by this:

“Roland Barthes refers to a text as “a multidimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. The text is a tissue of quotations... The writer can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never original. His only power is to mix writings, to counter the ones with the others, in such a way as never to rest on any one of them'”
Indeed, in Restraint we have a variety of writings, concepts, characters, and ideas which are not Luceno’s blending and clashing (in a good way) into a tissue of quotations.  Luceno’s power here is not in creating the original, but in his ability to mix the writings, like a good alchemist.  This is the heart of intertexulaity, and is the driving creative force behind all of Star Wars.

For my next post I’m going to finally pick up from where I left of in late August, and continue my chronological trek down the road of Star Wars history, and engage with Star Wars Tales #3: Deal with a Demon.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.


  1. I think "Duel of the Fates!" in Totally 20 should actually be next, since it seems to take place before "Saboteur."

  2. I think I'll save it for just before the Phantom Menace, as I think the story implies with the Anakin/Maul juxtaposition at the end that this occurs before Maul heads to Tatooine to confront the Jedi.

  3. Hmm, I hadn't thought of that. I was thinking that the battle droids weren't much of a test, so Palpatine was setting him up for challenges more worthy of a Sith (sabotage, Black Sun, and ultimately Jedi). But you may be right. I doubt it really matters where the story is placed, since it's so inconsequential.

  4. Hmm...You make an interesting point as well. Perhaps the author of "Duel of the Fates" is not familiar with "Saboteur". Your point does make sense though; the battle droids were not much a test, whereas the challenges we was faced with in "Saboteur" were. Anyway, I'll leave it for a little later. Thanks for the scan btw, I've used CDisplayEx to open the file.