Tuesday notebook: Vernestra Rwoh, relatable prodigy

Original photo here.

I hope to have separate outlets for fandom and soccer writing, but for now I’ll keep them here.

*spoilers for Justina Ireland’s Out of the Shadows*

Jedi Knight Vernestra Rwoh could have been annoyingly unrealistic. I think we’re meant to think it’s a little ridiculous for a 16/17-year-old to be elevated to knighthood, much less have a Padawan of her own. It would have been ridiculous if she suddenly had everything figured out, knew precisely what to do all the time and, more importantly, knew how to react appropriately in every situation. Sure, there’re plenty of examples that show her to be a bona fide prodigy, from her steady leadership of younglings on the jungle moon, to her continued command just before the Valo attack (I’m about halfway through Daniel Jose Older’s Race to Crashpoint Tower). Much of her involvement in the Starros/Graf/San Tekka conflict displays uncommon maturity, culminating in the trust that Mari San Tekka shows her on The Oracle’s deathbed.

But there’s one moment in Out of the Shadows that clinches a more realistic character for me: her impatient response to her former Master Stellan now ordering her on behalf of the Jedi Council to accompany Ghirra Starros. We’re shown in this novel how Vernestra strongly sides with Avar Kriss’s emerging “interventionist” faction: Jedi who believe The Force is calling them to take a more active leadership role in the Republic’s war against the Nihil. Some of Rwoh’s commitment to this position may be a studied conviction, and it’s clearly tempered as shown when she abhorrs Jordanna’s use of excessive violence.

But there’s also an immaturely rebellious side to Vern (yeah, sorry Jedi Rwoh). She gets excited at the prospect of a “secret mission,” but then sarcastically protests when Stellan gives her the actual assignment to chaperone Starros. She blurts out, “’It’s not like we’d be of more use fighting the Nihil with Avar back on Starlight,’” very much believing that she and her Padawan would be of much greater use joining the fray. We’re told that “her tone was bitter,” although “she regretted the words as soon as they were out.” Stellan admonishes her to respect the importance of the assignment and the trust that the Council is putting in her. She gets there, but only after taking a moment to move through and past the “frustration” of feeling like “she was being sent to do the same kind of Padawan busywork Stellan had given her once upon a time.” (Out of the Shadows, 191-193)

She’s conflicted, she doesn’t have it all together, doesn’t always respond in the most mature way. Which is to say that Justina Ireland has written a thoroughly compelling and relatable adolescent prodigy, reminding us of another immature wunderkind who craved “adventure…excitement” at odds with the “deepest commitment, the most serious mind” that Jedi are called to pursue.

Published by Matthew Neugebauer

MA in Theology, Anglican, Star Wars #Prequelist, Toronto FC Supporter

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