Star Wars is not a series that’s particularly lauded for its strong female characters. Certainly there are quite a few, but not nearly enough for a literal galaxy full of characters. This dearth is especially apparent when looking at both the Sith and the Jedi. With more recent shows and games like The Clone Wars and Knights of the Old Republic, even newcomers to the franchise have been able to see so many more ladies than have ever been hinted at in the movies. (The expanded universe within the novels of course gives us more, but with at least fifty installments I can’t say that they’re accessible in the same way as a movie, television show, or video game.) And Star Wars also has a prolific fandom we can always rely on when the other media falls short.
Seeing as my “expertise” is with The Old Republic, I started there. What I found was a very interesting series by Defira called In Her Shadows. The series itself has ten parts so far, but the part I’m looking at today is part five: Her Master’s Words.
Spoilers for Act One of the Sith Warrior storyline of SWTOR under the cut.
Even though I haven’t finished a playthrough of the Sith Warrior character, I can appreciate this story—this part in particular—from a philosophical standpoint. After the first act of SWTOR, the Sith Warrior gains the companions Jaesa Willsaam, a Jedi who just watched her master fall to the dark side and get murdered by the Sith Warrior themselves. The option the Warrior has afterwards is to allow Jaesa to continue with her Jedi way of life or to turn her to the dark side. It’s clear in Her Master’s Words the Sith Warrior, Tahrin, intends to turn Jaesa, but it’s through Jaesa’s own revelations that the Jedi code might not be as infallible as she was led to believe that the dark side begins to seep in.
What I love about this series, and this portion in particular, is that it’s ladies being badasses all the time. More than that, these ladies are not infallible. Jaesa is already wavering in her devotion to the light side, but she doesn’t allow Tahrin’s teachings and forcefulness to overcome those beliefs so easily. Tahrin, on the other hand, seems completely aware of her strength and mastery of the dark side, but it’s from a place of insecurity—if Tahrin isn’t this way, there’s a sense that she’ll lose a very vital part of who she is. She’ll be a failure, which is something Tahrin cannot accept of herself. Defira makes me care about her OC (Tahrin) with her power and flaws and seeing her interact with the other canon characters is a real treat. That’s not something I can say about a lot of OCs.
I was also really impressed by Defira’s ability to write battle scenes. Take this small scene where Tahrin is goading Jaesa into embracing her anger.
“Why should I? Does it hurt, does it? Does it stab at your heart to know you were deceived, treated like a mindless child, treated like a pet and then discarded?”
“He would never have fallen if you hadn’t pushed him!” Jaesa shrieked, hot tears burning at her eyes. Oh, it hurt, it hurt so much- her stomach seethed and her blood was pounding in her ears and her heart felt like it was going to lurch right out of her chest.
“Hah!” Tahrin barked, her teeth bared as if she intended to tear her to pieces. “You would place the onus of responsibility on someone else, sparing him the burden of his crimes? Pathetic.”
When she lunged forward, Jaesa was ready- but only just. She got her own blade up at the last second, the lightsabers sizzling and screeching as the lasers bounced off one another.
“You protect him even now, refusing to accept his crimes. If anyone deserves your anger, he does!”
Jaesa struggled to get a defensive footing; Tahrin was stronger than her, more powerful, more practised. She was quicker on her feet, but it didn’t mean much in the enclosed space of the cargo hold.
“Own your anger!” She struck her again, the lash coming faster than she could defend against. She felt it glance off her shoulder, felt the burn as the blade cut through cloth and skin. “Do not shirk before me like a wilting flower, defend yourself!”
The cadence of the author’s wording and the pacing of the whole interaction really make this scene flow and, more importantly, make it real.
I would recommend reading the entire In Her Shadows series, but Her Master’s Words is definitely the chapter I would pull out for a standalone recommendation. Arguments of philosophy concerning the light and dark side of the force and where they coincide and depend on each other is one of my favorite things about Star Wars, and Defira handles it with grace and great insight. Read it here at AO3!