Tragic characters have always been a part of Star Wars. In the original Star Wars movie, the protagonist’s aunt, uncle, and mentor are killed. Along with the devastating beginnings of Luke Skywalker’s story, Leia Organa sees the Empire blow up her homeworld of Alderaan. George Lucas later went on to make the prequel trilogy that tells the tragic tale of Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the dark side and his transformation into Darth Vader.
There are no shortage of tragic characters in Star Wars, and yet, Iskat Akaris has already cemented herself as one of the tragic characters to ever exist in a galaxy far, far away. Iskat was first introduced in Darth Vader 19 written by Charles Soule, but it is Delilah Dawson’s novel Inquisitor: Rise of the Red Blade that provides an in-depth exploration of Iskat and her tragic story.
Warning: There are major spoilers ahead for Inquisitor: Rise of the Red Blade.
Rise of the Red Blade begins right before the onset of the Clone Wars. Iskat is a Jedi Padawan who feels like a constant disappointment to her Jedi Master Sember Vey. Iskat is treated like an outcast among her fellow Jedi Padawans, largely because of an incident involving a column that grievously injured one of her Jedi peers. On top of all this, Iskat doesn’t know what species she is or what planet she comes from.
Iskat’s isolation and her identity crisis only worsen when the Clone Wars begin and she is sent to the Battle of Geonosis. Iskat kills numerous Geonosians, thus saving several other Jedi, but Master Sember dies later in battle. Alone, grieving, with no one to guide herm and more questions about her past than ever before, Iskat is told to rejoice since Sember is now one with the Force. She is also treated like a freak for the way she killed the Geonosians.
As the Clone Wars progress, she is sent on dangerous missions that she and her fellow Jedi are woefully unprepared for. Iskat is often the one who finds the way to make the missions a success, but is punished by the Jedi for her sometimes extreme and unconventional actions that are not considered befitting of a Jedi. Her actions during her first mission even get her grounded at the Jedi Temple for two years.
The Jedi do not nurture her. Instead, they try to force her into boxes she won’t fit into and when she attempts to express herself, they throw empty platitudes back at her. The only person Iskat is able to regularly confide in is Heezo, a Jedi Temple staff technician, who unbeknownst to Iskat is a spy for Darth Sidious.
After Order 66 occurs, Iskat chooses to become a Inquisitor, believing she will finally have the freedom and answers that she’s always craved. Unlike the other Inquisitors, Iskat doesn’t need to be tortured to embrace the dark side as she’s already chosen to embrace it.
Instead of finding freedom or acceptance, Iskat comes to realize that the Inquisitorius is simply a different cage than the Jedi Order, just with different masters. There is no camaraderie or support among the Inquisitors as they are always trying to prove which of them is strongest, even when that means maiming or nearly killing each other. Darth Sidious, Darth Vader, and the Grand Inquisitor don’t care about Iskat as an individual and only care about using her to purge the galaxy of the Jedi.
When Iskat finally goes to her homeworld and meets her family for the first time, she experiences love, acceptance, and community, realizing that it it these things that she’d been missing all her life. Yet, she cannot stay there. She knows she is not suited to the quiet and simple lifestyle on Pkoria.
She also recognizes that she cannot run away from the commitment she made to the Inquisitorius, and unfortunately, learning the truth of her mother’s tragic past only makes her more eager to destroy all lingering vestiges of the Jedi Order. Her decision is also one of protection, as the other Inquisitors would be more than happy to kill Iskat’s family and everyone on Pkoria simply to hurt her.
Iskat becomes the Thirteenth Sister and forges a toxic sort of love with Tualon, a fellow Inquisitor and former Jedi she’s known since they were young. She and Tualon are killed by Vader, and only in death does Iskat finally feel free.
Unlike Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi, Reva in Obi-Wan Kenobi, or Kylo Ren in The Rise of Skywalker, Iskat doesn’t get to redeem herself, making her fall to the dark side and her ending even more tragic. If the Jedi had nurtured Iskat and treated her as a person instead of a burden and an outcast, Iskat might not have fallen to the dark side in the first place.
She likely would’ve thrived in the Jedi Order if she’d been alive during the High Republic, when the Jedi were more open-minded and nurturing. The Clone Wars is arguably the worst possible time for her to be a Jedi, as the Jedi Order were at the height of their hubris, and just as Sidious placed them in a no-win situation, Iskat was constantly placed in a no-win situation by the Jedi.
The Jedi, the clones, the Separatists, the Republic, and the entire galaxy were manipulated by Sidious through the Clone Wars. Even knowing this, Rise of the Red Blade makes that manipulation more tragic and personal, showing how the conflict destroyed the life of such a promising individual.
All Iskat wanted was to be free, but she was instead imprisoned and used by both the Jedi and the Sith. Every time she thought she’d found freedom or found her purpose, she was always punished or left disappointed, and could only find freedom in death.
Those who read Darth Vader 19 and Darth Vader 20 knew how Iskat’s story ended, but the nuanced character study and journey in Rise of the Red Blade makes Iskat’s story infinitely more tragic.