Biweekly Book Review: Aftermath: Empire’s End

War is coming. It’s time for the Battle of Jakku and the fall of the Empire. Today we’re going to be wrapping up the Aftermath series.

From here on out, we will be firmly in the Sequel Trilogy timeline, and I promise I won’t let my Episode IX feelings out too much (because I’ve been so good and subtle about it thus far). So, let’s get started. Aftermath: Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig.

*Spoilers Below*

The Story

In the months since the Battle of Endor, the remains of the Empire have been slowly picking themselves up in the shadows and trying to maintain some kind of foothold in the galaxy they once controlled.

Following instructions from Gallius Rax, Palpatine’s would-be successor, what’s left of the Empire’s forces relocate to Jakku and prepare to make their last stand.

Word of this reaches the New Republic, where the leaders are hesitant to engage in another act of war, preferring to try and negotiate a cease fire instead, not that that’s stopping anyone from trying anyway.

Norra Wexley, accompanied by Jas Emari, heads to Jakku in search of her husband and Rae Sloane, who she holds responsible for the actions on Chandrila in the second book. Snap Wexley and Wedge Antilles remain behind, gearing up Wedge’s Phantom Squadron for their role in the big fight. Meanwhile Sinjir Rath Velus puts his old Imperial skills to use by playing the political game and trying to make sure Mon Mothma retains her seat as New Republic chancellor.

3 Things I Liked (and 1 I Didn’t)

1. A Happy Ever After? In Star Wars?

You know what’s super weird about this book? There are two romantic subplots, and neither end up with one person dying in the other’s arms.

I know! In Star Wars of all places!

We see the resolution of the Norra/Wedge plot from past books with the suggestion by the end that they’re spending a LOT of time together. Granted, they’re taking things very slowly because Norra went from thinking her husband was dead, to realizing that he was actually kidnapped and brainwashed, to him dying for real in the span of a couple of months at most.

The other, more conventional romantic subplot is between Sinjir and New Republic slicer Conder Kyl. The two of them are a tale as old as time. Sinjir is the cold, damaged one who doesn’t know how to love and Conder is the sweet one who is willing to try. So then of course Conder is kidnapped, Sinjir has to rescue him and along the way realizes he loved him this whole time. What can I say? I love my tropes and it’s high time this franchise had romance that doesn’t end in tragedy.

2. Mon Mothma

For all that Mon Mothma is painted as a stick in the mud for the bulk of this series, I actually really like her character here. Leia takes a back seat in this book, and the struggles of the New Republic are all shown through Mon’s eyes.

She is faced with a downright impossible task of trying to build a functioning government out of a rag tag band of rebels all while making sure she never slips into authoritarian Palpatine mode.

I empathize with her too, because her job is a thankless one, and the balance she has to maintain is a precarious one. I’ve said it before, but this series felt like watching the New Republic fail in slow motion, because you know that in 30 years or so it’s all going to come crumbling down.

3. The Empire’s Back Up Plan

Building on the last point, this book also gives a great look into how the Empire managed to survive enough to come roaring back as the First Order in the future.

The creepy Palpatine robots we saw in this series and in the Alphabet Squadron books sends Gallius Tax and the Imperial forces to an outpost on Jakku to make their last stand. Jakku, it says, is home to one of several outposts made to house Sith artifacts (probably much like the one Yrica finds in Shadow Fall).

Though the Empire loses that particular battle, and Rax is killed, Grand Admiral Sloane is spared by Norra and heads to the edges of Wild Space to build the Empire back up. Though this is fascinating and interesting, I think it suffers by not being paid off later. Sloane is too big a figure in the Empire to simply disappear, but as of right now, I can’t remember if we ever see her again.

4. The Battle of Jakku

Good lord.

I know I’ve said before that I don’t like battle scenes. I think the interesting thing about any fight scene is how it makes a character feel. The internal conflict makes the external one worth reading.

The Battle of Jakku takes up the last third of this book, and is just so much back and forth pew pew pew, which I know is to be expected of an adult Star Wars book, but I’d be lying if I said I read the whole thing without skimming it.

Overall Series Thoughts

You know when I really enjoyed this series? Up to when the movies ended.

I know the books aren’t perfect, I know some choices made are questionable, but overall, I liked what they did for the world building, and of all the books I’d read, they informed a lot of my theories going into Episode 9.

I thought we’d find out Rey’s parents worked for the Empire on Jakku and dumped their Force-sensitive child there because they didn’t want Palpatine’s sentinels to come after them. I thought, once we found out Palpatine was coming back, that it would be in the form of one of these sentinels, and not as a clone that’s been hanging around on an arcade claw for 30 years for some reason. I thought, that for all the attention paid to Leia’s meditations with the Force, her sensing Ben and communicating with him before he was born, her sensing that band of unexpected darkness that kept invading his soul, that we would somehow see the two reunited in the end (not in death, that doesn’t count and it didn’t even happen anyway).

I know things don’t always go the way we want, and I probably spent way too much time thinking about this, but the books don’t feel the same now, in a post-TROS world. Too much of the story was left hanging. I’m curious now to see how the rest of the Sequel-era books feel in this post-saga world.

Random Thoughts

Fun fact: Niima Outpost, where we first meet our beloved heroine Rey is named after the Hutt that ran a black market on that site

Less fun fact: We find out what happened to Jar Jar in one of the interludes and things did not go well for our poor gungan friend (no he wasn’t a secret Sith Lord either, for which I’m relieved, I did not like that theory)

Gallius Rax makes a point of saying that he had once come from nothing and rose to power, and wow what a compelling narrative that would be for a scrappy child from Jakku if only we could have seen that play out on screen but I guess not right?

We get our first glimpse at little Armitage Hux, who is simultaneously terrifying and to be pitied.

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