Welcome, welcome everyone! Today we’re travelling through the galaxy far, far away all the way down to Disneyla- I mean…Black Spire Outpost.
To celebrate the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (at both Disneyland and Disney World, book your tickets once the pandemic is over and it’s safe to do so!) Lucasfilm released two tie-in novels to expand on the lore of the world, their assumption no doubt being that most people would first read the books then go visit one of the parks. By the time I read them, I had already been to Batuu West (Disneyland) 4 times. As a result I think my overall perception of the novels was a little skewed. But we’ll get into that. Let’s dive into A Crash of Fate by Zoraida Cordova.
Izzy and Jules, two kids from Batuu, are best friends, joined at the hip until one night Izzy’s family take her off-planet with no explanation.
13 years later, Jules is a former farmhand trying to find his place on Batuu and in the galaxy at large. He does odd jobs for Dok Ondar, hangs out with his friends, and tries to stay out of trouble. The quintessential kid who never moved out of their hometown.
By contrast, Izzy has had a wild upbringing. She and her parents moved all over the galaxy, and she eventually enrolled in an Academy. But the death of her parents threw her life out of balance. She took on the life of a smuggler and has called her little ship home ever since.
Before their next big job, the crew she runs with throw her out and leave her behind at a cantina. She is approached by a stranger with a new job: to run one parcel to Dok Ondar on Batuu, after which she is free to do as she likes.
On arrival on Batuu, she reconnects with Jules, and through a series of mix-ups, he winds up embroiled in her mission. Together they try to deliver the passage to Dok, while staying clear of local gangster Oga Garra, the new First Order presence in Black Spire Outpost, and Izzy’s old crew, who have also come to Batuu.
3 Things I Liked (and 1 I Disliked)
1. Romance! A non-tragic romance!
I mean that title really says it all doesn’t it?
But in seriousness, Star Wars, it was about damn time we had a book that not only ended in a HEA for our couple, but also where romance was the central theme. Seriously, even the more “Star Wars-y” bits pf the book were there in service of the romance story. Izzy’s old gang includes her ex-boyfriend, so there’s that element of jealousy. The mix-up that keeps Izzy and Jules together is that they switch bags, and we all know two people mixing up their bags and having to find each other again is prime rom-com fodder. They even do that thing where Izzy, the one with the shady past, says something harsh about Jules to throw the gang off his scent, only for them to then play back her words to him at a crucial moment breaking his heart.
This is very helped by the fact that Zoraida Cordova writes romance novels in addition to her better known Young Adult novels. You want something done right, you give it to someone who knows what she’s doing.
2. Smaller Stakes
The stakes of this book were pretty low, but that isn’t a bad thing at all. It was actually quite refreshing. The main external plot elements are: deliver the package, avoid Izzy’s old gang and then eventually stop them from causing havoc to Batuu’s crops.
There are no galaxy-wide stakes that will make or break the Resistance movement. This story is set in and around Batuu, and that’s as far as the consequences of their actions will reach.
The book is Batuu from a local perspective, so it was smart to keep the stakes as local and insider as possible. Sure, Izzy’s old gang destroying Kat Saka’s crops won’t have an effect on the galaxy as a whole, but it will devastate the locals, including Jules, whose family makes a living working on that farm.
What’s nice about this is that them not getting caught up in the fate of the Resistance means the book has more time to devote to its two central characters, as well as to developing the world of Black Spire Outpost, which was probably the point.
3. Black Spire Outpost
Perhaps a weird thing to focus on, but I hope you’ll indulge my nostalgia for a moment.
I was lucky enough to spend the entire summer of 2019 in Los Angeles, which is just an hours drive from Disneyland. The grand opening of Galaxy’s Edge that summer meant that I went 4 times. I didn’t read either of the Batuu tie-in books until after I’d been there for myself, so any mention of the marketplace or the vendors conjured up mental images of the park.
The mentions of those retailers (the milk stand, the kettle corn, Dok Ondar’s, Oga’s) were not the only mentions of the park I caught though. I’m not sure if these easter eggs were intentional or not, but I can’t help but feel the references to Hondo’s shipping business, where he’s always looking for new pilots, was a reference to Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run and the late mention of the warring ships over Batuu is somehow related to Rise of the Resistance. I’m less sure of this second one, since the ride wasn’t open when I went.
Either way, all references to Black Spire Outpost were, in my opinion, tastefully done and brought up wonderful memories for me.
4. The pace at the start
Cordova is faced with the thankless task of both setting up the characters we are going to follow for the next 400 pages, as well as the world they inhabit.
Now, this is something that happens in every book. But the reason it drags a bit for me here is simply that the location of Black Spire Outpost probably needed a bigger introduction than most places in books do. The goal is, at the end of the day, to sell BSO as a very real place you can travel to.
What Cordova does is very smart. She gets the overt descriptions of BSO out of the way early, so that the story can more organically progress later without worrying about location-related exposition. But what this does mean is that the story was a little slow to start for me.
I didn’t realize until I thought about it, but other than some references to Hondo Onaka (who doesn’t actually appear in the book) there are no other characters from the films and TV shows. I applaud Cordova’s restraint, it wouldn’t have been that hard to have Hux marching around or something.
The layout of Black Spire Outpost in person has all the stalls, stands and dining establishments quite close together. They are, after all, confined by the space available within the theme park. Obviously in the book, all of these are meant to be more spaced out, but because I went before I ever read the book, I had the hardest time imagining everything the way it’s written. Any mention of “walking aaaall the way from the market to Dok Ondar’s” and I had to remind myself that no, it isn’t meant to be just around the corner within spitting distance.