Biweekly Book Review: Black Spire

I cannot believe it. I truly can’t believe it. We’ve finally made it to the end of the adult/YA canon timeline. Remember back when I thought I’d be able to get here in June? Cute…

Last time we looked at Crash of Fate, a YA romance novel that set up Black Spire Outpost from an insider’s point of view. Today, we’re venturing down to Batuu with not only an outsider’s point of view, but also in a way that much more directly speaks to the guest experience when visiting Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. It’s time for Black Spire by Delilah S. Dawson.

*Spoilers Below*

The Story

Following her capture and interrogation by Captain Cardinal aboard the First Order Destroyer, Vi Moradi returns to the rebellion and is given a new assignment: travel to the remote world of Batuu and establish some kind of outpost for the Resistance. She is all set to go, ready to give her all for the cause yet again.

Then the Hosnian system is blown up.

Suddenly a lot of things happen very quickly (like…movies VII and VIII), and Vi’s mission is put on hold for a few months. But after the Resistance survives catastrophic losses over Crait, their mission becomes more critical than ever. Vi is sent to Batuu along with a sarcastic droid named Pook and the very same Captain Cardinal who once took her hostage – now going by his birth name Archex.

Their mission is to set up camp and start recruiting. So of course everything immediately goes wrong. They are injured and their belongings are stolen. Vi works to integrate with the local society and persuade others to join their cause (while trying to reclaim their lost equipment), while Archex struggles with demons of his own that still haunt him from his previous life.

Things I Liked (and 1 I didn’t)

1. Cardinal

Wow, what a surprise, Arezou likes the villain with the redemption arc. A shocker truly, no one saw this coming.

Seriously though. Because Cardinal – now Archex – was injured at the end of Phasma and hasn’t made a full recovery, he is unable to take part in a lot of the action. Which means that all his conflict is the best kind – internal conflict.

He initially hides his former First Order status from the three new Resistance recruits, and it’s easy to see why he does. Vi knows exactly who he is, Vi is the one that saves him, Vi knows exactly how much deprogramming he’s gone through. And yet, she still has moments where she doubts him. What would someone who barely knows him think?

After wrestling with himself for the whole book, chafing at the lack of responsibility he is given in the upcoming fight, he arrives for the final fight in truly the single most “fuck yeah” moment in the whole book. Such is the power of this moment, that it was my favourite single moment in the whole thing, and yet I somehow forgot about it between my last read and this one. My brain wanted me to experience it all over I guess.

2. Batuu from an outsider’s POV

If Crash of Fate was the insider’s view of Batuu, then this one is the outsider’s view. I appreciated this because realistically this is how all of us feel when we go to Batuu (at least the first time around). Somehow the locations felt more familiar in this one than they did in Crash but that’s probably because they’re described a bit more like they’re being explained to tourists. I won’t lie, this did get a bit grating sometimes – particularly the description of Ronto Roasters – but I don’t think this is the author’s fault. This reeked of corporate requirement. Really, any excuse to visit Batuu again, even just in my imagination, is a plus in my book.

3. The Ancient Ruins

The Ancient Ruins, which Vi decides to use as a base of operations is a really cool location. It’s a massive complex rigged with lethal booby traps, which she discovers when she is sent inside on an errand from Oga Garra. If I haven’t gotten my geography all mixed up, the complex is also adjacent to the pretty cenote from Crash of Fate and I can’t help but feel like this would be the natural extension to the Galaxy’s Edge park, if Disney ever had the inclination (and the space). It could make a really cool walk-through attraction or something.

4. Theme park tie-in

So despite my saying that the descriptions of BSO were nice and made me feel like I was back there, despite my suggesting a new kind of attraction for Galaxy’s Edge, I actually found that the book’s biggest weakness were the parts where it had to “sell” the theme park to the reader, because I felt it interfered with the story the author was trying to tell, beyond the obvious hyping up of the very real fast food stands that you can frequent when you visit.

Both Dok Ondar and Oga Garra are described as scary, and Oga is even described as unfair and with a mean streak. That makes sense for a story with these kinds of stakes. But of course neither can be too unfair because then real-life tourists may not want to frequent the establishment.

Archex is one of the more compelling characters in the story, with one of the coolest character designs. But he can’t be marching around the park in bright red stormtrooper armour so of course he doesn’t make it out alive.

And then there’s Vi. Poor Vi. She is meant to be the Resistance’s top spy, something I very easily believed in Phasma. But here, I’m not entirely sure she knows what she’s doing. In the book, she walks around BSO in a very distinctive Rebel jacket. Great for the tourists who want a chance at spying a brand new character organically walking around a theme park! Not so great for a spy who is supposed to be hiding. She makes a lot of frankly rookie mistakes that don’t make sense until you consider it in the context of a theme park. If she had done things the right way, there would be no First-Order-on-Batuu experience at the Disney Parks. She is blunt when trying to recruit others to the cause, because then it makes sense when she tries to bluntly recruit you, the tourist, when you visit Batuu. So I almost wish she’d been characterized as great at intel gathering and remote work, but not as “a top spy”, because she really isn’t acting like one. It really didn’t feel like the same woman who had managed to survive the harshness of Parnassos when hunting for information about Captain Phasma.

Before you think I’m judging too harshly, I did bump into her when I visited Batuu and yes, it was awesome. It’s really cool to see a book character literally brought to life, I just wish they hadn’t had so many constraints on her.

Random Thoughts

Vi is nearly swindled by a Trandoshan named Kasif, which is literally the Persian word for “dirty”. Gonna give the benefit of the doubt and say that isn’t intentional, but I didn’t love it.

There’s one bit where the First Order captain hunting Vi down orders his troopers to march in proper formation because “what would the Supreme Leader say?”. Once I remembered that at this point in the timeline Kylo Ren is the Supreme Leader, I had a nice long laugh trying to imagine my favourite SadBoy being upset over troop formations.

The epilogue of the book straight up just sets up the endless groundhog day scenario that is a day in Batuu at Disney Parks, because it ends with word that the Supreme Leader is coming down to the planet. No mention of when Rey and Chewie are coming though.

Story time (nothing to do with the book, I just wanted to share): The summer of 2019, my brother and I took our dad to Disneyland. One of our last plans for the day was building lightsabers at Savi’s, which we loved. We both came out of the whole thing with blue kyber crystals powering our sabers.

In Savi’s courtyard – fighting even though we were told not to

But because we both like options, we wanted alternate kyber crystals. Unfortunately they were all sold out. I knew I would be going back the next week during D23 weekend, so I said I would check. I heard a rumour that they did in fact have kyber crystals, but would only sell you one if you bought a holocron too. No way was I dropping $50 per person, so I slipped into Dok Ondar’s that afternoon with every intention of covertly asking the Cast Member to make an exception. I walk up to him and whisper “so I hear you have kyber crystals?” as if I’m conducting the shadiest deal in the world. He matches my tone, looks around to make sure no one is watching, then pulls one crystal of each colour out of his pocket and mumbles instructions on how to get them (at the cash register). Just wanted to shout out this CM, whose name I’ve sadly forgotten, for playing along with a game I didn’t even realize I was playing.

My brother and I duelling in the backyard in full cosplay like full grown adults

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