Biweekly Book Review: Star Wars: Life Day Treasury

‘Twas the night before Life Day, in the Galaxy Far, Far Away…

The holiday season is my favourite time of year, so getting to ring it in (albeit, a little early this year) with a collection of Star Wars stories was a really special treat. It’s also worth pointing out that despite the name, Life Day is not actually the sole focus of this work. Instead, we are transported across the galaxy to witness a whole host of celebrations. People on this planet don’t even celebrate early winter the same way, so it would be a little silly to assume that an entire galaxy shares just one holiday.

Each story in this collection was special in its own way. I loved the sense of hope and celebration that each brought, no matter the trials the characters faced within. This isn’t The Rising Storm where I have to worry about Cavan emotionally devastating me, or Myths & Fables and Dark Legends where I can count on George’s vivid imagery to haunt my nightmares. Life Day Treasury is a holiday classic for me, pure and simple.

What unites all the stories isn’t a strict frame narrative, but instead, an idea of hope, pure and simple. Hope is the cornerstone of Star Wars, and it’s present in every single tale. I’m also not sure if this comes down to personal preference, or just because I liked this book so much, but I choose to believe that every single one of these stories actually happened. As in canonically. They’re simply too full of goodness to be consigned to the possibility of myth.

I’m not picking highlights this time. They’re all highlights. Let’s dive in.

The One That Made Me Happy Dance: A Coruscant Solstice

STELLAN. FREAKING. GIOS.

I’m calm, I swear.

What a way for this book to kick off though. The High Republic is some of the most exciting Star Wars happening right now. And not only did they include a story set in that era in this anthology, but they also had it starring my favourite Jedi from the era, that handsome son of a blaster himself, Stellan Gios.

It’s Solstice Tide on Coruscant and Stellan is hanging out in the city, watching everyone get ready for the holiday before heading back to the Temple for the holiday feast. That is, until he spots a young pickpocket in the crowd. He chases the kid down to the lower levels, rescuing him from a cluster of thugs, before letting him go with a warning. Unable to let it go, however, he follows the kid home and sees why he was stealing in the first place: to make things a little easier for his family.

The story goes where few Coruscant-centric ones do – at least so far – and actually shows the disparity between the Jedi in their glittering spires, and the people who live so far down on Coruscant that the festive lights of the holiday season don’t reach their homes. It really puts things in perspective for Stellan, as he remembers why it is he’s a Jedi and not only offers immediate help to those in need, but a long term solution. The theme of hope comes in not only when he gives hope to those without, but at the prospect of what sorts of change this action might bring about for others to give them hope too.

We know from stories later in the timeline that nothing changes planet-wide, at least not long term. But I’d like to think Stellan made something of a difference, at least for a while.

The One That Took An Unexpected Turn: An Old Hope

I wasn’t super engaged with this story when it started. It comes down to personal preference, and I don’t have the easiest time getting into stories about droids. That changed when all the droids who had been taken by the Jawas gathered around to hear the tale of the “Oilbringer”, a mysterious bearded human who flies around the entire galaxy on a bantha to bring spare parts and oil changes to all the droids. Sound familiar? While the skeptical 9R-NC doesn’t believe in any Oilbringer, new arrival LA-R1 (whose name I’ve decided is pronounced “Larry”) decides to bring that spirit of hope to everyone anyway. While the rest of the droids recharge, he stays up late performing the little repairs and maintenance they all need to run smoother. Just in time too, since their transport is attacked and everyone needs to flee.

Everyone that is, except LA-R1, who doesn’t have enough charge to make a getaway.

Don’t worry though, the story doesn’t have an unhappy ending. As for whether or not the Oilbringer is real? Well I won’t dare spoil that for you.

The One That Felt The Most Like A Modern Holiday: The Kindling

What do I mean by this? A big component of a holiday – any holiday – is people doing things out of tradition. Some may have forgotten why certain actions are performed, and they may seem pointless now, but traditions become traditions through repetition with purpose.

Fanya and Rorric are two young rebel fighters on the run from the Empire when they find themselves cornered. Surrounded, Rorric starts to panic, but Fanya instead starts gathering moss, explaining to him that back on her homeworld of Aaloth, it became tradition for the Twi’lek to carry these pouches around, filled with flammable moss and a flint to light it with, as an act of defiance against the Sith who had taken over their home. Because light keeps out the literal darkness, the Sith banned it. But just the knowledge that they could start a fire and have that light there was enough to give them strength to fight back.

The bulk of this tale is just Fanya retelling the legend to Rorric, and that’s where the hope for this one comes out. She has hope that by keeping her people’s traditions alive, it can save the day for her, just as her people once had hope in the elder who gave them the means to fight back.

The One That Made Me Glad I Watched The Ewok Stuff: The Kroolok

Sing it with me now: “We are the ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-woks”

Now that that’s in your head, lets talk about “The Kroolok”, a sweet nugget of a story that honestly wouldn’t be out of place in the Ewoks TV series. I know I’ve been harsh on it in the past, but it’s actually extremely cozy in retrospect. I also love it for making me really appreciate this story. It’s not difficult to follow by any means for any reader who isn’t familiar with the Ewok animated series or films. It might actually inspire you to watch them if you haven’t already!

It’s wintertime on Endor and Wicket is sick of being stuck in their treetop village. He wants to venture out in the snow like the older Ewoks do. But the elders caution him away from the notion. After all, he might run afoul of the notorious Kroolok, a troll who stalks the forest on snowy nights. But because Wicket doesn’t listen, he decides to go out anyway . he ropes in Princess Kneesaa, who he’s crushing on big time, and Teebo (my favourite Ewok because he’s a dork) to go with him.

Do they encounter the Kroolok? Of course they do.

As for the note of hope in this story, it’s on a smaller scale. It’s the hope that as children grow into adults they’ll carry with them the traditions of their family, both the serious and the silly.

The One That Reminded Me Of Lost Stars: The Song of Winter’s Heart

Who gave George Mann and Cavan Scott the right to hurt me like this?

Rel and Max are childhood friends from Alderaan who both love celebrating Winter’s Heart. Though they’re close as children, the older they get, the more they drift apart. Rel heads off to school while Max stays behind to help out at home. Rel gets a job with a nonprofit that settles Clone War refugees, Max enlists with the Empire because it’s steady income.

Is this sounding enough like Lost Stars yet? I don’t even know if their relationship is romantic or platonic, because either way it’s devastating.

Jump ahead to wartime, Rel is now with the Rebel Alliance. In a skirmish with the Empire, he hears a trooper humming a familiar tune, the song they sing at Winter’s Heart. Sure enough, it’s Max.

Though the two friends are on opposite sides of the war, they put everything aside for that one evening to mark Winter’s Heart together by playing a game of croupet like they used to as kids, and by remembering the homeworld they lost.

This also reminds me a little of the Christmas Truce in 1914, with opposing sides calling a temporary unofficial ceasefire before going back to fighting the next day. Obviously this time its just two men, who both walk away acknowledging that they both believe in their respective causes, and that they won’t forget what they mean to each other.

I suppose that’s where hope is to be found in this one. The hope that the war will end and that the two friends can reunite on the same side once again, to make the galaxy better somehow.

The One With The Christmas Carol Vibes: The Spirit of Life Day

What’s the holiday season without a few ghosts.

The settlement of Odes Town on the planet Monta celebrates Life Day. Or at least they used to. When tragedy struck during the Clone Wars on Life Day, the people ceased to celebrate, and the holiday took a horrifying turn. Now, the citizens of Odes Town stay indoors during the holiday, not daring to venture outside, lest they face the ghosts of the Life Day massacre.

This one is very Christmas Carol. It’s not just that it features ghosts, but it features one ghost in particular that offers the young protagonist visions of what Life Day was, and what it is now, trusting in her to tell the people of Odes Town what it could be once again.

The story is quite beautiful and poignant, emphasizing the power in remembering tragedy, yes, but also in not letting it define you. In living for those who are no longer around to live for themselves. A hope for a better tomorrow and all that.

Also, the final paragraph begins with “[…] the people of Odes Town kept Life Day better than all the others on Monta.” which is a direct callback to the ending of A Christmas Carol: “[…] and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”

The One I Would Have Read A Whole Book About: Reflection Day

“Reflection Day” has a few cool concepts going on. It’s set on Jedha during it’s heyday. It concerns a ritual involving Kyber Mirrors, where pilgrims look into the mirrors to help determine their path. It has a festival in the city and a blossoming romance.

Yes I would have read an entire novel about Zallo, the skeptic learning to find his faith and purpose, and Kasmira, the scholar in search of more knowledge.

I will give the authors credit where it’s due though. They do manage to pack an entire romantic arc into an 18 page story. There is the meet cute, the surprise re-encounter, the party where feelings are caught, and finally the resolution that ends on a hopeful note. It’s unclear when in the timeline this takes place, but I hope Zallo and Kasmira are happy wherever they are.

The One That Made Me Very Emotional: The Tree of Life

And now we come to it. The one thing everyone thinks of when they think “Life Day”.

Alright, maybe not everyone, but you get my point. The final story is set on Kashyyyk, after the fall of the Empire. Chewbacca’s family – Itchy, Malla and his adolescent son who prefers to be called Waroo instead of Lumpy these days – are all preparing for Life Day. Chewie isn’t home for the holiday, but they hold out hope that he’ll make it home in time.

Waroo in particular is having a hard time with missing his dad, as much as he knows it’s important that Chewie do his part to help rebuild. The family attend the community celebration without Chewie, but when it becomes too much Waroo runs off to get some space. After getting startled and breaking the ceremonial family orb, he runs off even further and – in true holiday movie miracle fashion – bumps right into his dad. Not only his dad, but Uncle Han, who is here to help them celebrate.

It was a sweet, very appropriate note to end on, and has infinitely increased my interest in watching the Holiday Special this year (no I haven’t seen it yet. Yes, I’m serious).

Before we wrap up, I must once again mention the beautiful illustrations by Grant Griffin, a couple of which are pictured above. When they were first revealed as part of the announcement for this book, my excitement skyrocketed by the inclusion of Stellan Gios – on the cover no less! – and in the time since, my dives into the old Ewoks cartoon and movies have deepened my appreciation for the denizens of Bright Tree Village.

Also worth mentioning is the (not pictured) illustration for “The Spirit of Life Day” which is an unsettling image, but given that one of the most popular holiday retelling is A Christmas Carol, it seems apt to inject a little ghostly presence into holiday storytelling.

On one final, on-brand note: I couldn’t help but notice that if the final story was set after the fall of the Empire…and if Han is around being called Uncle Han…that maybe he might have brought a little kiddo of his own to the proceedings on Kashyyyk? A little dark-haired baby to maybe hang out with Uncle Chewie and his cousin Waroo? This is such a small point, it’s not even a critique, just something that would have been cute. Ah well, there’s always next Life Day.

***

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