I love Jedi: Fallen Order. Apart from Battlefront II’s campaign, it’s to date the only video game I’ve ever played all the way through — and the only one I did not need to ask for help with thankyouverymuch. Hearing that Cal, Cere, Merrin and Greez would be appearing in a novel set between Fallen Order and the upcoming Survivor felt like the next natural step. Their in-game story was already so narratively driven. Why not translate that to the page in order to tell a brand new story?
In Jedi: Battle Scars, author Sam Maggs blows absolutely any preconceived notion I might have had about the project right out of the water, and delivers one of my favourite Star Wars books to date.
The story follows the Mantis crew, a few years after the events of Fallen Order, as they travel the galaxy finding small ways to stick it to the Empire, each seeking justice for all they’ve lost, and purpose in an uncertain future. Things get more complicated when they meet Fret, a non-human looking to defect from the Empire. Fret tells them she knows a job in need of a crew, one that will seriously hamper the Imperials plans. Unfortunately, things get complicated when it turns out the Inquisitors are also very interested in this mission…
As far as premises go, Battle Scars has a fairly straightforward one, and this is a point massively in its favour. With such a clear mission laid out for the characters, it allows Maggs time to really give each member of the Mantis crew their due. Cere and Greez get their time of course, but the book very wisely splits the point of view mostly between Cal and Merrin.
With Cal, we get a lot of time in his head reckoning with everything we saw him go through in the game, as well as the toll the last few years have taken on him. But Merrin. Oh Merrin. If you came out of Fallen Order wishing you could have gotten just a little more of her, Battle Scars delivers in spades. She is messy, she is angry, she struggles, but she also has so much heart that she actively fights not to lose, and I love her so much more now than I did before reading the book.
My main hesitation going in was that Star Wars books aimed at adults tend to be very action-driven, something that will almost always cause me to zone out. With Battle Scars, however, Maggs manages to make the action sequences read like you’re playing a video game on story mode (I want to attribute this to her experience with game writing, but I’m not 100% what that entails so I could be wrong). They’re breezy, easy to follow, and if you’ve played Fallen Order, you can picture what’s going on extremely clearly.
As for the biggest surprise in the book: not only is there romance…but this book is actually steamy? As steamy as I’m sure a Star Wars book is even allowed to be, but steamy nonetheless. A surprise to be sure, but a welcome one. The romance reader in me was so excited by this turn of events, and I would like to take this moment to say more of this energy going forward!
For those eagerly anticipating Jedi: Survivor, Battle Scars will more than hold you over, as it is a delightfully self-contained mission with the Mantis crew that allows all of them the chance to grow and push forward, setting them up for where they’ll be when we next meet up with them.
Jedi: Battle Scars hits shelves March 7. Special thank you to Random House Worlds for the advance copy for review purposes.