Biweekly Book Review: From a Certain Point of View – The Empire Strikes Back

Another new release! And within a week no less! The hype surrounding this book was high. I remember the months when people speculated that “Project Luminous”, now known as The High Republic, was a codename for this book. Isn’t it nice that we got both instead?

Unlike the first instalment where I had no idea what to expect, I went into this one with an idea of what and who the stories were going to be about, as well as the general premise of the project. As such, I also went into it with a fairly good idea of what my favourites would be. I was mostly right, though there were a few surprises. This is From A Certain Point Of View: The Empire Strikes Back.

*Spoilers Below*

The Premise

Like the first From A Certain Point Of View, this one is an anthology of 40 stories, only this time we’re diving deep into The Empire Strikes Back.

One thing I noticed about this one, unlike the first, is just how many stories are given over to minor/bit characters who have a cult following. People like Dak, Admiral Piett, Willrow Hood, all the bounty hunters, the ugnaughts, Veers. The first was far more focused on moments and times and places within the story, this one seemed to be more about giving each bit character their “due”. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I imagine that’s where a lot of the hype came from for others. And if the characters are available, why not use them? But for me, someone who was never super into the minor characters, I was neither here nor there. Not that I didn’t enjoy the book. I did! The stories that I loved are so SO good.

My Top 10 Stories

Honorable Mention: The One I Had High Expectations For: The Whills Strike Back by Tom Angleberger

From claiming the number one spot in the first list, the Whills now find themselves down in honourable mentions this time around. I suppose part of the problem with me is that the story suffers from being compared to the first one, which I loved. This one is good too, it’s still funny, still meta. There’s even a great Star Trek crossover joke. But the first one was written not knowing if there would be another story featuring these weird, meta little Whills, so they went hard on the nostalgia in that one. This one had a lot less of the references to the old properties, which makes sense but honestly that’s what I liked about the first so much. But it still made the list, I still enjoyed it for what it was. I wonder if we’ll get a third one when they do Return of the Jedi. “Return of the Whills” perhaps?

10. The One That Got Unexpectedly Dark: Kendal by Charles Yu

There are a lot of stories about imperials in this one, and with this being the darker middle chapter of the original trilogy, it doesn’t usually go well for them – unless of course they defect.

Admiral Ozzel doesn’t defect. He famously gets choked to death by Darth Vader. And this entire story is made up of the last frantic thoughts racing through his head as he aims to find peace in his last moments. The entire story is told through the eyes of a man who is mere seconds away from death . We have to watch and listen to him die and know there’s not a damn thing we can do abut it. This story is extremely dark. I’m not sure I’d read it attentively, the next time I do read through this book. But still, it was pretty compelling.

9. The One That Made Me Hungry: But What Does He Eat? by S.A. Chakraborty

Of all the stories, this one was probably one of, if not the silliest. It is set in the kitchen of Cloud City’s master chef as she is tasked with preparing a meal to impress their high ranking Imperial guest. She is, however, thrown for a loop when she realizes the guest is Darth Vader. Not only is the pressure on BIG TIME, but she’s not even sure he can eat at all.

I like that they included this, to really highlight the absurdity of Darth Vader wanting to capture Han and Leia by…meeting them in a really nice and airy dining room. The chef misses all of the action of course. She’s too busy whipping up a lot of strange yet somehow mouthwatering dishes, and maybe reading this story while hungry wasn’t the best idea.

8. The One I Would Have Written: The Witness by Adam Christopher

I absolutely love the idea of stories where someone small in the grand scheme of things bears witness to one of the bigger revelations in a story. Like, say, if we got a whole story from a maintenance worker on Mustafar watching Anakin and Obi Wan fight to the death. I keep thinking that if I were to have written for this book, I would have written a character who witnesses Vader’s “I am your father” reveal.

That’s the story we get here.

Sort of.

This is told from the POV of a defecting stormtrooper as she makes every effort to get away from her squad and out of Cloud City. She passes underground through some maintenance tunnels where she happens to see Lord Vader fighting with that rebel he’s been looking for. Not only fighting though, they seem to be having a conversation about…something. She wants to hear what it is, but alas, the wind in the service tunnels makes it impossible to hear Vader. Of course we can’t have some random stormtrooper knowing Vader is Luke’s father, but it’s fun to imagine how close one of them came

7. The One That Really Made Me Feel Bad For The Worm: This Is No Cave by Catherynne M. Valente

The trend with all the creature stories in this book is this: as soon as I realize what creature it’s about, all I can think is “Are you really gonna make me feel bad for the ____?”

The answer is always yes.

That’s no different in this story, revolving around the asteroid bound space slug that Han and Leia accidentally fly the Falcon into. This worm, you see, is an outcast from others of its kind, who all make fun of it. It keeps “butterflies” (mynocks) in its tummy and likes to show them off. When Han and Leia show up, it becomes determined to keep them safe and warm inside its belly, and is heartbroken when they choose to leave. It even offers to expel its precious butterflies if they’re proving bothersome. This story is such a weird, sad little blip of an entry, but I will say at the very least they don’t kill the worm. They let it, and its butteries, live another day.

6. The One With Roman Holiday Vibes: Into The Clouds by Karen Strong

Picture this: a tale of a well-to-do woman with a sense of obligation to her family and the scrappy average joe that loves her. Is this a stretch, to compare this story to Roman Holiday? Yes. Is my judgement impaired because I watched that movie then read this story immediately after? Also yes.

I can’t help it. I’m a sucker for a good love story, and this one was infused with enough crackling chemistry and inner turmoil that I would have happily read an entire novel about Jailyn and Dresh: how they met, how their relationship developed as he worked for her gambling addict father. As it is, we get the tail end of their romance before they run off into the sunset together. But I appreciate the beautiful beginning of a love story set against the backdrop of the evacuation of Cloud City that we did get.

5. The One With The What Ifs: Disturbance by Mike Chen

I don’t particularly like Palpatine (shocker). I was prepared to not like this story at all.

Then they had to lob the Freaky Force Stuff at me, and here we are. This story is at the number 5 spot on my list.

The story is mostly set within a Force vision that Palpatine has, that tells him Luke is Anakin’s son. He sees the father-son pair overthrowing him and taking over the galaxy. We even get brief mention of Anakin, Padmé and Luke as a family unit (Palpy doesn’t know about Leia it would seem) and for all that this is a twisted Dark side vision, it kind of thrilled me to see it. We don’t often factor Padmé into ideas of what Luke’s life would look like if his parents had survived, and we forget that of the two of them, Luke inherited his mother’s heart and sense of right.

There’s also a reference to Matthew Stover’s Revenge of the Sith novelization. Many bonus points were awarded for its inclusion.

4. The One That’s Just So Soft: A Good Kiss by C.B. Lee

Of all the stories included on this list, this is the one whose premise was funniest. It is an entire story from the point of view of that guy who walks in between Han and Leia in the corridor on Hoth.

Turns out, like everyone else, he wishes they would cut the crap and kiss already. Or at least get out of his way. Our poor hero, Chase Wilsorr, is struggling with the fact that he isn’t getting the jobs he wants within the Rebellion and is instead relegated to kitchen duty. He’s also frustrated with his going-nowhere crush on Jordan, the stablehand. Fortunately for him, Jordan doesn’t seem to mind clumsy kitchen boys.

OK this one is so soft and so wholesome and sweet. More of this in my star war please.

3. The One With My Requisite Freaky Force Stuff: Vergence by Tracy Deonn

The concept of an entire story from the point of view of the Dagobah cave might seem odd. It might seem like a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea.

But in the hands of Tracey Deonn, it works perfectly. As in her debut novel Legendborn, she has this ability to dig down into the roots of magic, and make it feel like a character all its own. She does it in Legendborn with various kinds of magic, and she does it here with the Force.

Though the cave appears Dark and evil, it is only a product of the world around it. Many seek it out to discover their fears, so the cave shows them what they come to see, in a one-and-done deal, until Yoda shows up and develops almost a “friendship” with it. Certainly the two work together – albeit without the cave’s knowledge – to show Luke what he most fears.

I know it’s quite a ways away, but I would like to see this concept and personification return for the Force cave on Ach-To. Maybe we can do a 10 year anniversary anthology for The Last Jedi so Tracy Deonn can write that one too.

2. The One That Was Better Than I Thought: Faith In An Old Friend by Brittany N. Williams

Solo: A Star Wars Story was just fine. Not my favourite, not the worst. It was fine. But my hands-down favourite part of the whole thing was L3-37, Lando’s copilot droid with an attitude and outsized sense of justice.

So imagine my heartbreak when the movie kills her off at the end of Act 2.

Her brain is plugged into the Millennium Falcon and she becomes a part of the ship’s computer. Using this as justification, and taking Threepio’s line about the Falcon speaking a “peculiar dialect” is enough to launch us into this story about the “Millennium Collective”, the three droids that make up the brain of the Millennium Falcon. There is eloquent, angry, emotion-ridden L3 of course, but she is unexpectedly and delightfully joined by ED-4, a slicer droid with an extensive vocabulary, and V5-T, the original shipboard computer who speaks in staccato “yells”.

The story spans the length of most of the movie, as the droids bear witness to any events taking place on board the Falcon. They spy Han and Leia’s budding romance, are responsible for giving Han the idea to go to Bespin, and L3 even manages half a reunion with Lando. For someone who really liked L3’s character and was sad to see her go, it was a nice surprise to see her pop up in this.

1. The One That Proves How Predicable I Am And Also Punched Me In The Feelings: There Is Always Another by Mackenzi Lee

Bold of me to assume the Obi Wan story wouldn’t rank high here, honestly. I’m such a sucker for this character who has been through so much sadness and pain.

Set in the moments Luke is packing his ship to leave Dagobah, Obi Wan reflects on how much this young boy is like his father, the same brashness and passion, but also the same proclivity for the dark. Most of the story is Obi Wan’s Force ghost reliving old memories of his life, reflecting on the good and bad parts of his relationship with Anakin, and all the others he loved and lost.

I won’t go too into detail because I want you all punched in the feelings like I was. Because trust me. This story will do that to you. As well as make you excited for the upcoming Kenobi series.

Random Thoughts

Cavan Scott’s story, “Fake It Till You Make It”, is entered around a giant green rabbit named Jaxxon, a former Legends character who has made his way back into canon via the Star Wars Adventures comics. When I saw him on the cover of some of the comics, I thought it was a joke. Like someone drew on the Trix rabbit, painted him green, and called it a variant cover. But no. Apparently this is a real thing.

Everyone on Echo Base knows Han and Leia are flirting and are running betting pools. Amazing.

Yoda’s story is basically what you would expect it to be, and makes a good companion to the story from FACPOV. But what really elevates it for me here are the constant constant digs at Luke. Poor Luke. I mean I laughed, but still.

The story from the point of view of a TIE pilot makes it clear that TIE’s can be piloted by any idiot who knows how to fly straight and just hold the trigger down. I have to say, I did not come here to be bullied for my Squadrons playing style.

Biweekly Book Review: From a Certain Point of View

Thinking back on it, I’m pretty sure this is the first canon Star Wars book I picked up. My first Star Wars book period, if we’re not counting novelizations. Back then, I had no idea who 99% of the authors on the cover were. I only bought it because I’d heard Meg Cabot, a bookshelf staple of mine, was writing one of the stories.

Is this a necessary book? No, not at all. It sprinkles in details where they aren’t really needed, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to read. I’d actually even argue that that makes it more fun. I love this anthology and I can’t wait for the next one. I know I’ll be old and grey by the time this day comes, but I hope we get one of these for each of the movies in the Skywalker Saga. This is From A Certain Point Of View.

*Spoilers Below*

The Premise

From A Certain Point Of View was put together in honour of the 40th anniversary of A New Hope. In this charity anthology, 40 short stories carry the reader through Star Wars Episode 4 in chronological order, except the entire story is being told by side characters. They can be recognizable side characters like Greedo, familiar faces from outside the movies, like Dr. Aphra, or even obscure characters like a random alien in the cantina or rebel on Yavin. The great thing with this is that as the GFFA expands in the written materials, this anthology shows how the events of the movies affect everyone and everything in the galaxy, and how those people affect the events in their turn. It’s all connected.

As with any anthology, some stories resonated with me more than others, so I’ve chosen my top 10 below!

My Top 10 Stories

Honorable Mention: The One That Made My English Major Self Happy: Palpatine by Ian Doescher

Ian Doescher is probably best known for his Shakesperian retellings of the 9 Star Wars Saga films, and his entry in this anthology is extremely on-brand.

This lengthy monologue (in iambic pentameter no less) is delivered by Emperor Palpatine contemplating the events that unfolded in and around the death of Obi Wan Kenobi. I don’t have much else to say about this one except that it reminded me so much of being in university and picking apart Shakespeare that I couldn’t let this list go by and not mention it.

10. The One That Started It All: Beru Whitesun Lars by Meg Cabot

I would be remiss to dive into the anthology without acknowledging the story that brought me here in the first place. I swear, when I bought this book, hers was the only name I recognized. Well, her and Wil Wheaton, but I hadn’t read any of his writing before this.

I’m extremely familiar with Meg Cabot’s body of work, and this story is so characteristically her, that if you showed me all the stories with no author name attached, I’m confident I’d be able to identify it as hers. It is a bittersweet story told from the perspective of Luke’s Aunt Beru, a woman who put her entire life on hold to raise the little baby boy Obi Wan Kenobi handed her one night. When we talk about Star Wars moms, I don’t think we give Beru enough credit. We are all quick to credit Bail and Breha Organa for the woman Leia turned into, but I think we forget that so much of who Luke turned out to be is because of Owen and Beru. He might have Anakin’s skills as a pilot and a Jedi, and Padme’s heart, but his capacity for goodness, his willingness to help others, his sense of family? He had to learn that somewhere, and this story reminds us of the people who provided him with all of that.

9. The One That’s Predicable But Heartwarming: There Is Another by Gary D. Schmidt

When I say “predictable” I only mean this story is from the point of view of a character we know well and doesn’t really push him beyond the boundaries of what we already know. We know Yoda feels keenly for all the Jedi who fell after the Empire took over. We know he has regrets over the whole Anakin/Obi Wan situation. But by no means does that mean we don’t feel for the little guy.

The story is primarily concerned with Yoda’s life on Dagobah, as he feels the shift in the Force when Anakin and Obi Wan meet again on the Death Star. Knowing things are about to change for everyone, Yoda is determined to find Leia and train her in the ways of the Force. It is only after Obi Wan has died and comes to visit Yoda that the former Jedi Master agrees to train Luke instead. But WOW does he have reservations about the whole thing. No wonder he was so harsh on Luke when he showed up a few years later.

Also Yoda uses Force lightning. Yoda is a Palpatine clone, confirmed.

8. The One That Comes Up The Most In Conversation: The Red One by Rae Carson

When I say this comes up the most in conversation, I mean that I cannot stop telling the story of this little droid to anyone willing (or unwilling) to listen when watching A New Hope.

R5-D4, the titular “Red One” wants nothing more than to go to a home that will take good care of him, since 4 years in a sand crawler have not been kind to him. But the night before he’s trotted out in front of prospective moisture famers, he’s approached by a little blue-domed astromech who begs him to help him get free, because he’s got an important mission to carry out. When R5 is picked out by the moisture farmer and his nephew, he is faced with a choice. Should he roll into his new life, or help out the blue astromech and hope for the best?

We all know that R5 chooses to help R2 instead of going with Luke and Owen. But what we didn’t know until this past week on The Mandalorian (or maybe we did and I forgot?) was that Tatooine mechanic Peli picked up R5 and takes care of him now. So it all worked out in the end I guess, even if he does get yelled at once in a while.

7. The One That Brings Back An Old Friend: Rites by John Jackson Miller

It’s no secret I haven’t read much of Legends. But one book I have read is John Jackson Miller’s Kenobi. I’ve mentioned before how I appreciate the novels efforts to humanize the Tuskens, something I’m glad to see is continuing now in the latest season of The Mandalorian.

So yes, it’s nice to see that he’s writing the Tuskens again, with the same treatment. They are a society with their own customs and rites and are not just howling savages. But the highlight of the story is the return of A’Yark, the leader of the Tusken clan in the Kenobi novel. A’Yark is the one who develops some kind of understanding with Obi Wan, and unknown to the reader until further into the story, is actually the rare Tusken woman to lead her clan. Her gender doesn’t come up in this short story, but I’m choosing to believe it’s the same A’Yark from the book. Kenobi doesn’t necessarily contradict any existing canon (yet) and I like that Miller is trying to work elements of his book back into the main storyline.

6. The One With Obligatory Freaky Force Stuff: The Baptist by Nnedi Okorafor

I’ve read this book a few times. Each time I look forward to this story, and each time I get a little more out of it that I didn’t get before.

Deep in the bowels of the Death Star, inside one of the trash compactors, lives a mysterious serpentine creature. One day, three humans and a wookie fall down a garbage chute and join her. But how did she get there in the first place? What’s her story?

Yep, that’s right. This one is from the point of view of the creature that lives in the Death Star garbage chute. She was captured on her homeworld and brought on board the Death Star. Once her captors realized how dangerous she could be, she was thrown down the trash chute without a second thought.

But what elevates this story beyond a mere fun fact blip is the fact that the creature is Force sensitive in her way. I love when this happens in canon, when we see other cultures or species who experience the Force in a way outside the traditional Jedi structure. Really, the most overt references to her Force sensitivity is when she senses the arrival of the three humans and how one of them is “like her”.

It was inevitable that the freakiest of Freaky Force Stuff story would end up on this list, and I imagine this story has the same mystical, mysterious tones as the Force Cave story will have in FACPOV:ESB.

5. The One I Knew Would Break My Heart: Eclipse by Madeline Roux

The minute I saw the story was beginning with Breha Organa I knew it was going to break my heart. While it was sad the first time I read it, with the added context of Leia: Princess of Alderaan that I now have, it’s just that much worse.

I swear, Star Wars fans just like to hurt.

If this is your first introduction to Leia’s parents beyond the little that we see of them in the movie, it’s definitely a heartbreaking story. But knowing more about them made the whole story feel like a suckerpunch. As a reader we know Aleraan and the royal family, we’ve spent time there with them. These are people we know, and we know they won’t make it and there’s not a damn thing we can do.

Bail and Breha spend most of the story worried that Leia didn’t survive the destruction of the Tantive, then in their final moments, as the end of their lives and everything they know is staring them in the face, their last thought is that Leia made it out ok. Their last thought is of hope.

Excuse me I need a tissue or 20.

4. The One With Untapped Potential: Reirin by Sabaa Tahir

Oh look at that, it’s the second Tusken story to make the cut.

Most of this story is very tangential to the main narrative. It concerns a Tuskens runaway named Reirin who is on assignment from a mysterious employer to steal something from a Jawa sand crawler. A small, unknown something.

For the most part, the story is fairly run of the mill coming-of-age, where the young Tusken woman wants more from life than what is available to her. But it is in the final moments that it takes a turn, in a real “oh shit” moment.

The small something Reirin was tasked with taking turns out to be a kyber crystal – not that she knows what it is. What she does know is that she cannot bear to part with it. It calls to her and it belongs to her.

Tusken Jedi, y’all. We have a Tusken Jedi. Where’s her YA series, that’s what I want to know. We know from Kenobi that once years ago there was a Jedi who came to live among the Tuskens. Is there a connection there? What I’m saying is this should be explored more.

3. The One That Might Be A Sign Of Things To Come: Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray

Did you know we’re getting a Kenobi show and that I’m stupid excited about it? Yes? I may have mentioned it once or twice?

This story, by my fave Claudia Gray, is what I’m mostly hoping for in the series. We know Obi Wan will have been through a lot, and that he has much in his past to reckon with. Which he definitely does here.

Granted this story is actually from Qui Gon’s point of view, as he pulls himself out of the Force to physically manifest into a “Force ghost” to speak to Obi Wan while Luke runs off to check on Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen (spoiler: it doesn’t go well for them)

This story is exactly what we expect from Claudia Gray. A lot of feels, a lot of heart, and no matter how long or short it is, it leaves us wanting more. It’s a nice precursor to her novel of the same name. Where in that we see Obi Wan and Qui Gon at odds with each other, here they are far more the Master/Apprentice or father/son we might expect. Qui Gon knows what’s coming for Obi Wan and while he is personally excited at the prospect of the two of them reuniting in the Force, he grieves for all the things Obi Wan will never get to do. I did not ask you to punch me in the feelings like this, Claudia Gray.

I’m hoping the upcoming series has more scenes of this kind. Conversations between Obi Wan and the ghosts of his past. Yes, I say this mostly so I can spend the entire runtime screaming into my hands.

2. The One That I Was Inevitably Going To Rank High: Time of Death by Cavan Scott

“Oh wow, the Kenobi story ranked high I’m so shocked” said no one ever.

Much like the Claudia Gray story, this one is focused on a lot of interior struggle and feelings. This is set in the few moments before Obi Wan becomes one with the Force during his duel with Vader.

He reflects on his life on Tatooine that led him to this point, his life before Order 66, and at one point he even has visions of the future (like…Sequel Trilogy future). The overall sadness of Luke, Han and Leia’s futures is briefly touched on here, and is all the more heartbreaking to read now that their plots and their lives wrapped up in a truly devastating and not at all satisfactory way.

In a sweet addition to the story, Obi Wan remembers the years when Luke was a child, how he tried to play a role in his life, until Owen forbade it in order to keep his nephew safe. I can’t help but wonder if we’ll see some of this in the series as well. Particularly the parts where Obi Wan makes toys for little Luke and leaves them somewhere for Beru to find and give him. *sob*

1. The One That Makes Me Feel Excited In A Way I Can’t Describe: Whills by Tom Angleberger

I can’t even begin to explain why I like this story so much.

The whole thing is written as a dialogue between two of the Whills, the mysterious beings who record the whole history of the galaxy. One sits down to record the story, with countless interjections from the second. But the Whill isn’t just recording the story…they’re writing the opening crawl to A New Hope.

There’s something about the way the second one keeps cutting in to remind the first of all the exciting parts of the story that take place before Episode 4, parts of the story that I’m personally very attached to. Something about the way they talk really expresses that excitement you feel when you talk about Star Wars, or anything you love and are passionate about with your friends. But there is that added story element where the events they’re discussing are all real…they just took place a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. The story is a little meta and a whole lot of fun. Apparently FACPOV: ESB is including a part 2 for this story and I truly cannot wait to read it, especially as it comes after the conclusion of the Sequel Trilogy and after the premiere of The Mandalorian.

Random Thoughts

The Kloo Horn Cantina Caper, one of the stories in this book, is too damn long. It’s nearly 30 pages long and it’s all about a bunch of aliens tangentially related to the ongoing action. And by tangentially, I mean they see Luke in the cantina for a second before getting on with their own plot. I’ll be perfectly honest and say that in this, my third time reading this book, I skimmed this story.

The extreme petty nature of Incident Report is a genuine delight while you’re trying to get through all the Imperial focused chapters.

According to this book, the trooper that famously bumps his head is the same one who let Luke and Obi Wan go, and he bumps his head because he’s distracted thinking about that. Did I need this detail? No. Is it hysterical? Yes.

Of MSE-6 and Men is told entirely from the perspective of the little mouse droid that Chewie roars at, and it’s an interesting story in its own way. But because it’s told by a droid it’s full of time codes and system commands. Easy enough to skim if you’re reading it, but wow is it annoying on audiobook.

Biweekly Book Review: Legends of Luke Skywalker

I LOVED this book. What is it about these Luke Skywalker books that always surprise me? Could it be that deep down I actually like the character, but have instead just come to resent the weird, self-insert sway he holds over many a fanboy? Very possible.

Can you tell I still don’t have Luke stuff?

This sweet farm kid from Tatooine who shoulders an impossible legacy has somehow had to be anything and everything to everyone in out world which makes him a whole lot of boring nothing. But when he’s allowed to shine within his own universe? He’s actually really interesting. In this book, he gets to take centre stage as a mythic figure, yes, but also in a way that’s a whole lot more human than some other things I’ve seen recently. This is The Legends of Luke Skywalker by Ken Liu.

*Spoilers Below*

The Premise

This is a little bit of a cheat, because the premise of the book is actually one of the 7 stories. A cargo freighter approaches Canto Bight. On the night before it docks, the deckhands stay up all night getting into hijinks. But more importantly, they are up all night exchanging stories about Luke Skywalker. Over the course of the book, they hear and share 6 stories about the legendary Jedi, stories which will affect how they choose to live their lives and the outlook they’ll have going forward. Interestingly, as a reader, we never get confirmation about whether or not any of the stories are true. Luke appears in all the legends, but he never appears in the frame narrative to confirm or deny them. They’re all told second or third hand, so in theory they could all be true, but they could also be total bullshit. It truly doesn’t matter, because it’s all about how the stories made you feel. And isn’t that part of the fun?

The Story That Got Meta About Star Wars: The Myth Buster

I live for Star Wars getting meta about Star Wars. Sometimes I think there’s a tendency to get caught up in the ~*seriousness*~ of it all that we forget how goofy, silly and fun it can be.

This story, the first one told, is certainly that. It is an account of the original trilogy told by someone who has “done the research”, and really looked into these events and come to the conclusion that almost everything we see in the Original Trilogy is political spin by the rebels/New Republic. According to her, Luke is a useless criminal, who fell in with the O’Kenoby gang, who fly on a ship called the Century Turkey. All details were of course changed by the Rebellion to make things sound better and cooler. But don’t worry. Our narrator knows the truth.

I love this because not only is this super meta (they refer to Han as the “shoot-first” type) but because of how far down the conspiracy rabbit hole the narrator has fallen. Or what do I know, maybe I’m just buying the lie the Rebellion is selling me. I would go into detail but I really don’t want to ruin the delight that is this story.

Luke’s appearance here is brief and only implied, as there is an “older bearded man” drinking blue milk at the cantina and listening to this story in amusement.

The Story That Felt Like A Canon Novel:The Starship Graveyard

When I say this one feels like a canon novel, I mean that it hits all those beats. We have an Imperial who thinks the rebels are terrorists. We have the climactic battle over Jakku as the Empire falls, we have the Imperial, now stranded and injured, fighting to get back to what’s left of the Empire while living among the common folk, and finally we have them learning that it wasn’t all that great to being with.

Take out the aspect where Luke Skywalker is the one who saves the Imperial, and this could easily be a canon novel on its own. It honestly probably is in some form, as it had shades of Alphabet Squadron (or I guess I should say Alphabet Squadron has shades of this). It felt less like a Luke story and more about the Imperial.

Of all of them, I think this one is the least likely to feature Luke, though I don’t necessarily think that makes the Imperial’s ordeal untrue. I just think it was someone else helping him and claiming to be Luke for whatever reason. Perhaps because the name inspires hope when nothing else will.

The Story That Is Most Likely To Be True: Fishing in the Deluge

On a remote world lives a small community that live in harmony with the world and the animals around them. They call their home The Deluge. They live their lives in tandem with the Tide, an unseen element that surrounds them, guides them, and binds everything together (sound familiar?)

One day, a mysterious man shows up. Known as Seeker, this man wants to learn more about the Tide, and about how to use it. But he is quickly told by the leader that the Tide is not something you use, it is something far greater than that. It is not a tool to be bent to our will. Still, if he can pass the three tests children of the Deluge are given, then he can learn more about the Tide. Guided by Aya, a young girl of the community, the Seeker tries to take the tests, and learns about himself and the Tide along the way.

So the Seeker is obviously Luke. Over the course of the story, he learns so much about the Force, and specifically about how it isn’t just a power you have that makes things float. Because so much of what he learns here sounds like what he would go on to teach Rey, I think this story is the most likely to be true. Luke is great, but without a Master to teach him the way of the Force, I don’t think he could intuit those lessons. But learning them on his travels is absolutely an idea I can get behind.

The Story That Took Longest To Get Into: I, Droid

Though this was meant to be one of the lighter stories, since it essentially features Luke Skywalker in droid cosplay, I did find it the hardest to get into. This is mainly because the first half of the story is entirely about droids and their new owners, and I don’t think droids make for super interesting main characters.

I mean…we all remember that Clone Wars arc with all the droids and the weird little frog.

Once Luke shows up, the story picks up and becomes funny. But getting there was probably the biggest challenge in the whole book.

The Story That Is Almost Certainly False: The Tale of Lugubrious Mote

This story is also the most WTF of them all. It’s all told from the perspective of a flea that lived on Salacious B. Crumb’s head, until that fateful day in Jabba’s palace when Luke showed up to barter for the freedom of his friends.

According to the flea, named Lugubrious Mote, she jumped onto Luke’s head when he fell in the rancorous pit and talked him through the fight, and stuck around to talk him through the fight over the dune sea.

I mean, this isn’t technically any more outlandish than some other stuff in Star Wars, and the only reason I call bullshit on this little flea is because she wasn’t around for any of the other Force-related hijinks Luke got himself into. But you know what? This is her truth, and I’m not going to take that from her.

The Story With The Freaky Force Stuff: Big Inside

Hoo boy do I love the freaky Force stuff, and this story has plenty of that.

This is another one of those that I suspect is true to some extent. It is being told by a biologist studying in a remote system. She puts out a call for a ride to the second planet in the system, and is picked up by Luke, who is happy to take her where she’s going. The two of them are, unfortunately, swallowed by a space slug in the system’s asteroid belt.

They then spend days, if not weeks, wandering the inside of this impossibly large slug. She takes the opportunity to study it as a new ecosystem, while Luke looks for the origins of mysterious luminous symbols present throughout the inside of the creatures.

Just calling them “luminous” at all made me think of “luminous beings are we” and “project luminous” so of course my mind immediately went to Freaky Force Stuff.

I was not disappointed.

It is here that Luke encounters an ancient form of the Force, known as the Mist. This is where he truly gets the concept that it surrounds and binds every living thing. Combined with what he learned in Fishing in the Deluge, these two lessons seem to form a lot of his outlook on the Force in The Last Jedi, and it partially why I think they’re the most likely to be true.

The only reason I doubt bits of this tale is because I’m truly having trouble imagining the insides of a slug that would take weeks to explore, and that would also sustain human life for that long. But there’s no reason the Freaky Force Stuff, or the strange ecosystem stuff can’t be true

Random Thoughts

During Luke’s challenges in Fishing in the Deluge, he is told he will have to “cloud walk”. He asked if this means he has to “walk in the sky” and yes I ugly laughed.

I highly recommend the Lipstick and Lightsabers podcast episode on this book. It’s with Marie-Claire from What The Force, and it’s a great deep dive.

Biweekly Book Review: Canto Bight

From the beginning of the timeline, we’re now jumping all the way to the end. I wish there was some kind of cool meta reason for it, but honestly it’s just because of the anthologies remaining, this was the shortest. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting!

Rose and Finn aren’t actually in this book, but look how cute they look posing with it!

The lousy, beautiful town of Canto Bight takes centre stage in this short anthology that gives more life and context to the planet visited oh, so briefly in The Last Jedi. But because it’s set before Finn and Rose ever showed up and rode fathiers through the casino, there’s virtually no crossover with any existing canon. Take out the one reference to the Resistance and First Order and this could be set virtually anytime within the canon. But I digress. Let’s dive in: this is Canto Bight

*Spoilers Below*

The Premise

The anthology is set over what feels like one long day and night in Canto Bight, and the four stories show all aspects of life there, from many points of view: the tourist, the deal brokers, the powerful, the powerless, the staff, the gamblers. As a whole it paints a very vivid picture of Canto Bight. Though I haven’t been to Las Vegas, I feel like that’s the general vibe they’re going for. I will say, it actually reminded me a lot of Dubai (which I have been to) in both the wonderful and the not so wonderful. That said, I can absolutely see why Rose wants to put her fist right through it. I kind of do as well.

My Favourite Story: The Ride by John Jackson Miller

“The Ride” tells the story of Kal, a down on his luck gambler who’s gotten so in debt with a local mob boss that he only has to the end of the night to pay him back. Things are going poorly, but they go from bad to worse when three bumbling brothers with a bizarre lucky streak enter the casino and completely clean him out. Figuring there must be a trick to their luck, he takes what little money he has left and follows them around for the rest of the night, befriending them and trying to learn their secrets.

I loved this story because it felt the most complete overall, and it also felt the most like a movie I’d like to watch. Not even a Star Wars movie, just strip all the alien details, make it Vegas rather than Canto Bight and attach some middle aged heartthrob to play the lead (FWIW I choose Nathan Fillion just because). If you’re only going to read one story in this anthology, make it this one.

The Story I Wanted To Put In The Freezer: Rules of the Game by Saladin Ahmed

You know that episode of Friends, when Joey is reading Little Women and it upsets him so much he puts it in the freezer? That’s how this story made me feel. Not because it’s a bad story, or poorly written, but because if it was physically possible I would have read it while staring out through my fingers screaming “no, no, noooo”.

The story is about a being named Kedpin, who wins a corporate prize of a two week, all-expenses paid trip to Canto Bight. This naive little fellow, in his effort to bring his salesbeing affability into his every day life, is taken advantage of by anyone and everyone from the word go. Even when he knows its a scam, he sometimes goes along with it. He is so naive, he gets targeted by an assassin named Anglang Lehet, who wants to use him to smuggle explosives into the vicinity of his real target. I spent the whole story wishing this poor idiot would grow a spine, and was relived to see by the end that he had. But man. What a stressful ride this one is.

The Story That Could Have Tied In To TLJ: Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing by Rae Carson

Though the main character of this story is a masseur at the top spa on Canto Bight, the entire plot revolves around him fighting to get his daughter back from the gangster who kidnapped her for leverage. So how could this tie into TLJ?

The daughter is a stablehand in the fathier stables.

I know it ends with her training to become a jockey instead, but how cool would it be to show her with the three little kiddos we do see in the movie? I know there’s a fatigue of having everyone in the galaxy know each other. I definitely have that fatigue too. But in a book that is thoroughly devoid of any other kind of connection (even the offhand references are few) I think we could have allowed it. Even without, the story is tight, well paced, and I really enjoyed it.

The Story That Had Potential To Go Longer: The Wine in Dreams, by Mira Grant

Let me start by saying that I’m relived they kept this to four short stories and didn’t try for some High Republic style publishing program. The book is fine the way it is, and didn’t need to be four full-length novels.

That said, if any of them were to extend that long, the one that could do it most successfully is The Wine in Dreams. While the other three stories focus on a single character, this one focuses on several: a wine broker, a club owner, a pair of mysterious sisters who are possibly from another dimension, and a hotel clerk. The story was good, but I kept finding myself wanting to know more about the people involved, and more about what their deal was. Specifically the hotel clerk, who is from Naboo but stranded on Canto Bight due to gambling debts. I could have easily spent an entire novel in this glittery, seedy, heartbreaking world.

Random Thoughts

The Wine in Dreams features two characters, the Grammus sisters. Their names are Rhomby and Parallela, and it wasn’t till I said “Parallela Grammus out loud that I let out the sigh I usually reserve for dad jokes.

Today in the weirdest “well, actually” I’ve ever read: Did you know that if you made alcohol out of blood it would be considered a mead because it’s distilled from organic sugars?

As shady and sad and stressful as these stories are, I’m pleased to report every single one ends well. It felt like a breath of fresh air each time.

Biweekly Book Review: Clone Wars: Stories of Light and Dark

New territory today! It’s time to tackle the anthologies, and hopefully be able to review From A Certain Point Of View: The Empire Strikes Back right when it comes out. Remember last time I set a goal for myself and I missed it by 4.5 months? Good times.

We’re going to have a bit of a format change too. I’ll summarize the premise of the collection, then dive into my top stories, in no particular order. I may wind up talking about all of them, but I don’t want to hold myself to it because when we get to FACPOV…40 stories is a lot.

Unlike before, we aren’t moving in a chronological order, since I want FACPOV:ESB to close off our look at anthologies. So although the order is a bit haphazard, we are still starting at the beginning with Clone Wars: Stories of Light and Dark.

*Spoilers Below*

The Premise

Stories of Light and Dark is a middle-grade anthology that retells certain episodes/arcs from The Clone Wars through the eyes of one character in particular.

My concern going in was that it would read like a junior novelization of the episodes in question. Not that that’s an inherently bad thing, but that’s not super interesting to me either. Fortunately, that wasn’t at all the case. The single point of view meant that all the stories I was already familiar with take on a far more personal tone, and I highly recommend this book if you’re a fan of the show.

The Story That Broke My Heart: Kenobi’s Shadow, by Greg van Eekhout

Yes, I’m sure your jaw hit the floor when you saw me list a Kenobi story first.

This one is based on the episode where Obi Wan goes to Mandalore to recuse Satine after she sends him a call for help. He winds up having to travel there covertly because the Jedi council won’t let him intervene, claiming the conflict on Mandalore is internal, and they won’t get involved anyway because they aren’t allied with the Republic (is it any wonder they fell, honestly).

Though the bulk of the story progresses the way the episode does, the best part of the whole thing is the moment when Obi Wan truly considers giving in to the Dark side. You see it a bit in the episode with the look on his face. But you know me, I love a deep dive into someone’s head. Moments after Satine is killed by Maul, Obi Wan is ready to go full Dark side and tear Maul limb from limb, before ultimately realizing that this is exactly what Maul wants. He decides not to react with anger in the end, which Maul dismisses as weakness, not realizing how much strength it actually took for him not to do anything. It wouldn’t be what Satine wanted after all.

Also shout out to the little callback we got to Obi Wan and Satine’s other big interaction in the series, where he tells her he would have left the Jedi Order if she’d asked him to. This story really came for my emotions.

The Stories That Surprised Me: The Shadow of Umbara by Yoon Ha Lee and Bane’s Story by Tom Angleberger

These two surprised me for different reasons.

With Shadow of Umbara, I knew exactly which arc of the show we were getting, and I was dreading it, because I find it frustrating and hard to watch. Which I suppose is the point. But the story focused the entire arc through Captain Rex’s point of view, which made it easier to take, though no less frustrating. Like Kenobi’s Shadow this wasn’t all that different from the episode, what elevated it and surprised me was the great, nuanced look into Rex and his feelings about Master Krell.

Bane’s Story surprised me in a whole different way. I was dreading this one because I cannot tell you how little I care about Cad Bane. I know he’s got a following, and I think that’s great. But personally, if I had to pick an over-the-top outlandish alien, I pick Hondo Onaka every time. I was totally prepared to skim this story. Then they had to go pick the one Cad Bane story I liked: the one where he competes in Dooku’s weird bounty hunter death box contest thing with an undercover Obi Wan who is disguised as a bounty hunter. The selection of this arc took the vaguely titled Bane’s Story from skippable too enjoyable.

The Story That Made Me Feel Gooey Inside: Hostage Crisis by Preeti Chhibber

Anakin Skywalker is an interesting guy.

In Episodes II and III, Hayden Christensen plays his extremes: a young Padawan on the verge of becoming a knight, and then a would-be Jedi Master about to fall to the Dark side. In The Clone Wars, Matt Lanter gets the chance to flesh him out a little, to play all the in-between and see how he gets from one extreme to the other. While I don’t fall in the camp that the prequels are made better because of the TV show (I think the movies stand up just fine on their own), I do like how the show elaborates on things the movies just don’t have time for. Things like Anakin and Padmé’s marriage.

There are plenty of stories within the series that showcase their marriage, but you know why I like this one? This isn’t one where Anakin is feeling jealous or defensive. This is one where he unabashedly just loves his wife. And Preeti Chhibber uses a LOT of that kind of language. The story is in third person, but is still so much from Anakin’s point of view, that all we see is this young staring at and marvelling at the woman he was lucky enough to marry. It’s so ooey-gooey sweet I’m pretty sure it gave me a cavity.

The Stories That Did Things Right: Pursuit of Peace by Anne Ursu and The Lost Nightsister by Zoraida Cordova

I appreciate both of these stories (the first of which focuses on Padmé, while the second focuses on Asajj) because it would have been so easy to make both of these characters one dimensional. To make Padmé perfect, and make Asajj a quippy villain and not to go any further.

In Pursuit of Peace, Padmé has reached the end of her rope and is ready to bring the Clone Wars to an end. Tired of endless votes that do nothing but deregulate the banks, bankrupt the Republic and create more clones, she decides to reach out to her friend and former mentor Mina Bonteri, who is now a Separatist. The two of them come up with a plan to try and end the fighting, which of course goes awry. One of the more tragic things about this series is that no matter what Padmé tries in government, we know it’s going to end up with democracy dying with thunderous applause. But what makes her story compelling nonetheless is how hard she is willing to try, and how much she tries to balance in the name of doing the right thing. She doesn’t always get it right, but she always dusts herself off and tries again, and that’s admirable. I hope Anne Ursu gets the chance to write Padmé again, I appreciated her nuanced take on the character.

In The Lost Nightsister, we get possibly the best Asajj Ventress story we could hope to get in an anthology like this. She is usually playing the quippy villain opposite the Jedi, which is a ton of fun, but doesn’t leave a ton of room for anything else. But in this Asajj-focused story, she takes up with a crew of bounty hunters to deliver a mysterious package to a warlord. As soon as she realizes the package is actually a young, unwilling bride, she swaps the young girl out and delivers Boba Fett to him instead. This is the best story I think we could have had that showed Asajj’s heart and complexities. We’ve had excellent Asajj stories before, in Dark Disciple and Dooku: Jedi Lost, and this is another in that grand tradition.

The Story That Thrilled Me: Dark Vengeance by Rebecca Roanhorse

Some stories in the book are told in third person. Some are told in first person, where the character is sending a message or telling a story in universe. But this one?

In this one, Maul speaks directly to the reader.

Off to a chilling start.

This story is Maul telling you all about his first encounter with Obi Wan Kenobi after being brought back to some semblance of life by Mother Talzin. The story itself is not what I love, but rather the way it’s told.

The subtitle is “The true story of Darth Maule and his revenge against the Jedi known as Obi Wan Kenobi”. But the thing is, this story isn’t really about Maul’s revenge. It can’t be, because we know they’ll see each other again. Heck, they see each other later in this very book. But what’s important here, is that Maul wants you to believe that he’s won, that he got one over on Kenobi because by the end he decides to play the long game and make his revenge all the sweeter. The reader sees him lose, sees him lament that Kenobi got away, but he still devotes the next two pages to making you think he wanted to lose.

Can I just say that Rebecca Roanhorse is fantastic and I hope she gets more opportunities to write Star Wars in the future.

The Story That Did Something Different: Bug by E. Anne Convery

Unlike the other stories, Bug isn’t directly based on an episode of the show. It’s inspired by the episode where the witches of Dathomir are wiped out, but it isn’t set on Dathomir, or anywhere near it. It isn’t from the point of view of any of the witches. None of the characters are anyone we’ve seen before. That makes it all the more beautiful to me. It’s a story about mothers and daughters. It shows the consequences of this massive conflict across the far reaches of the galaxy. But not in the usual way, with the Separatists or the Republic not caring about the regular people. It takes on a more fantastical aspect by making it about the witches of Dathomir. Honestly, remove the Star Wars specific references and you’ve got the basis for a fantasy novel I would very much like to read.

Random Thoughts

The audiobook is read by the Clone Wars cast and I want it so badly. I don’t usually get audiobooks, but I will make an exception here.

Though Dooku’s story is just OK, I do love how he has absolutely no time for Anakin and Obi Wan, and makes his distain known often, both in dialogue and narration.

It’s suuuuuper weird Ahsoka didn’t get a story of her own. She’s featured heavily in one, but it’s from the point of view of a Padawan she’s leading on an adventure. I wonder why that is? I know she’s the main character, but it would be great to get inside her head properly.

Savage Opress was, and remains, the greatest name I have ever heard in Star Wars.

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

Biweekly Book Review: A Crash of Fate

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.

The Story

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.

My fourth and final trip to Batuu. I was basically a local by that point

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.

Random Thoughts

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.

Biweekly Book Review: Resistance Reborn

I was given this book by my brother for Christmas. I read it for the first time in August. I literally could not bring myself to read a buildup to the Rise of Skywalker knowing how much that movie broke my heart. What made it worse was knowing that this book was supposed to be really, really good.

This book is so good it makes me angry. I love it. I love what it’s setting up for the story. I love how well it captures the characters voices and the sense of hope in the face of uncertainty and despair. And to have the potential of this story absolutely squandered in the movie it was meant to set up is unfair both to the story and to those that loved it. Let’s take a very calm, collected, not-salty-at-all-about-the-end-of-the-saga look at Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse.

*Spoilers Below*

The Story

Shortly after the Battle of Crait, the Resistance is struggling. Their numbers are restricted to the beings who were on board the Falcon at the end of The Last Jedi, and Black Squadron, Poe’s crew of pilots.

They need more leaders. They need somewhere to go. They need to bounce back after their horrific losses. Making matters worse is the fact that the First Order is rounding up anyone and everyone who could threaten their rule, or worse still, be allies for the Resistance. The names of those still to be rounded up are kept on a list.

A list that, fortunately for our heroes has been leaked out.

Unfortunately, as is the way of such things, the list is now being auctioned to the highest bidder at a party populated by the criminal elite. With new focus in mind, the growing Resistance crew, now including Wedge Antilles, Norra Wexley as well as Zay Versio and Shriv from Inferno Squad decides to undertake one big heist that will hopefully salvage their movement.

5 Things I Liked (and 1 I Didn’t)

1. Poe’s Character Arc

It’s not for everyone, but I really love Poe’s character arc in The Last Jedi. I think it makes sense that in a highly charged situation, things will go wrong, people won’t listen, and hard lessons need to be learned. Like in a procedural TV show where the hot shot lead actor chafes against a new authority figure and messes up a lot in a bid to prove them wrong.

But this isn’t a medical drama with a case-of-the-week, this is galaxy-wide warfare, and we didn’t have 10 episodes for Poe to get used to Holdo’s style. So he makes some bad choices that get a lot of people killed. He even makes bad choices before she shows up, because the conflict he’s in is unprecedented. And in this book, Poe is given the time and the space to process the consequences of his actions.

He wrestles internally with his guilt for a good chunk of the book. He has a hard time facing the decisions he made. He’s haunted by the lives they’ve lost and the role he played in it. It is only in coming clean to the entire company, and having others confess their shortcomings as well, that the Resistance can put their shady problematic pasts behind them and move forward.

What makes this arc so strong is it directly builds off of everything we know about Poe already, and he grows into a confident leader because of it. I almost don’t mind that Poe didn’t have much of an arc in the next movie because of how strong it is here. If “the greatest teacher of all, failure is”, The Last Jedi was where Poe saw failure, and the events of this book show how much he’s learned.

2. Unofficial Sequel to Bloodline

You know how I said I love Bloodline. Well, what no one told me, and what turned out to be an amazing surprise, is that this book feels almost like the unofficial Bloodline sequel.

Leia is the other major point of view character. Where in Bloodline we saw her preparing to resist the rise of the First Order, here she is working to put the Resistance back together after suffering horrific losses.

Though it’s probably not necessary to read Bloodline before reading Resistance Reborn, it’s so much better if you do. For instance, the Resistance is given shelter on Ryloth by Yendor, the same Twi’lek who came to Leia and asked for her help running out the criminal entities in the earlier book.

But then, there’s my absolute favourite part. One of the people being held by the First Order, whose name appears on the list, is none other than Centrist senator Ransolm Casterfo! The one with the awesome name! His ending in Bloodline broke my heart, with him sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit, so I love that he was rescued from an uncertain fate here.

Also, just generally, Rebecca Roanhorse really nails the character of Leia. For someone who is so omnipresent in the franchise, she isn’t always written well, but Roanhorse really gets her (as, of course, does Claudia Gray).

3. StormPilot is canon and you can’t take this from me

Ok. So.

I’m all for showing strong male friendships in media. We need more of it without it being read as romantic.

But we need to talk about Finn and Poe.

It’s absolutely no secret that I am a Reylo. I go hard for my ship and yes I’m still upset about it 9, nearly 10 months later, thank you for asking. However. Before I ever decided that I wanted the two space wizards to fall in love, I decided that I would very much like a love story between the daring pilot captured by the First Order and the stormtrooper with a heart of gold that rescues him.

This book gives me that. And not in a over-the-top romantic way that would be hard for a corporation to sweep under the rug, it’s true. More in the angsty, pining, slow burn, friends to lovers kind of way. The kind of romance I used to see in books as a kid, where it’s all so subtle but it makes you breathless with the mere idea.

Granted this is all subtext. And I could be reading way into it: the lingering looks, the touches that last too long, the intimate conversations, Poe asking if the two women in Finn’s life are his girlfriends, then looking relieved when Finn says they’re just friends? Could all be coincidence. But I ask you: is it a coincidence that while I was taking my StormPilot notes for this post, “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston started playing on my 90’s Shuffle playlist? (Yes, probably)

4. A Star Wars book for adults that actually feels like a book

Before you get all confused about what this means, let me explain.

With some notable exceptions (Claudia Gray, for instance) the Star Wars novels written for adults feel like…not books. It feels like the author is attached to the visually familiar aspects of the movies, and is trying to bring that into their books. A noble goal, but one that rarely works out. It’s one thing to see the Death Star blow up. It’s quite another to just describe it. I never once felt here like Roanhorse is secretly trying to write a Star Wars movie but finds herself restricted to the medium of books.

I’ve often expressed my frustration with (or just skimmed past) the pew pew parts of the other books. For all that this book has the pew pew parts, they are action scenes that are appropriate for a book. It isn’t 15 pages of battle tactic, its 2-3 pages of a chase/fight, either on foot or in a ship, but rather than just going over the nitty gritty of the action, it explains how the characters are reacting or feeling in the moment. Some authors forget: you have the ability to get in a characters head. Use it.

5. Under The Sea

This isn’t a big point, but it’s also the cutest thing ever. The party that they have to infiltrate to get the list is ostensibly the birthday party of a high-ranking woman on Corellia. The theme is some kind of underwater affair, but it’s described so much like the stereotypical Under The Sea prom theme (albeit with a lot more tech and money behind it) that I found the whole thing delightful.

My only regret is that Finn and Poe didn’t have time for a slow dance before the shit hit the fan…

6. The Imperial Dude

I was tempted to make the “dislike” for this book be the fact that it’s so good, the film it’s meant to set up seriously pales in comparison. But that’s a failing of the movie and not the book. As I’ve said several times, this book is really, really good. But as with anything there’s bound to be a part I liked the least, and this is it:

One subplot in the book revolves around Winshur Bratt, a First Order officer. One of his office aides is responsible for the list of Resistance sympathizers leaking out beyond the First Order.

While I do like getting a look at the inner workings of the First Order, the entirety of this subplot only mattered in that it was a means to an end. As cool as it was to see Bratt’s depraved psychology, I would have liked to spend more time with the Resistance.

As with all the books I loved, you can see this “dislike” mostly just boils down to personal preference again…

Random Thoughts

In Bloodline, Han and Leia speculate on their future grandkids. Wedge and Norra do the same in this book. I only bring this up because that’s never happening for any of them. Their sons are dead. This is fine. I’m fine.

I’m a Bendemptionist, and I love that Leia in this book makes it explicit that no one is responsible for saving Ben except Ben himself. Which arguably is what happens in The Rise of Skywalker (even if that only lasted for 30 seconds). It’s also pretty clear she loves her son still and maybe wouldn’t find peace in him dying before his 30th birthday, but hey that’s just my interpretation *steps off soapbox*

ON THAT NOTE (sorry, last one), when Leia has to tell a co-commander that one of his children died in the line of duty, she takes no pleasure in it. She says that no matter the nobility of the intention, there’s no such thing as a “good death”. How can a book this sweet, well-meaning, and emotionally resonant be designed to precede a movie that doesn’t understand the world in which it’s set? A Leia that feels this way is not a Leia that would find peace at the death of her son.

Finn’s code name for the party is “Kade Genti”, a character from a popular children’s adventure series, which is the cutest thing ever. It also reminds me of all the times in other media where a character needs a code name and uses a name from Star Wars. It’s nice to know that the kids in Star Wars have a space adventure equivalent of their own

Biweekly Book Review: Phasma

Y’all. Today we’re going dark. We’re diving into the heart of the First Order, into everything that makes it tick, but also into into its seedy underbelly.

Overall I found this book deeply unsettling. This may have a lot to do with the fact that the author describes the more horrific parts of the story in great detail, and some of it is outright gross, and I have a weak stomach. But that didn’t stop me from reading this one twice! Let’s dive into Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson.

*Spoilers Below*

*Content Warning: brief mentions of traumatic childhood and of torture*

The Story

Vi Moradi, a Resistance spy on a mission for Leia, is taken by the First Order. She is tortured and interrogated by Captain Cardinal, the trooper in charge of training young recruits, and former personal guard to the now-deceased Brendol Hux. Cardinal is looking for incriminating evidence with which to take down his rival: Captain Phasma.

Vi, having just returned from a mission to Phasma’s homeworld Parnassos, tells Cardinal all she knows. Phasma grew up in very rough circumstances on a world that was rapidly dying. Her attempts to strengthen her clan go unappreciated by the leader, her brother. When Brendol Hux’s ship crashes on Parnassos, and his shuttle separates him from the vehicle itself, she volunteers to return him to the ship in exchange for passage off.

What follows is a harrowing journey across a very dangerous desert, with Phasma and Hux in the company of three of his troopers, and a handful of her fighters, including Siv, the young woman who is Vi’s source of information. As the journey continues, Phasma and Hux form a tight bond, and her calculating ruthlessness becomes more and more apparent to those who know her best.

3 Things I Liked (and 1 I Disliked)

1. Vi Moradi and Captain Cardinal

She is the prisoner, he is the interrogator, and theirs is an interesting dynamic.

It hits the expected beats, where they are both tough at first but by the end get to know each other and understand the other a bit better. Though the dynamic in this respect is a predictable one, it’s very rare in Star Wars for two people from the warring parties to actually be in the same room long enough to explain what motivates them.

Though they’re only in half the book and are not the primary focus, they were compelling enough for me to want to return to their part of the story any time the narrative ventured to Phasma’s portion. With Phasma, we could only ever get up to where we find her in The Last Jedi, but Vi and Cardinal are the future of the movement, their roles a mystery. Both try to turn the other and I was fascinated trying to figure out who would succeed (one guess who it was)

2. The First Order

Up until now, any time we’ve gotten a look inside the First Order, it’s been from the point of view of the higher ups, those that make it run. And while Cardinal is now one of those people, he started out as a child brought into the Stormtrooper training program.

Seeing the First Order through his eyes was really grounding. Though we do (and should) dismiss them as the villains, it is interesting to see why not everybody sees them that way. It’s not that I’m trying to be a First Order apologist, I’m just always interested in seeing what it is that makes someone side with the First Order, since they rose to power far quicker than the Empire, and are arguably more brutal.

In Cardinal’s case, he came from a miserable existence on Jakku. Life was unpredictable and he was wasting away. The First Order provided him not only with stability, but with a way to thrive in the galaxy and to bring order to his chaotic existence.

Stability, then, seems to be the primary motivation for those who enlist. That is both heartbreaking and understandable, and it adds an extra layer of humanity to the faceless stormtroopers we see in the movies.

3. Hux Junior and Senior

You can blame this on twitter, you can blame this on Domhnall Gleeson’s performance, you can blame this on the fan fiction I read, you can blame this on my desire for everyone to have a redemption arc. Any reason above can be attributed to why I’ve started feeling bad for Armitage Hux.

Though the first time we see him do anything of note, he is standing in front of thousands of troopers, foaming at the mouth and shouting for all the world like a terrifying fascist, the side stories go out of their way to humanize him.

We know from other sources that he had a rough childhood and that his father really didn’t care for him and only paid attention to him when he did something that exerted power and dominance. This usually involved taking out his rage on other children. Growing up in that kind of horrible environment doesn’t make for a stable adult.

Alternatively, for those that watched Avatar: The Last Airbender: if Kylo Ren/Ben Solo is Zuko, then Armitage Hux is 100% Azula.

4. The two timelines

I had initially planned to put the one Big Gross Thing that happens in the book as my “dislike”, but it really is just one thing that happens one time, so I’m putting it down in Random Thoughts if anyone wants to know what it is. Please just know I hate it with every fibre of my being.

I know that Vi and Cardinal are two of the things I like best about the book. BUT. As Vi was telling Cardinal the story, I couldn’t help but feel how much I would have liked to hear the story from Phasma’s point of view.

In the story Vi tells, Phasma is only a teenager, about 16 or so. She somehow manages to get the entire party halfway across the planet on foot, and best a First Order general twice her age and with more experience. I’m not wondering at “how”. Star Wars teenagers are capable of so much more than us average teens could hope for.

The premise of the book interested me because I wanted to know more about the mysterious Phasma. But it almost feels like she’s as much a mystery as ever, even though I heard her entire backstory. I realize getting the story from Phasma’s point of view, and having Phasma as the narrator means it is impossible for Vi and Cardinal to exist in the story. And again, they are the future of the story. But in an entire book called “Phasma”, I never felt like I got any closer to the character. But hey, maybe that was the idea.

Random Thoughts

The Big Gross Thing is the part of the novel where one of Phasma’s fighters is bitten by a beetle. The beetle causes a person’s insides to liquefy. They swell up then explode into water, their organs shrivelled, their bones and muscles gone. Even just typing this out is giving me a headache and activating my fight-or-flight. I hated this so much, it’s just so gross.

Cardinal mentions Rae Slone to Armitage Hux, saying “if she were here”, to which Hux replies that she isn’t. But also…where the hell is she?? She isn’t in Resistance Reborn, and as far as I can tell she doesn’t come up again. Makes me wonder if I missed something somewhere.

Arratu was such a weird, interesting environment that I would have been perfectly happy if the whole novel was set there. It was so strange and dystopian.

The chrome on Phasma’s armour comes from an old ship of Palpatine’s. Just thought that was cool.

Is there a connection between Cardinal’s red armour and the red armour on the Sith Troopers, or is it just that red is cool and we can sell more toys this way?

Biweekly Book Review: Thrawn Ascendency: Chaos Rising

If you remember back to my original Thrawn Trilogy reviews, at the end of the day my conclusion was that they were OK. Not my favourites, but they didn’t make me want to pound my head against the wall, and frankly that’s a win in my book. As I wrapped my review up, I also mentioned the upcoming prequel book with a decided lack of excitement. How wrong I was.

Of all of them, this one was my favourite. It was a different vibe, and so removed from the rest of the GFFA that other than certain key moments, I forgot what universe this book was supposed to be set in, and I mean that in the best way. It actually reminded me a little of Star Trek. Not in any direct 1:1 way. More like it was Star Trek flavoured Star Wars. Anyway, enough of my vague nonsense, let’s dive into Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising by Timothy Zahn.

Note: for clarity’s sake, the newer, completed Thrawn trilogy written after the Disney acquisition will be referred to as the “older Thrawn trilogy” since I’m really only differentiating it from this current trilogy.

*Spoilers Below*

The Story

Far, far away, past the known galaxy, lies a region known as The Chaos. This is home to the Chiss, a race of beings who rarely interact with outsiders and are governed by a system known as the Ascendency, wherein 9 big-name families fight and outmaneuver each other to gain political advantage.

One product of this system is Mitth’raw’nuruodo, not yet the notorious Grand Admiral and Imperial prodigy he would become. Instead, he’s a Senior Captain in the Chiss Expansionary Fleet, trying to do the best he can and learn as much as possible about the other beings who dwell in the Chaos. He believes his home is under threat from these outside forces and must try and finesse his way into investigating them while the Powers That Be try to stop him at every turn.

Along on this investigation are Admiral Ar’alani, his friend and accomplice since their early days with the Chiss military, Che’ri, the Force-sensitive navigator child known as a sky-walker, and Thalias, a former sky-walker and now Che’ri’s caretaker.

While Che’ri and Thalias navigate (hehe) the ins and outs of what being a sky-walker means, Ar’alani helps Thrawn navigate the political mess that is the Ascendency, because for all he is a strategic genius, he remains politically clueless. The two use half-truths and technicalities to launch a private investigation into a group seeking to control every race in the Chaos under one autocratic umbrella.

5 Things I Liked (and 1 I Didn’t)

1. New Environment and New Plot Points

Because 99.9% of this book takes place removed from the worlds and conflicts of the current Star Wars timeline, this book almost feels like it isn’t part of the GFFA at all, and that’s actually a great thing. Because it’s removed from the main conflict, it isn’t burdened by the Clone Wars at all. Because it’s geographically removed, the Chiss are not members of the Republic. The result is one of the freshest settings for a Star Wars books I’ve seen in a while.

Fortunately, the story lets us dive deeper into these story elements. The concept of the 9 ruling families feels like something out of a fantasy novel. It is an ancient system, and unlike the Republic, the Ascendency does not seem like it’s on the verge of collapsing. So what we have are protagonists firmly rooted in a system they don’t feel they can (or should) change, so they operate within it.

The way the families operate, by adopting members into their families and having them “achieve” higher levels of family membership, is a new concept in the Star Wars canon (at least to my knowledge). They have various levels of family membership: some are biological, some are adoptive. There are trials to be faced in order for the adoptive members to move up in rank. The family homesteads are in massive underground caverns. And when I say massive, I mean an entire compound with multiple buildings and extensive “outdoor space” entered around 8-storey mansions.

The other beings, “aliens” as they’re called here, are new to me. Because the world and the being occupying it are not familiar Star Wars entities, this is what makes the whole book feel like it’s taking place in a totally different space franchise.

Really, making this this different is probably the best thing Zahn could have done. The era in which the book is set – the late Clone Wars – is so extensively covered in other books and media, it has to be hard to come up with a new story that doesn’t tread over too much familiar ground. This gets around that problem by setting it somewhere in the galaxy that is rich, extensive, and unexplored (by the reader anyway).

When I say that the book is Star Trek flavoured Star Wars, this is what I mean. While I have seen some of Star Trek, I’m not nearly as immersed in it as I am the GFFA. So to me, this book has shades of something familiar, without too many obvious Star Wars tones. There is a large conflict, yes, but it isn’t a conflict we’ve seen 100 times. There are several groups of beings fighting for power, but we are only familiar with one group, our point-of-view group. The politics seem like they’re hinting at something real world, but it isn’t the same ones we’re used to seeing.

This metaphor is getting all mixed up, so just trust me when I say the new setting works to the books advantage.

2. Thrawn: Not Such A Bad Guy

Wow, me saying that the ambiguous “villain” is complex and deserves empathy maybe? Revolutionary.

Ok but hear me out.

When we meet him in the Thrawn books, he joins and then quickly rises in the ranks of the Empire. Empire = the bad guys, therefore Thrawn = bad guy.

But here’s the thing.

Thrawn is a strategist, first and foremost. The Empire had numbers, and resources with which Thrawn could carry out his own agenda. I never got the impression that he was in it for the love of Palpatine or something.

That is even more apparent here. Unlike those other books, he isn’t a Grand Admiral at the top of his game, he is a Senior Captain trying to rise in the ranks while his superiors try to smack him back down. He is the underdog. And, most importantly, when it comes to the impending threat to the Ascendancy, he is right. He sees things his superiors are unwilling to recognize and he actually tries to do something about it.

Also unlike the other books, NONE of this book is told from his point of view. It’s how the other Chiss see him, for better or worse, which allows us to form an opinion about the type of person he is.

He is straightforward, has no pretence, is considerate of everyone on his team, and generally seems to have the greater good in mind, even if he is extremely blunt about it and sometimes doesn’t care to explain his point of view. The worst thing that can be said about him, from the point of view of the other characters, is that is ambitious but refuses to “play the game”.

3. The “Supporting Cast”

I say “supporting cast” only because the book is not names after them. But they are frankly anything but. Ar’alani, Thalias and Che’ri are all important point of view characters. Though it is through them that we see what Thrawn is doing, and through them we speculate how he is feeling, each of them gets their own motivation and drive so that they aren’t just accessories to Thrawn’s narrative.

Ar’alani and Thrawn are close friends (how close? You tell me, AO3) and her constant struggle is maintaining the balance between her career’s upward trajectory while also trying to support and sanction the work Thrawn does because she sees the benefit in it. We learn in one of the “memory” flashbacks that she was removed from her family, though the circumstances remain a mystery. I expect this will play into her motivations later.

Che’ri is a 9-year old sky-walker who has been passed from caretaker to caretaker, none of whom seem to care much about her as a person. She is also plagued with anxieties over her current role as navigator and over what will happen to her once she loses her force sensitivity (called Third Sight here).

Thalias is Che’ri’s new caretaker, but is also a former sky-walker herself. Though her initial motivation is just finding a chance to see and speak to Thrawn again, after a chance encounter when she was a child, she eventually becomes embroiled in the brewing conflict, and becomes interested in getting involved. She is also quite ingenious, asking to face the Mitth family trials in order to be elevated in family rank just to prove a point and to continue as part of Thrawn and Ar’alani’s mission.

Though the book is nominally about a male character, and we do focus mostly on him, it is interesting how much of the narrative is told from the point of view of female characters, which was absolutely not what I was expecting.

4. That Crossover

About two-thirds of the way into the book, Thrawn and Che’ri explore the edges of “Lesser Space” in search of allies. They find a likely candidate in a woman named Duja on the planet Batuu. It is at this point the book crosses over with Thrawn: Alliances.

Reader, I screamed.

For a few, brief glorious pages we got to see Anakin Skywalker again. And though I didn’t listen to the audiobook, just knowing that himbo Anakin was back out in the world made me inexplicably happy.

You know what this is like? It’s like moving to a new country, going to a new school and then suddenly seeing one of your old classmates from back home in the hallway between third and fourth period.

5. Sky-walker

Though we know from the older Thrawn trilogy that Chiss ships are navigated by Force-sensitive children known as sky-walkers, in this book we actually get to spend time with one: Che’ri.

She is one of the point of view characters, and the unique, difficult lives of the sky-walkers are interesting enough to me that I could easily read a whole book about them. We see how, while Thalias, Ar’alani and Thrawn all treat her like an individual, most other people (including the ones who are supposed to take care of her) treat Che’ri like an object, or a tool. This is especially interesting coming from Thrawn, since he is usually the kind to treat people as assets rather than individuals.

The unexplored parallel between the role of sky-walker, and Anakin’s last name “Skywalker” is also a continued source of fascination. Thrawn mentions the name is common enough in that part of Lesser space but if that’s the case then I have 2 questions:

  1. Is it? Is it actually or is he just saying that?
  2. Where did Shmi get her last name from?

These are the questions, Star Wars.

6. Wait, who are you people again?

I know I said one of the features of the book was an entirely new cast of beings with an entirely new conflict, but it wound up being one of my problems with the book as well.

There are at least 3 (and possibly as many as 5) races of aliens in this book, excluding the Chiss, none of whom we’ve met before. I just finished reading this book two days ago and I could not tell you who was who without taking notes.

In a standalone book that didn’t exist as part of a larger franchise, I wouldn’t have worried. But in something like Star Wars, I just know all these groups are going to matter later on, as are the nuances that separate them, and I couldn’t keep any of them straight.

Points Left Hanging

  • Ar’alani, formerly known as Ziara, was kicked out of her family. Seems like something that happens among the Chiss, but what I want to know is why
  • Similarly, Thrawn’s full name here changes between the memory segments (Mitth’raw’nuru) and the main plot line (Mitth’raw’nuruodo). What changed? Am I caring too much about the tiny stuff
  • With the introduction of Che’ri, I now have a whole other character to care about in this universe, up there with Vah’nya and Eli Vanto. I just want to know that all these sweethearts are ok, honestly.

Random Thoughts

We’ve got students at academies, sneaking into parties in disguise, snooty family compounds. All excellent trope-y settings and I would like more please.

Thrawn takes Ar’alani on a date to an art gallery and it’s the nerdiest thing ever.

This book is so Star Trek the Chiss have their own version of the Prime Directive. Though this has less to do with interfering with a world’s development and more to do with apathy, honestly.

Seriously, drop those Thrawn/Ar’alani AO3 links please and thank you. *ahem*