Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars

Star Wars: The Princess and the Scoundrel – Review

91toAFP-EzL-2The courtship of Princess Leia has been covered before in Star Wars. But with the old expanded universe having been made legends, the story was ripe for the re-telling. Thankfully Beth Revis, who’s previous Star Wars story, Rebel Risingwas fantastic, is up to the challenge in, The Princess and the Scoundrel.

Revis nails the characters of Han and Leia and she doesn’t take the easy road with either of them. Both of them are damaged individuals who have learned to cope with life by pushing aside their pain and never stopping long enough to deal with the trauma. On top of that, they’ve become fiercely independent people, to a fault. Their love for one another and choice to marry doesn’t magically bring about healing. In fact, it actually exacerbates their issues by bringing them to the surface. Revis deftly handles their relationship, allowing the characters some painful refection on who they are and who they want to be, especially if they want to make this marriage work.

One of the best parts of the book, outside the character work, is the way the story delves into the tentative first days of a fledgling new republic. The Emperor and Vader may be gone, the second Death Star may be destroyed but that doesn’t mean the Empire is history. The war is far from over. It is nice that fans are finally getting a peak at the foundation of the new republic. One can only hope that this time period will get more books to flesh out this story.

There are a lot of nice surprises and easter eggs for those that have been reading the new canon novels from the beginning. As a reviewer, I could go into some depth on it all, but books like this should be read and experienced rather than ruined in a review. The Princess and the Scoundrel is a fun book that is worth the read and rated 4 out of 5 stars!

This review was completed using a copy of The Princess and the Scoundrel provided by Del Rey Press.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars

Star Wars: Shadow of the Sith – Review

shadow-of-the-sith-1171187817Since The Force Awakens was released in December of 2015, which kicked off the Sequel Trilogy of Star Wars, fans have had questions. In many ways, each subsequent film added more questions than they answered. The literature around the series created even more questions, as they were always dancing around the upcoming films and diverging storylines of different directors, never able to give the answers fans craved. Thankfully, first time Star Wars author Adam Christopher has been tasked with taking the dangling threads from the films and the literature and working to bring some of them together into a more cohesive tapestry.

Shadow of the Sith tells a three strand story. First is the story of Rey and her parents, their background, how they fled from Ochi of Bestoon, hid Rey on Jakku and end up dead at the hands of the old Jedi hunter. The second is about Luke and Lando. Lando continues the hunt for his kidnapped daughter which leads him to overhear something that brings him to Luke. Luke, teaching at his temple on Ossus, has been having nightmares about a planet and a shadow growing in the dark side. The third strand is Ochi and his quest to find the planet of Exegal so that he might be reborn whole.

As each of these three stories comes together, Christopher is able to many weave in strands from the films, books and comics to give readers a clearer foundation to the story of the Sequel Trilogy, especially its finale. The book works overtime to make things fit together, with as much solidarity as possible.

Regardless the question of whether or not a book like this should have been needed, Christopher is up to the challenge. The characters feel wonderful as Luke especially shines in the story. He’s everything you could want from Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. For fans longing for answers to the Sequel Trilogy era, this book delivers. Hopefully this will not be the last fans see of Adam Christopher in Star Wars literature. Shadow of the Sith is rated 4 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed using a copy of Shadow of the Sith provided by Del Rey Press.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars

Star Wars: Brotherhood – Review

81GcMcJNOBL-2There are Heroes on both sides. Evil is everywhere.

The Clone War rages across the galaxy in the wake of Geonosis and continues to spread like wildfire. And just as it seems that things could not get worse, Cato Neimoidia suffers a terrifying terrorist attack on it’s capital city and first evidence points to the Republic being involved. Newly appointed member of the Jedi Council, Master Obi-Wan Kenobi proposes a plan to the Republic and the Neimoidians that he go to alone to investigate, with the hope of deescalating tensions and proving the Republic’s innocence.

Mike Chen’s Brotherhood brings the early days of The Clone Wars to life in stunning detail. The fog of war has already descended as hatred and extremism are already being stoked on all sides of the conflict. As these biases are enflamed, the truth seems to be becoming less important, as emotions reign. Chen’s work here is magnificent in revealing the opening lines of Revenge of the Sith, “There are Heroes on both sides. Evil is everywhere.” With the malaise of war, obfuscation becomes the rule. There is so much to say here but in all honesty, it’s best left for the reader to experience it as read in the story and not have spoiled in a review!

Brotherhood also brings to life the characters of Obi-Wan and Anakin perfectly. That’s right, I said perfectly. Chen brings them to life in ways that make you feel as though you’re watching an episode of The Clone Wars. There is some fantastic character building happening for these characters as Anakin struggles with marriage, a new hand and his place in the Order after his promotion to Jedi Knight. One of the true highlights is the way Anakin and Padme’s early days as a married couple is written. It is refreshing to see this finally given the exploration it is due. And lest you think that Obi-Wan is forgotten, Chen digs into his promotion to the Council, his struggle in how to deal with Anakin as a peer and his feelings towards Qui-Gon and Satine.

There is so much good in this book, it is an example of exactly what a Star Wars book should be. Mike Chen has given fans a gift and literarily the best lead-in to the Obi-Wan Kenobi show, coming on Disney+ that one could hope for. One can only hope that Star Wars literature gives us more novels like this in the future. Brotherhood is rated 5 out of 5 sun-dragons.

This review was completed using a copy of Brotherhood provided by Del Rey Press.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars

The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian: Season Two – Review

91+5a2Dr+5LThe Mandalorian‘s first season introduced everyone to the post Return of the Jedi universe in Star Wars, while at the same time giving us new characters and focusing on the fan-favorite, Mandalorian culture. Yet with everything that season one was able to accomplish it was nothing compared to what season two would bring.

The second season of The Mandalorian built upon the foundation of the first while expanding it in surprising ways. It would bring back already beloved characters like The Child, Cara Dune, Greef Karga, the Armorer, while also giving fans their first taste of Bo-Katan and Ahsoka in live action. And if that was not enough, the season would see the return of The Mandalorian’s inspiration, Boba Fett.

With so much incredible ground to cover, author Phil Szostak had his work cut out for him. The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian: Season Two does an admirable job. Like the first installment, the book has a forward by Doug Chiang, and introduction and a list of who’s who in the production of the show. Then, each episode is given a brief yet detailed description behind the thought-process that went into making it. Then, the real fun begins, as the production artwork for that episode is lovingly laid out with notes on many of the pieces, giving insight into the artist’s thoughts about its creation.

The book is full of great nuggets from the creators and artists about season two.  Fans will enjoy pouring over every detail of the return of characters like Ahsoka, Bo-Katan and Boba Fett. There are so many neat revelations, which this review could go over in detail, but why ruin it here, when it is much more fun to experience by reading it yourself. There are a few pieces of art in this book that I would personally love to have offered for sale! I cannot recommend this book more highly, I give it 5 out of 5 stars!

This review was completed with a review copy of The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian: Season Two from Abrams Books.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · The High Republic

Star Wars: Midnight Horizon – Review

the-high-republic-midnight-horizon-daniel-jose-older-39763112The Jedi on Corellia have been called away on an important diplomatic mission so when the Nihil are suspected of being on the planet, Starlight Beacon is contacted. Jedi Masters Cohmac Vitus and Kantam Sy, with Padawans Reath Silas and Ram Jomaram are sent to investigate. Could the Nihil have infiltrated a world as important as Corellia? Midnight Horizonis the young adult companion novel to The Fallen Star, giving fans some interesting surprises along the way.

One of the most interesting choices The High Republic series made when it started was to disseminate the story telling between adult, young adult, middle grade and comic books. So far readers have not had to read everything to feel like they understand what is going on, but Midnight Horizon changes that. If you have not kept up with all the comics you are likely to feel a bit lost in this book. A majority of the characters that are featured in this book are ones that have mostly been seen in The High Republic Adventure comic. I’ve not been able to keep up with the comics so this book was a frustrating experience.

Another issue I had with Midnight Horizon was the writing style. Older’s style just doesn’t flow well, especially in action scenes and it can be hard to follow what is happening. On top of that, the story itself is a very slow burn that doesn’t really get interesting until the book is about 4/5ths done. Much of the book feels like it’s killing time till the main thrust of the narrative finally kicks in. Once it does, the book is better. Sadly it can’t redeem the experience. Midnight Horizon is the weakest entry in The High Republic series so far and is rated 2 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed using a copy of Race to Crashpoint Tower provided by Disney Lucasfilm Press.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report

 

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · The High Republic

Star Wars: The Fallen Star – Review

“A flaw more and more common among Jedi.”

81jKM-zTF9LThe might of the Republic has been challenged twice. First it was the great hyperspace disaster, then it was the debacle of the Republic Fair and now the pride of the Republic, Starlight Beacon, is under siege. Will the Jedi be able to pull a miracle out of their hats or will Starlight be extinguished forever?

Pride Goes Before The Fall

Proverbs are such because of the truth held in them and none is more true of the Republic and the Jedi in The Fallen Star. The Republic, Jedi included, have become drunk on their own hype and because of that, they have underestimated the Nihil. One would have thought that after the hyperspace disaster and the Republic Fair fiasco, the Republic would have taken the threat of the Nihil much more seriously. To their detriment, they’ve trivialized the threat and Marchion Ro takes full advantage. He masterfully plays the Jedi, preying upon their hubris and compassion leading to the destruction of Starlight Beacon.

This theme of pride is echoed in a few different characters throughout the story to help drive the point home. It does seem a bit strange that this theme has already been covered in the Prequels and with this being set 200 years before that, you’d think that the Jedi would not be struggling with this so much already. It is a great theme to cover, but it doesn’t feel like new territory, which is frustrating.

The Book

I hate spoilers and for some inexplicable reason, the marketing for this book gave away that Starlight Beacon was going to be destroyed and that there were going to be quite a few deaths. This makes reading this book a strange experience since you’re never surprised when someone dies and knowing that Starlight is going to be stardust by the end takes a lot of investment out of the reading.

The deaths of major characters also lacked a lot of the punch that you’d hope for and this stems from a complaint I’ve had about the series since it started. There has been too much going on. The High Republic has felt like someone was creating a tree and started with the branches instead of the seed. With so many characters and storylines, happening in so many different places (comic, middle grade, young adult and adult books), it has been hard to connect emotionally to the characters. I’d love to say I was moved by any of the deaths, but I just wasn’t.

The most interesting thing about the book was the new threat that the Jedi face. Readers will know it as the Great  Leveler, which was first seen in The Rising StormIt feels like an ysalamiri, force-dementor, fear monster that preys upon Jedi, smothering their connection to the Force, paralyzing them with fear and turning them into husks. It is an interesting parallel that the Nihil started the series by disrupting hyperspace thereby throwing the Republic into chaos. Now, they threaten the very fabric of the universe and the Jedi by disrupting the Force. This new threat feels a little on the nose as the incarnation of “fear” itself, but it has potential, so only time will tell how well it works.

The Fallen Star benefits from Claudia Gray’s deft writing, this book breezes by, but it is not as polished as her previous work. There are some issues with the editing of the story and some logical issues with plot points along the way that pulled me out of the book. There were a few times when something happens and all I could think was, “Why didn’t they just do that earlier? More people would have been saved.”. The Fallen Star is a good read but unfortunately not great, it is rated 3 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed with a review copy of Star Wars: The Fallen Star from Del Rey Publishing.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars

Thrawn Ascendancy: Lesser Evil – Review

iu-2In 1991, author Timothy Zahn created one of the most memorable Star Wars villains of all time in Heir to the Empire. Since that time, Thrawn has been made canon through the Star Wars Rebels television show and Zahn has been able to expand on our knowledge of the character through two new trilogies of books. Now, the Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy reaches its epic conclusion with Lesser Evil.

The Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy has given readers one of the deepest studies of a Star Wars culture ever. Zahn has been able to expound on reader’s understanding of the Chiss in incredible ways and Lesser Evil adds even more. Reader’s will finally get the deep history of the Chiss Ascendancy, as well as the personal history of Thrawn himself. The amount of detail this race now has makes it the deepest and richest of all the Star Wars cultures.

Thrawn as a character has often been derided by some for being too “all knowing”, yet Zahn fully digs into his character in Lesser Evil to explain just what makes him special. Thrawn looks at facts as they are, not through any lens or ideology and because of this he is able to see things for what they are, not what he wants them to be. There is a fantastic conversation in the book that Thrawn has with Thalias that helps explain his reasoning,

“‘I don’t teach, but merely guide. Each person approaches problems differently. All I do is ask questions that set that person on their best path to the solution.’ ‘I see’, Thalias muttered. But only if that person was willing to put forth the effort to learn that path to logic and reason she suspected. Too many people, possibly even the majority of them, were all too content to let others do that thinking and analysis for them.”

It is Thrawn’s ability to put in the work of logical analysis, without preconceived notions that sets him apart. Later in the book Thrawn complains, “I’m was disappointed. People who can’t see things that are right in front of them…”. He is frustrated with people’s inability to objectively look at the facts and see what he sees.

This is why Thrawn can look at a piece of art and understand so much about a culture. He comes to that piece of art the same way he does to a conversation, to learn what is actually being said, not what he thinks is being said. Art is always saying something, the creator or author has something to share with their audience and Thrawn looks for the intent of that creator, not his interpretation. Because Thrawn is not looking at things through any certain lens, he’s able to parse what the artist is trying to say. And because an artist is a product of a culture, Thrawn can deduct from that artist much about the culture that produced the artist.

This theme of thinking for one’s self is further driven home through the addition of the Kilji, a race who claim to be enlightened. This enlightenment is seldom at the individual’s choice, often being forced on whole cultures by the Kilji. The leader of the Kilji illuminates their philosophy further, “All beings secretly dream of having someone to give them order and purpose, who will allow them to serve without the need for burdensome thought or uncertain decision. That is the enlightenment we offer.”

This idea is the ultimate extreme but it serves the point on how critical thought can be eroded when one stops approaching things from as clean a slate as possible, as Thrawn models. When politics clouds everything, when ideologies become all, clarity becomes obfuscated. This is what makes Thrawn special, he’s only bound to his desire to protect his people, that’s it, all else for him is open. This allows him to be able to truly listen to what is being said through art and conversation and see what’s right in front of him.

It cannot be overstated just how detailed this series has been in its plotting. Every single page is full of things that continually add to what is going on and therefore must be read with care. This makes the Thrawn Ascendancy series one of the best of all of Star Wars literature. Zahn put his heart and soul into this series, Lesser Evil is no exception. There is so much more that could be written about in this review but the book’s revelations are best experienced by reading the story for one’s self. Lesser Evil is rated 5 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed using a copy of Lesser Evil provided by Del Rey Press.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · Star Wars Visions

Ronin: A Star Wars Visions – Review

star-wars-visions-novel-cover-39862In celebration of Star Wars: Visions, which was released on Disney Plus in September, Del Rey Publishing has released a novel based on the first episode, The Duel. The beginning of the book is the episode retold, then continuing the story where the episode left off.  This allows author Emma Mieko Candon to expound on the world presented in The Duel. The closest Star Wars has come to this type of story before were the Infinities comics from the early 2000s. Ronin feels like the elseworlds stories one finds in comics, exploring Star Wars from a completely different point of view.

Since Disney bought Lucasfilm, all books and comics have been considered canon, so the publishing of this book is puzzling. Each of the previous books has worked to add something to canon, giving fans a greater understanding of characters motivations, events in the timeline or whole new eras not seen on screen. Since Ronin is based on Visions, it doesn’t add any of these things. Some fans are going to love this. The book is well written and does a good job of immersing the reader into the elseworld created in The Duel, fleshing out the ways it differs from the main Star Wars universe.

Sadly, the book doesn’t work. Star Wars is a universe with a specific set of rules which set it apart from other works, giving it,  its Star War-ness. The episodes of Visions worked because they were bite-sized entries, a creator’s love letter to the Star Wars universe with a twist. Here, presented as a novel, the story overstays its welcome. It feels overly long at 331 pages which would have been fantastic if it had not been in the Star Wars universe at all, but its own universe. Adding the language of Star Wars to something, doesn’t make something Star Wars. As such, the book just doesn’t work. Ronin is rated 2.5 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed using a copy of Ronin provided by Del Rey Press.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · The High Republic

Star Wars: Out of the Shadows – Review

81lx6QOO88LIt has been a year since the devastating Emergence hyperspace incident, but the Nihil continue to battle the forces of the Republic and the Jedi at every turn. In the aftermath of the attack on the Republic Fair on Valo, a new threat arises that could disrupt hyperspace travel in ways that make the Emergence disaster look like child’s play.

Out of the Shadows is Justina Ireland’s second book in The High Republic series. Her first book, A Test of Courage was a stand out for me with it’s focus on characters, more than big plot points. Her second effort continues her fantastic character work while at the same time actually using plot points from the series to bring an end to some mysteries, while also opening up doors for the forthcoming books. I cannot overstate how much I appreciated her focus on characters. Yes, there is a new protagonist introduced in the story, but she uses this book to focus on some characters that readers have previously been introduced in previous books.

The focus on Vernestra, Imri, Cormac and Reath as the main Jedi was exactly what this story needed. By not creating new Jedi, she added some much needed depth to these characters while expertly weaving the plot around the character development. This depth was not only given to the Jedi, but to character like Senator Starros, the San Tekkas, the politics of the Republic and the connections between the Nihil and high-ranking members of Republic society. Ireland has finally made things feel like things are coming together in this series.

Much has been made about this being the golden age of the Jedi, but in reality, this feels more like the silver age (especially if the Prequels are the bronze age). The Jedi are already struggling with their relationship with the Republic and to whom their allegiance should lie with. Should it be to the Republic or should their only focus be on the will of the Force? As we know from Qui-Got Qinn, “Your focus determines your reality”. With the Jedi Council not in complete agreement on the issue, it is no wonder that the rest of the Jedi are finding themselves divided on what is the best course to be taken with the Nihil and Drengir threats. Ireland does a wonderful job of portraying the political and moral quagmire that is forming on Coruscant with the Jedi stuck in the middle.

Out of the Shadows is my favorite book in The High Republic series so far. I hope that this focus on characters continues in future books, because when you care about the characters it makes the rest of the plot much more meaningful and engaging. The book is rated 4 out of five stars.

This review was completed using a copy of Out of the Shadows provided by Disney Lucasfilm Press.

This review first appeared on The Star Wars Report

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars

Star Wars: The Rising Storm – Review

iu-3Your overconfidence is your weakness.” – Luke Skywalker

The Republic has launched Chancellor Soh’s first great work in the Starlight Beacon station. The Jedi have helped the Republic navigate “The Great Disaster” as well as worked to contain the Drengir threat. In light of these things, it’s time for Chancellor Soh’s next great work,  the Republic Fair which is to be held on the planet of Valo.

The Rising Storm picks up from the first phase of The High Republic. Chancellor Soh is keen to see the Republic Fair go forward, even with warnings that the Nihil could see this as a prime opportunity for attack. The theme of arrogance overshadows everything in this story. The Chancellor is a prime example, in not taking the threat of the Nihil seriously and thinking that the Jedi can handle them alone, even if they were to attack. The Jedi come face to face with their own arrogance. It’s been some time since anyone has challenged their power in the galaxy and they find themselves learning the foolishness of disregarding threats or thinking themselves powerful enough to handle anything.

The Jedi are also find themselves having their role in the Republic questioned. As the threats increase, are they enough to hold back the tide? The Jedi are peacekeepers, not soldiers. Therefore shouldn’t there be a defense force to help guard against threats to the Republic so that it is not solely relying on the them for everything in that regard? Plus, with the Jedi finding themselves in the role of soldier more and more, they are also finding the temptation of the Dark Side easier to give into, which will create a whole new set of problems.

The Rising Storm is one of the better books in The High Republic series. Cavan Scott’s writing is crisp and his character work, especially between the Jedi is great. The book does still suffer under the weight of having too much going on. The first half of the book is full of movement between characters and places that can leave the reader feeling a bit lost. The High Republic series has thrown so much at readers in the first phase plot wise, that it’s been hard to actually get invested in many of the character since there are just too many to keep track of. And in all honesty, splitting the series between adult, young adult, middle grade and comics has made it difficult to keep up with the story as a whole. Star Wars has done massive series before in literature and so far, The New Jedi Order was much more successful. One, because it was only in the adult novels and two, because the story was able to take its time building, using series within the series to focus on different characters or situations individually while still building the whole.

Ultimately, The High Republic has so much going on with the Nihil, the Drengir, the Jedi and the Republic that it just feels too scattered. Hopefully, as this second phase kicks off, the series will find more focus in the plot and invest in the characters, by spending time with fewer of them, allowing readers to connect more deeply. The Rising Storm is rated 3 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed using a copy of The Rising Storm provided by Del Rey Press.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.