Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars

Thrawn Ascendancy: Greater Good – Review

Thrawn has defeated Yiv the Benevolent and in the aftermath, the Chiss Expansionary Fleet roots out the leftover Nikardun nests. Unbeknownst to the Chiss, the phantom menace of Jixtus is secretly working to insight a civil war in the Ascendancy. Will Thrawn and his allies be able to decipher his plot and stop him in time?

Timothy Zahn is at the top of his game with the Thrawn Ascendancy series as the second book, Greater Good does not disappoint. He continues to flesh out the Chiss as a people, giving readers even more background and greater understanding of their civilization. Zahn has created one of the most fascinating Star Wars races with the complexity and nuance readers have come to expect from his writing.

Greater Good‘s theme is brilliantly topical. The villain Jixtus is working to destabilize the  Ascendancy by fueling a civil war. To do so, he is using the Chiss nature against itself by sowing seeds of emotionally-driven selfishness in a few of the members of the Forty Great Houses. The Forty Great Houses are the next level of Chiss society, right beneath the Nine Ruling Families. Individuals in a few of these houses are being manipulated emotionally to act in their own “interests” and the betterment of their house, blinded to the dangerous path they’ve set the Ascendancy on. Zahn shows how easy it is to emotionally manipulate people to segregate people along partisan lines, creating chaos for the whole of a society and destroying the greater good in the process.

Greater Good is the best of Star Wars literature, it is telling a story that feels familiar and new all as the same time. If you like the political intrigue of The Prequels or Game of Thrones, this series is perfect. Greater Good continues the story from Chaos Rising and sets up the final book in the trilogy brilliantly, leaving readers longing for the finale; it is rated 5 out of 5 stars!

This review was completed with a review copy of Greater Good from Del Rey Publishing.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars

Victory’s Price – Review

91JsOLv+dNLThe events of Shadow Fall have left Alphabet Squadron shattered and picking up the pieces in light of Yrica Quell’s betrayal. They have a chance to take down Shadow Wing for good as Operation Cinder rears it’s ugly head again, forcing Alphabet Squadron to defend Imperial worlds from destruction as the Empire eats its own. The end of the war feels near yet our heroes are left with the scars from years of fighting that may never heal.

The crawl for Revenge of the Sith said, “There are heroes on both sides” and Alexander Freed brings this statement to life in his third book of the Alphabet Squadron series, Victory’s Price. The Imperial remnant can no long afford to be at war with the New Republic, yet they continue their terror campaign, Operation Cinder. Freed gets into the head of Colonel Keize to to help us understand the reason why a person like him is more nuanced that might first appear. He’s not fighting for the cause, he’s fighting for the people next to him. It’s better for him to die defending his comrades than land in the arms of New Republic justice. He has no faith that the New Republic will handle trials fairly. Plus it comes to light in the novel that the Emperor made sure everyone in his service had their hands dirty, no matter their job in the Empire, there is no innocence.

On the other side, Freed uses every opportunity to dig deep into the impact years of war has had on the Rebels. In many ways the scars of war are proving Thomas Wolfe’s contention that you can’t go home again, at least not the same as when you left. Few Star Wars books dive into the psychological impact of war the way Victory’s Price does. Fans have become use to characters being able to easily overcome anything thrown at them, Freed doesn’t give us that luxury and the book is the better for it.

The best theme of the book is the way in which one see’s the “other side”. Quell says,

“Keize was just trying to keep his troops alive. Give them a future. And I -” She paused again for a long time. “I started to think maybe they didn’t deserve dying. Even as I watched them murder planets, I started to think of them as -not good people, not decent people, but people. My friends.”

This may be one of the best things to come out of a Star Wars book thematically in years. In a society that has lost the ability to see the “other side” as people, it speaks volumes. If one cannot see the humanity in someone across the aisle, it will enable “othering” and once you start down that dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.

Another huge plus for the novel is that Hera is given much more page time finally! It’s disappointing that it took two books before that happened. Hera should have been the feature character throughout the entire series.

The last theme that really stood out was the importance of remembering our mistakes and past. Quell says,

”But I haven’t forgotten Nacronis or anything else. I live with the memory of what I’m capable of every day. I need the memory to do better. And wiping out the records of what we’ve done seem an awful lot like helping everyone else forget.”

History, personal and societal must be remembered. It is only through knowing, recognizing and coming to terms with the truth of our mistakes that we can avoid making them again.

Victory’s Price is a rare type of Star Wars book. There is a depth to it that will surprise you. Personally I was not expecting to like this book after the second entry in the series but I was wrong. This might be one of the best Star Wars books in a long while. Victory’s Price is rated 4.5 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed with a review copy of Victory’s Price from Del Rey Publishing.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · The High Republic

Star Wars: Into the Dark – Review

star-wars-the-high-republic-into-the-dark-by-claudia-gray-1There have been two books in The High Republic time period so far, both were released on the same day to kick off the series. Light of the Jedi was an adult novel and A Test of Courage was a middle-grade novel. Into the Dark is the first young-adult novel in the series from best-selling author Claudia Gray. The story follows a group of Jedi who have hired a ship to take them to Starlight Beacon for it’s opening. On the journey they are waylaid by the Emergences, causing them to fall out of hyperspace at an ancient space station that holds mysteries who’s uncovering might signal doom for more than just our intrepid crew.

Gray’s novel is character driven first and foremost. We are introduced to Padawan Reath Silas who is traveling to join his master Jora Malli, the recently named Jedi leader of Starlight Beacon. He’s joined by Jora’s former Padawan Dez Rydan, as well as Jedi Knight Orla Jareni and Jedi Master Cohmac Vitus. Jareni and Vitus have a history with the area of space around Starlight Beacon which Gray expounds upon through interludes that take place twenty-five years before the current story.

The absolute best thing about Gray’s book is how the story feels completely driven by the characters. This is a story about these Jedi in The High Republic, their insecurities, failings, fears, arrogance, compassion, love and struggles with what it means to be a Jedi. Gray really gives readers a taste of what it is like to be a Jedi in this era, how they are different that those we’ve seen before, yet she plants seeds that connect with what they will become.

One of the themes from the previous books was the idea, “We are all the Republic”. In, Into the Dark, Gray takes this theme and instead of just having the phrase said by a character, she shows readers what that looks like through the actions taken by the characters throughout the story. It’s an incredible example of thematic writing and one of the most important keys to writing which is, “show don’t tell”.

Into the Dark, chronologically takes place in the same time frame as Light of the Jedi. This allows the book to give us more detail on the Nihil while also introduce readers to a new villain, the Drengir. Coming into this book, I was not sure how they would make the Drengir work. From the information we’d been given before the book’s release, it just felt like a bridge too far for even Star Wars. Yet in Gray’s deft hands, it works! In fact, it fits perfectly with what we’ve already seen in a previous book, The Mighty Chewbacca and the Forest of Fear!

Into the Dark is the best book in The High Republic series so far. Claudia Gray will have you falling in love with the characters, which in turn helps root you in this era in a way that I personally hadn’t been able to do so far. I couldn’t put this book down. I hope that moving forward, The High Republic will take this story as touchstone and continue to craft stories from character arcs first. Regardless whether you have read the other two book, I highly recommend Into the Dark and it is rate 4 out of 5  stars.

This review was completed using a copy of Into the Dark provided by Disney Lucasfilm Press.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · Uncategorized

Star Wars: A Test of Courage – Review

star-wars-the-high-republic-a-test-of-courage-by-justina-ireland

The High Republic series continues in A Test of Courage by Justina Ireland. The book is not a direct sequel to Charles Soule’s Light of the Jedi, but more of a companion piece that chronologically takes place in the middle of that book. Venestra Rwoh is one of the youngest Jedi Knights at the age of sixteen. Her first assignment is to escort Avon, the twelve-year old daughter of Senator Ghirra Starros, to the dedication of the new deep space station, Starlight Beacon. They are joined by Avon’s opinionated droid J-6, a Jedi Master, his Padawan and an ambassadorial  delegation from the planet of Dalnan, who is contemplating Republic membership. Their journey is interrupted when bombs incapacitate and destroy their cruiser, allowing only enough time for Venestra, Avon, J-6, Jedi Padawan Imri and Honesty, son of the Dalnan ambassador to escape in a broken down shuttle. They are forced to land on a planet and try to survive till they can find a way to call for help.

A Test of Courage is a middle grade book, but that does not mean the story is watered down in any way. Ireland has done a marvelous job crafting a story that is in line with Lucas’ ideas of what Star Wars is meant to be, a way of helping teach young children about the morals of life. Venestra snuggles with the responsibility knighthood has brought, Honesty learns the foolishness of living life comparing oneself to others and Imri must learn to deal with loss and the anger that results. It is a strong collection of themes about the trials of growing up from multiple points of view.

Ireland is able to continue the work Soule did in building out The High Republic time period. Readers are given a further understanding of the Jedi, as well as the Republic, two hundred years before The Phantom Menace. She is also able to give more on the Nihil and their plans to disrupt the Republic’s expansion into the Outer Rim. Ireland also explores droid personalities in a way that’s only recently been seen in Solowith L3, to humorous effect.

 A Test of Courage is a fun, quick read that will leave you wanting more books in this time period. It fits nicely with Light of the Jedi in opening the series of The High Republic and is rated 3.5 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed using a copy of A Test of Courage provided by Disney Lucasfilm Press.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · Uncategorized

Star Wars: Light of the Jedi – Review

This is a spoiler free review. Star Wars: Light of the Jedi will be released on January 5th, 2021. Don’t miss The 602 Club episode review!

For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times, before the Empire. – Obi-Wan Kenobi

In 2012 the Walt Disney Company bought Lucasfilm and one of their first acts was to mothball the Expanded Universe that had begun with Heir to the Empire in 1991. Since that time, the literature has been made canon but have stayed in the time periods of the Star Wars galaxy that have been seen onscreen. That has all changed now, with this quote from Obi-Wan as inspiration, the publishing arm of Star Wars is venturing into the unknown with The High Republic era. It is set two hundred years before the events of The Phantom Menace and is going to be seen in all print forms; adult novels, young adult, middle grade, young readers, picture books and comics.

For the first book in the series, Light of the JediDel Rey has turned to author Charle Soule for his first Star Wars book. Soule has written some of the best comics since Disney took over, with his Darth Vader run in contention for the best. His writing is crisp as one who has read his comic work would expect and his dialogue is snappy. Soule does an excellent job for setting the stage of what is to come in this era.

The Republic is at its height, as the title for the era would suggest. For those that know history, it feels akin to the golden age of Elizabethan England. Things are bright for the Republic as they look to open their first deep space station in the Outer Rim, the Starlight Beacon. Soule differentiates this version of the Republic from others we have seen through a motto of this iteration, “We are all the Republic”. The Jedi are at their height as well, serving the Republic, yet not officially as part of the government. This is a time period unencumbered by war. Everything seems to be perfect when a hyperspace incident causes a chain reaction that could threaten the very existence of the Republic.

The “villains” of the story, the Nihil also feel historically based. Anyone familiar with the vikings of the eighth to eleventh centuries will feel right at home with this group. These raiders are the antithesis to the Republic and only have their own interests in mind. Their goal is nothing more than plunder and pleasure.

The most exciting aspect of this series is the ability for it to do something new. Since it is two hundred years before The Phantom Menace there is not much the authors will be bound by, giving them freedom to create something all their own. There are a few characters that fans will know from the Prequel era but the majority of them are new. Soule’s also given readers some interesting relationships to follow in the stories to come. The book’s storyline feels timely and timeless, creating a sure foundation for the High Republic era. Light of the Jedi is rated 3.75 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed with a review copy of Star Wars: Light of the Jedi from Del Rey Publishing.

This post originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · The Mandalorian

The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian – Review

In the Disney era of Star Wars, the “making of” book has gone out of fashion, with the “art of” book become the all-in-one for those looking for a behind the scenes information on the creation of new Star Wars material.  There have been “art of” books for the new Episodes as well as the Story films and now fans are being treated to The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian covering the inaugural season of Star Wars’ first live action television show on Disney+. Like the previous “art of” books for the Disney era, this one is also written by Phil Szostak who is the senior content and asset specialist at Lucasfilm Ltd..

One of the stand out things in the book is the behind the scenes look Szostak is able to give readers. Star Wars has always been about letting no designs or ideas go to waste. The genesis for The Mandalorian goes back as far as 2005 when Lucas announced that there would be a cartoon series call The Clone Warsas well as a live action show dealing with the Underworld on Coruscant. Many of the elements that would play into the live action show were seeded in The Clone Wars, yet would never be brought to fruition as the live action series was shelved for budgetary reasons. Yet many ideas from The Clone Wars and the live action series would find there way into other Star Wars projects. And the idea of a live action Star Wars show was the first thing Disney+ would use to launch it’s new service. Szostak is able to weave the story of The Mandalorian, it’s creators Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni collaboration as well as the art for the series perfectly.

It is also fascinating to see just how important the art of Dave Filoni is in this process of creating the look and feel of the show. His visual acumen helps bring things to life so that Jon Favreau and the other artists have a good frame of reference for where they want to go with the designs as well as shot compositions. This brings to mind a great “art of” book idea, The Art of Dave Filoni!

There are plenty of juicy details in the book about the series, but they are best left to the reader to be discover themselves. The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian is a wonderful companion to the series and a fantastic addition to any fan’s library. Here’s to hoping that they continue to do these books for each season! The book is rated 4.5 out of 5 stars.

This review first appeared on The Star Wars Report

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

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · Thrawn · Uncategorized

Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising – Review

iuIn 1991 author Timothy Zahn continued the Star Wars trilogy with his book, Heir to the Empire. The story was not only a continuation of our favorite characters’ stories but also an introduction to new characters. One of these creations has stood the test of time, having been adapted into canon by appearing in Star Wars Rebels and having his story continue in the literature. His name is Thrawn. This mysterious blue alien from the Chiss Ascendancy is finally getting his origin story in Zahn’s latest book, Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising.

The Book

The book is broken up into two different, alternating story lines. One is the “current” story of Senior Captain Thrawn and the second is the Memories section which tells us the history of Thrawn. The memories section also works to fill in the backstory for the relationships between the galactic powers inside the Chaos region of space, where the Ascendancy is located.

The absolute pleasure of this book comes in finally gaining an understanding of why Thrawn is the way he is. Getting to explore his history coming up in the Chiss military is fascinating and gives readers the fullest understanding of the character by letting us see his successes and, more importantly, his failures. Thrawn has always felt like the Sherlock Holmes of the Star Wars galaxy, but Zahn is not above showing readers hisblindspots. By alternating between the “past” and the “present”, the character of Thrawn comes to life in a way readers haven’t gotten to see before. Zahn gives us his motivations and worldview in the clearest possible way by having Thrawn tell, as well as show, what they are.

But this book is not just about Thrawn. It is about the Chiss Ascendancy as well. Fans have long wanted to know more about his power in the Unknown Regions and thankfully Zahn provides an opportunity to explore them. There is a richness to having this group fleshed out and developed as deeply as any race in the Star Wars galaxy. (I could spend the rest of the review diving into everything that’s revealed about Thrawn as well as the Chiss, but honestly it’s just more fun to experience it for yourself!).

Politics

Thrawn’s biggest blindspot has always been politics. Unfortunately for him, the Chiss Ascendancy is rife with politics at every level of life. Our current climates makes this a fitting theme to explore. We live in a time when politics inserts itself into every aspect of our lives. Watching Thrawn struggle with this reality mirrors the experience of many  in our world who also struggle to come to grips with this hyper-political existence.

In many ways Thrawn is not fully aware of the depth of the political wars raging behind the scenes as he works to quell the external threats to the Chiss. What will be interesting to see, as this new trilogy progresses, is if the political nature of Chiss life emerges as a detriment to them in their quest to keep themselves safe. Politics has a bad habit of clouding the most important issues because of partisan blinders. Chaos Rising clearly shows the danger of becoming myopic through the main antagonist’s end.

Conclusion

The start to this latest Thrawn trilogy is fantastic. Zahn finally gets to run wild with his creation by digging intothe Ascendancy as well as the title character. There is so much to love about the world building on display and about a story that’s only hindrance is the canon of where Thrawn will end up. Thankfully there is so much to play with, it makes the book feel fresh and new. Chaos Rising is rated 4.75 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed with a review copy of Chaos Rising from Del Rey Publishing.

This review first appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Book Reviews · Books · Uncategorized

Free Fall – Review

iuThe character of Poe Dameron was not supposed to live beyond his salvation of Finn at the beginning of The Force Awakens, yet J.J. Abrams was so taken with the character, he worked out a way for him to survive. Fast forward to 2019 where The Rise of Skywalker finally gave fans a peek behind the curtain of this hotheaded pilot’s history by introducing us to a mysterious spice runner from his past. Now author Alex Segura bring Poe’s story to life, letting readers experience the good, the bad and the ugly of his early life choices.

In the Shadows

Poe lost his mother, leading his father to become over-protective of his free spirited son who desires nothing but adventure and the thrill of flying. This thirst for excitement leads to Poe meeting Zorii at the local bar, who along with a crew of “smugglers”, needs a way off Yavin 4, Poe’s home. It’s this fateful encounter that will irrevocably change the course of Poe and Zorii’s life.

Both of them have grown up in the shadow of famous parents. Each one of them has been raised with certain values and a feeling of destiny about their future that feels inescapable. Their chance meeting leads them to question whether these destinies are truly what they want for their lives. Is Poe really cut out to be nothing but a farmer on a backwater planet? Is Zorii always going to be a spice runner? They both wrestle with the question of who they want to be when they grow up and by the end of the book they find their answers.

For Poe, this question is accentuated with another, even more important question; does he want to live life in a completely gray world? Is a life of crime really the best use of his talents? As Poe slides further into the world of a spice running, he is confronted with the classic Star Wars theme of whether to live the selfish life or the life of selflessness. The voice of his mother Shara Bey rings in his ears, “‘You should always make your own choices, Poe, We’ll never take that from you. But we will teach you enough so you’ll know how to choose the right path when the time comes.'”

Segura does a fantastic job with the “coming of age” story for Poe and Zorii, using them as mirrors for one another that reflect the difficulty of growing up and making the hard choices of who they’ll be and how to live. Star Wars has always been about rhyming and Poe’s tale feels reminiscent of Luke, Han and even a bit of Anakin, all in one.

The State of the Galaxy

One of the best parts of this book is just how well Segura is able to lay out the state of the Star Wars galaxy in this time period. The New Republic is stretched thin as it tries to subdue the last remnants of the Empire, leaving a power vacuum that is being filled by the criminal underworld. They are finding it much more difficult to manage the galaxy than they thought it would be. This perfectly captures the milieu that is ripe for the First Order to be able to gain a foothold. Honestly this book is everything that should have been released before The Force Awakens, to lead fans into the Sequel era.

Conclusion

Segura has perfectly captured the character of Poe and Star Wars storytelling. His work feels like Solo with a little bit of the Godfather sprinkled in for good measure. He truly adds to the understanding of the characters as well as the state of the galaxy, while at the same time using the classic themes of the Saga. This is tie-in fiction at its finest, something that changes the way you view the movies the next time you watch them. Free Fall is rated 4.5 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed using a copy of Free Fall provided by Disney Lucasfilm Press.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · Uncategorized

Shadow Fall – Review

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Don’t miss The 602 Club review!

Shadow Fall continues the adventures of Alphabet Squadron as they help General Syndulla and her battle group secure the Cerberon system as well as create a plan to entrap the dangerous Shadow Wing. In many ways, Shadow Fall follows the mold of The Empire Strikes Back in splinting up the characters, as well as getting to the heart of who they are and who they are going to chose to be. Friendships are forged, alliances are shattered and secrets are revealed that will change the future of Alphabet Squadron forever.

Secrets

On of the most interesting themes in this book is the idea of just how dangerous secrets are to a group. In Freed’s first book in the series, the reader was given the true reasons Yrica left the Empire. This information is held over her like a proverbial Sword of Damocles which finally does fall and irrevocably damages her relationship with her squadron.

In a world where the past has come back to haunt some of the most famous people on the planet, the theme of secrets feels as relevant as ever. It’s a reminder that it is much better to just be forthright about our mistakes. The truth will come out, no matter how hard you work to suppresses it and when it does, it almost always has the power to destroy. There are few things worse than living in the shadow of your past and just waiting for it to fall. Honesty, truly is the best policy.

Desiring Hope

Since this book takes place not long after the Battle of Endor, it’s fascinating to see how the galaxy is responding to life removed from the oppression of the Empire. One of the most interesting ways this is happening is in the rise of cults all over the galaxy. There seems to be an explosion of religious expression following the fall of the Empire.

One of the main cults we see in this book is based on Catadra, one of the planets in the Cerberon system, called The Children of the Empty Sun. Their main teacher challenges Chass as she explains their philosophy,

“Judge us by the same standards you judged the New Republic. There’s millennia of wisdom from a hundred cultures that teach what the Force wants—the flourishing of life, tranquility, community—yet the ruling powers only fight. You don’t trust the military to turn away from violence any more than I do. They don’t know how.”

“But you know how,” Chass said. She laughed and shook her head. “You listen to the Force, so you can build a better civilization.”

“Hard to believe, but what’s more likely to work? Holding on to war hasn’t given you peace, Maya. Maybe, just maybe I’m an alternative.”

It is not hard to see why this kind of philosophy would be appealing to the people of the galaxy and why cults like this would be popping up everywhere after 30 years of Imperial rule. Rebellions are built on hope, but so are lives in general, the hope that things can and will get better. Now that the galaxy is out from under the groupthink oppression of the Empire, people have the freedom to be able to express that hope in a variety of ways. And as is true in the real world, many people turn to religious expression to find that hope. Star Wars has always had a religious component and it’s fascinating to see the resurgence of that in the post-Endor galaxy as people exercise their new found freedom of religion.

The Book

There is a lot that is good in Shadow Fall. Readers finally have some mysteries revealed, the back story of Kairos and Adan, insight into Chass past, as well as the furthering of Nath and Wyl’s friendship. The book also continues to show the New Republic as it tries to govern, while still subduing the Imperial resistance. It is also nice to see the book use some previously established characters, especially on the Imperial side to continue building the post-Endor universe.

As good as these things are, there are some issues. The book’s focus is so myopic that there is little understanding of how and why this story is important to the over all story to the galaxy. There is no indication as to why this system is important to the New Republic, as there is never any connection with anyone outside this system. This was one of the strengths of the X-Wing series in the past is it’s ability to tell a focused story that also felt important to the Star Wars galaxy.

The first book gave us just a taste of Hera. Shadow Fall does have more of her in it, but sadly she’s still not given much to do and in all honest, as neat as it is to have her in the book, the character could have been any general in the New Republic and the story would have been the same. It truly feels like a wasted opportunity in storytelling.

In conclusion, there are some intriguing themes in the book but the rest of the story just didn’t hold my attention the way I would hope it would because of the things I mentioned above. Shadow Fall is rated 2.5 out of 5 stars.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · Uncategorized

Queen’s Peril – Review

OIP.fYT3gSEF1XdmA1HgFkmcqwHaLkThe Phantom Menace introduced viewers to the youngest queen ever elected on Naboo and her loyal handmaidens who not only helped serve her, but also protector in a variety of ways. The depth and the breath of just how this group was formed and came together has often been discussed by fans since 1999. Now, the answers have been revealed, as E.K. Johnson returns to the life of Padmé, as she assumes the role of queen, in the book Queen’s Peril.

The Good

The beginning of the book picks up immediately after the election of young Padmé. She is quickly introduced to her new head of security Quarsh Panaka, who has a plan to help keep the queen safe. He wants to revive the use of a handmaiden to be the queen’s protector and when needed, a decoy. Padmé approves of the idea but also improves on it by asking for more than just one handmaiden, she asks for five, so that with her as the sixth, it will be even more difficult for people to know who is the “playing” the queen when a decoy is needed.

Padmé and the handmaidens begin to figure out how this will work between them, what their specific roles will be in the group and how they will work together to make this as seamless as possible. This is one of the best parts of the book, getting to see the team come together. It almost has the feeling of the superhero, team-up origin story, as each handmaiden discovers her talent that adds to their place in the overall group.

The beginning of the book also establishes the way in which Padmé will differentiate herself from the previous queen of Naboo, who was much more of an isolationist and jingoist. Padmé longs to have Naboo establish itself as a friend to neighboring systems and reinstitute better trade relations with them. This is not a completely an altruistic desire on Padmé’s part, since Naboo is struggling with a crop failure, which has them in need of better supply lines from other planets to make up for the loss.

Both of these things play perfectly into setting up the milieu of The Prequels. In many ways Queen’s Peril feels like a prequel to a prequel. Johnson is able to not only show the happenings on Naboo, but we get snippets of what is going on with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan as well as Darth Sidious to help round out how this all ties in to what we will see in The Phantom Menace.

The Bad

The book has such a strong, first half but sadly it does not continue the goodwill it created into the second half. The final portion of the book mistakenly plays out through the events seen in Episode I. We see the events through the eyes of the handmaidens, which does give us a slightly different perspective but it’s not enough to justify basically becoming a novelization for the movie that already has a novelization.

Not only does the second half of the book feel like a rehash, but it’s also written in a very choppy format that jumps between different character perspectives. So for example, we might be seeing something through the eyes of one of the handmaidens and then jump to a couple of lines that describe Anakin’s joy in flying, only to jump quickly to another perspective after that. The book truly feels like the tale of two halves.

Conclusion 

The first half of this book is very good and was a vast improvement on Queen’s Shadow yet sadly it all falls apart in the second half. Honestly if this story had just been a prequel to The Phantom Menace without taking readers back through the film it would have been a fantastic book. In light of what was given, Queen’s Peril is rated 2.5 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed using a copy of Queen’s Peril provided by Disney Lucasfilm Press.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.