Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · The Rise of Skywalker · Uncategorized

The Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Review

iuIn December 2019, the final film in the Skywalker Saga hit theaters. Unlike the previous two films in the Sequel Trilogy, which saw the release of the “Art of” book on the same day as the film, the book for The Rise of Skywalker was delayed for almost three months. Thankfully the wait is over!

The “Art of” books for the Sequel Trilogy have taken the place of the “Making of” books common in the era of The PrequelsThe Force Awakens and The Last Jedi “Art of” books generally followed the development of the movie, through the art, in a chronological fashion. The Rise of Skywalker book starts off much like The Last Jedi edition did, giving us a look at the art from the previous film which was deemed too much of a spoiler to be released the same day the movie came out in theaters. The first section of the book is called “Return of the Last Jedi” which gives us the art for Luke Skywalker’s showdown with Kylo on Crait, the throne room battle, the mirror cave, Kylo’s memories of Luke’s attack and the Holdo maneuver.

However, after this first section, the book is organized in a less chronological format. Chapters include: “The Costume Department”, “The Props Department”, “The Creature and Droid Department”, “The Art, Set Decoration and Computer Graphics Departments” and “Industrial Light & Magic and Post Production”. This layout presents frustrations for the reader with its lack of cohesion with the text that illuminates the making of the movie from start to finish. The art and the timeline of the movie never seem in sync enough to give you the feeling you know how it all fits together. Although there are some great tidbits in the text that offer readers some idea of what the movie was like through Abrams and Terrio’s different iterations, this edition lacks the depth of the previous two books for the Sequel Trilogy.

With this book there are also a few things completely missing. There is absolutely nothing from Trevorrow’s time working on the movie no art or story ideas. The only mention, which doesn’t even refer to him by name, comes in the description of Abrams taking over the production in 2017. Exegol and Palpatine are other notable omissions. How this book can have nothing from one of the most significant portions of the movie is astounding. The addition of Palpatine to The Rise of Skywalker is legitimately the most important plot point in the whole film and the lack of any art or information on his return hurts the book.

The art itself is beautiful, as always, and the presentation of it in the quality of the printing is what one would expect. If you are a completist, this book will be a must. If you are not, this might not be something you’ll feel like you have to have. Where the novelization for The Rise of Skywalker added a great deal to the movie, the “Art of” left me wanting. The Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is rated 3 out 5 stars.

This review copy of  The Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was provided by Abrams Books.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · Uncategorized

Force Collector – Review

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The Journey to The Rise of Skywalker continues with the young adult novel, Force Collector by Kevin Shinick. Imagine you’re growing up in the Star Wars universe sometime after the fall of the Empire. The Jedi are myths that have almost been forgotten. You have a strange ability to see visions when you touch certain objects, but the only one that believes you and tries to help you is your grandmother. This is Karr’s life. When his grandmother dies, it leads him on an adventure with his new friend Maize and his trusty droid, RZ-7 to uncover the history of the Jedi and his place in the story of the galaxy. In an echo of Lost Stars, Karr’s journey will allow him to experience important moments in the Jedi’s past, visit some of the most important places and become a historian of things that should not have been lost.

The Importance of History 

They say history is written by the victors and for the Jedi this means that the lies perpetrated through Palpatine’s propaganda have become what most of the citizens of the galaxy believe about the them. Karr’s journey leads him to discover the truth about the Jedi and their place in the galactic story. One of the beauties of this is how it reinforces the importance of history. And it’s not just history, but it’s the dedication to remembering and passing on the truth, the good and the bad. It’s only through the truth of the past that we can know what is important for the future.

This impact of history is not just about the vast movings of galactic empires and republics, but also the history of individuals. Karr is able to discover along the way, not just the history of the Jedi, but of himself as well, his family and the two things, when put together, help him find his place in the story of the galaxy. History helps give Karr the context to choose the wisest path for himself and how he can best help righting the narrative about the Jedi.

The Book

Shinick has a great style for Star Wars, his prose fits the sarcastic, serial dialogue of the series. His character of Karr, who’s power in the Force will remind readers of Quinlan Vos, is a very unique creation. It’s rare that Star Wars tells the story of a Force user that does not lead them to becoming a Jedi or Sith and because this is not where Karr’s story goes it makes him fascinating. There are so many ways this character could be used in The Rise of Skywalker and beyond and will leave readers hoping his story is not complete. Maize has the roguishness of Han Solo and the sarcasm. She’s a good foil for Karr, while Rz-7 is the classic droid sidekick that is a must for a Star Wars adventure.

I was surprised how much I loved this book. The way it dove into Jedi lore made me hungry for more. I hope that Kevin Shinick will be allowed to follow up on this character and allow him to interact with someone like Rey and other Force sensitives in the Sequel era. Force Collector is rated 4 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed using a copy of Force Collector provided by Disney Lucasfilm Press.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · The Rise of Skywalker · Uncategorized

Resistance Reborn – Review

Don’t miss The 602 Club review!

“A choice to be better” – Poe Dameron

resistance-reborn-final-coverWhen The Last Jedi ended, the Resistance found itself shattered, what was left of it fit abroad the Millennium Falcon plus there were the pilots of Black Squadron who’d defended Ikkrukk against the First Order and what was left of Inferno Squad. It’s not a lot to work with as Resistance Reborn begins. Leia and Poe are left with the task to trying to rebuild the Resistance from scratch, as well as figure out why all of their allies seem to be disappearing.

Redemption and Action

The Last Jedi held a hard lesson for Poe Dameron. His impulsive behavior lead to the deaths of many in the Resistance and this weighs heavily on him throughout the story of Resistance Reborn. The title is apt as Poe and many others in the Resistance find themselves in need of a rebirth. Actions they have taken have lead to harm, destruction and even death, as Poe says in a speech he gives. And yet the choice is clear, they must face the consequences for their actions, learn from their mistakes and move forward, because quitting is just not an option in the face of the First Order’s evil.

Redemption is such a big theme in the history of Star Wars and yet being redeemed is not just about turning from previous choices, it’s also about actively changing your ways and putting yourself on a new path so that those mistakes don’t reoccur. Poe particularly finds himself in a place where penance for his mistakes is the best way to earn the redemption needed to help Leia lead the fledgling Resistance. It’s such a timeless story of personal responsibly and more important than ever in today’s world.

The Book

There are so many surprises in this book that author Rebecca Roanhouse has in store and it’s best to allow readers to experience those surprises as they read, therefore they won’t be spoiled here. What makes this book so much fun is the reward that it is for those that have been reading the new Star Wars canon material since the beginning. This book pulls from the Aftermath books, Bloodline, the Poe Dameron comics, the Battlefront II storyline and so much more to tell it’s story. In many ways it feels like the Legends books that were able to pull in any character, at any time and use them. Resistance Reborn is the kind of book fans have been waiting for since 2015 and is most definitely a must read before seeing The Rise of Skywalker. Resistance Reborn is rate 4.5 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed using a copy of Resistance Reborn was provided by Del Rey Publishing.

This post originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Book Reviews · Books · Galaxy's Edge · Star Wars · Uncategorized

Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire – Review

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This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report. Don’t miss The 602 Club Review!

Most of the Resistance did get wiped out by the First Order, but that’s the tricky thing about doing what’s right and fighting the good fight: people just keep doing it no matter what.”

Black Spire p. 221

The celebration for the opening of Galaxy’s Edge continues as Del Rey Books releases Delilah S. Dawson’s Black Spire. Picking up where her previous book Phasma left off, as well as the events of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, Vi Moradi is tasked with helping the decimated Resistance by traveling to Black Spire Outpost on Batuu to set up a new base and recruit. Unfortunately for her, she’s not going alone, as General Leia sends her with Archex, who was formally known as Cardinal of the First Order, newly deprogramed and freed. What could go possibly go wrong?

Freedom Isn’t Free

One of the stand out themes of Black Spire is something Vi struggles with while trying to recruit new members for the Resistance among the denizens of BSO. She finds that most people are of the opinion that if they keep their noses out of galactic affairs they will be safe from the tyranny of the First Order. She is frustrated with the lack of interest in the common good and reminds them that, “…if you keep letting bullies bully other people, eventually they run out of other people.”(p.164). It brings to mind the age old adage about evil flourishing when good people do nothing. Vi’s pleading with them harkens back to Obi-Wan telling the gungans in The Phantom Menace, “You and the Naboo form a symbiont circle. What happens to one of you will affect the other. You must understand this.”. It’s a lesson that the Star Wars galaxy struggles mighty with but it’s also one that feels universal for the real world as well. The fight for freedom and the protection of it takes constant vigilance. It’s a fight that can happen in many different ways, but the commitment must be total and the character arcs of this book illustrate that perfectly.

The Trauma of Life

Life has a way of beating people down and Black Spire is very much about the ways people deal with the trauma that happens along the way. Vi is suffering from the torture she received at the hands of Cardinal which continues to give her nightmares. Archex has lost his entire way of life. He’s been a slave for most of it, being told what to do, what to believe and how to behave since birth, first in a Jakku orphanage and then as a “recruit” for the First Order. The psychological trauma of going from never having to make up his mind about anything and always know his purpose, to feeling broken and purposeless has taken it’s toll. He sums up his feelings when he says, “I’ve been through some bad things…People have hurt me. Most of the time, I manage to ignore it to hide it, but it’s always there, lurking underneath. And what I’ve learned is that the only way out is through. That I have to feel the fear, acknowledge it, and do it anyway. Fear can’t hurt you.'(p. 282)

His John Wayne philosophy of, “Being scared to death and saddling up anyway” is at the heart of each one of the characters in the book. Each one is having to face a fear, brought on by the trials of life and the only way to get over them is to deal with them head on. It truly is a beautiful reminder that the only thing that can beat us is us, if we give up; that’s when we lose.

The Book

The Galaxy’s Edge series has been about introducing fans to the new planet and location for the theme parks. Yet what sets Black Spire apart from A Crash of Fate is that it truly makes you feel like you know this place. Dawson’s descriptions are fantastic, but more importantly she brings BSO to life through the characters and their experience in this world. The book also does an incredible job of following up The Last Jedi and through this story of absolute desperation showing just how fragile the Resistance is after their narrow escape on Crait. With all of the themes talked about, you’d think this book is dower and serious and yet Dawson’s wicked sense of humor and sarcasm are on full display through the characters. This adds the levity needed in the story and truly makes the book a joy to read. Black Spire helps fill in the gap between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker perfectly and is the perfect way to fill the time waiting for Episode IX. Black Spire is rated 4.25 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed using a copy of Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire provided by Del Rey.

Book Reviews · Books · Galaxy's Edge · Star Wars · Uncategorized

A Crash of Fate – Review

iu-2This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report. Don’t miss The 602 Club review!

“I know the galaxy will never be big enough to fill that emptiness in you heart, Izzy, because you don’t want it to. You want to keep running because you wound’t know what to do if you had to stop.” A Crash of Fate pg. 241-242

Since the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012, the public has eagerly anticipated, what would be named Galaxy’s Edge, that has opened at the Disney theme parks in California and Florida. To celebrate and promote the new parks, the publishing line of Star Wars books and comics has been readying fans for their visit with stories that take place on the world of Batuu and the Black Spire Outpost there, which is the place fans can visit. Black Spire Outpost was mentioned in Solo: A Star Wars Story, it was featured in Thrawn: Alliances, there is a comic series about it and both arms of publishing have books being released in the month of August 2019 staring it. First up is A Crash of Fate by Zoraida Córdova.

A Need To Be Loved

The story of A Crash of Fate is a simple one. Jules and Izzy are best friends growing up on Batuu until one night Izzy and her family leave unexpectedly. As fate would have it, Izzy returns to Batuu for a smuggling job and her and Jules are thrust together after years apart. As they work to stay alive and complete the mission, they must deal with the unresolved feelings they have for one another that have resurfaced throughout their day on Batuu.

There is a beautiful theme that runs through the story. Izzy has been left alone in the universe with the death of both of her parents. Her mother had taught her that to survive, you can only rely on yourself, which has led to a very lonely life. She begins to question this worldview in her time with Jules. She finds that deep longing that all beings have, to be known and loved by someone. She struggles with the desire to belong to a family and to have a home, when all of her experiences have told her that you can’t trust either. The story plays this out well as Izzy realizes throughout the story that not only was her mother wrong, but that she can be known and loved, not just by Jules, but by the people of Black Spire Outpost as well. It’s a good reminder of the importance of community in our lives and that life is much better as part of group than as a lone ranger.

The Book

The theme of the book is good, but the story itself does have some issues. One: it is a terribly cliched love story. Unlike all of the other Young Adult books so far in the new canon, A Crash of Fate is never able to transcend it’s genre, it’s firmly intrenched in the YA tropes. Now this is not bad per say, since it is a YA book, but it is disappointing with the track record these books have so far. Second: because the book is based on Batuu, most fans won’t have any connection to the place unless they have been to Galaxy’s Edgealready. Since this book has nothing familiar, in either characters or place, it is hard to feel like it matters much in the canon of stories. Lastly: the story has very few connections with the larger Star Warsuniverse. It takes place after the destruction of Hosnian Prime in The Force Awakens, with some very tangential connections to Resistance and First Order activity on Batuu, but it’s just not enough to actually feel important. With these issues, A Crash of Fate is mildly entertaining but inconsequential, it is rated 3 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed using a copy of A Crash of Fate  provided by Disney Lucasfilm Press.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · Star Wars Rebels · Thrawn · Uncategorized

Thrawn: Treason – Review

D9hyp-SXsAE4yN5This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report. Don’t miss The 602 Club review!

“I tire of this bickering,” the Emperor said. “You, Governor, were the one who arranged this meeting. What precisely was your intent?”

Excerpt From: Thawn: Treason, p17.

This review does contain very mild spoilers.

Thrawn is back, this time in the interlude of Star Wars Rebels season four when he was summoned away from Lothal. Thrawn: Treason illuminates what was so important, that it could pull him away from finally closing in the the rebels, once and for all. Project Stardust is in danger as it’s supply routes have been disrupted by grallocs, a cousin species of mynocks, causing important shipments to disappear and putting the titanic project behind schedule. With resources for his own TIE Defender project on the line, Thrawn faces his most Sherlockian mission yet; can he deduce the gralloc problem in a week?

Politics, Politics, Politics

Thrawn: Treason is full of Imperial politics. Palpatine is actively stoking the fires of political machinations in his minions, fostering discord, as men like Krennic, Tarkin and a new Grand Admiral, Savit all jockey for postion, power and their own self interest. What makes this so fascinating is how Zahn helps lay the foundations for the reasons the Empire will ultimately fail. By encouraging this, Palpatine is creating a system that will eventually crack under the weight of ambition and egocentric behavior. As those in the Empire realize the immense corruption, they will eventually turn away, looking out for themselves or seeking out an alternative ideal to believe in. Zahn offers the perfect juxtaposition with Thrawn, the alien, being the embodiment of everything the Empire says it stands for yet doesn’t when you get past the crisp uniformed shell.

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One of the best things about this novel is Zahn getting the opportunity to follow up on his first Thrawn novel. He answers the question of why Vanto was sent to the Chiss Ascendancy and gives readers what they all want, more Vanto! He is also able to expand on our understanding of the Ascendancy, their navigators and their importance to the survival of the Chiss. Furthermore the Gysks are back and the threat they face looms larger than was previously believed for the Chiss and for the Empire.

The Book

Zahn is a master at what he does. The mystery surrounding the supply lines is the kind of thing you want Thrawn facing. He’s also thrown the challenge of navigating the politics of the upper echelons of the Imperial Navy, something he’s no skill in. The book feels like the end of this era for Thrawn as he heads back to Lothal and Rebels shows us how that plays out. If this is the last we see of the illustrious Grand Admiral, Treason is a fitting end, the book is rated 4 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed using a copy of Thrawn: Treason provided by Del Rey.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · Uncategorized

Alphabet Squadron – Review

download copyThis review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report. Don’t miss The 602 Club review with Alex Damon of Star Wars Explained!

“We’re old hats at loosing. We’re still learning how to win” – General Hera Syndulla

When Disney bought Lucasfilm and rebooted the literature, to be in line with canon, one of the biggest losses was the fan-favorite, X-Wing series. Not only did it given fans some of the best characters in Legends, but it also told the story of important events post Return of the Jedi. Now, for fans clamoring for the return of a squadron based series comes the first book in Alexander Freed’s new trilogy, Alphabet Squadron.

The Cost

Alphabet Squadron takes place, months after the Battle of Endor and the events seen in the Battlefront II story involving the Imperial initiative, Operation Cinder. This a book that is truly about the cost of war and the toll it takes on everyone involved, on the winning and the losing sides. Freed’s strength, like his previous book Battlefront, is the psychology of war. Each one of the characters is dealing with the aftermath of the Galactic Civil War in different ways. For some it’s about revenge, for others it’s about just trying to get home, while for others it’s about trying to stay out of the fight at this point all together; the war has left an indelible mark on everyone.

The New Republic is also facing these same pains, as it transitions from a rebellion to a legitimate government. As the quote from Hera says, it takes time to learn how to win and to do that well.

This story, like Battlefront is a story that puts the war in Star Wars, it is a military minded story. It makes you feel like you are in this period of galactic unrest, in the cockpit, trying to survive the mission.

The Book

The book, since it is the first of a trilogy, does not feel rushed. It takes its time introducing you to the characters and this post Endor world. It helps not rushing into the action, getting the time to spend with the characters before turning up the heat on them. It also gives the book a sense of realism to not have this dispirate group of people, thrown together as a squad, immediately best buddies.

One of the highlights of the story is the inclusion of fan favorite, Hera from Star Wars Rebels. It would have been nice for her to have a larger role in the book, but here’s hoping it will be larger in the upcoming stories. She’s written perfectly by Freed so that you can hear Vanessa Marshall delivering every line of her’s in the book.

One drawback I had, was that I was not as connected to the characters in the story as I was the themes they were playing out and the larger ramifications of their actions. I didn’t dislike any of them but I was never as interested in them as I was the plot of this time period. I am hoping that this issue will be resolve with the subsequent books to come in the series.

This book is doing something very unique, Del Rey has partnered with Marvel Comics to tell both sides of the story. While the books will follow Alphabet Squadron, the comics will tell the Imperial side of the story and the happenings of Shadow Wing, together giving readers the full tale. The comic is called Tie Fighter and the first two issues are available now.

Alphabet Squadron is a solid entry in the canon, giving us our first real taste of what life is like after the Battle of Endor and it is rated 3.75 out of 5.

This review was completed using a copy of Alphabet Squadron provided by Del Rey.