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 Solo with 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

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.

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 · Disney · Star Wars · The Clone Wars · Uncategorized

Queen’s Shadow – Review

91JhTQBZyMLThis review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Attack of the Clones vaulted all of the characters from The Phantom Menace forward by ten years, leaving a gap for fans to wonder what happened in that time period to each of them that returned. One of the biggest changes was for Padmé, who had gone from being Queen of Naboo to its representative in the Galactic Senate on Coruscant. E.K. Johnson has now given fans something they have wanted for years, a book devoted to Padmé, her handmaidens and the time transitioning from planetary to galactic politics.

Connections

The strongest point of Queen’s Shadow is the way Johnson is able to flesh out the relationships that we see Padmé have with other senators in The Clone Wars as well as Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. In The Clone Wars, we were introduced to people from Padmé’s early days as a senator like Rush Clovis and Mina Bonteri, which Johnson is able to finally illuminate their first interactions. There is little more exciting than seeing the connective tissue between the films and the animated series made tighter.

Other relationships from the senate are highlighted as well. We are shown why Bail Organa and Mon Mothma become some of Padmé’s closest allies in the senate. It goes a long way to understanding just how close the Organa’s were to Padmé, so that when they take Leia as their daughter in Revenge of the Sith, you can think of no one better to raise her. It also helps with understanding why Leia would feel like she felt her mother as a very young child, since her mother had been to Alderaan and stayed in the palace before, which one assumes was not just a one time visit.

Johnson is also able to make the connections to the milieu of galactic politics which leads to what is seen in Episodes II and III. She shows the way that Palpatine is already starting to control things, behind the scenes, as he keeps Padmé away from the anti-slavery committee, knowing that if she’s there, she’ll move things in a direction he doesn’t want. Johnson also shows how relevant the Prequels are as she accentuates the problems of galactic politics that’s swayed more by factions, news outlets and self interest more than what is right.

The last major connection is that of the handmaidens. Johnson is finally able to show the interworking of this group that should satisfy the most ardent Padmé fan. The way this group to talented and dedicated women work together to protect and take care of Padmé and each other is inspiring.

The Book

By the end of the book, the story does come together well, but the way that it gets there is not as cohesive as it could be. Even half way through the book, it seems to lack a clear through-line, story wise. In many ways, it feels more like vignettes from Padmé’s first year as a senator than a connected story. The thematic elements of Padmé transforming from queen to senator are there and done well, but something just feels like it’s missing.

The best example of this is the story about slavery on Tatooine, which feels like it will be a major thrust of the story early on and then just peters out unsatisfyingly. The book also has an ending that makes you think there will be a sequel, but also doesn’t feel like it fits completely with how the main trust of the story wrapped up.

In all, Queen’s Shadow is an enjoyable read that allows fans the opportunity to understand better the character of Padmé, who she is in The Clone Wars and beyond. In fact it even helps lay the foundations for her emotionally, that explain the why and the how of her relationship with Anakin. It’s this, on top of the connections made with other parts of the Prequel era that lead to a rating of 3 out of 5 stars.

Book Reviews · Books · Solo: A Star Wars Story · Star Wars · Uncategorized

Most Wanted – Review

SOLO - A Star Wars Story MOST WANTED Cover Ultra Hi ResolutionThis review was originally published on The Star Wars Report. Also don’t miss The 602 Club review!

One of the best things about a new Star Wars film are the books that come out in support of them and Solo: A Star Wars Story is no exception. Last Shot by Daniel José Older was a wonderful companion to the movie, giving depth to both Han and Lando around the time of Solo but also featured them after Return of the Jedi. Fans would be doing themselves a disservice if they neglected the YA novels that have been released as tie-ins to the movies. Lost Stars is considered one of the best of the new canon and Rebel Rising added tremendous depth to Jyn in Rogue One. With that in mind, Most Wanted looks to do the same thing for Solo by giving us the backstory to how Han and Qi’ra become the team we see in the film.

Character Work

The joy of these books is when they help flesh out the characters, giving us insight as to who they are and who they will become. Rae Carson nails the characterization of Han and Qi’ra perfectly. She is able to use the plot of the book to not only get them to where we see them in the film but to explain who they are at the core. It’s fascinating to see what attracts Han and Qi’ra to each other and not so much romantically, but as people. Carson is able to show though her story the reason these two people gravitate towards each other and make such a good team. She’s also able to show the complexity of their relationship and why they’ll continue to care so much about each other, even when taking different paths in the end. The nuances here are what stand out and Carson brings those to life beautifully.

What Will Save You

The biggest strengths in the book is Carson’s ability to sow the seeds of incongruity between Han and Qi’ra’s worldview. For Han life is, “…having one person in all the galaxy to fly with. Someone you can trust to have your back”. His experiences in Most Wanted galvanize this idea for him, whereas for Qi’ra, even though she sees the benefit of this kind of thinking, she cannot fully commit to it. She senses that it’s power and money that will give her the freedom she so desperately deserves, because in the end, everyone will betray you. What’s so good about this, is again, it’s nuanced, it’s not clear cut, especially when it comes to Qi’ra.

The Book

The bar for these books has been set very high with stories like Lost Stars and Rebel Rising and thankfully, Most Wanted lives up! Carson’s world building on Corellia is excellent. She adds to the understanding of the White Worms gang, Qi’ra’s background with The Silos, other crime syndicates on Corellia and the idea of droid freedom from Solo. What makes this book so good is the way it adds to the film and expands the experience through deepening the understanding of the characters and the life they had before the film. Most Wanted is highly recommended and rated 4 and a 1/2 stars out of 5.

Don’t miss The 602 Club Podcast and Cinema Stories Podcast reviews of Solo!