Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars

Thrawn Ascendancy: Greater Good – Review

Don’t miss The 602 Club 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 · 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

Force Collector – Review

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Don’t miss The 602 Club podcast review!

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.