Review of “Star Wars: Resistance Reborn” by Rebecca Roanhorse

Roanhorse, Rebecca. Star Wars: Resistance Reborn. New York: Del Rey, 2019.

Hardcover | $28.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0593128428 | 298 pages | Science Fiction

4 stars

Resistance Reborn has been billed as a “love letter” to previous Star Wars extended material, from the other canon books, to the comics, and other media. And while I remain still have a relatively surface level understanding of the current state of the wider story, I still enjoyed this a lot for the references I was able to grasp, as well as generating the expected excitement for The Rise of Skywalker.

As the title implies, this book is a lot about regrouping after the events of The Last Jedi and the Battle of Crait. It is very much a bridge book before the next film, and it’s not massively action packed, but spending time with the characters is the real strength of this book, especially as they come back together in a sense after being separated for a bit.

Love and friendship are important themes in this book, and I like that the story suggests some nuance to the relationships that wasn’t really there in the previous two trilogies, where the pairing was almost a foregone conclusion by the second installment. As much as I think Last Jedi gets too much unnecessary hate, I did feel myself a little disenchanted by the Rose/Finn pairing, so I’m glad that is given some sort of closure, along with Finn/Rey, in a way that suggests that his relationship with Poe is the most important, whether it be a strong friendship or a potential romantic relationship. And while I’m definitely not on board with the way Reylo is being promoted, I think there is at least some sound reasoning for it as a possibility provided here.

Roanhorse, like most of the SW authors, shows her love of the franchise, and perhaps more so with this book referencing so many previous books, even if it doesn’t impact one’s capacity for enjoyment. While a bit too short and lacking in major stakes to pack as much of a punch, I am definitely looking forward to the Rise of Skywalker even more now to see how it picks up from here. I recommend this book to any other Star Wars diehards out there.

Review of “Master and Apprentice” by Claudia Gray

Gray, Claudia. Master and Apprentice. New York: Del Rey, 2019.

Mass Market Paperback | $9.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1984819611 | 464 pages | Science Fiction

5 stars

I was excited for Master and Apprentice, both for its focus on Qui-Gon, a character I feel got shafted when the prequels originally came out due to their poor reception, and the fact that I generally enjoy what Claudia Gray has brought to Star Wars. And given that she’s working with an era where mot of the major plot threads for the characters have been resolved, I feel like she did a great job of crafting a story that still gets the reader invested.

While Qui-Gon’s relationship with Obi-Wan is only one of the master-apprentice relationships highlighted in the story, it is at the forefront, and I like seeing it elaborated on. There was always this sense of Qui-Gon being more rebellious and Obi-Wan being more by-the-book, and I’ve always found that a fascinating dynamic, especially when it’s usually the opposite. And then having this extra conflict to negotiate, while also acknowledging that they already have issues, it made me appreciate their complex bond all the more, especially seeing how they resolve it and continue to work together.

And given Qui-Gon’s less than traditional nature, it’s coll to get some insights into both his past as Padawan to former Jedi Count Dooku, as well as another former Padawan of Dooku’s, Rael Aveross, who pushes the envelope even more than Qui-Gon.

I also really enjoy the way Gray manages to portray the galaxy at a “time of peace” and make it as intriguing as it was with the intense wars going on, with the biggest issue being a smaller planetary conflict.

This is an incredible Star Wars book about an era I’m glad to see getting more love as of late. I recommend this to prequel era and Qui-Gon fans.

Review of “Star Wars: Thrawn: Alliances” (Thrawn #2) by Timothy Zahn

Zahn, Timothy. Star Wars: Thrawn: Alliances. New York: Del Rey, 2018.

Hardcover | $28.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0525480488 | 342 pages | Science Fiction

4 stars

Thrawn: Alliances is a wonderful follow-up to the amazing Thrawn. It also pulls off something I had not seen in Star Wars books up to this point, which is the incorporation of two parallel, related timelines, and while I have mixed feelings about it, stylistically, it works for the most part. As well as getting more of Thrawn as a character in general, I loved seeing him working with Darth Vader, as was teased at the end of the previous book, juxtaposed with the Clone Wars-era partnership between Thrawn and Anakin.

The overall dynamic that Thrawn has with both of these versions of Anakin/Vader is great, especially as it shifts due to the characters’ motivations in that particular scenario. Already being aware of Thrawn’s true intentions, I did like the idea of his loyalty being tested and Vader being the one to question him about it. I did feel like Vader was a little too chatty at times, and sometimes might call him a little whiny, which is definitely not something I attribute to the Vader persona, although it is ironic how prequel era Anakin was often decried for being whiny.

Speaking of Anakin and the prequels, I like that this is one of the books that seems to be working to expand on that era and give it more depth. And the depth it gives to his relationship with Padme is wonderful, and is perfectly placed to be in line with the later events of Revenge of the Sith.

While the timelines do work well together, it does feel at times that this book is trying to do too much, and the story overall might have benefited from fleshing one out and finding a different format for the other. However, Zahn did a fairly decent job. i think if you enjoyed the first book, this is worth giving a try.

Review of “Star Wars: Thrawn” (Star Wars: Thrawn #1) by Timothy Zahn

Zahn, Timothy. Thrawn. New York: Del Rey, 2017.

Hardcover | $28.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0345511270 | 427 pages | Science Fiction

5 stars

One of the first series I cut my teeth on in the Star Wars Expanded Universe (now Legends) was Timothy Zahn’s original Thrawn trilogy, so I was curious to see how he would be incorporated into the new canon, even if I’m not too into Rebels, where he made his first appearance. Even so, I’m quite upset I didn’t get around to this new book series until now, as I love how Zahn reworked what made the complex villain great, while also adding something new as well with Thrawn, the new installment of what is not only a new trilogy, but, based on recent announcements, just the first in what will be several books featuring Thrawn in a major role.

Reading about Thrawn’s rise through the ranks in the Imperial military is fascinating, as it exposes some of the darker facets of the Star Wars universe, one of the key things being the racism and xenophobia of that system that Thrawn deals with, and how Thrawn manages to stand out in spite of these challenges. And I like that his reasons for aligning with the Empire were also explored, and we’re getting more insight into that with this and some of the other new canon books, where some of the films, particularly the original and prequel trilogies, dealt more in absolutes, you’re either good or you’re evil.

The book overall is a wonderful literary return for Thrawn, seeing him interact with some familiar faces as well as some new ones, all of which are incredibly compelling and suggest great things ahead for the new Thrawn books, if not for the fate of Thrawn as a character in the new canon. I recommend this both to longtime Thrawn fans and to Star Wars fans who haven’t met the character yet, because either way, it is worth reading.

Review of “Star Wars: Bloodline” by Claudia Gray

Gray, Claudia. Bloodline. New York: Del Rey, 2016.

Hardcover | $28.00 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0425284784 | 341 pages | Science Fiction

4 stars

I held off on reading Bloodline for a while, despite liking some of Claudia Gray’s other offerings in the Star Wars New Canon, particularly her book on young Leia. But I finally decided to give this one a go, especially as we’re coming up on The Rise of Skywalker’s release at the end of the year, and I wanted to further explore the Star Wars Universe again, and I do like Claudia Gray as a storyteller.

And I love the way Gray is able to flesh out Leia as older, battle-hardened politician, just as much as she does in her YA book as a hopeful futurre leader. The exploration of the trauma from her imprisonment in A New Hope, which was only alluded to there, is poignant, and explains her more complicated feelings toward Anakin/Vader as her father compared to Luke’s. I could understand why she would want to keep this a secret from the public, and especially her son, Ben, and was torn to see how it all backfired, even though I knew it would, based on the sequel movies thus far.

The one drawback is that this story is kind of politics-heavy. I’m actually one of the people who didn’t mind the politics in the prequels, and I do like that this book is trying to highlight that history is repeating itself, but a lot of it was quite dry. I don’t hold that against Gray, as a writer commissioned to write based on the overall direction of the canon information, but more as one of the flaws in the direction of the new era of Star Wars material itself.

This is a great book in the Star Wars universe,in spite of any of these flaws. I recommend this to any Star Wars fan who loves Leia.

Review of “Lost Stars” (Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens) by Claudia Gray

Gray, Claudia. Lost Stars. Los Angeles: Disney/Lucasfilm Press, 2015.

Hardcover | $17.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1484724989 | 551 pages | YA Science Fiction

5 stars

Amid many of the New Canon novel entries, Lost Stars is one I consistently heard praised by Star Wars fans. And despite my continued reluctance to embrace the new material, especially ones that deviated from the central characters in the films, I was intrigued by the premise. And now having finally read it, I will say I am not disappointed.

I like that this story deviates from the traditional light vs. dark narrative to look at the complexities of why someone would be unconditionally loyal to the Empire, as Ciena is, as well as exploring what might make someone change sides, as explored through Thane’s character. And it’s fascinating to see it all from the perspective of two ordinary soldiers, as opposed to people like Anakin/Vader or Luke, Leia, and Han, who all played instrumental roles in the action.

I love how Thane and Ciena are written, getting their insights into key events of the original trilogy, and I think it’s sad but beautiful how they continue to justify their feelings for one another in spite of them being on opposing sides, right up until the final pages. And it was great to have that twist on their personalities with her having misguided faith in what the reader knows is a corrupt political system and having him being jaded and end up working for the Rebellion, when it is far more common for the jaded person to align with the dark side.

This is a wonderful companion piece to the original trilogy, while also, as the series title indicates, providing more connections between the original and new trilogies. Thus, it might not be the best entry point for a new fan to the saga. However, I will concur with other fans that this is definitely a must read for Star Wars fans, especially if they’re looking for something with a tonal shift that explores the moral ambiguity between light and dark.

Review of “Leia: Princess of Alderaan”(Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi) by Claudia Gray

Gray, Claudia. Leia: Princess of Alderaan. Los Angeles: Disney/Lucasfilm Press, 2017. 

5 stars

I have been a Star Wars fan for years, but, most of my experience beyond the films is with a number of books that have since been re-classified as “Legends” material in favor of the new canon. And while it is understandable that Disney would want to tell their own stories when they bought Lucasfilm, I was hesitant to read some of the books, mostly out of a sense of nostalgia, and not really wanting to read about characters who I didn’t already know from the films, which is what some of the early releases were. However, this is one of the few that interested me when I heard about it, so I took a chance as soon as I could.

And it is well worth the read. Despite having gotten to know Leia through the films, I loved seeing a new side to her, as someone who hasn’t been faced with the realities of the Rebellion and the Empire yet as she is at the beginning of the book. Despite knowing how she would turn out, I loved how authentically Gray captured Leia’s trials on her way to becoming the future leader that we would come to know her as.

I also love the way it ties into the wider Star Wars universe, foreshadowing events yet to come, like her eventual antagonistic relationship with Grand Moff Tarkin through their initial meetings in the book, and also engages in some dramatic irony with the inclusion of the beautiful moment when, Leia, visiting Naboo and dressed in ceremonial clothing similar to the Queens of Naboo, meets Moff Panaka (formerly Captain Panaka in The Phantom Menace), and he is struck by her resemblance to her biological mother, Padme and the fact that her mother would have preferred her falling for a scoundrel, in reference in the context of the story to her honorable love interest, Kier Domadi, but also serving as a wink at the reader to Leia’s eventual romance with Han Solo.

This is a great book, and one I would recommend both to new fans who recently discovered Star Wars and to older fans, especially either of those who really love Leia as a character.