Greetings organics, and welcome to the Sarlacc Pit. As a blog that posts a lot of information concerning extended Star Wars canon, I have taken on the responsibility of reading as much extended Star Wars canon as possible (I would have done this anyways but that is besides the point). While I post a good bit of the information from these novels relevant to topics I discuss, I thought that this week I would encourage my readers to read some for themselves. So this week I will be doing short book reviews for each of the ten canon novels that I have read (this includes all of the adult novels and one young adult novel). I will review them in order from my least favorite to most favorite. I will include a rating out of five (1 being the lowest and 5 the highest), a short, spoiler-free synopsis, and my opinions on the book. My hope is that I can interest you in picking up one of these books and expand your horizons, but if not, then at least I have informed you of some cool books. Without further ado, let’s begin.
Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi
Synopsis: Taking place between “A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” this novel follows Luke Skywalker, newly minted hero of the Rebellion, as he is assigned a mission to save an alien cryptographer from the clutches of the Empire along side new Rebel recruit Nakari Kelen. Along the way Luke attempts to continue the Jedi training begun by Obi-Wan Kenobi, learns a little about his father during the Clone Wars, and runs various missions for the Rebellion.
My Review: I was pretty interested in this novel when it was first released. A first person narrative following Luke Skywalker just after destroying the Death Star promised to be an interesting read. However, while the novel promised to give background on Luke’s Jedi training, it mostly boiled down to a few pages of Luke moving noodles around with his mind and doubting his sanity after hearing Old Ben’s voice in his head. Furthermore, while most Star Wars novels do an excellent job of transporting heroes from the movie to the pages of a novel, I feel like the translation was not as well done here. I can not quite explain it but Luke’s personality was a lot different in this novel than in the movies. If you are going to skip a new canon novel, I suggest skipping this one as the story is a little lackluster and there is little extra background given.
Star Wars: Aftermath
Synopsis: Aftermath is the first in a trilogy taking place soon after the events of “Return of the Jedi.” The Rebel Alliance, now the New Republic, is working hard to repair the damage of the Empire while still attempting to subdue the remnants of the Emperor’s military. Meanwhile, a group of Imperial leaders led by Fleet Admiral Rae Sloan have met near the Outer Rim world of Akiva in order to discuss the Empire’s future. Captain Wedge Antilles, having stumbled upon this conference, is captured. On the planet of Akiva, Rebel pilot Nora Wexley has returned from war to reunite with her son, Temmin. Imperial deserter Sinjir Rath Velus has been living quietly on Akiva since the Battle of Endor until he finds the Empire has come to Akiva, and bounty hunter Jas Amari’s latest contracts have also brought her to Akiva in search of some high value targets. To escape the Empire’s clutches and save Wedge Antilles a ragtag team is formed.
My Review: The best thing about this novel is the interludes the author includes that inform the reader on the state of the galaxy. While Wedge Antilles is a cool character, the book focuses on new characters Nora and Temmin Wexley, Sinjir Rath Velus, and Jas Amari. While the new characters are interesting, they failed to capture my attention as much as main characters should (although Temmin’s modified B-1 battle droid, Mr. Bones, is a pretty great addition to the Star Wars universe). This novel is worth the read as it gives some insight into the state of the galaxy after the Battle of Endor, but the main story and the writing style leaves something to be desired.
Star Wars: Aftermath: Life Debt
Synopsis: In the second Aftermath installment, Nora Wexley and her team have found work bringing in fugitive Imperials for trial by the New Republic. However, after Han Solo and Chewbacca go missing while attempting to free the Wookie home world of Kashyyk, Princess Leia Organa requests their help in saving her husband and friend.
My Review: This novel gets a bump in ratings compared to the first of the Aftermath trilogy for a few reasons: 1. Han Solo and Princess Leia have major roles, 2. Even more backstory on the galaxy at a whole, 3. the events of this novel feel like they actually matter. This novel hints at numerous major plot points that people have been wondering about ever since “The Force Awakens.” While the writing style is still not my favorite, Chuck Wendig does a better job at describing the state of the galaxy as it goes through the transition phase from the iron fist of the Empire to the open palm of the New Republic. My one major complaint is that for a novel titled “Life Debt,” what the actual life debt was is never explained. The final novel in this triology, Star Wars: Aftermath: Empire’s End, is set for a January 2017 release, so we will have to see how the story of Nora Wexley’s team ends, but I mostly read these books for the backstory on the rise of the New Republic and the hidden origins of the First Order.
Star Wars: A New Dawn
Synopsis: Six years before the events of “Star Wars: Rebels,” A New Dawn tells the story of how Kanan Jarrus met Hera Syndulla. Jarrus, formerly Jedi padawan Caleb Dume, was working as a freight pilot with a mining company on the planet Gorse, which is visited by Count Vidian, a vicious Imperial official whose directive is to improve efficiency of Imperial assets at all costs. During Vidian’s visit, a bomber attempts to sabotage the mines in order to save the planet from destruction. While the Empire hunts down the bomber, Hera Syndulla attempts to rescue him so he can join her cause of fighting the Empire.
My Review: A New Dawn serves as a prequel novel to “Star Wars: Rebels,” explaining how Hera Syndulla, captain of the Ghost, and Kanan Jarrus, escaped Jedi padawan, originally met, beginning their crusade against the Empire. It also introduces Rae Sloan, an Imperial officer who is getting one of her first assignments in this novel. Sloan is seen throughout future Star Wars novels and plays a major role in the Aftermath trilogy. Count Vidian is also a fascinating character, very Vader-like in the fact that he has a large amount of artificial enhancements and no qualms about brutally killing those who stand in his way. This novel does a great job with character development as we seen Kanan change from a man running away from his past into someone willing to fight for the future. This novel I think gets a pretty average score from me as it was a well-done novel, but not quite as stand-out as the following novels. Though I would definitely recommend this novel to fans of “Star Wars: Rebels.”
Star Wars: Battlefront: Twilight Company
Synopsis: While the Emperor was defeated by a lone Jedi Knight, the Empire was defeated by a military. A novel written as a tie in to the “Star Wars: Battlefront” video game, Battlefront: Twilight Company follows the Rebel Alliance’s 61st Mobile Infantry, better known as Twilight Company as they battle their way through some of the hardest-fought battles of the Galactic Civil War including my personal favorite, the Battle of Hoth.
My Review: The beauty of Star Wars is that since it is such a large galaxy, stories can be told in all sorts of genres. While most Star Wars stories fit well into the genre of sci-fi/fantasy, Twilight Company is a gritty war novel. In fact, the only reason this novel does not get a higher rating is because I have never really been a fan of war novels, so the style was not quite my taste. However, this novel still holds abundant amounts of backstory to the Star Wars universe. While most of the franchise focuses on heroes and villains, this novel focuses on soldiers. Men like Namir, who grew up on a war-torn planet and only fights for the Rebellion because fighting is all he knows, women like Roach, whose home was destroyed by war and who joined the Rebellion because she had nowhere else to go, and even stormtroopers like Thara Nyende, who believes that the Empire is the best thing for her homeworld of Sullust. This novel looks at a group of people separated from the heroics of the Skywalker family and shows how the Galactic Civil War impacted people all across the galaxy. This novel is definitely worth a read, especially if you are a fan of military novels.
Star Wars: Dark Disciple
Synopsis: Based on an un-aired story line from “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” this novel picks up with a war-fatigued Jedi Order after losing a flotilla of refugees they were attempting to save from the Separatists. The Jedi High Council decides that the war needs to end at all costs, even if it means doing something against the Jedi way. The Council sends Quinlan Vos, a Jedi Knight specialized in undercover assignments, to work with former Sith acolyte-turned bounty hunter Asajj Ventress to assassinate the Separatist leader Count Dooku.
My Review: In my opinion Star Wars does three things extremely well (among numerous others): female characters, villains, and blurring the lines between good and evil. This novel plays very well to those three strengths. Asajj Ventress is definitely one of my favorite Star Wars characters and this novel picks up her story where “The Clone Wars” left off. We also see more of Quinlan Voss, who was an interesting character seen very little in “The Clone Wars.” This novel does an excellent job with exploring the temptation of the dark side of the Force, and even has a little romance if you are into that sort of thing. I highly recommend this novel for fans of “The Clone Wars” series, though if you have not seen the TV series this novel may not be very accessible.
Star Wars: Lost Stars
Synopsis: Lost Stars follows the story of Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree, close friends from the same planet who joined the Empire. After the destruction of the Death Star Kyrell, unable to stomach the cruelty of the Empire any longer, joins the Rebel Alliance while Ciena stays with the Empire. As Kyrell fights across the galaxy for freedom from the Empire, Ciena continues to believe in the law and order promised by the Emperor. Characters such as Wedge Antilles, Darth Vader, Grand Moff Tarkin, and even the Emperor himself all feature in this novel that takes place from years before the destruction of Alderaan through the Battle of Jakku years after the Battle of Endor.
My Review: More than any other Star Wars novel, Lost Stars surprised me. This is billed as a young adult novel and actually had the phrase “star-crossed lovers” in the synopsis on the back. I imagined that this novel would be a sappy romance with little substance. While the romance is a big part of the novel, it does not distract from the story in any real way. Claudia Gray wrote a fantastic novel that does a phenomenal job of showing the good and bad of both the Empire and the Rebellion. This novel does a great job of showing the moral grey areas on both sides of the Galactic Civil War and earned Gray the chance to write Bloodline, one of my favorite novels that I will talk about soon. I highly recommend this novel to fans of the original Star Wars trilogy who want to see a little more about the Empire and Rebel Alliance.
Star Wars: Lords of the Sith
Synopsis: Cham Syndulla, leader of the Free Ryloth Movement (#FreeRyloth) has made things difficult for the Empire’s operations on Ryloth. Unwilling to end the spice mining operations, both Darth Vader and the Emperor go to Ryloth to insure their will is done. Cham Syndulla and the Free Ryloth Movement see this as an opportunity to finally take out the Emperor and free the galaxy from his tyranny.
My Review: If you are a fan of Darth Vader you must read this novel. If you are a fan of the Empire you must read this novel. If you are a fan of the Ryloth story arc from “The Clone Wars” you must read this novel. If you are a fan of “Rebels” you must read this novel. Read this novel, seriously. This novel does an excellent job of showing just how terrifying Darth Vader and the Emperor are. Kemp also did an excellent job with the Free Ryloth Movement, showing how the line between freedom fighters and terrorists can blur as desparation takes hold. This is a can’t miss novel for fans of the dark side.
Star Wars: Bloodline
Synopsis: Six years before the events of “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens,” the rise of a two-party system in the senate of the New Republic has ground progress to a halt. Leia, tired of the political ineptitude considers retirement, until an emissary from Ryloth begs the New Republic to assist in driving a criminal organization off their planet. Leia agrees to head up the investigation, pitting her against a new breed of criminal and leading her to find a fledgling threat to the New Republic.
My Review: Claudia Gray does it again. Once more Gray does an absolutely phenomenal job of showing the moral grey (ha!) in the Star Wars universe. In this novel we see that just like the Old Republic, the New Republic is not the perfect democracy that was hoped for. Claudia Gray did a fantastic job capturing Leia’s personality on paper, and did a phenomenal job writing a plot that centered around politics, but had just as much action as you would expect from Star Wars. If you love Princess Leia, “The Force Awakens,” or any other Star Wars movie then you need to read this book. This is definitely tied for my favorite Star Wars novel, and I think it does an excellent job of leading up to the new Star Wars trilogy.
Star Wars: Tarkin
Synopsis: Grand Moff Tarkin oversees the construction of what will one day be the most powerful weapon in the galaxy. His sharp wit and intellect, along with his ruthless efficiency keep the project moving despite all setbacks. However, when a group of terrorists sabotage the supply lines, the Emperor assigns Tarkin and Vader to hunt them down personally. As the mission goes on, Tarkin’s past on his homeworld of Eriadu as a member of the wealthy Tarkin family is revealed, along with the story of the mutual respect between Tarkin and Darth Vader.
My Review: My other favorite Star Wars novel is also the first Star Wars novel I read. Grand Moff Tarkin is cold and ruthless on screen in “A New Hope,” but with his death at the end of the movie we are left with little else to remember him by. His character shows up a couple times in “The Clone Wars,” and this novel builds off that. This novel gives us backstory on an incredible character, as well as information about the construction of the Death Star, and finally explains why Darth Vader, a Sith lord, answers to a man such as Wilhuff Tarkin. I would recommend this novel to any fans of Grand Moff Tarkin, Darth Vader, “A New Hope,” or just Star Wars in general. If you’re reading this blog, you should go read this book next.
While the above posts hit all of the canon novels, it leaves out a lot of other canon stories such as comics, short stories, and most young adult novels. Also, novels continue to come out, with Star Wars: Ahsoka, Star Wars: Aftermath: Empire’s End, and Star Wars: Thrawn all slated for release within the next year. So expect another post or two reviewing more stories to come. As for next week I am going to discuss hyperspace, the only way to travel across the galaxy in mere days. As always, thanks for reading, and may the Force be with you!