Star Wars Reviews

Star Wars: Aftermath

This story might not have been the story I wanted for the first book post-RotJ, but it is a pretty good read, and the events contained within are exactly what would realistically happen in the months after the Battle of Endor. 

Spoilers ahead...

I really wish the big three had been the focus of this story, but since they weren't, the characters we got were an interesting second-place.  I absolutely loved that Admiral Sloane was a main character.  I really hope we continue to see more of her, not just in the next to Aftermath novels and the upcoming short story, but for years to come.  The other character that was a really cool standout was Mr. Bones.  I look forward to seeing him in the next novel as well. 

All the little teases in the interludes were the best parts of the story however.  I would have loved to read a Han and Chewie novel which continued on from their interlude as the first chapter.  The Boba Fett interlude was awesome.  I almost believed that we were seeing the return of Boba Fett himself in this very novel, but as it turned out, I still believe what we saw will play a part in his "return" in the future.  Besides these two standout interludes, there was the perfect amount of other character and location mentions, from Sugi to Fulcrum to Dengar to Jakku, it was great to see and hear little glimpses of characters we know and love. 

The glimpses of were the story is going were very intriguing, from the implication that there is something out there in Wild Space which the Emporer had his eye on (which reminded me of the Vong), to the proposal that the Imperial Remnant should retreat, gain strength, and come back at the right moment.  I think these two bits of info will be very important going foward towards The Force Awakens.  And the mystery of the Admiral pulling all the strings with the Empire's plans left me very eager to read the next in the Aftermath series. 

I'd give this novel an 8 out of 10.

Star Wars: Dark Disciple by Christie Golden

For fans of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, this is a must read novel.  Action packed, emotional, a great addition to the Star Wars story.

Adapted from eight unfilmed scripts for The Clone Wars season seven, this novel probably far outshines what the episodes themselves would have been.  While we loose the visual spectacle of the episodes, the emotional depth and adult themes which are allowed to be presented in novel form make this the perfect story to have been adapted.  I found myself, as I was reading, trying to figure out when the episode breaks would have taken place for the first half of the book.  After that I gave up and assumed that the story was changed enough from the screenplay to make it too difficult to figure out. 

While I'm greatly enjoying the new canon novel/comic/tv show inter-connectivity, the mention of Level 1313 several times in the story made me mourn the loss of some of what was sure to to come if Lucasfilm hadn't been bought by Disney and so many planned stories had been abandoned.  The move toward inter-connectivity that Lucasfilm was already planning on would have been very interesting as well.  

Dark Disciple picks up where the final tidbits of The Clone Wars left off, with Ventress a bounty hunter and the Clone Wars going very badly for the Republic.  Quinlan Vos and Ventress team up to assassinate Count Dooku and sparks fly.  This story on it's surface would seem questionable, but I found myself totally buying the Ventress/Vos storyline, and I grew to love Ventress as a character even more than I did by the end of The Clone Wars.  Golden does such a great job of capturing Ventress's voice, which I suppose can be chalked up to having the screenplay already given to her, but still give her credit for some great writing.  I became so invested in the story that I was almost to the point of wondering if Ventress and Vos would actually succeed in eliminating Count Dooku.

Now on to the spoilers....

This book is also Quinlan Vos's original story arc reimagined in The Clone Wars canon continuity.  His battles with falling to the dark side, going under cover to destroy Count Dooku, and his embrace of romantic attachment in defiance of the Jedi Code are great storylines plucked right out of his the original Clone Wars comic continuity, and I loved seeing them again in this tale.  I don't think the canon Quinlan Vos is as cool or interesting a character as the original, but we spent much less time getting to know him and his story.

The entire assassination Dooku storyline was just another piece in the long line of horrible mistakes Yoda and Windu make that ends with the destruction of the Jedi Order.  

While I loved the first half of the book, I felt the story began to loose me a bit for most of the last half.  Once Vos and Ventress return from their assassination attempt, I started to get lost about their individual motivations.  While I finally started to understand Vos's motive towards the very end, it was only vaguely explained in the final chapters.  With a fuller understanding of what was happening, I think the last half of the book would be better on a reread.

Really big spoilers....

The last three chapters really got me back in to the story.  I loved that Ventress's character was wrapped up, as she was one of the handful of dangling threads left by the abrupt end of The Clone Wars.  I prefer her death as told in this story to her original fate in the Clone Wars comics.  During her funeral, as Vos lowered her into the water and something strange began to happen, I thought for a moment that she would be resurrected.  For just a few seconds I was very impressed that Golden had sold her death so well if the intention was to have her and Vos sail off into the sunset.

I really love when I am so excited by a scene and get the feeling that something amazing is about to be revealed.  I held by hands in front of the page to prevent my eyes from darting down the paragraphs and being spoiled a few seconds before what I thought might be the big reveal of Ventress's return.  As I moved my hand down the page line by line, I realized what was actually happening and was very impressed by the last line of the book.  That was some great writing. 

End of spoilers...

Not being a huge fan of Ms. Golden's Star Trek novels, I was very impressed by this first of her Star Wars books I have read.  I hope to read more from her in the future.

I am sure that since this book was so good it will be a hit.  Hopefully that will give Lucasfilm reason to publish more unused The Clone Wars storylines.  I would love to see that Boba Fett/ Cad Bane teamup as a novel.  And we simply must see the final story of Ahsoka and Rex in what would have been the series finale.  Plus, where is Darth Maul!!!???!!!

I give Dark Disciple a 9 out of 10 stars!  Keep up the good work Del Rey!

Star Wars: Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp

This was quite a good novel.  Not the novel I thought I was going to be reading, but very engaging nonetheless. 

Lords of the Sith was billed a Vader/Emperor team up novel, but the star of the story was actually Cham Syndulla.  Syndulla was in several episodes of The Clone Wars as a Twi'lek freedom fighter.  He has also been revealed as Rebels character Hera Syndulla's father.  This novel is Cham's attempt at taking down Vader and the Emperor in one fell swoop.  Mixed with that tale is a few chapters of introspective and awesome Vader/Emperor team-up.  As good as the Cham portions of Lords of the Sith was, I much would have rather read a full book focusing more on Vader and Emperor's relationship and adventure.

The first half of the book was almost solely about Twi'lek freedom fighters launching an attack on a Star Destoryer and their attempt to kill the Emporer and Darth Vader.  Really my favorite part of the book was the very beginning, in which we got to look deep into Vader thoughts and see the man left over after the "death" of Anakin Skywalker.  I also enjoyed the additions to the first chapter that were apparently made since it was released as a teaser for the book.  Several mentions were made of Cham being Hera's father, a fact which was only very recently revealed.  Cham's sidekick/ love interest Isval is a great real-world extrapolation of the cliche Twi'lek slave girl.  She is traumatized by her former life of sexual slavery and out for revenge on the Empire.  

There were some really interesting tidbits in the second half of the book, which focused on Vader and Palpatine surviving the Twi'lek attack and playing a subtle game of one-ups-man ship along the way.  Along with that amazing plot are tidbits of Vader remembering Ahsoka, Rex, Cody, Echo, and a clone named "Sixes."  I'm not sure if this was an error and was supposed to be a mention of Fives, or if Fives was for some reason not mentioned on purpose.  

Another question I was left with was when this book takes place.  It claims to occur eight years after the Clone Wars, which would be in the same year as Star Wars: A New Dawn.  But the recently released Star Wars novel timeline places it before Star Wars: Tarkin, which is set five years after the Clone Wars.  Hopefully this will be clarified at some point.

In the end this tale serves as another portion of the birth of the Rebellion storyline that we've seen several different aspects of in the past, and presently in Star Wars Rebels.  After the events of the end of the book, I was left wondering how Cham will eventually feel about his daughter joining the Rebellion.  Does he support her life fighting the Empire, or has she kept her small role in the Alliance secret from him?

Though it didn't really end up being the story it was teased as, I give Lords of the Sith a 8 out of 10.

Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne

This was the first book I've ever read about Luke Skywalker.  And it was the first book ever "written by" Luke Skywalker.  And I really enjoyed it.

Having been written in first person in the voice of Luke, this book is a first for Star Wars novels.  I enjoyed the first person aspect of the novel, as it allowed for even deeper internal narration to come across than a normal story would have.  But I found it hard to keep Luke's "voice" in my head for the entire novel, so I'm not sure it was entirely a success for me.

I've been reading Star Wars novels and comics for about a decade, but have been going through them chronologically.  I'm in the Dark Times currently, and so I've never read a story staring Luke Skywalker before.  But my decision to begin reading all the new canon material as it comes out led me to jump ahead to this book.  It was very interesting, therefore, to see Luke talk about the Clone Wars, wonder to himself how bad a guy the Emperor is, and know of the public reputation of Darth Vader. 

The novel is set shortly after A New Hope, and features Luke going on a Rebel mission to rescue a master computer slicer with the help of a beautiful Rebel, Nakari.  The Luke/ Nakari relationship was a great part of the story, and it really helped show Luke growing up in the period between Episodes IV and V.  The mathematical genius whom they rescue from the Empire was an interesting character, and I enjoyed the way math was such an important part of her culture.  The chapter headings embedded in mathematical formulas were a nice touch.

The most interesting part of the novel was Luke struggling to learn how to use the Force.  With such little time and guidance from Ben before his death, all he knows is that the Force is out there but he has little idea how to use it, and what it can do.  It was great to watch him take his first steps toward figuring that out, and even see him notice that the Dark Side always beckons.  Luke trying to use the Jedi Mind Trick on someone for the first time was hilarious, as was his first forays into moving objects with his mind.

Admiral Ackbar, R2D2 "talking" to Luke, and the author's meditation on weather Vader was seduced by the Dark Side or fell to it by his own choice add even more great stuff to this book.  It wasn't a standout 5 star novel like The Revenge of the Sith novelization or Darth Plagueis, but I really don't have anything but praise for Heir to the Jedi.

7 stars out of 10.

Star Wars: Tarkin by James Luceno

This is the first book based on film characters and film events in the new Star Wars canon, and it is a solid read.  It reveals the history of Governor Tarkin, one of the saga's best villains and the least explored.  The main tale is set five years after the events of Revenge of the Sith, but Tarkin's story is told from youth to gaining the title of Imperial Grand Moff, the third most powerful being in the galaxy.  This is also the story of Tarkin and Darth Vader learning to respect one another and work together. 

The book was billed as giving Tarkin the "Darth Plagueis" treatment, but this book isn't as memorable or as interesting as Lucenos' exploration of Palpatine and his master.  The history of Tarkin as a youth and his rise to power was fascinating, but the main story, particularly during the middle of the book, was hard to keep interested in.  The end pulled everything together though and left me satisfied.

The story of how Tarkin's upbringing would leave him a man willing to destroy an entire world to maintain order is a story worth telling, but there are several things in the book that make you wonder what the author was thinking.  The best example of this is the first chapter, which is almost solely devoted to Tarkin and a fashion droid (yes, a fashion droid) designing Tarkin's Imperial uniform.  What this really necessary?

With regards to the new canon, this book could have been released two years ago and would have fit into the EU fine.  It references several old books and lots of information established in the EU.  But this is done in a way that someone who hadn't read those stories wouldn't even notice that they were references of something else.

The big thing that many Star Wars fans with notice is that Palpatine is given a first name, "Sheev."  The thing I found odd about this was that the name is said to have originated from George Lucas, who is now retired and didn't bother to give this name out at any point in the last 35 years.  On top of this, Luceno was the author who gave the perfect explanation in Darth Plagueis that Palpatine choose not to have a first name. 

All in all a good story, but not a great one.  And I am left wanting to go read Death Star which I imagine will make a good continuation of this story for me.

Four out of five stars. 

Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller

Spoilers Ahead!

The first book published in the new Star Wars canon is five star.  I have read all the novels in the Star Wars timeline set in the prequel era and before, and A New Dawn is easily in the top five.  It is set eight years after Revenge of the Sith, and eleven years before A New Hope.  It is a prequel novel to the animated series Star Wars: Rebels, which will take place six years after the events of this book.  For those worried about the reboot of the EU, rest assured that I found nothing in this book that would preclude it from having been published during the reign of the EU, and apart from the events proceeding past Return of the Jedi, I don't anticipate any major changes in the Star Wars Universe that we've always known.

The story opens with a great flashback to a young Jedi (whom I correctly assumed to be the future REBELS hero, Kanan) during the Clone Wars.  After Order 66, Kanan grows up to be a somewhat sad, ordinary civilian, usually drowning his sorrows at the local cantina.  But he can't help himself from getting involved when people need help, despite claiming to want nothing to do with sticking his neck out for people.  The line which perfectly captures Kanan's character early in the book is his protestation: "I don't know who you think I am, but I DO NOT go around randomly helping people!"  This was a great story point and Kanan's characterization was really one of my favorite aspects of this book.

Hera, the Twi'lek heroine of REBELS, is cautiously putting out feelers, searching for people and information that will be useful someday in a rebellion against the Empire.  She has no idea that that 'someday' is not as far away as she believes and that the galaxy is slowly awakening to rebellion.  Hera was so great in this book it was easy to see why Kanan was so infatuated with her.  I never warmed to Imperial Captain Sloane, but it was interesting to see a female in a powerful position during the reign of the Empire.

The main villian in the book was a very interesting choice.  Cyborg Imperial Count Vidian is like no other villian I have experienced in Star Wars.  He isn't a force user, nor even a very powerful fighter.  He has super human strength due to his cybernetic augmentation, but he rarely uses his brute force.  Instead his manifests his particular brand of evil in that he is a ruthless, utilitarian businessman.  He is out to make things work well for the Empire and for his pocketbook.  Vidian can see no value in a person unless he is useful to his plans and the will of the Empire.  The only negative about Vidian is that I never really got into the subplot about his backstory and the revelations of his history. 

One of the interesting aspects of the novel is the thoughts it has to give on the surveillance state that has built up on the planet Gorse.  This is especially relevant in today's world.  The final chapters of the book are really the highlight of the story for me.  Kanan picks up his lightsaber before heading off for what is sure to be the climatic battle of the story, all the while trying to convince himself that he has no plans to ever use it.  And in the end he is forced to reveal to Hera that he is a force-user.  They head off into the galaxy to slowly spark the fires of rebellion. 

The biggest lingering thread from this book is what intrigues me most.  As Hera is contemplating the fact that Kanan must have been a very young Jedi and somehow escaped Order 66, her thoughts go to what could have happened to allow him to escape.  She wonders if someone warned him about what was about to happen, and if that person is still alive today?  This moment seemed to be alluding to something which will happen in the series, perhaps a reunion with this person who helped Kanan survive Order 66.  I'm left wondering if this person is someone we have seen before.  Could REBELS bring us the eventual return of Captain Rex? Or even more interesting, Ahsoka?

I'd give A New Dawn 9 Stars out of 10.  I'm very much looking forward to the next book, Star Wars: Tarkin by James Luceno.

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