Lightning Review: Journey to The Force Awakens

Aftermath Banner On Force Friday, Lucasfilm dropped a whopping five new books for Star Wars fans to read. The set was headlined by Aftermath--the first novel in the new canon set after Return of the Jedi--but also included four books aimed at slightly younger readers. Like the excellent Jedi Apprentice series, these books should not be overlooked. Especially Lost Stars, a sleeper hit of sorts. All five are worth reading, but our lightning review should help you prioritize which ones to buy (or at least read first). Warning: These reviews are short, but they contain minor spoilers. Star Wars: Aftermath By Chuck Windig AftermathAftermath is the most high-profile novel of the bunch, as well as the most controversial. With the old Expanded Universe now classified as Legends, fans were left wondering which characters and events were still canon. Has the galaxy changed significantly? As it turns out, the answer is yes and no. The state of the galaxy feels very familiar, but with a slightly different twist and a new cast of new characters. Unlike many of the now-Legends post-ROTJ novels, Aftermath's scope is relatively small. While the outcome of the novel will likely have long-term repercussions, there isn't really a sense of urgency or an impact on the galaxy as a whole. Thankfully, the characters are interesting to read, particularly Sinjir Rath Velus (a former Imperial Loyalty Officer), Admiral Rae Sloane (who I wasn't a fan of in A New Dawn but is great in Aftermath), and Imperial Advisor Yupe Tashu (a close confidant of the Emperor and an expert on the Sith). Mister Bones was also enjoyable and somewhat reminiscent of HK-47. The absolute best parts of Aftermath, however, are the interludes. These chapters take a break from the main plot and let readers peek into the lives of other people around the galaxy. Through these interludes, readers learn more about the state of affairs in the New Republic, check in on fan-favorite characters, and even get a few references to The Clone Wars and Rebels, as well as thrilling teases for The Force Awakens. One of the more controversial aspects of Aftermath has to do with the way the book is written. Chuck Windig's style is much more casual and conversational than your average novel, and his third-person present tense is a refreshing change. Your English teacher might cringe a bit, however, and your enjoyment will likely hinge on how much of a stickler you are for perfect writing. There are some flaws for sure, but overall the unique style is enjoyable. In the end, Aftermath is a fun read that sets up the state of the galaxy for future stories to build on. This is no Thrawn Trilogy, but in this new world where films are being released every year, big events are likely being saved for the silver screen. Excited to hear more about Aftermath? Listen to our full review on episode 33 of the Ion Cannon Podcast.

4.0/5 Kath Hounds

Star Wars: Lost Stars By Claudia Gray Lost StarsIn all the excitement about Aftermath, very little has been said about Lost Stars. A beefy 560-page book aimed at teens and young adults, Lost Stars follows childhood friends Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree as they grow up, join the Empire, and eventually end up on opposite sides of the Galactic Civil War. Through Thane and Ciena's eyes, readers get a different perspective on the events of the Original Trilogy and a sense of how the rest of the galaxy perceives the events we know so well. Why do people want to join the Empire? How did Imperial officers react when Alderaan and the Death Star were destroyed? What is this Rebellion and how is it perceived? Lost Stars answers all of these questions and more. In fact, Lost Stars arguably does a better job outlining the state of the galaxy post-Jedi than Aftermath. A good portion of the book takes place after the Battle of Endor, and one section in particular ties into The Force Awakens in a big way. At its core, Lost Stars is a love story, but don't let that and the young adult nature of the book put you off. It's surprisingly deep and touching, and fans of all ages are sure to enjoy it.

4.5/5 Kath Hounds

Star Wars: Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure By Cecil Castellucci and Jason Fry Moving TargetMoving Target is a fun Leia-centric story set shortly before Return of the Jedi. With the Rebels preparing to attack the Death Star II, Leia volunteers to go on what could be a suicide mission to distract the Empire and allow the Alliance fleet time to assemble. Accompanied by a team of elite operatives, Leia travels from planet to planet to recruit Rebel sympathizers to their cause. But when the Empire retaliates against the planets she visits, she begins to doubt her mission. Cecil Castellucci and Jason Fry really nail Leia's character, and she often finds herself torn between doing her duty and helping those who can't help themselves. The setting also imbues the book with a sense of urgency and excitement. While we all know Leia's mission will eventually succeed, it feels like the Battle of Endor will be lost if she fails. However, as silly as it sounds, the most exciting parts of the book are the prologue and epilogue. These are set during the time of The Force Awakens--when Leia is being asked to write her memoirs--and feature a few references to the new film and the epic Battle of Jakku. Moving Target doesn't leave a major impact on the galaxy or have any big revelations, but it's still a fun, enjoyable read. It's also the best of the three character-centric books.

3.5/5 Kath Hounds

Star Wars: Smuggler's Run: A Han Solo and Chewbacca Adventure By Greg Rucka Smuggler's RunAs far as books set during the Original Trilogy go, the time between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back is pretty safe. Han hasn't been frozen in carbonite yet, Luke is still struggling with learning to become a Jedi, and there's a great dynamic between the main cast. The problem is that it's almost too safe, and there have already been countless stories told during this period. As a result, Smuggler's Run doesn't have the element of the unknown that Aftermath and parts of Lost Stars have, nor does it have the sense of importance and anticipation of Moving Target. That being said, Smuggler's Run is a neat little story about how Han and Chewie rescue Major Ematt--a character set to appear in The Force Awakens--while avoiding bounty hunters and the Empire. Like the other books in the series, Smuggler's Run is bookended by an Han Solo telling a group of young officers about the adventures he had when he was much younger. This is our first glimpse at an older Han Solo, and it's quite clear he's still the same smuggler we know and love. This book isn't what you'd call a must-read, but fans of the famous captain of the Millennium Falcon are sure to enjoy it.

3.0/5 Kath Hounds

Star Wars: The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure By Jason Fry The Weapon of a JediThe fifth and final book in the initial Journey to The Force Awakens series, The Weapon of a Jedi follow's Luke's adventure to Devaron, where he investigates an old Jedi Temple (the Temple of Eedit, which sharp eyed readers will recognize from The Clone Wars) and becomes more proficient with a lightsaber thanks to a couple of training remotes. Along the way, Luke is assisted by a little girl and encounters the mysterious Sarco Plank. The Weapon of a Jedi suffers from the same ANH/ESB time period issues as Smuggler's Run, but it introduces Resistance pilot Jessika Pava in the prologue and epilogue. She practically worships Luke Skywalker, and it'll be interesting to see what role she plays in The Force Awakens. The Weapon of a Jedi is pretty self-contained and doesn't have much of an impact on the galaxy, but readers will at least learn how Luke's skill with a lightsaber increases between films.

3.0/5 Kath Hounds

Advanced Review Copy (ARC) courtesy of Del Rey. All staff members can be contacted at contact@eucantina.net.

About the Author

William Devereux (@MasterDevwi) is EUCantina's administrator, as well as the host of the Ion Cannon podcast. When he's not talking about Star Wars, he works at Microsoft as a Program Manager.