Star Wars: Resistance Reborn No-spoiler Review

The long-awaited finale to the Skywalker Saga, Episode IX: The Rise Of Skywalker, debuts in less than 2 months. As is tradition, disney is releasing a handful of novels, comics, and other media under the Journey To The Rise Of Skywalker title. Resistance Reborn written by Rebecca Roanhorse is the latest in the series to prepare fans for the upcoming film.

The novel takes place shortly after The Last Jedi and sets the stage for The Rise of Skywalker. As the title suggests, the novel describes the pivot point in which General Leia Organa rises from the devastating defeat on Crate and begins the process of rebuilding to continue resisting The First Order.

Resistance Reborn begins with Leia, Finn, Rose, Poe, and a handful of Crate survivors on the Millenium Falcon searching for a place to rest and regroup. Nearly out of fuel, they decide to take their chances on the hospitality of the Twi’leks on Ryloth. There, they discover that an old ally has created the Ryloth Defence Authority (RDA) operating outside of, but in cooperation with, the official government. The leader of the RDA is Yendor, (featured in Lost Stars, Aftermath, and Bloodline), who invites Leia and her small team to temporarily take refuge with him.

We know from other novels that prior to the events of The Last Jedi, Leia sent several small teams across the galaxy to recruit. Two such teams were Inferno Squad (Shriv and Zay Versio from Battlefront II) and members of Black Squadron (including Temmin “Snap” Wexley originally from Aftermath and Jess and Suralinda from the Poe Dameron comics). Leia recalled the teams to temporarily regroup on Ryloth before sending them out on a daring mission to rescue strategic allies from the First Order, and steal a few ships in the process. With little resources, and with the First Order doing everything possible to hunt them all down, they must defy all odds if the Resistance is going to stand a chance.

This novel exceeded my expectations in some ways, and fell short in a few others. One of my biggest pet peeves with the new trilogy is that it hasn’t really rewarded those of us who consume all Star Wars media. In other words, having read all novels prior to both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi didn’t provide me with many advantages over those who didn’t. It seems the MO is to make the films appeal to a wider audience and limit the intertwining of “secondary” narratives to the TV series, comics, novels and non-episode films. However, after reading Resistance Reborn, I expect that The Rise Of Skywalker will have to incorporate some of these narratives. 

The novel itself was a sequel of sorts to several novels in the canon, including the Aftermath series, Battlefront II: Inferno Squad, and Bloodline. It was very satisfying to have all of these somewhat independent storylines converge at such a pivotal point in the Star Wars Saga. I suspect that several of the characters that were introduced in these stories will play a role in the upcoming film.

One of the ways that the novel fell below my expectations was how abruptly it ended. I felt that the whole novel was building towards a climax that never really came. Some VIPs were rescued, some ships were stolen, but I was hoping for more establishment for the Resistance as a whole. Another shortcoming was the absence of several characters from other narratives, such as Vi Moradi and Archex, or anyone from the Ghost’s crew (Hera Syndulla or her son Jacen Sundulla, Ezra Bridger, Ahsoka Tano, and Sabine Wren).

Regardless of any of the shortcomings, this was an enjoyable read, with many of my favorite characters from the films, novels, and video games. It provides hope for the Resistance and their ability to rebuild (hope that was particularly lacking in the end of The Last Jedi). I consider it a must read for any dedicated Star Wars fan.

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Star Wars: Spark Of Resistance No-spoiler Review

The Journey To Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker series has officially begun with the release of Star Wars: Spark Of Resistance, written by Justina Ireland. Similar to the previous “Journey To” series, this first novel is relatively short and written for a young audience. 

The novel is set after The Last Jedi and likely concurrent with the recently released Galaxy’s Edge books. Rey, Rose, and Poe are working together with the rest of the Resistance to regroup and rebuild. After completing a routine supply pick up, the heroes received a suspicious distress call from a distant planet. After weighing the risks, they decided to investigate anyway in the Millenium Falcon (which apparently belongs to Rey now…). 

After travelling to Minfar, the heroes discovered the First Order oppressing the native population in search of an ancient weapon rumored to be on the planet. Rey, Rose, and Poe quickly earn the respect and trust of the native Zixon species and work together to beat the First Order to the weapon and drive them from the planet.  

This novel is aptly categorized as a junior reader, written for a younger audience. The plot is simple and the dialogue is at times a bit too simplistic and juvenile to match the characters. But despite the story-telling, the story itself is enjoyable and exciting. Similar to Galaxy’s Edge Black Spire, this novel adds a shimmer of hope to the very bleak and depressing ending of The Last Jedi 

This novel makes it clear the The Rise Of Skywalker will take place after some time has passed. I’m excited because we will get to see what Rey was able to do with the ancient Jedi texts. While this novel doesn’t specifically mention the texts, it was clear that Rey is making significant progress in her ability to connect with and understand the living force.  

Because this novel is such a quick read, making it a small commitment, I recommend it for all Star Wars fans. It’s not earth-shattering or anything, but it is good (even if it’s a bit juvenile). Pick it up, give it a read, and you will get more excited for December 20th!

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Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Black Spire No-spoiler Review

Delilah Dawson’s new novel, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Black Spire was recently released as the third novel in the collection featuring Black Spire Outpost on the planet Batuu. Disney has invested heavily in the planet in its theme parks, so it’s no wonder Star Wars is publishing novels that feature the planet to build on the hype.

The novel is set after The Last Jedi and presumably before, but possibly concurrent with, The Rise Of Skywalker. Using her great foresight, General Leia Organa sends one of her best spies, Vi Moradi, to prepare an Outer Regions refuge for the Resistance to use to regroup and lick its wounds.

Vi is accompanied by recent First Order defector, Captain Cardinal, now known as Archex. Vi and Archex have a complicated history, he having tortured her before his defection, and she having rescued him from Captain Phasma after his betrayal of the First Order

After getting off to a rough start on the planet, Vi and Archex begin the work of recruiting and rebuilding. If only it were that easy. After a short time, the First Order tracks Vi and Archex to the remote outpost. Now all VI has to do is figure out how to repel the First Order without alerting them to the growing Resistance presence on the planet.

This novel was VERY refreshing after reading Galaxy’s Edge Crash Of Fate. Where the prior novel had little to do with the Star Wars storyline, this novel ties in wonderfully.

I believe a primary reason that The Last Jedi was so controversial is the ending. Fans were left feeling confused and hopeless as they watched the pitiful remainder of the Resistance pile onto the Falcon, narrowly escaping with their lives. While this certainly isn’t the first time the “good guys” get pummeled in Star Wars, it felt like the most hopeless.

Galaxy’s Edge Black Spire shines a ray of hope that The Resistance can and will rebuild so it can continue…well… resisting. It also confirms Batuu’s strategic role in The Rise Of Skywalker. While the novel didn’t really feature any of the famous heros, it portrayed several new characters that we can only hope will end up on screen.

It’s hard to say without seeing The Rise of Skywalker yet, but I believe this novel is a must read to set the stage for the upcoming movie. It certainly has changed my attitude towards Black Spire Outpost, and has given me renewed excitement for the final installment in the Skywalker Saga.

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Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Crash Of Fate — No Spoiler Review

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Crash Of Fate is the latest Star Wars Canon novel released to build anticipation and buzz about Disney’s new Black Spire Outpost themed land, Galaxy’s Edge. For the last couple years, Batuu and Black Spire Outpost have been featured in multiple Star Wars stories. I was very excited to read a story set after The Last Jedi and centered on the new location.

The novel is basically a love story about two kids that grew up together on Batuu, were separated, and then several years later were reunited by chance. After conjuring up old flames, and building new ones through a dangerous adventure together in the outpost, they came to realize they were meant for each other. 

Izzy was taken away from her best friend, Jules, when her parents abruptly and without warning abandoned the outpost. After her parents died, she fell into a life of smuggling. And after falling out with her old crew, she got a job delivering a package to Black Spire Outpost. She ran into Jules and started to rekindle their lost relationship when her old crew appeared and started causing trouble. Izzy and Jules worked together to thwart their plot, protect the outpost, and in the course of things fell in love.

Ultimately, this novel was nothing to write home about. I mean, I guess it was better than Canto Bight… so at least there’s that. There were a few random mentions of a First Order and Resistance presence on the outpost, and the epilogue briefly mentioned a confrontation between the two. Perhaps this is an allusion to a scene we might expect to see in The Rise Of Skywalker. But other than that, there was really no connection to the rest of the Star Wars Saga at all. 

If you like cheesy romance novels, and like Star Wars, then this may be a good match for you. But for the average Star Wars fan, I would consider this book superfluous. If you have nothing better to do, give it a read. But don’t feel the need to go out of your way.

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Thrawn Treason No Spoiler Review

Thrawn Treason, the final installment to Timothy Zahn’s most recent (and officially canonized) novel trilogy, is now available. I have been eagerly awaiting this novel because the first two were absolutely enthralling. While I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, it was not quite what I expected in the final installment of the trilogy. 

A short review from the first two novels will help set the stage for Thrawn Treason.

The first novel (Thrawn) featured the story of how the Chiss strategist Mitth’raw’nuruodo, Thrawn for short, became a grand admiral in the Imperial Navy. He was so successful due to his supernatural understanding of strategy and tactics plus his knowledge of the Unknown Regions (in which the Emperor was keenly interested). He also mentored Eli Vanto, who at the end of the book accepted a position as an officer in the navy of the Chiss Ascendancy. 

The second novel (Thrawn Alliances) featured two interwoven and parallel stories: one with Thrawn and Anakin Skywalker during the Clone Wars, and another with Thrawn and Darth Vader concurrent with the events in the Rebels animated series. The Emperor sent Thrawn and Vader to investigate a disturbance in the force near the backwater world Batuu (the one featured in Disney parks). They uncovered a plot by the Grysk species from the Unknown Regions to build their forces for potential conflict with both the Empire and The Chiss Ascendancy. They also discovered that the force disturbance came from force-sensitive Chiss children, who could navigate hyperspace with their precognition abilities, kidnapped by the aggressive Grysks. 

Thrawn Treason takes place shortly after his triumph over the Grysk kidnappers in the second novel. Caught in between the political maneuverings of Grand Moff Tarkin and Director Orson Krennick, Thrawn is sent to solve a pest problem interfering with supply routes for the secretive Stardust project. With funding for his TIE Defender project on the line, Thrawn discovers a plot that runs much deeper than a simple pest problem. 

Once again, his loyalty is put to the question as he encounters both a Chiss warship (with Eli Vanto on board) and several Grysk ships trespassing in Imperial space. He straddles the line between loyalty to the Empire and to the Chiss (insisting that the two are not in conflict) as he uncovers the Grysk plot. The events of the novel conclude immediately before Thrawn arrives at Lothal in his final encounter with the Ezra Bridger and the rebel crew, depicted in the final episodes of the Rebels animated series.

When I first learned the title of the novel, I was expecting a direct confrontation between him and either the Emperor or the Chiss Ascendancy. But because of the events in the final episodes of Rebels, this could only take place after his disappearance with Ezra Bridger into unknown space. I was a little let down to learn that I will still have to wait to learn what happens with Thrawn after his defeat over Lothal.

Expectations aside, the novel was excellent. Sometimes, it’s almost overwhelming how good Thrawn is. He is not a character that is easy to identify with. But Zahn solves this by introducing other less-perfect characters, such as Eli Vanto and Commodore Karyn Faro, who progressively learn to grasp and understand Thrawn’s tactics. Additionally, there are still so many questions about the Unknown Regions, why Palpatine was so interested in them, and what happened there in the years after the Empire’s downfall and The First Order’s rise. The Thrawn series has begun to answer many of these questions, detailing why navigating the Unknown Regions is so difficult and perilous, how navigation is possible through force-sensitive navigators, and what types of dangers and civilizations lurk there. 

In summary, I recommend this novel for any Star Wars fan. Thrawn is a captivating character, and his story isn’t finished yet. 

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Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron No-Spoiler Review

Disney is at it again, using the full might of its resources to produce more thrilling content for the Star Wars Universe. Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron is the latest novel, which is a companion to the Star Wars: TIE Fighter comic series which was released earlier in April, 2019.

The novel is a “crossover event” between Marvel and Del Rey. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean a cross between the Marvel and Star Wars Universe, just that Marvel is releasing the TIE Fighter comics and Del Rey is releasing the companion novels.

Alphabet Squadron is the first novel in a trilogy, set shortly after the destruction of the second Death Star. Emperor Palpatine was prepared for the possibility of his demise, and enacted Operation Cinder as part of his contingency plan. Initially detailed in the Star Wars: Battlefront II novel and video game, Operation Cinder was designed to initiate the brutal destruction of multiple worlds.

The novel follows Imperial defector, Yrica Quell, who is tasked by new republic intelligence to bring down the infamous 204th, her former TIE fighter squadron. Together, with a rag-tag group of pilots, all with their own ships and vendettas against the empire, they are put to the test against their formidable foes.

Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron definitely feels like a sequel to Alexander Freed’s earlier novel, Battlefront: Twilight Company. The novel feels more like a war-time novel than a Star Wars novel. While it adds a unique perspective to the behind-the-scenes tactics and brutality of the war effort, it lacks some of the Star Wars magic.

What made Twilight Company great was the fact that it preceded the launch of the first Battlefront video game. It was fun to play the game after reading the novel and re-enact some of the scenarios from the novel. The problem with Alphabet Squadron is that there is no upcoming video game (that I know of) exclusively featuring dogfighting in the Star Wars universe. As a stand-alone novel it is interesting and provides some additional perspective in the time between the events of Episode VI and The Battle of Jakku. But ultimately, it is superfluous to Star Wars as a whole.

One of the redeeming features of the novel was the cameo of Hera Syndulla, the beloved Twi’lek pilot and leader from A New Dawn, the Rebels animated series, and a host of other canon media. Seeing Hera as a general, leading a squadron on strategic objectives for the New Republic was very rewarding.

In summary, Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron was an enjoyable read, especially for those who enjoy novels about tactics and military operations and leadership. However, it is about middle of the pack when compared to the entirety of the Star Wars Canon.

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Star Wars: Dooku: Jedi Lost No-spoiler Review

Dooku: Jedi Lost is the first of its kind, audio-only production in the Star Wars Canon. Written by Calvin Scott, the author who brought us the “Adventures In Wild Space” series, and narrated by a full and impressive cast, this audio production lives up to the hype. Just two weeks after the release of Master & Apprentice, which dives into the backstory of Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, Calvin Scott delves into both Dooku’s and Asajj Ventress’ origin stories.

As so many Star Wars novels do, this story follows the “story within a story” format. The first layer tells of Asajj Ventress, and how she initially became entangled with Count Dooku as his private assassin. The second layer emerges as flashbacks of Dooku’s youth and early years as Ventress discovers databanks and journals during her first mission to find and rescue Dooku’s kidnapped sister.

The second layer tells of:

  • Dooku’s early years in the Jedi Temple with his close friend Sifo-Dyas
  • how he discovers that Serenno is his home-world
  • his early encounters with the dark side of the force
  • how he is chosen as Yoda’s apprentice
  • how he leaves the Jedi Council to become the Count of Serenno.

Stories such as this one are extremely gratifying to Star Wars fans who – although they already know how the story ends – are intensely curious about how it happened.

While this story wasn’t as impactful to the Star Wars Universe as Master & Apprentice, it compared in excitement by uncovering additional bits of the story that set the stage for the Prequel Trilogy. My only complaint is the order of release. I would have much rather listened to Dooku: Jedi Lost before Master & Apprentice in order to preserve the proper chronology of the story. For anyone planning to read/listen to both of these stories, I recommend doing so in chronological order. This way the reader/listener can experience the building of events that lead to the Galactic Civil War and eventual collapse of the Republic.

The telling of this story only added to its excitement. The audio production was very well done. Many Star Wars audio novels are known for being highly entertaining and animated, complete with music from John Williams and Star Wars-esque sound effects. The difference between this audio-only production and other high-fidelity audio books are 1) the full cast of voice actors representing the various characters in the novel and 2) the absence of connector phrases such as “he said excitedly…” and “she laughed with delight.” The luxury of an audio-only production is that instead of describing who said what and how it was delivered, the listener experiences it first hand through the audio production. At first this was a bit distracting, but progressively became highly entertaining. My only complaint was the voice of adult Dooku. While Christopher Lee’s voice may be hard to match, they could have done a much better job.

Listening to this story, then reading Master & Apprentice and even Dark Disciple (a canon novel released in 2015 featuring Asajj Ventress’ years after becoming free from Dooku’s grip) will make the experience of watching Episodes I, II, & III much richer. Something many fans may not realize is that the story of Palpatine’s plotting in the Prequel Trilogy may have significant implications to the upcoming resolution of the Star Wars Saga in Episode IX: The Rise Of Skywalker. Brushing up on these early years will only make experiencing the upcoming film that much better. I highly recommend this audio production for any Star Wars fan.

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Star Wars: Master and Apprentice No-spoiler Review

If your only motivation in reading this review is to decide whether or not to read Star Wars: Master And Apprentice, let me make this simple for you. Stop reading this review, grab a copy of Master And Apprentice, and read it immediately. To this point (after reading every single canon novel and junior reader) I can say that no other novel has connected to and expanded the Star Wars Universe in a more meaningful way for me than this novel.

If you aren’t convinced yet, please continue reading my short no-spoiler review.

Master And Apprentice, written by Claudia Gray, is the earliest novel, in terms of chronology, in the Star Wars Canon. The main storyline is set about 8 years prior to Episode I: The Phantom Menace, featuring Qui-Gon Jinn and his 17-year old padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Immediately after an encounter with one of the Hutt gangsters, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are sent to assist Rael Averross (a rather unconventional Jedi Knight who apprenticed under Dooku prior to Qui-Gon) in resolving a political situation involving the planet Pijal and its moon and the greedy Czerka Corporation.

Due to Qui-Gon’s cryptic mentorship style and his faith in the ancient Jedi prophecies, which Obi-Wan and most of the other Jedi consider to be useless relics of the ancient mystics, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan’s relationship is strenuous at best. The conflict at Pijal will put to the test both Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan’s relationship and the credibility of the ancient prophecies, while hinting at the the deeper seeds of conflict in the republic that would come to fruition in the prequel trilogy.

One of the reasons I love Claudia Gray’s writing so much is her mastery at creating depth and dimensionality with the characters in her novels. This creates an immersive experience with which readers can’t help but connect. In Lost Stars, Gray won our hearts with her ‘Romeo and Juliet’ story featuring the new characters Thayne Kyrell and Ciena Ree. In Bloodline, Gray takes our beloved Leia Organa and adds a depth of understanding that few other authors have managed to accomplish when dealing with characters from the films. Gray’s work in Master And Apprentice follows suit by adding a delicious backstory for Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon (for which I’ve desperately been waiting), while also introducing us to endearing (and unique) new characters such as Rael Averross — the rough, unconventional Jedi with a heart of gold, and Pax Maripher and Rahara Wick — the noble-hearted jewel smugglers.

This novel ties into the events of the main Star Wars storyline possibly more than any other canon novel. Many of the other novels expand the Star Wars universe by telling parallel or off-shoot stories, which are enjoyable to read but ultimately non-essential. But the events in Master And Apprentice naturally set the stage for the prequel trilogy to a degree that it could be considered a prequel novel to the prequels. It also drops a hint or two that are fueling my own theories for the upcoming release of Episode IX: Rise Of Skywalker.

As I said in the intro, Master And Apprentice is a must read for Star Wars fans of all varieties.

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Queen’s Shadow No-spoiler Review

Among the many unexplored time periods in the Star Wars Story is the gap between The Phantom Menace and The Attack of the Clones. These 10 years prove to be an important, formative time for the heroes of the prequels. While Anakin’s transformation is perhaps the most obvious (and as seen below referenced multiple times by Padmé), it’s not the only one.

Padmé — “Ani? My goodness, you’ve grown.”

Anakin — “So have you, grown more beautiful…for a senator, I mean.”

Padmé — “You’ve changed so much.”

Anakin — “You haven’t changed a bit.”

Despite Anakin’s claim that only her looks have improved, Padmé Amidala also experienced significant transformation during these years. Finally, E. K. Johnston has provided a window into Padmé’s transition from queen of Naboo to Republic Senator, and at the same time set the stage for the subtle political maneuvering preceding the galactic civil war in her newest novel, Queen’s Shadow.

The Story

The novel begins at the end of Padmé’s reign as Queen Amidala. With the governance passed on to her successor, Padmé must choose how to direct her passion to making her home and her galaxy a better place. Being heavily impacted by her time on Tatooine, Padmé endeavors to fight intergalactic slavery. But this new humanitarian mission is cut short when the new queen of Naboo appoints Padmé as Naboo’s representative in the Republic Senate.

Padmé journeys to Coruscant with a new cadre of handmaidens to fulfill her new role, and quickly learns that she must be flexible and adapt to survive in galactic politics (figuratively and literally). As she finds her feet, and teams up with more powerful, like-minded senators such as Bail Organa and Mon Mothma, she becomes an integral force pushing the senate to fulfill its mandate to preserve galactic peace. But peace comes with a price, and paying that price is something she must learn to do both on and off the senate floor.

The Sub-story

It’s actually not entirely clear to me who the main protagonist of the novel actually is. While the story line mostly revolves around Padmé, much of the story is told from the perspective of Padmé’s right hand… maiden, Sabé. At the time of Padmé’s initial appointment to the queenship, her royal security advisor, Captain Panaka, recruited and trained several young girls to be Padmé’s doubles, bodyguards, and personal advisors. During the queenship, Sabé and Padmé became inseparable. Such that once her responsibilities as handmaiden to Queen Amidala had ended, Sabé continued to support Senator Amidala in a more covert, unofficial capacity. While the title of the novel, Queen’s Shadow, may refer to Padmé learning to find her place after surrendering her queenship, I think the more interesting interpretation refers to the behind-the-scenes network of handmaidens supporting the queen.

Overall Reaction

Several aspects of the novel provided additional depth to the overall Star Wars story. The plot of the novel felt very familiar. Where else had I read about a bright, female politician navigating the political quagmire and discovering hints of a lurking threat to the galaxy? Both Leia: Princess of Alderaan and Bloodline featured Leia Organa in a very similar role. It was quite satisfying to see the similarities between the mother and daughter that never met. Additionally, I really appreciated the added depth into understanding the complexity and intricacy of Sheev Palpatine’s plan to overthrow the republic. Lastly, I will never look at Naboo handmaidens the same way again. It was very enjoyable to learn about the cohesion between the queen and her handmaidens, plus their particular set of skills that make them nearly as dangerous as Liam Neeson.

Overall, the novel is an enjoyable read, though the plot does drag a bit. Compared to the other novels in the Star Wars Canon, I put this one just below the middle of the pack. To quote Master Yoda, “page turner [it] is not,” but if you are looking to add depth and context to your understanding of the larger Star Wars Story, I recommend Queen’s Shadow.

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