Star Wars: Aftermath – Empire’s End

February 2017 saw the release of the final novel in the Star Wars Aftermath trilogy; Empire’s End. This is the series that bridges the gap (somewhat) between Episode VI and Episode VII. Over course of the these three books, we’ve been introduced to new characters as well as been able to peek in on a few of our favorite personas from original trilogy.

In retrospect, I was a bit cold on the original Aftermath. I didn’t care much for many of the new characters introduced, and I didn’t like the way the story seemed to jump all over the place. With the release of “Life Debt”, I began to feel a little more at home in Wendig’s post-ROTJ era, but still had my reservations. Now, I’m happy to say that I’ve actually come to enjoy several of the new characters he’s introduced. To me, Empire’s End is easily the best of the three novels in the series.

Those curious about the secret identity of Supreme Leader Snoke in Episode VII, will still be disappointed. Despite what many readers suspected to be a major tease regarding that character’s origins – nothing about the character is actually revealed. What we DO get in this story is a lot of background info on the planet of Jakku, as well as the Emperor’s plans post-mortum. It seems like Lucasfilm will be unlikely to give us any major revelations outside of the actual films,  but we’re certainly getting plenty of hints and breadcrumbs.  But YES – in this novel, you will finally see the fall of the Imperial Remnant and the reigns of power being handed to the New Republic. This alone, makes this novel worthy of your attention.

I’ve been an open critic of Chuck Wendig’s writing style in the past, and I’m happy to say that he seems to have really toned it down in this novel. This books reads much more like a started fantasy novel in terms of verbiage and standardized punctuation. To me, this one actually feels like it was written by a professional author and not some amateur who’s looking to make his name by being different and daring.

If you’re a serious fan of Star Wars and you love to consume every morsel of new information out there. This book is a need-to-have.

Story: The bulk of this book follows the characters that we’ve come to know from the other Aftermath novels, as well as longtime fan favorites. This story, when combined with the other three books, puts a nice end-cap on the events that occurred in Return of the Jedi, and helps set the stage for what we eventually see in The Force Awakens. However, even thoug ha lot of answers can be found here, fans are still left asking plenty of questions.

Recommended:  FOR HARDCORE FANS.

Star Wars: Catalyst – A Rogue One Novel

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Rogue One is almost here! The first “sidestory” film in the Star Wars franchise hits theaters Thursday/Friday nationwide. This film will finally tell the official story of how the Rebel Alliance obtained the plans for the Death Star. Now, if you’re a long time Star Wars fan, you probably know that this story has been told several times before in various Expanded Universe stories. But of course, all of that is out the window now. As Yoda once said, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” This is now the official account of events. So… just forget anything you may have heard about “Kyle Katarn”.

Before talking about this book, we first need to briefly discuss a few details about the upcoming film. Nothing spoilerish… but certain details made clear by the official trailers will be discussed below.

The Rogue One film focuses on a character named Jyn Erso, who is recruited by the Rebel Alliance to help uncover the details of a new weapon that is being developed by the Empire. She was selected because the Rebels have learned that the developer of the weapon is none other than her father, the brilliant scientist, Galen Erso. The trailer indicates a perilous mission will be undertaken by Jyn and a group of rebels to uncover and retrieve the details behind the new Empire’s new battle station. We also know from the trailer that the Death Star project is being overseen by an Imperial officer by the name of Orson Krennic.  But little of his story is revealed in the trailers themselves.

There’s a lot of hype surrounding the release of Rogue One. So, to go along with the new film, we naturally have a prequel book: Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel.

All I knew going into this book was that it was going to set up the events leading up the story told in Rogue One, but I had no idea just what that entail. Well, this book starts off by introducing the character of Galen Erso. In fact, the book mainly focuses on this character. It starts during the events of the Clone Wars  and extends several years into the reign of the Empire. In this novel, we learn who Galen is – his philosophies and loyalties. It is immediately clear that Galen is a good man. Not someone we would expect developing weapons for the Empire.

The book also pays a lot of attention to the character of Orson Krennic. It provides background into this character; his rise to power within the ranks of the Empire as well as his friendship to Galen. Fans wondering how someone as good-natured as Galen might end up contributing to a weapon as horrific as the Death Star will be able to see exactly how this scenario is played out. The relationship between Krennic and Galen provides quite a bit of insight here. I’m curious to see how much of this will be seen on the screen.

Having read this book, I certainly feel that I already know quite a bit about some of the characters we are going to see in Rogue One. But, it’s obvious that there’s plenty more going to be introduced in the film that’s not covered here. I suspect that fans who read this book will certainly benefit from the background information, but I do not feel that is required reading for the upcoming movie.

All in all, I found the contents of this novel to provide a lot of interesting detail, but to be overall a bit dry and slow-paced from time to time. Fans clamoring to connect the dots between clues seen in the prequel trilogy and the original film will be pleased.

Story: Detailed and interesting. But as mentioned above, a little slow a times. Keep in mind his novel is intended to provide backstory and set up for events in an upcoming movie. Despite being a prequel, it may very well end up being a better read once you’ve viewed the actual film. We shall see.

Recommended:  For older, legacy fans of Star Wars – or Rogue One specific followers.

Star Wars: Aftermath – Life Debt

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It’s been quite a wait, but finally the second entry in the Aftermath trilogy is here. Well, technically this book came out a few months ago but I’ve only just now finished it. But, it’s still fairly new and with that in mind, I’m here to share my thoughts.

First, let’s discuss the setting of this book. Life Debt takes place after the events of the first Aftermath novel. Many of characters and situations introduced in the first entry are carried over here. This includes some of the new fan-favorites such as Sinjir and Mister Bones. But perhaps more interesting, is the introduction of a new Imperial character by the name of Gallius Rax. I don’t wish to spoil anything… but there’s a lot of fan speculation regarding the identity of this character.

The main focus of the story revolves around Leia’s growing frustration with the current state of the New Republic. Political gridlock has set in. Readers who also are familiar with the novel “Bloodline”, know exactly where this will end up. In the midst of everything going on in the galaxy, Han Solo is missing. Last seen on a quest to free the Wookiee homeworld from the grips of an Imperial remnant, Leia sends the motley crew from Aftermath in search of him.

If you read my review of the original Aftermath novel, you’ll know that although I found the story to be very good overall, it was not without issues. My biggest problem with “Aftermath” was Chuck Wendig’s writing style. It’s punchy, yes. But it feels a bit abrasive – too casual. For me, it seems out of place in the Star Wars universe. Well, I’m glad to say that here in “Life Debt”, his over-the-top style seems to have been toned down a bit. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still obviously Chuck Wendig, but the story reads just a bit more like a traditional – more in line with what you’d find in another Star Wars novel.

Overall, I enjoyed Life Debt quite a bit more than I enjoyed Aftermath. I’m now eagerly awaiting the final chapter of the Aftermath series, where I expect some major revelations and tie-ins with Episode VII will become very apparent.

Story: Like with Aftermath, the contents of this book jump from the main overall plot, to flashes of goings-on within the galaxy after the fall of the Empire. Life Debt does a good job of filling in more of the gaps fans are looking for, while seemingly laying the groundwork for some really big revelations.

Recommended:  FOR HARDCORE FANS.

Star Wars: Bloodline

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As you know, I’m a huge fan of anything Star Wars. I have been since I was a little boy. So far, since the streamlining of the Star Wars universe under the guidance of Disney I’ve been sure to share my thoughts on each new piece of Star Wars lore as it becomes available. Today, I give you my opinion on Bloodline by Claudia Gray.

Claudia Gray is probably best known to Star Wars fans for her novel Lost Stars, an interesting Romeo & Juliet type story that starts in early days of the Empire, and follows a forbidden romance between an Imperial officer and a rebel soldier all the way through the fall of Empire. Now Claudia is back with a new tale that place in years before Episode VII.

Bloodline is largely a political thriller. The story follows Princess Leia as she tries to juggle her duties in the New Republic, while uncovering a secret plot that threatens to bring down the new government that she has spent her life fighting to establish.

For many, this book might be a little hard to digest. There’s quite a bit of lengthy material here regarding the “inside politics” of the New Republic. So some may find a large bit of the book about as exciting as reading a social studies text book. But, personally, I’m a big follower of politics – so this didn’t bother me at all. There’s a lot of backstory to Episode VII here. So fans who are curious about the lead up to the film may want to take the time to give this book a read. – I’d like to say more, but to do so would risk spoiling a large part of the plot. So I’ll refrain. But trust me, fans of the Original Trilogy and of The Force Awakens – this is a book I think you may not want to skip. Mentions of Han Solo, Luke and even Ben Solo are littered throughout the novel. Giving fans a glimpse into the years before The Force Awakens.

Story: Very well written. Fast read, but a bit heavy on the inner-workings of Galactic politics.

Recommended:  FOR HARDCORE FANS.

Star Wars: Battlefront – Twilight Company

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I know I’ve been slacking in my Star Wars canon reviews lately. I’ve been reading, but not posting. That means this entry for Battlefront: Twilight Company is a little behind schedule. – Sorry.

What we have here is an interesting entry into the new Star Wars line-up. Battlefront: Twilight Company is a novel intended to tie-in with the Star Wars Battlefront video game. But in reality, has little to do with the game itself. Instead, we have what is essentially a war novel that goes behind the scenes of many of the battles we’ve seen in the Star Wars series. Now, that’s not a bad thing at all. But to me, the way the story is presented didn’t really have that “Star Wars” feel. I felt like the guts of the story could have easily been inserted into any war of the author’s choosing with little work.

The book follows a number of rebel grunt-soldiers during various battles in the war against the Empire. The action is fast paced, and the dark and gritty presentation is very well done. But there’s really nothing in the novel that makes it required reading for casual fan. In my opinion, this novel would be best enjoyed by fans of other war novels and the hardcore Star Wars fanbase.

Story: The book is well written, albeit a little confusing at times. The characters are interesting, but plentiful. Almost to the point of detracting from the plot.

Recommended:  FOR HARDCORE FANS. – Again, this is a sci-fi war novel first, a subplot to Star Wars second. If you’re on the fence, this is certainly a skip-able entry in the new canon, but don’t misunderstand – the story is certainly enjoyable.

Star Wars: Before the Awakening

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By now, I’m sure that everyone who wants to has seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As far as the film goes, I’m waiting for the home release next month before talking about the movie itself, but in keeping with my tradition of reviewing Star Wars novels, I wanted to take a moment to discuss “Before the Awakening”.

Marketed towards young adults, Before the Awakening is truly a must read for any Star Wars fan. This book is actually a collection of three short stories. Each story focusing on the characters of Finn, Rey, and Poe – just before the events of the Force Awakens. The stories do a wonderful job of providing just enough backstory on the characters to flesh them out a bit without ruining any of the real mystery behind the characters themselves.

I burned through this book in the course of one evening and I was thoroughly entertained the entire time. If you can’t enough of this new generation of Star Wars, do yourself a favor and grab this collection. It can be found for under $10 on Amazon and at most retailers.

Story: All three tales are fantastic. I found Rey’s story to be my favorite. But I really enjoyed the behind-the-scenes insights on both Finn and Poe’s origins as well. Great stuff.

Recommended:  FOR ALL FANS. – If you enjoyed the Force Awakens, this book is for you. If you want more of a Star Wars fix, don’t hesitate. This book is well worth your time.

Star Wars: Journey to The Force Awakens (Young Adult Trilogy)

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Amidst the madness that is the holiday season, home repairs and everything else I finally managed to read all three of the “Young Adult” Star Wars novels that were released last month. These books, unlike Lost Stars, are truly aimed towards younger readers both in size and content/vocabulary. But I’m happy to report that this fact doesn’t make them any less worthy of a read. The writing and content of all three of these books are surprisingly excellent.

These novels are truly companions to each other in more ways than one. First, each book starts with a short prologue, which actually takes place in between Episode VI and VII. This is usually done a vehicle in which to look back at a “tale of yesteryear” which is where the actual story of the novel takes place. During this prologue (and  epilogue) we are given some hints and glimpses as to the state of our favorite heroes in a post-RotJ setting. This is very well done, and extremely exciting for any Star Wars fan who is eagerly awaiting the upcoming movie.

The first book I read was “Weapon of a Jedi”. This is an adventure that focuses on Luke Skywalker and is set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes back. In it, we see a version of Luke that is just beginning to emerge from his phase as a naïve farm boy into a more inquisitive adult who is desperate to learn anything he can about the legacy of the Jedi. This book seems to take place sometime around the events of the Star Wars comic book by Marvel and the Heir to the Jedi novel. In my opinion, despite being aimed at younger readers, this book  is actually a much better portrayal of Luke in this time period than Heir to the Jedi. There’s no noodle scooting to be found here.

The second I picked up was “Smuggler’s Run”. This novel focuses on Han Solo and Chewbacca. It is also set around the same timeframe, between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes back. This book is fantastic. It captures the persona of Han Solo from this time period perfectly and has a surprising amount of action and storytelling packed into such a short book. This is easily my favorite of the three.

Finally, I read “Moving Target”. This book, unlike the others, is set between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. This novel focuses largely on Princess Leia. It provides some really good insight into just what role she played in the rebellion as well as gives some backstory on the events directly leading up to RotJ. There’s also a small appearance here by Luke Skywalker that I found quite interesting. This book is probably my second favorite of the trilogy.

All in all, these books are worth reading even if you’re an adult. They may be aimed at a younger audience, but they are not watered down in any way. Aside from their size, they read just like any adult Star Wars fiction. You can tell just how much dedication and though the authors put behind these novels. In my opinion, they really make a great lead in to the new film, which is now less than ten days away.

Due to their size and simultaneous release, I’m reviewing these together.

Story: Surprisingly thoughtful and well written. Great for old fans of the series and anyone looking forward to the new film. Each book focuses on a specific character from the original trilogy.

Recommended:  FOR ALL FANS

Star Wars: Lost Stars

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Just the other day, I finally finished the next book on my Star Wars “to-read” list; Lost Stars.  This book was marketed as a young adult novel, but it is anything but. If you’ve been on the fence about this one for that reason, cast aside all doubt and dive in. Lost Stars is eloquently written and it’s actually one of the more “adult” Star Wars novels I’ve ever read.

The book starts between Episode III and IV, and follows the lives of two childhood friends who meet in the early days of the Empire. Throughout the story, you see as they grow and mature, eventually enlisting in Imperial service. Essentially, this ends up becoming a romance story that takes place during the time of the Original Trilogy. We get to see key events such as the Battle of Yavin, Hoth, Endor, and even the new famed Battle of Jakku – all through the eyes of these two characters. While this could easily end up feeling forced, the author does a wonderful job of making this work. The characters of Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree are WONDERFUL additions to the Star Wars universe.

When I say this novel is “adult”, I mean that all aspects of the relationship between these characters is explored. Even the subject of sexual activity is covered here, but it very tastefully done. Regardless, this was not something I expected from a novel being marketed as “young adult”. For many, the subject matter and sheer size of the book itself may seem a little off-putting. Romance is not a subject one typically thinks of when picking up a Star Wars novel, but it works very well here. Don’t let this fool you. This is a fantastic read.  All that aside, a lot of this book features behind-the-scenes detail of already familiar events, from an Imperial perspective. This alone ends up being a very interesting part of the novel. I can’t recommend this one enough. In many ways, this book serves as a better set up to Episode VII than even “Aftermath”.

I can only hope that we will see more of the lead characters presented here in future works, maybe even Episode VII…

Story: Excellent plotline. The author does a great job of introducing two new characters and actually make you care about them. Not to mention, the storytelling is second-to-none.

Recommended:  FOR ALL FANS (Guys, if your wife/girlfriend typically only reads “girly-books” – this might make a good launching point into Star Wars fiction for her.)

Star Wars: Aftermath

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The first post-Return of the Jedi novel in the new Star Wars cannon is here! Star Wars Aftermath. Without spoiling too much the book, I’m going to do my best to share my thoughts on this crucial entry in the Star Wars universe.

First, let’s talk about what this book is and isn’t. While this story does take place shortly after RoTJ, it is not exactly a bridge to the upcoming Episode VII. This book is the first in what will be known as the “Aftermath Trilogy”. Part 2 and 3 will come out after the release of VII. In this entry, we get to see the state of the galaxy immediately after the fall of the Emperor. The uprising that is taking place, the political position of both the New Republic (alliance) and the fractured Imperial remnants.

The book focuses mostly on new characters, but there are some familiar faces. Wedge Antilles plays a large role in the novel, and we also get a few short insights into some other popular characters. What stands out most about this book, and also what happens to be the source of much criticism, is the writing style. I’ve never read any other works by this author, Chuck Wendig. To be honest, unless he writes more Star Wars, I probably won’t again. The pace of the writing is very odd and it reads very strange. It is unnecessarily punchy and at times feels unprofessional. The effect of this does give the book a somewhat cinematic feel, which is interesting, but overall I found it to be very distracting.

I often found myself reading the story and being very into what I was reading, only to encounter a page break followed by a brief description of new un-introduced characters involved in some other  event. Then, as soon as that is over, these characters are never heard from again. I get what the author is trying to do. Yes, there’s the main story of Aftermath, but peppered in are also insights to what is going on in other parts of the galaxy. This is actually a pretty neat idea, but I feel that it should have been structured a bit better. I don’t know. Odd.

In terms of the story itself, I found the plot of Aftermath to be quite interesting. I enjoyed the overall story-arch as well as the characters that were introduced. For the first time ever, I found myself actually liking the prequel-era Battle Droids. (If you read, you’ll see what I mean). I’m very interested to see if any of these characters will make an appearance in Episode VII. (I do have some suspicions about one of them.)

Overall, despite some flaws in the writing, this is pretty much a must read for any hardcore Star Wars fan.

Story: Great plot and lore into the final days of the Empire and the rise of the New Republic. The writing style takes some getting used to.

Recommended:  FOR ALL FANS

Star Wars: Dark Disciple

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September is nearly upon us and with it comes a torrent of new Star Wars novels. In fact, in many ways, September will herald the beginning of the official Star Wars Episode VII hype. The new novels will bear the tagline: Journey to the Force Awakens, as will a slew of new comic books. So, in preparation for the upcoming flood I have finally caught up with the latest novel in the official Star Wars canon: Dark Disciple.

Here we have a Clone Wars-era novel. In fact, the story contained in this book was based on an arc written, but never aired for the final season of the Clone Wars television show. The book focuses on character Quinlan Vos, a Jedi Master who teams up with the unlikely ally of Asajj Ventress. For those unaware, Ventress was a former sith apprentice of Count Dooku who ended up turning on her master and going rogue. In this book, the Jedi order have decided to take the rather unorthodox step of assassinating Dooku in attempts to end the war. To do so, they send Vos undercover to seek out and befriend Ventress in attempt to take out her former master.

I must say, when it comes to Star Wars, I was never very passionate of the Clone Wars television series. It certainly had its moments, but overall I felt it never really stood up well against the films themselves. As a result, I was not expecting much when I started reading this book. I’m happy to report, that I was dead wrong. I loved this book. In fact, I daresay that Dark Disciple has been my favorite out of all the new Star Wars novels released thus far. The characters of Quinlan Vos and Asajj Ventress are so well represented in this book, that it makes me want to give Clone Wars another watch just to see if perhaps I was missing something the first time around. I would love elaborate on that more, but I fear by doing so I might give away some really great plot points of the book. It is truly an amazing read.

The book started off a bit slow at first, but by around 30% of the way in, I was hooked. If you’re a fan of the Clone Wars era, this book is a no-brainer. You must read it. Even if you’re not, there is some really enjoyable content here.

Story: The final season of Clone Wars was amazing, this book, like the Darth Maul comic continues that trend. Christie Golden is an amazing author. Very readable. Classic Star Wars.

Recommended:  FOR ALL FANS