Star Wars Revenge of the Sith – Spanish Dub/English Subtitles

Overview

The Clone Wars have been raging for three years. The Separatists have boldly assaulted Coruscant and abducted the Chancellor. Anakin and Obi-Wan engage in a daring rescue that will set into motion the end of the Clone Wars, the rise of the Galactic Empire, and change the Jedi Order forever.

Revenge of the Sith blu-ray
Revenge of the Sith blu-ray cover. Copyright Disney and Lucasfilm

Story:  8

It’s hard to know if this movie would be as good without the context of episodes 1 and 2. I almost wonder if I could do my own “machete” order that starts with The Clone Wars animated series and continues with Revenge of the Sith. Context aside, this movie tells a clear story of Anakin’s manipulation and fall. Palpatine preys on Anakin and works to drive a wedge between him and the Jedi  Order. And while this is the culmination of Palpatine’s conspiring, I think the fall of the Jedi Order and the Republic are clearly communicated in this story. I would love to tweak some things, but of all the prequel films so far, this one works the best with minimal (though still occasional) bad dialogue.

Characters:  8

This is Anakin’s story, and with the Spanish dub, it really works. The dialogue and the performance align better than they did in Attack of the Clones. There are a few missed opportunities to drive home Anakin’s mental and emotional struggle (and it would have been nice to see more wedges placed between Anakin and the Order in the last film), but overall, this story works.

Padme, unfortunately, has very little to do but be the pregnant wife and victim. The strength and drive of the character from previous films is missing. Her character beats fall flat, and Portman’s performance seems weaker than anything we’ve seen of her up to this point. Maybe she saw that the end of her contract was near.

Ewan McGregor is great, as always. Ian McDiarmid turns in a memorable performance, and while he goes often goes over-the-top, it at least works for the dialogue he had to quote. But, British over-the-top can still be fun. And I think this is where the characters largely succeed in this movie: they are fun where before, they weren’t.

Themes: 8

While the rise of tyranny is a strong theme in this movie, I was actually more engaged in the tension between the Jedi and the Sith. While the Sith are still somewhat enigmatic, mainly being characterized as “virtually identical to the Jedi,” the Sith don’t seem to have the detachment of the Jedi. The Jedi and Sith seem to be opposite extremes. And while there is truth in Yoda’s advice that death comes to all and Anakin should learn to let go, not recognizing the pain in Anakin pushed him further toward the Sith. This was a grievous struggle for Anakin. Palpatine effectively maneuvered him into a place where his idealism came into conflict with Jedi teaching. Dooku was a Sith Lord, and so he should die because Jedi kill Sith. But Anakin regretted this action. In an attempt to redeem himself, he urged Mace Windu to take Palpatine prisoner so he could be put on trial. Mace refused, revealing to Anakin that his idealism may have been misplaced.

I still think, however, that the believability and tragedy of Anakin’s fall would have benefited from more information about the Sith and their disagreement with the Jedi about the nature of Force.

Presentation: 8

This movie starts strong with one of the best depictions of full-on space warfare I’ve seen in a Star Wars film. It reminded me of those moments in the Lord of the Rings trilogy when the camera would zoom over the caverns of Isengard to Gandalf, then down the side of Orthanc into the orc forges. The perspective shifts from high-level to personal, connecting to Obi-Wan and Anakin in their fighters. In fact, Lucas may have been paying a slight homage to this. Even the music starts with a dominant drumbeat.

There is a level of passion and excitement on the screen, which makes me think Lucas’s heart was more fully in this film, that this was the movie he wanted to make, but felt the others needed to provide context. This movie has great action choreography, a tighter pace for the storytelling, and more gorgeous cinematography.

Anakin walks to the Senate building
Copyright Disney and Lucasfilm.
Commander Cody recieves Order 66
Copyright Disney and Lucasfilm.
Ki Adi Mundi betrayed
Copyright Disney and Lucasfilm.
Lord Vader enters the Jedi Temple
Copyright Disney and Lucasfilm.

Personal Enjoyment: 8

After the disappointment of Attack of the Clones, I was worried about Revenge of the Sith. These concerns were unfounded. Apart from the occasional off line and some over-the-top performances by Natalie Portman and Ian McDiarmid, this movie was far stronger that the previous two. However, being so close made these occasional moments stand out. They left me wishing for one more script draft and one more take on a few scenes. That said, I was eager to continue the saga after finishing this film. If I had more time, I probably would have jumped right in to A New Hope. George Lucas left me wanting more, and that is certainly a great way to end this trilogy.

Final Rating: 8/10

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Star Wars: Lost Stars

Overview

Lost Stars is by Claudia Gray, and it is the first Star Wars young adult romance novel. I was apprehensive about picking this up when I first saw it. I don’t remember hearing about it when the Journey to the Force Awakens line was announced. But word of mouth has been positive. In fact, word of mouth has largely been that Aftermath, the “adult” novel set after Return of the Jedi in the new canon was a disappointment and that Lost Stars is the novel we had all been waiting for. I haven’t read Aftermath, so I can’t judge this, but I do know of its reputation. I’ll get there soon enough.

Lost Stars Cover

Story:  7

Lost Stars is about Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree. Both are from the planet Jelucan. Thane is an aristocrat and Ciena is more of a peasant villager. Their positions in society would normally keep them apart, but they bond over their love of flying. When they were young, they met (and impressed) Wilhuf Tarkin. Both dream of joining the Imperial Academy. They spend their youth training with the Kyrell V-171. They eventually join the Academy, they become star pupils, and they each have promising careers ahead of them. Well, until the Death Star and Alderaan. After Alderaan, Thane finds his loyalty shaken. Ciena’s loyalty is shaken as well, but the loss of innocent Imperial lives (and friends) at the hands of Rebel terrorists ultimately strengthens her resolve. Soon, the childhood friends find themselves on opposite sides of the galactic conflict and struggling with their growing feelings toward one another. In all, a very personal story played out on the galactic scope we have seen in Star Wars. Everything culminates in the Battle of Jakku, the final stand of the Empire against the Rebels.

While the story is well told, it shines with the new material: the Jelucani culture, the experience of the Imperial Academy, Thane’s time on the crew of The Mighty Oak, and the Battle of Jakku. But I confess I lost interested when the novel covered episodes from the original trilogy. Sometimes it seemed like Thane or Ciena were doing things just off camera. Ciena disabled the hyperdrive of the Millennium Falcon on Bespin; Thane was a soldier who investigated the abandoned Rebel base on Dantooine. It put me in mind of some Lord of the Rings video games where your character is part of the B-Team, having the same experiences as the leads, though of slightly less importance. This can be fun, but I think I have grown weary of it. So much of the emphasis in Star Wars right now is on the Imperial/Rebellion era. This feels like the Star Wars galaxy is shrinking. But this is also why I enjoyed the moments that took us to new places. I’m eager to see this new era of Star Wars build the canon, not give fans more of the same.

Characters:  8

Ciena and Thane are memorable and distinct. Because Gray goes deep into their heads and emotions, we get a lot of information about who they are and what motivates them. I enjoyed Gray’s perspective on why someone would continue to support the Empire after Alderaan. She created Imperial characters that were not evil or corrupted by Sith. These were people in conflict with their personal ideologies and trying to find a way to remain faithful to their beliefs even when evidence challenged that. This is a very human struggle. And since the Empire as portrayed in the original trilogy was not based in religion or mysticism, this had to be a secular struggle.

But along with Ciena and Thane, many of the secondary characters are good. We meet people who are killed in the first Death Star. We see how an Alderaanian officer responds and copes with his loss. We meet new friends and old, and all the characterization seem to fit.

Vision: 8

What was it trying to do?

Lost Stars tried to be an entertaining, YA Star Wars novel while shining new light on what happened after Return of the Jedi.

Was it successful in doing it?

Yeah, I would say so. I can’t speak for where it ranks in the YA romance genre, but it was largely entertaining.

Was this a good Journey to the Force Awakens?

Yes and no. Again, where we covered old ground, I was less engaged, but I enjoyed learning about the Battle of Jakku. Even more, I enjoyed seeing some of the power struggle after the Emperor’s death. There was good stuff in these sections, though far too little.

Style: 8

Gray’s style is immensely readable. I only had two complaints: the font (not her fault) and a few places where transitions weren’t clear. This may have been an editing issue. While we spend far more time in characters’ heads and emotions than I was accustomed to for a Star Wars novel, this is likely due to YA conventions. Regardless, this book can probably be read over a couple of days, despite being over 500 pages.

Personal Enjoyment: 7

As stated before, the parts of this novel I didn’t enjoy as much were the “behind the black” moments, the moments where this novel takes place just off camera of the original trilogy. I would have preferred more post-Jedi content, but what we got was good. And I really enjoyed the moments on Jeluca and with The Mighty Oak crew. Lost Stars isn’t my favorite of the new novel in the canon, but it is certainly an enjoyable one.

Final Rating: 7.6/10

Star Wars: Lords of the Sith

Overview

Lords of the Sith is by Paul S. Kemp, and based on its strength, I am looking forward to reading his other Star Wars novels.

While Darth Vader and The Emperor are used to sell this novel, and they are indeed major characters, the novel spends just as much time on the leaders of the Free Ryloth movement. Ryloth is the home planet of the Twi’leks, and it has known enslavement and oppression for a great deal of its history. Republic or Empire, the regimes change, but the approach doesn’t. However, the movement has a great opportunity as The Emperor and Darth Vader have scheduled a visit to Ryloth. This is the perfect opportunity for an assassination.

Lords of the Sith cover art

 

Character: 10

All of the characters worked for me in this novel. In fact, the relationship between Darth Vader and the Emperor was fascinating. This story takes place between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, though it is closer to Sith than Hope. Kemp’s portrayal of the Sith lords works toward bridging the gap between where we last saw Anakin Skywalker and where we first (in real-world chronology) saw Darth Vader. In many ways, this is a psychologically abusive relationship where the Force is just one more tool used to oppress a person’s autonomy. The Emperor constantly goads Vader into remembering the most painful moments of his past, keeping him emotionally enslaved to his darkest fears and anger, and repeatedly emphasizing that he, the Emperor, knows more and is in control. He allows Vader moments to consider asserting himself, but always reiterates that he knows everything Vader thinks and feels. In the end, Vader doesn’t hate or fear the Emperor; he submits because it is the only option he has. It is the only option the Emperor leaves open to him.

Another double act in this novel is that of Cham Syndula and Isval. Cham is the leader of the Free Ryloth movement, and Isval is one of his most-trusted (I guess an organization such as this doesn’t have military rank) co-leaders? A little less leader? She’s interesting, regardless. Cham and Isval are a type of counter-point to The Emperor and Vader. They are leader and subordinate; they are the calm and controlled planner and the angry enforcer. They are different from the Sith, however, because their relationship is built on respect, not control. Cham and Isval are still at odds, though, because of their unspoken love for one another. The two characters are interesting in their own right, and their relationship (or fear of one) elevates them to a level of sympathy that I rarely feel toward characters in books.

The final double act is Moff Mors and Belkor Dray. This is the most chaotic of the leader/subordinate relationships in the novel. Mors is hedonistic and incompetent. Belkor is calculating and calm. But this relationship is upended when the assassination attempt occurs. Belkor thought he was using Cham’s group to subvert Mors. Instead, Cham used and manipulated Belkor. When the targets were not quickly eliminated, Belkor’s carefully constructed plan fell apart, and his cool demeanor broke. Mors, on the other hand, gets a surprising amount of great characterization as Kemp explores why she became a bad leader. Someone in Palpatine’s Empire doesn’t rise through the ranks if he or she is incompetent, and Mors is no different. She was quite good early in her career, but tragedy broke her, and her slide into seeming incompetence was actually a slide into despair. Kemp surprised me by bringing depth to this villain. He made her sympathetic, which was unexpected and gains major points from me.

Story:  8

Of all the novels I’ve read in the new canon, Lords of the Sith is the most cinematic, the most suited for adaptation into a film. It has three major acts, one that introduces the characters and their motivations while setting up the Imperial visit to Ryloth, which leads to act two, the assassination attempt. The third act is the hunt for Vader and Palpatine. Despite knowing that the two Sith would survive, there was still surprise as I wasn’t sure which of the new characters would live or die. Particularly chilling, however, was Palpatine’s lack of concern over the events that transpired. He was always calm, always in control. I never thought the assassination would succeed, but the question of how bad it would be for the heroes was ever-present. Overall, I think the story was strong, with only a few places where my attention wavered. As the new canon goes, that’s pretty good.

Vision: 10

What was it trying to do?

This novel attempted to bridge the characterizations of Darth Vader and Palpatine between the prequels and the original trilogy. It attempted to bring more depth to Anakin and his journey to the Dark Side by showing how he viewed his former self. It also provided a fascinating look into the Vader/Palpatine relationship, which is portrayed as somewhat psychologically abusive. Additionally, the novel continued to set up the idea that disparate rebel groups would one day need to unify into a larger movement. The Empire is large and organized. Disparate cells could not hope to take down something this big.

Was it successful in doing it?

Yes

Relevance to New Canon?

There is plenty here that applies to the new canon. We meet Hera Syndula’s father, thus tying the novel to Rebels. Again, the novel bridges the years between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. It also showed that while knowledge of Vader’s mystique and prowess were spreading (and sometimes dismissed as rumors—to the horror of those who found out otherwise), the Emperor worked hard to make sure his status as a Sith was known only to Vader and his personal guard. Anyone who saw him use his powers would die.

There is plenty in this novel to enhance the new Star Wars lore.

Personal Enjoyment: 8

I truly enjoyed this one. While my attention waned a bit in the last third, Kemp kept me engaged through the majority of the novel, and I always looked forward to reading it. The strength of the new characters really worked for me. My only real issue was with the fight against the predators (Lyleks) in the forest. I don’t think I would say that it was unnecessary; I just didn’t care for it.

Style/Craft: 9

Kemp is a good writer, and as I said earlier, I look forward to reading his other Star Wars novels, especially those set in the Old Republic era as I’m on a bit of an Old Republic kick right now.

Final Rating: 9/10

Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi

Overview

Heir to the Jedi is a canon Star Wars novel by Kevin Hearne. It takes place after Star Wars: A New Hope and follows Luke Skywalker as he goes on two missions: meeting with Rodian arms dealers and smuggling an Imperial code-breaker out of Imperial employ. Joining him on this mission is Nakari Kelen, a pilot who is the daughter of the founder of Kelen Biolab and a liaison between her father and the Rebel Alliance. She is also Luke’s love interest in this book.

From what I read in my extremely brief research on this novel, it was originally part of the Empire & Rebellion series of novels that is now part of the Legends line. I guess Hearne lucked out.

Also, the novel is in first person, told from Luke’s point of view.

Heir to the Jedi cover

Character: 5

Okay, let’s get this out of the way. I think the first-person perspective hurts the book a bit because I never quite felt Hearne captured Luke’s voice. This is the risk an author takes when using an established and popular character from a franchise and writing from his or her perspective. Maybe if the narrative was third person, Luke would have come across as plausible, but since we spend the entire novel in his head, it never quite worked for me. I realize that the Luke of this novel is the wide-eyed idealist of A New Hope, but the characterization just felt off for most of the novel.

The new characters of Nakari Kelen and Drusil were interesting and distinct. Nakari, however, had a major flaw in that she had never appeared in another Star Wars story, yet it was clear that she was influential to Luke’s journey. Teachers in Star Wars don’t fare well. From the moment she became important (well, from the moment she was introduced) I figured she would either die or be outed as a traitor, thus leaving Luke with the baggage of betrayal. The latter option would have been the more interesting one, and could have been explored in more stories set between Hope and Empire. Unfortunately, this was not the option the story took.

Story: 6

Similar to Tarkin, the story is a bit light. There are two distinct parts to the novel: the arms deal and the smuggling. I thought the arms deal was interesting in that is showed an aspect of the Rebellion that would have been a real need: supplies. It’s a strange Star Wars novel where the administration and organization of the Rebel Alliance is the more ground-breaking material. But along with that, the arms deal led Luke to investigate a shrine to a long-dead Jedi master on Rodia. I guess I’m just a sucker for pilgrimage in any form because I enjoyed Luke’s brief interlude to the gravesite and his internal uncertainty of what it means to be a Jedi and use the Force, questions for which he has precious few answers with Obi-Wan’s too-short tutelage. While these ideas recurred throughout the novel, most of the time they were addressed with Nakari being generally encouraging. While this wasn’t particularly satisfying to me, I guess it emphasizes the degree to which the Empire had purged access to information on the Jedi.

Vision: 4/10

What was it trying to do?

Apart from showing how Luke started to develop his skills in the Force without a teacher, I’m not sure.

Was it successful in doing it?

If I’m not sure about what it was going for, then it didn’t succeed for me.

Relevance to New Canon?

This story is the most disposable story of the few I’ve read. If I’m correct in my assessment of the main point of the story, I don’t think it was needed. It doesn’t add to or take away from my experience of Star Wars. This is mildly annoying because when the word “canon” is invoked, an authenticity and importance is imparted on the work. Perhaps unfairly, “canon” causes my expectations to rise. Given how many amazing novels are in the Legends line, anything that isn’t significantly above average feels like a letdown. It’s unfair to Hearne that his novel could be held up to any of Timothy Zahn’s novels as an argument for the superiority of the Legends line. This is unfair because, first of all, Hearne isn’t Zahn and no one should expect him to be, and, second, there are some Legends novels that I think rank well below Heir to the Jedi. Unfortunately, Heir to the Jedi is placed early in the Canon line (from a publication standpoint) when many people are ravenous for Star Wars content in the lead-up to The Force Awakens. I read Heir to the Jedi after TFA, so I wasn’t particularly disappointed in my search for clues. But I also wonder what in this novel might have important in the new canon:

  • A New Dawn was obvious in is telling of the Kanan and Hera’s first adventure.
  • Tarkin told us how Vader and Tarkin first worked together and reintroduced Tarkin to set up for his appearance in Rebels. It also showed us that the Rebel Alliance was still a long way off.
  • Heir to the Jedi showed us that Luke could use the Force to move a noodle.

Personal Enjoyment: 6

Ok, even though I think I’ve been a bit hard on the novel, I never actually came around to disliking it. Much like Tarkin, I never got tired of reading it. Unlike Tarkin, however, I rarely had moments of, “That was good.”

Style/Craft: 7

Very easy to follow, but again, I never really felt like I was reading the words and thoughts of Luke Skywalker. I’m not sure the first person perspective worked for this story since the voice didn’t feel right to me.

Final Rating: 5.6/10

Star Wars: Tarkin

Overview

Tarkin is written by James Luceno, an author who has written quite a few Star Wars novels in the latter half of the Legends era. I’ve only read one other of his Star Wars novels: Cloak of Deception. I thought his portrayal of Palpatine’s political machinations was fascinating, but I didn’t engage much with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan’s mission to take out a pirate organization. I was eager to see how Luceno approached the new canon. I know his books are very popular among fans, and having a Legends author in the fold lends some strong credibility and acceptance to the new canon.

star-wars-tarkin-cover
The cover for Star Wars: Tarkin

Character:   8

The leads were excellent. First up is, obviously, Wilhuff Tarkin, the Moff who appeared in one Star Wars movie, yet had enough authority to give Vader commands. Luceno does a good job of exploring Tarkin’s past and how it shaped him, not just military events but family ideology. Tarkin is an unpleasant character in A New Hope. He is cold and unflappable. Luceno provides a background that makes that coldness believable. I completely buy that the man in this novel is the same as the man in A New Hope. Likewise, Darth Vader is an interesting character, though he seems to be in a type of transition. He is used to working alone to get things done, but that isn’t how an Empire works. From a certain point of view, this novel is also about providing Vader with an equal, not in the Force but in ruthless competency. This is a tall challenge, since the Force is undeniably powerful and can dominate just about anyone. For Tarkin, however, the Force is just a tool that some people have access to and others do not. He isn’t in awe of the Force. He has seen how the Force doesn’t automatically make Jedi better than others. He has personally proven that drive and determination more than make up for the Force in some circumstances.

The lead characters are rounded out by Emperor Palpatine, who is putting both Tarkin and Vader to the test to root out power-hungry Imperials who are overstepping their bounds, and Teller, leader of a band of resistance fighters. Teller and his crew were, to me, the weakest of the cast. I rarely remembered who was who and never much cared reading about them.

Story: 8

Tarkin begins with an attack on one of the outposts that Moff Tarkin oversees, and his success in repelling the attack leads him to consult on what might be the beginning of a resistance movement. Tarkin and Vader are sent by Palpatine to investigate intelligence to that effect. Vader initially resents having a partner, but the two grow to respect one another’s abilities. The situation is made worse, however, as Tarkin’s private ship, the Carrion Spike, is stolen by the resistance group. Being a top-of-the-line ship, the Spike is extremely valuable for guerilla attacks. Tarkin and Vader must get the ship back and cut the resistance movement off before it grows.

The “present day” narrative is intercut with scenes from Tarkin’s youth when he learned his family’s legacy, the path to gaining respect despite being from the Outer Rim, how to survive in the wild and to hunt dangerous predators. Luceno fleshes out Tarkin’s character so thoroughly that he is a completely believable villain shaped by the influences of his life. While it is occasionally nice to see villains with redeeming qualities, in the case of Tarkin, his life led him to be so single-minded that if you don’t share his ideology, you are insignificant and weak. Props to Luceno for making this work. My only real complaint about the story is the occasional dry bits with the resistance group. I also felt that at times the plot was not complex enough for the page count. If I had engaged more with all the characters, however, I doubt I would have felt this way.

Vision: 9

What was it trying to do?

Help us understand Tarkin and to show the working relationship of Tarkin and Vader, as well as why Tarkin was valuable to the Empire

Was it successful in doing it?

Without a doubt, it was successful.

Relevance to Canon?

This novel certainly adds depth to Tarkin’s character, and I think it even adds to A New Hope. And when Tarkin showed up on Rebels not long after this novel was published, there was added weight.

Personal Enjoyment: 7

I never got tired of reading it, but I didn’t often think “Oh, I should read Tarkin!” As mentioned earlier, the scenes with the resistance fighters didn’t do much for me. I enjoyed the conversations between Vader and Tarkin, I enjoyed young Tarkin’s trials on Belderone, and I enjoyed Palpatine’s attempts to root out deception among his inner circle. While this comprised the majority of the novel, the sections with the resistance and some of Tarkin’s early military victories weren’t to my tastes. And I’ll admit, I generally don’t care for space battles on the page. Only a handful of Star Wars authors have been able to keep me engaged during space battles (Zahn, Stackpole, Allston). Luceno is not currently on that list. That said, however, the lead character is where this book shines, and it is worth the read if you are interested in what made this particular man.

Style/Craft: 8

Luceno’s style is strong, but there are quite a few places where it is also dry. There are pages and pages of space battle tactics and espionage. Some writers make these elements work for me, and I’m sad to say Luceno isn’t one of them. However, this doesn’t mean he is a poor writer. Far from it. His prose is strong and effective. He has a distinct style, but based on the two novels I’ve read, that style doesn’t seem to have much room for humor. Granted, I wouldn’t expect much humor from Tarkin, so I don’t hold that against him here, but I’m curious to see how he handles characters who are more sarcastic or light, a Han Solo or Lando Calrissian, or how he handles C-3PO and R2-D2’s banter. Most of his novels, however, seem to deal with darker fare, so I’ll keep that in mind as I investigate him further. I admit that I am intrigued, and one day I hope to read more of his Legends work.

Final Rating: 8/10

Star Wars: A New Dawn

Overview

Star Wars: A New Dawn is the first novel released in the new Star Wars canon. When Disney acquired the Star Wars property, they decided to wipe the canon clean, leaving just the movies and the Clone Wars animated series. All the novels, comics, and video games were officially relegated to a “Legends” status. These were never officially a part of the Star Wars canon, but they existed in an “as good as” state. However, in an effort to streamline the continuity, Disney instituted the Star Wars Story Group, which now oversees all story content, from movies and television to novels and comics. Everything novel written since Star Wars: New Dawn is now canon

A New Dawn is written by John Jackson Miller, who wrote the Obi Wan novel and the Knights of the Old Republic comic, both of which are now part of the Legends continuity. A New Dawn tells the story of how Kenan and Hera, two characters from the Rebels animated series, first met. When I read the novel, I had not yet seen Rebels, so I went in to the story without any knowledge of who these two characters were.

star-wars-A-New-Dawn-cover
Star Wars: A New Dawn cover

Character: 7

This is a bit retrospect, but now that I’ve seen Rebels, I think Hera and Kenan were handled well. Since this takes place prior to that series, Kenan is a quite rough around the edges and trying to lay low since he was being trained as a Jedi before Order 66. He tries to avoid using the Force, but his Jedi training tugs at him. It is hard to lay low when your previous ideology (one that you have to hide out of necessity) compels you to fight injustice and help those in need. He is initially drawn to Hera because she is attractive. Hera eventually sees Kenan’s potential as a fighter, but she is resistant to his advances. She has a mission, and Hera is focused. Having seen the first season of Rebels, this fits quite well. These are the early days of the Rebel Alliance . . . so early that there really isn’t an alliance per se. There are disorganized resistance groups, one of which Hera is connected to, but we get few details beyond that.

There are two villains in the story: Captain Sloane, an Imperial captain who hopes to command her own Star Destroyer, and Count Vidian, an efficiency specialist who is ambitious and willing to do whatever it takes to make his rivals for the Emperor’s favor look bad—even if that means sacrificing human lives. Sloane is an interesting character. She gets her promotion after Vidian kills her commanding officer, but she then has to walk a dangerous path as Vidian is unpredictable and prone to outbursts. As for Vidian, I didn’t care for him as a villain. He seemed too stock for me, lacking nuance or any potentially redeeming characteristics. I suppose you could say, “Hey, this is Star Wars. It usually deals in black and white. It’s space opera, and you want nuance?” But this is also a novel, and it gives writers the opportunity to delve deeper into character and motivation. Vidian is just your typical evil character. He has no regard for human life, which in itself could be interesting if more was made of it and how he came to view life this way. He is part machine and he is prone to outbursts. Sounds familiar.

The cast is rounded out with Skelly, a miner turned terrorist, and Zaluna, an Imperial intelligence operative who monitors recordings and transmissions. They work well enough.

Story: 7

The story was a fairly typical Star Wars type story: rag-tag band of rebels, some less eager than others, who team up to take down the Empire. Though, in this case, it is just one Imperial operation run by a cybernetic madman. There are some stabs at social commentary, but the novel seems mainly focused on setting up Rebels (which had not debuted at publication), portraying the early days of the Empire when it is still consolidating and building power, and showing the infancy of the rebellion.

Vision: 8

What was it trying to do?

Again, set up Rebels, portray the rising power of the Empire and the early days of the rebellion. There’s not really much more than this.

Was it successful in doing it?

All-in-all, yes. We see the competition between power-players in the Empire. We see the desperation of ordinary people on the ground and the determination of people who would likely be instrumental in starting the Rebel Alliance.

Relevance to New Canon?

This novel fills in some of the time between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. You don’t need the story to enjoy the existing Star Wars movies, nor do you really need it to enjoy Rebels. I don’t think my understanding of any of the characters was affected by anything in this novel.

Personal Enjoyment: 6

My favorite part of the novel is after Kenan, Hera, Skelly, and Zaluna capture a transport bus. Zaluna realizes they need to deactivate the surveillance equipment in the bus. When questioned why a bus would have such equipment, Zaluna says that it wasn’t initially for spycraft. It was installed for advertising purposes, analyzing workers and what they liked to eat and drink, which would in turn be used to personalize advertising. When the business folded and the Empire rose, the equipment was put to different uses. I thought this was a clever bit of commentary given the constant monitoring that occurs online and the algorithms that track our online viewing and purchases to customize ads. The infrastructure is there.

Other than this section, however, I never really lost myself in the book. I was rarely engaged. I enjoyed Kenan but wasn’t very interested when he was not part of the narrative. I think I would have enjoyed this story as a comic book, but as a novel it was largely a miss for me. I don’t think it was a waste of time and money, but it isn’t one I will revisit unless I do a canon read-through, which I may well be nerdy enough to do one day.

Style/Craft: 8

As stated before, I think this would have been an excellent story for a comic book. I think some of the characterization would have worked better in comic form. (Not that comics need lack character depth; sometimes the art makes up for what the words don’t convey.) As a novel, it is fine. Jackson’s prose is good for the story he is telling, but I think I would have liked something a bit more gripping. Or a different medium entirely.

Final Rating: 7.2/10

Star Wars Canon Thoughts and Rambles

When Disney announced that the Star Wars Expanded Universe had been rebranded as the Legends line and that a new, official Star Wars canon would replace it, I was a bit sad but overall, I was excited. While the Expanded Universe held a lot of great memories for me, it was never officially canon, and I was excited to see what a streamlined, considered canon would look like. I remember the early days of the EU, when Timothy Zahn had completed his trilogy, Dark Horse comics had Dark Empire and Tales of the Jedi under their belt, and new novels were being announced (Truce at Bakura and The Courtship of Princess Leia). But the EU was being created one piece at a time. There were early continuity issues with Dark Empire and Heir to the Empire. Both were great stories, but Heir showed the New Republic established on Coruscant and Leia was pregnant with twins while Dark Empire showed the Battle of Coruscant and Leia pregnant with a third Solo child. The workaround was the DE took place after the Thrawn Trilogy, after the Empire attempted to retake Coruscant, but this never seemed that satisfying to me. It was obvious that DE was intended to be the continuation from Return of the Jedi, but Heir beat it to release, and both happened to be good enough that whoever decides things wanted both of them to be in continuity. And they deserved it, but there were definitely bumps to smooth out. And Kevin J. Anderson seemed very interested in attempting to do so, weaving as many continuity references into his work as he could.

In the lead up to the prequels, however, the quality of Star Wars stories varied greatly (for me), and there was quite a bit of uncertainty about how the prequels would affect the EU. George Lucas could do whatever he wanted with his creation, and if he wrote something that contradicted the EU, his vision stood (though how to reconcile his contradictions with himself is still a bit of an issue). A systematic categorization system was eventually developed by fans. This system involved multiple layers of canonicity, and it was quite complex and existed before the term “head canon” came into play. There were general attempts to create a comprehensive EU, but there wasn’t really an overriding vision until pretty late in the game, at which point we got the New Jedi Order, Legacy of the Force, and Fate of the Jedi. Dark Horse Comics had their own successful run at the time with Knights of the Old Republic, Dark Times, and Legacy. In general, the novels and comics didn’t attempt to cross-pollinate creatively, and they usually focused on their own mini-eras. This could still lead to contradiction, but by focusing on specific time periods, they didn’t need to worry too much about stepping on each others’ toes in a continuity sense.

I had pretty much stopped following Star Wars at that point. The prequels devastated my already waning interest. I dipped back in on occasion and was generally satisfied with what I read, though there were as many misses as there were hits. And any time Timothy Zahn wrote something, I had to read it.

All this to say, I sympathize with and completely understand why Disney would wipe the slate clean. As much as I would like Zahn’s work to stay firmly in continuity, the EU audience is still technically niche. For the most part, we will follow Star Wars in whatever form we get it. And speaking personally, I’m a huge fan of Doctor Who, so continuity issues are irritating but they don’t break the experience for me. But the idea of having an official canon that weaves through movies, TV, comics, and books is kind of exciting. My only real concern is that this official status puts more weight on individual pieces. Before, a boring or disliked book could be ignored because it wasn’t technically official. Now, it is official, whether we like it or not. And every work feels, to me, like it needs to contribute something worthy to the canon. There is a feeling that each work now has to justify its own existence because of its elevated, canonical status.

That’s how it feels, at any rate. In reality, it doesn’t really matter that much. There are good stories and there are bad stories and there are stories that fall all over the spectrum inbetween. Despite official canon, we can still pick and choose our head canon (even across the official and Legends lines, though there will now definitely be contradictions). And despite an official canon, I’m still very interested in reading through the Legends line. In fact, knowing that the Legends line has a definitive ending is encouraging. It is like knowing you can get a complete run of a comic series.

I had been thinking about blogging through the Legends line. I’ve also thought about blogging through the new canon line. In reality, I may do both, but not with any regular pace. Life and work are extremely busy right now, and sometimes I can’t stand to be in front of a computer screen for reading/writing purposes when I get home. And with the way finances are at the moment (good, but recovering from my last couple of semesters of college), I won’t be keeping up with Star Wars canonical books and comics as they come out. I prefer Star Wars books in paperback for some reason, and comics are beyond my budget at the moment. But hopefully I’ll be able to catch up to the SW canon paperbacks soon. I’ve actually read New Dawn, Tarkin, and Heir to the Jedi. The urge to blog about them continues to nag at the fringes of my mind. Now that I’ve come up with a new review format, the chances of me taking the time to move forward on this project are more likely. I need this creative outlet. So if you are willing to read, I’ll work on finding the time and mental energy to write.