Another step towards Star Wars: The Force Awakens…
Claudia Gray’s novel, positioned as a Young Adult title, is highly enjoyable book, and a welcome addition to the new canon of the Star Wars universe. Starting just before the beginning of the original trilogy, and ending shortly after it, at the much rumored about Battle of Jakku, this incredibly engaging book follows two characters Thane Kyrell and Cienna Ree, both from the planet Jeluca.
From different class structures (sounds familiar and stereotypical, sure) Thane and Cienna meet as children, united by their love of flying, and the arrival of the Empire, establishing a mining outpost on their world. Together, they decide all they want to do is fly, and the Empire seems to be the perfect way to do it. They practice, study, and practice some more, growing up, and dealing with the distrust both of their families have for the other.
Until the day they are accepted to the premier Imperial Academy in the galaxy on Coruscant. There they prove themselves, and slowly become aware of their growing attraction for one another.
But after graduation, their new assignments see them in different places, Cienna is recruited to serve on a Star Destroyer, and Thane finds himself on a newly minted, moon-sized battle station. After the terrifying destruction of the planet Alderaan, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the war… One can no longer take the horror and the devastation wreaked in the Emperor’s name, and runs, eventually ending up in the Rebellion. The other is bound by an oath, and remains in the service of the Empire, trying to do some good for a galaxy being torn apart by war.
Most of the big moments in the book nudge up against equally big moments in the original trilogy, and puts a unique, emotional spin on them, as now, we’re newly invested in the incidents, worrying about characters on both sides.
I thought I was going to have problems with how a character rationalized staying in the Empire after the terrible atrocities they commit, genocide, slavery, but yet, it’s handled believably well, and you can’t help but feel for the character as they struggle to find good in what they are doing, and trying to maintain order and hopefully create peace…
Whereas Aftermath didn’t really engage me… this one took me in, and delightfully entertained. We brush up against some familiar names, but even in the big set pieces, the story always focuses on Thane and Cienna. And I was more than okay with it. It was like watching the Trilogy in a whole new way. And now, when I see some things on-screen, whether in the original series, or in the Force Awakens, like that crashed Star Destroyer on Jakku, I’ll know some of the story behind it.
I hope Gray writes another tale in this universe in short order, because I love how it played out, and the way it was written.
And just like that, we’re that much closer to December 18th…