- Age Range: 12 – 17 years
- Grade Level: 7 – 12
- Lexile Measure: 880 (What’s this?)
- Series: Journey to Star Wars: the Force Awakens
- Hardcover: 560 pages
- Publisher: Disney Lucasfilm Press (September 4, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1484724984
- ISBN-13: 978-1484724989
- Author: Claudia Gray
Eight years after the fall of the Old Republic, The Galactic Empire now reigns over the known galaxy. Resistance to the Empire has been all but silenced. Only a few courageous leaders such as Bail Organa of Alderaan still dare to openly oppose Emperor Palpatine. After years of defiance, the many worlds at the edge of the Outer Rim have surrendered. With each planet's conquest, the Empire's might grow even stronger. The latest to fall under the Emperor's control is the isolated mountain planet Jelucan, whose citizens hope for a more prosperous future even as the Imperial Starfleet gathers overhead...
Review: Spoiler ALERT:
So I wrote a review on this book… and then I reread it. Now I’m going back and deleting that draft. Because honestly when I looked at it, it seemed like I was more on a book-high when I finished reading it. Pure euphoria at finishing that book, that I went ahead and wrote the review. Upon reading it again, I have changed my opinions on this book. So let’s take a look at it shall we?
The story takes place before, during, and after the events of the Trilogy. Key places include Jelucan, the Death Star, the Executor, Hoth, and Home One.
Cienna is a farmer from a fairly backwards area on the planet, while Thane is considered more of a noble birth.
What I liked:
This story provides a lot of background into the key events of the original trilogy. Without actually focusing on the characters that were center stage from the trilogy. It allows for us to see how the events, such as the destruction of Alderaan affected other people. In the movies, it was something that was sort of glossed over and forgotten after the first movie.
What I didn’t like:
There really isn’t much here that I didn’t like. Honestly I’d say that the one criticism I would give is that these events felt somewhat rushed. It was a lot of build up with only a little pay off.
The story surrounds two new Characters; Thane and Cienna. It surrounds their friendship and surrounds their thoughts on events from the original trilogy and how it affect them. It is also somewhat of a Romeo and Juliet style story where one character (Thane) becomes disillusioned with the Empire and joins the Rebellion, where Cienna is honor-bound by her oath to remain with the Empire. Eventually, they do have to come head to head, on more than one occasion.
What I liked:
The story prior to the Battle of Yavin and after the Battle of Endor made for some wonderful character development, as well as engaging us in new scenery. It also expanded on places that we were familiar with as well as people that we may have seen in the background, but didn’t have much context for.
What I didn’t like:
Well here’s where the story really began to fall apart for me. The book really seemed like it was attempting to showcase these places that we’ve seen and know. It’s like ‘Oh look, we’re on the Death Star, isn’t that awesome?’
Also, the story seems rushed. We skip over months, if not years of potential development to focus on the events of the Galactic Civil War. It’s hard to keep up with the character development when so much jumping happens. It is also a major strain on my suspension of disbelief to see how little the characters have changed during that time. The transitions aren’t done very well.
Cienna and Thane, two people that reality doesn’t really seem like it wants to be together. One from humble origins, one from more prestigious ones. Perhaps it’s kind of ironic that Cienna, the girl from the more humble background had a better life, while the noble child grew up in an abusive environment. They both find themselves thrust into the middle of a galactic war, after having been recruited by the Imperial Military.
What I liked:
Thane. This guy came from a very well-to-do background. I would compare it to the nobility of the past. However thanks to his father, he’s disillusioned with this life and grows up somewhat resentful and ‘rebellious.’ It’s good foreshadowing for what happens later in the story, and good build up as to why it’s so easy for him to abandon his oath to the Empire and join the Rebellion.
Despite his defection, he seems to be more loyal to the galaxy in general after seeing what the Empire had done to his home world and to other worlds in general. In addition, he is always loyal to Cienna. More than once, he tries to get her to come with him and join the Rebellion.
What I didn’t like:
Cienna. I have to admit that this character frustrated me. It was almost like the story couldn’t make up their mind as to whether she was a protagonist or an antagonist. It is also very difficult to find her likable. From a young age, she is instilled with the value of obedience and loyalty. As such, she views the oath she took to the Empire as unbreakable. Throughout the story, she is witness to unspeakable tragedies and atrocities committed by the Empire. Her reasoning behind her continued loyalty to the Empire is that she believes it to be infallible and if the Empire doing what it’s doing, it’s because these people deserve it in some way.
However even after finally coming to the realization that the Empire isn’t the moral right, her own views of loyalty and obedience make the idea of turning to the Rebellion unthinkable. As a result she continues to serve and be party to other horrific incidents perpetuated by the Empire. Simply put… she was just following orders.
This is where the character falls apart for me. Put who she is and what she does, as well as her motives and justifications, into context. Now compare them with the defenses for the Nazis during the Nuremberg trials. See any similarities?
Yet this character is still portrayed as either an innocent or a protagonist, despite fighting to the Empire to the bitter end.
SPOILER ALERT: The story ends with her being rescued from her Star Destroyer, which is plummeting towards Jakku. She ends up in Prison where she awaits a trial for war crimes. Thane believes that the court will be lenient with her, while she disagrees… almost wishing that the court would execute her.
Well… we never find out. She knows that what she’s done was wrong, but she’s never apologetic… and given that her defense for her actions would pretty much be the same defense the Nazis used, I get the feeling that this won’t end well.
My Overall Assessment:
The book is not perfect. The parts before and after the Trilogy are great, but the rest seemed extremely rushed. Some aspects of the characters are great, and the tie-in to the bigger picture is well fleshed out, but the glaring issues with Cienna are just hard to stomach… and attempting to generate sympathy for a character whose defense for her actions are the same that the Nazis used is cringe worthy at best.
Don’t get me wrong, its a good book. However it was built up to answer a lot of the questions that exist as to what happened between ROTJ and TFA… In the end… well it answers the question about how a Star Destroyer ends up in the sands on Jakku, but even the battle itself, which has become the subject of much conjecture is really kind of glanced over.
So you’ll enjoy it, but you’ll feel like you’re reading cliff notes on the original trilogy.
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