[This is a chapter-by-chapter reaction to the newly-released novel Empire’s End. This post is FULL of spoilers. Read at your own risk.]
[This post was pre-written and was a live commentary at the time of reading, and it is being posted after the book’s release date to comply with review embargo restrictions. Thanks to Del Rey for providing me with a review copy of this book!]
In a first for Eleven-ThirtyEight, I’m going to be doing what’s essentially a live chapter-by-chapter commentary on Empire’s End. There are many reasons for doing this, all of which are named RAE SLOANE. This is the book that terrifies me – not least because of its title, but for the implications it has for the Galactic Empire, the Concordance, and the Empire’s relationship with the First Order. So – let’s go.
Oh and needless to say, there will be spoilers.
Prologue: It’s two pages long and my heart is already pounding. We see Gallius Rax meeting with the Galactic Emperor aboard the second Death Star, and they’re talking about the Contigency. The foul Rax is also meditating on how glorious and operating the superweapon is, but that’s not really important. There’s already a hint that Rax’s wrecking of the Empire is under the Emperor’s orders and it’s freaking me out. I don’t know how I am going to make it through this book alive. (current status: worried for RAE SLOANE).
Chapter One: There’s some stuff with Mercurial Swift, but the gist is that he’s captured by Jas, Norra, and Sinjir who are trying to hunt down RAE SLOANE. ISB agents are referred to as greyshirts, which is a nice touch. There’s a cute Palmyra reference which – as an antiquarian – I have to note, but anyway the main gist of this bit is that they want to hunt down SLOANE. For an attack she didn’t even do. She was betrayed once, and now the Rebels are punishing her for it? Really? There’s also some talk about how Imperial credits are worthless now and really I’m not here for any of this.
Chapter Two: Watch out, it’s Kylo Ren! Just kidding – we get a scene with Leia, still pregnant, being fussed over by a droid. They discuss the political situation. It’s noted that SLOANE is a self-proclaimed grand admiral, and that the Empire has gone dark. More importantly, we note the NR is reeling from the attack on Chandrila. I suppose Rax has managed to disrupt the Rebellion a bit – but they wouldn’t have been doing so well if Rax hadn’t sabotaged the Empire in the first place. I still loathe him. Always will. Presumably. We’ll see. (Also, there’s a Horuz name drop. That’s cool. And there are jogan fruits. Less cool. I’m a meiloorun guy).
Chapter Three: Stuff aboard the Moth, with Sinjir being emo and Jas giving him advice. Moving on.
Chapter Four: Whoops, they reach Jakku and there’s the Imperial fleet. I suppose some folks will be excited to see SSDs referenced as dreadnoughts. But this is another setup chapter.
Chapter Five: Nothing of import.
Interlude: Kashyyyk: Lumpy gonna Lumpy.
Chapter Six: Ah, now we’re talking. It’s a meeting between Mothma and some senators. The useless Jebel from Rogue One is still minister of finance – now with a first name and everything. There’s also a Senator Sella from Hosnian Prime. Let’s guess who he’s related to? The NR senators seem to think they’ve won the war, that the Empire (the whole Empire??) has fled, and while Coruscant is still occupied, the Empire has no resources. Hmph. Arrogant fools. Mothma also wonders at her low approval ratings. Good. Perhaps she’ll get impeached, or defeated by her political opponents. That would be swell.
Chapter Seven: Mothma learns about the Imperial fleet over Jakku. Naturally, her first reaction is to ask the Senate for approval for any operations. Really? Is she the chief of state? What sort of government is she running here where she can’t have a military operation without discussing it in a committee? It’s a wonder the New Republic lasted any time at all. I suppose we’ll see that it was just luck.
Chapter Eight: Nothing to report.
Chapter Nine: RAE SLOANE! She is battered, bruised, but never broken. She has moments where she flares into defiance, where she remembers the galaxy she must rule. She briefly imagines herself as an Emperor. But reality steps in, and she makes the deals she must. With a Hutt – of all things. But she wants revenge most of all. She’ll settle for revenge, with the Empire already lost to her. So be it. I will too. SLOANE must destroy Rax. He must be punished for his perfidy and treason.
Interlude: Naboo: We see a founding father of the Empire who’s fallen on hard times. It’s really sad.
Chapter Ten: Ah, Sinjir and Temmin want to move. But they can’t. So perhaps they’ll take the Falcon? But wait, they can’t? Neat details here: Senate Guards with red helmets and white plumes. HoloNetNews makes its return. News of the Empire gathering above Jakku spreads to the public – and now the plot thickens.
Chapter Eleven: Mothma is ridiculous. She’s convinced herself her inability to command the military is ideal. That her inability to control leaks is ideal. That dissent is ideal. Speaking of ridiculous, we also see Wedge in this chapter too. It’s a long one. It’s strange, some chapters are two pages long, others are near twenty. But it’s clear this is a significant chapter – lots of stuff happens, but the gist of it is that the Republic is dysfunctional and won’t be moving against the Empire. This is even though their forces have tripled since Endor (that’s it?) while the Empire has broken itself into utter splinters. It’s a wonder these people got anything done.
Chapter Twelve: So Norra’s imprisoned and… whoa, that happened.
Chapter Thirteen: Bounty hunter family reunion!
Interlude: Tatooine: I hate sand.
Chapter Fourteen: Yeah, okay. Sort of saw this coming.
Chapter Fifteen: Gallius Rax. I hate that man. I hate him more than perhaps any other character – this includes Mon Mothma. He is a traitor. He is the scum of the galaxy. Here he is, on Jakku, deliberately causing the Empire to waste away. To turn to savagery. Why? Simply to satisfy his primal instincts. He’s not worthy to lead the Empire. All those fools who abet him are blind for not seeing it – perhaps they had an excuse before, but here, on Jakku? They should see what he’s doing. They should know better. Tashu is, of course, beyond help – he’s quite mad. And the revenge droid with the Emperor’s countenance can’t truly know the Emperor’s soul. They are all monsters.
Chapter Sixteen: RAE SLOANE, the gallant savior of the Empire, narrowly escapes death at the hands of Rax’s treachery. She will not be brought low by him. No mere turbolaser can end her. She is coming for you, Rax. You’d best be ready.
Interlude: Christophsis: Well, this was fascinating. Church of the Force and Journal of the Whills tidbits. I’m always interested in these.
Chapter Seventeen: Mr. Bones is weird.
Chapter Eighteen: Sinjir gets Jom onboard, and it looks like the scheme is afoot to make Jakku a thing.
Chapter Nineteen: Speaking of which, en route to the new NR capital Nakadia (another agriworld), Mothma confronts her political opponent. He reminds me of Fey’lya except less furry. But it’s interesting. He just wants power. Funny how that works, Mothma? Mothma has some schemes of her own in mind.
Chapter Twenty: Shenanigans on Nakaria, the NR’s absurd new capital. I get the idea of having a world that’s the exact opposite of the Imperial capital but – really? They’re going to ruin the world for just a short stay there as temporary capital, and for what? Foolishness, really.
Interlude: Coruscant: As soon as I saw this chapter title, I took a deep breath and braced myself. I had to do it. I had to go through with it. And it was rough – very rough. We learn that the ruler of the Empire, Grand Vizier Mas Amedda, is a virtual prisoner in the Imperial Palace and that all the troops answer to Rax. That snake, Rax. He uses Amedda to make occasional speeches, but the regent spends most of his time in squalid conditions. It’s outrageous. We do learn that the Emperor occasionally wrote hand-written letters, which was a neat detail. Amedda still intends to surrender the Empire, which is monstrous – but Rax is not any better. He’s a traitor, and Amedda is a coward. Is there anyone left who still believes in the Empire?
Chapter Twenty One: We return to RAE SLOANE, glorious RAE SLOANE, who has gotten over her earlier despair and has decided that she will, in fact, retake the Empire from Rax. I am proud of her. Rax confronts her, and she attempts to get the troops to turn against him, accusing Rax of treason against the throne. By rights, it should have worked. But it didn’t. But I have faith in her. She will destroy Rax. She will restore the Empire. It will all be okay.
Chapter Twenty Two: Nothing to report.
Chapter Twenty Three: More shenanigans on Nakadia. Criminal cartels are profiting from the disorder caused by the New Republic. Typical.
Chapter Twenty Four: The vote passes. The Republic gets its act together.
Interlude: Devaron: Turns out Yupe Tashu is leading the Acolytes of the Beyond, and taking them into guerrilla strikes all over the galaxy. He is a weirdo. This is not the Empire I know.
Chapter Twenty Five: Preparations for war begin. It’s coming.
Chapter Twenty Six: Rax reveals the true depths of his perfidy. Savage children murder savage stormtroopers, all for a demonstration. This is his future? Rax makes a grand speech, knowing it is all lies. He wants the Empire to be finished. He needs it to be finished. And he reveals himself once more, identifying Brentin as the audience from the Rebellion and SLOANE as the audience from the old Empire. He has no intention of saving it. The Republic arrives in full force, outnumbering the Imperials – and SLOANE is forced to watch from the surface of Jakku, knowing that she could best the Rebels but is denied command. It is agony.
Chapter Twenty Seven: stuff
Chapter Twenty Eight: The battle continues. It is kaleidoscopic. I can’t help but shake the mounting feeling of disaster. The Imperial Fleet is posed to do maximum damage to the Rebellion, but it’s not in a position to win. Oh, but there was a random HK-47 Easter egg, that was neat.
Chapter Twenty Nine: Okay, Mon Mothma, this was a good scene. I can be magnanimous enough to concede that.
Chapter Thirty: Bounty hunters, we don’t need that scum.
Interlude: Bespin: Lando system!
Chapter Thirty One: RAE SLOANE and Norra finally meet, as I’d feared – but she doesn’t burn her down in mistake. They’re going to take down Rax. Good. He deserves to be ended for this. For all of this.
Interlude: Imperialis: Thrilling and terrifying. The Emperor’s plush yacht. The brat, Rax, still called Galli. An ancient game, Shah-tezh. Chess, essentially, even using similar real-life linguistic roots (Dejarik, chess, and other such games are namedropped). Rules and pieces differ slightly. The central piece is the Imperator. Palpatine has a lesson: if it falls, the other pieces do not deserve to survive. It is a brutal lesson. One in line with Shattered Empire. And we begin to see the seeds of Rax’s plan as it stands today. He is the Contigency.
Chapter Thirty Two: Rax speaks to Hux. Yes, that Hux – little Armitage. He is a snot-nosed brat, though well-spoken. Rax explains he will go far away to build something new. And he will command savage children to do his bidding. It is the First Order they are building. It’s like I always said. I knew it. This monster is deliberately burning down the Empire and replacing it with savagery. I will not have it.
Chapter Thirty Three: What a chapter. Bones is down. Ravager is down. SLOANE realizes the Empire is finished – even if she retook the fleet, it was sullied by Rax’s savagery. It’s permanently diseased. The only thing she has left is taking him down. And I am with her. It is tragic. It is mournful. But it is justice.
Chapter Thirty Four: A little bit of a downer, this chapter, since I already know where it’s going. Mothma ain’t dead.
Interlude: Liberty’s Misrule: Pah. Pirates. Again, the New Republic is letting the galaxy fall to the dogs.
Chapter Thirty Five: We finally learn what the Observatory is. It’s like the Emperor’s Storehouse on Wayland – each Observatory is stocked with goodies. Interesting itself, but that’s not what’s important right now. What’s important is that SLOANE has confronted Rax, and I can hardly breathe. Here we go. They fight. They argue. She is hobbled by her injuries, but she gives as good as she can get. Norra and Brentin help her after Rax tortures her. She’s going to win. I have trouble taking this, but she’s going to win. SLOANE must destroy Rax.
Chapter Thirty Six: Mothma lives, as we suspected she would. And we learn Amedda has come out of hiding to surrender it all.
Chapter Thirty Seven: SLOANE IS TRIUMPHANT AND RAX IS DEAD RAX IS DEAD AND SLOANE IS TRIUMPHANT.
Chapter Thirty Eight: The Empire is lost. Coruscant is fallen.