Razor’s Edge Review: A New Author Delivers

—–Warning Spoilers—–


Razor’s Edge takes place between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. The book was advertised as Leia’s book and Martha Wells delivers that and more for Star Wars fans. The premise of the book is that Leia is going to meet with someone Han knows in order to get supplies for Echo base. The two are traveling on a ship with General Willard which is a great use of one of the lesser known Generals from the movies. Their ship gets attacked and as they are limping in to Arnot Station Leia discovers a long lost Alderaanian gunship marauding as a pirate. This bothers Leia who decides to interfere and ends up taking a small crew (including Han) over to the ship in the hopes of convincing them to join the Rebel Alliance.

Of course nothing goes as planned and the pirates end up sort of kidnapping Leia and Han by having to return to the pirate base in order to fulfill an obligation. Leia is now on a crusade to save the prisoners turned slaves from the ship the pirates took and ends up doing pretty cool action scenes in order to prove her worth to the Alderaanians. Both crews are betrayed by the traitor from Leia’s rebel crew but the heroes manage to survive and save the prisoners with the help of Chewbacca and Luke who were sent by General Madine to help protect the Gamble on its way back from the meeting which never takes place.

The story is pretty classically Star Wars EU and this story really shine from the minor details Wells includes. She definitely did her homework before writing this novel. Wells, while using a heavily female cast (yay!), also uses a variety of species and even invents a few of her own. She makes sure to include different races of humans as well, something the EU fans have been complaining about for awhile now. The three main females Leia, Captain Metara and Captain Aral tukor Viest are well written with detailed descriptions of their looks. The interactions between the characters are clever and the use of a Lorrdian is a nice nod to the EU and does a good job of explaining how a female pirate could have taken over the massive operation in a male dominated time during the Empire’s reign.

Some of the new or little used species include an Andulian (“grey skin, long white hair, furry brows, and atrophied gills in their cheeks”), Ishori an amphibious species, and a Videllan (“gold-brown skin of a leathery texture, a high forehead curving back to a fringe of fluffy golden hair, a beard, and large, expressive eyes with high, tufted brows”). I’ve often thought that during this timeframe the EU authors fall back on the classic movie species so it was very refreshing to read about new species.

“When it comes to trying to stop a crew of innocent bystanders from being sold into slavery, yes, I’m happy to lie with the best of them.”

Leia’s characterization was perhaps one of her best. We even got an introspection from Leia concerning her being seen as a figurehead or symbol for the Alliance. Leia shows some insecurity for being seen as this perfect symbol and wonders how long she can go before she makes a big mistake. This introspection actually strengthens Leia’s character and her grit and determination really shine through in this novel.

The use of Luke Skywalker in this book was also well done because it wasn’t overdone. It seems difficult for authors to use Skywalker without having him become the focus of the story but Wells was able to do so. A pre-Jedi Luke falls for one of the oldest tricks in the book showing the naive farmboy he was during that time but it was nice to see that she didn’t undervalue Luke’s ability since he basically had himself freed but Wells still allowed Leia to ride to the rescue and save Skywalker from being handed over to the Empire.

I really only have one complaint and this complaint probably was my own doing. So I was under the impression that this book was going to give me strong female characters and focus on Leia. Ok the book delivered, except for one part and it was a pretty big turning point in the story. Perhaps if I hadn’t had some expectations going into this book I wouldn’t have been so bothered by it and it might have been unfair of me to put my expectations and hopes for the heroine on Razor’s Edge. Leia is competing in a death match meets the Star Wars version of Quidditch for the sake of the pirates’ entertainment and she thinks if she wins she’ll get what she came for. That’s the ‘deal’ at least. So Leia is on the verge of winning even against the cheating pirates’ droid. Somehow they magically fall through the net and as they’re falling Han Solo who has also somehow fallen through several tunnels comes from the opposite side of the station and bizarrely finds himself in a position to save Leia by ramming a flatbed repulsor into the droid. There was no reason for Han to have done this. This was a perfect place to have Leia be the winner all on her own and it really made me angry to see this in the book that was supposed to showcase Leia. This scene was set up to deliver what I’ve been looking for in a female character’s part of the story and Wells fumbles the ball by having Han end up stumbling through a convoluted way and ending up saving Leia.

The only other minor complaints I have is that Wells turns Han into a horny teenager at one point. I understand what she was getting at with the scene and she was trying to recreate some of that sexual tension we see between the two but the writing was off here and it became kind of creepy and awkward instead of Ford’s suave devil-may-care portrayal of Solo.

If you enjoy Star Wars EU during this time period or you enjoy Leia Organa as a character I would highly recommend this book. Pay attention to the details and enjoy a well written Leia.

(Thanks to NetGalley and Del Rey for providing Eleven-ThirtyEight with advance digital copies of this book)

Escape Pod: Mara Jade Skywalker

I find myself surprised to be writing this article. Surely if I wanted one thing from the Expanded Universe to survive the anticipated Disney purge and make its way into the Sequel Trilogy that it would be my favorite character, Corran Horn, right? The more I thought about what to write as I sat down to write that article though, the more my appreciation for the character of Mara Jade kept pushing itself into my thoughts. So I’m writing to save Mara Jade instead.

This appreciation was completely unexpected, not only because I thought I was going to write about a different character but because I have never been a big Mara fan. Looking back I realize now that I should have been and I can’t even explain why I wasn’t a fan. She really embodied what I look for in strong female characters in the Star Wars books. I didn’t quite know what I had until she was no longer included in the stories.

Zahn’s Jade

385px-Choices_of_One_PB_artThis Jade is perhaps the one I least like which is weird since he invented the character. Don’t get me wrong, I find the concept of her character to be enticing and I like how despite being the Emperor’s Hand she constantly makes decisions for herself and doesn’t feel like killing is always the answer to a problem. I think as a youngster reading the books I didn’t want to like her because she wanted to kill Luke and no one was taking my hero away from me! However, as an adult reading Zahn’s books now I find myself not liking the situations she’s written into. Zahn created this amazingly strong character and for the most part she is written into books where she can’t really win because Luke, Leia and Han are always in the way. By the time Choices of One came out I was really expecting or hoping to have a book with Mara Jade and without Luke, Han and Leia in it. I actually can’t figure out why all of her stories have to revolve around them. I believe she is a strong enough central character to the EU that she could hold a book by herself. I feel like we’ve never gotten to see her be the ultimate assassin/dark agent because the Big Three are always there to spoil things.

Now you might be thinking that during the timeframe that Zahn writes in Mara is the bad guy. Should the bad guy get to win? Answered simply, yes, if you consider her a true bad guy. I don’t. Time and again we’ve seen her administering Imperial Justice on people who actually deserve it for one reason or another. She’s not ruthlessly killing anyone she encounters and she usually tries to find out the truth before passing judgement. That’s part of what makes her character unique and intriguing to the reader. Therefore I don’t understand why we’ve never had a novel where we solely followed Mara Jade around. She’s the total package of a female character and could definitely hold down a book of her own. She is intelligent, independent and powerful which are all qualities I would like to see in the female Jedi that are included in the Sequel Trilogy. Why invent a new character when the perfect one already exists?

Bantam’s Mara Jade:

Jade survives the death of the Emperor and becomes successful in Talon Karrde’s organization. This version is definitely my favorite of the Jade character. I like how she decides to train as a Jedi only after a lot of thought and living of life. She continually tries to avoid the attraction to Skywalker and busies herself with the Smuggler’s Alliance and Lando. Her travels keep bringing them together and in a touching scene we finally get Luke admitting his love for her. She challenged him at every meeting and the Mara they developed became the best match for Luke.


Del Rey’s Mara:

The only part I enjoyed of this version of Mara was her determination and strength shown on Dantooine during the NJO. Despite her sickness and hordes of Vong attacking them, she was able to stay alive long enough for backup to arrive. The ultimate motherly instinct and I applauded Del Rey for keeping her alive even after Ben was born because I seriously thought they were going to kill her off then. So often storytellers feel the hero needs to be motherless. When Anakin Solo died the readers shifted their focus to Ben and were hoping for great things from the offspring of Luke and Mara.

I am not going to get into the bad parts of the Del Rey Mara Jade and those are definitely something I don’t want to see saved from the purge. I’d also ask that any discussion doesn’t go into that either. I’m interested in having Disney preserve the character that is Mara Jade Skywalker and seeing her with Luke in the Sequel Trilogy (while also being a badass female Jedi too!).


Final Thoughts:

Mara Jade is the perfect match for Luke Skywalker. If they are going to have the story call for an offspring of Skywalker, and it seems logical that it would, I sincerely hope they include Mara as a female role model for the young Jedi in the series and as a wife and mother. Mara Jade has been a part of the Expanded Universe for a long time as a strong female character. I’m also slightly tired of heroes always having a missing or dead parent(s) in movies. So many of the recent sci-fi/fantasy stories seem to start with dead parents and I don’t think it is always necessary. I know some of this contradicts my thoughts on how Luke is going to die in Episode VII but I have been persuaded by some of the comments made on that article that the death of the mentor has been overdone. Star Wars also has a track record for having missing parents ie. Luke initially had no parents and Anakin’s father was unknown and then his mother was killed off in Episode II. If they can find a plausible way for Luke and Mara to remain together alive and on the sidelines I am all for them staying that way but I don’t want to see it at the expense of not fully developing the next generation of Jedi. Mara Jade is a great example of a female Jedi and I hope that they decide to include her in the Sequel Trilogy and other stories.

Episode VII and the Death of Luke Skywalker

259px-LukeSkywalkerNEGTCLet’s face it and bring it out into the open now. History is going to repeat itself and Episode VII is going to bring us the death of Luke Skywalker. Shall we review? In Episode IV we see the death of the Force-using mentor to the protagonist (Ben’s death to Luke as the hero). In Episode I we also have the death of the Force-using mentor to the supposed hero or heroes (Qui-Gon Jinn to Obi-Wan and Anakin as the heroes). This is a classic move that enables the up and coming hero to actually become the hero. In each instance the Force-using mentor died at the hands of a Sith opponent and if you read the roundtable discussion on who we think the antagonists for the ST will be we pretty much agreed that a Star Wars movie is not a Star Wars movie without the clash of the red lightsaber with a variety of different colored lightsabers.

I see no reason why Episode VII won’t follow along the same lines to begin the hard journey for the next set of Jedi. If we toss out the Expanded Universe and for those that do read it we realize that the majority of fans out there are movie fans then Luke Skywalker is the only Force user (technically we’ve never seen Leia use the Force) and it makes the most sense for the mentor death to be him. From a shock value standpoint it would also be the biggest shock to the viewers. I remember how I felt when Obi-Wan Kenobi “died”. Hearing his voice tell Luke to run did little to console me while watching the movie for the first time.

337px-SoloTwins_EGttFIn order for the death of Luke Skywalker to be a viable option for Episode VII the creators need to be ready with a likeable, believable second mentor to fill the hole caused by the death of Luke Skywalker. This would actually be a good fit for several Expanded Universe characters to be included or even a child of Han and Leia (provided that the movies go along with them being together still). Luke was able to keep training because he was told to go to Dagobah where he found Yoda. Anakin was able to train because Obi-Wan Kenobi was there to step into the mentor role. The next generation of Jedi is going to be no different.

They’ll need the freedom to get into their own sorts of trouble and I firmly believe one of the failings of the Expanded Universe in developing new Jedi is that Luke Skywalker is always there looming over the characters and it is difficult to believe, in universe, that the most powerful man in the galaxy wouldn’t go deal with the problem himself. I don’t want to see the OT all over again, I want to see new characters and I believe in order to get that Skywalker has got to go. With the rumored time jump for Episode VII and the previous history of using older adult Jedi in the Clone Wars and the Prequels there needs to be a good reason for Luke to not be the one out saving the galaxy. Mark Hamill himself said he would like to play an “Obi-Wan type of role”. In the EU we make jokes that started with 60 is the new 40 and continued on with 80 is the new 40. I don’t want to see the ST make the same mistakes as the EU and attempt to think this will be believable for the fans. Or even that this is what the fans want. This isn’t what the fans want, right?

What better way for the new antagonists to be taken as a serious threat than to off the Jedi who took down Darth Vader and the Emperor? I am having a hard time believing they are going to be able to create a villain that I will hate as much or more than the Emperor. However, if they had said villain take out Luke that would probably do it for me. I need that. I need to hate the villains in the movies. I love that part about books and movies. I’m pretty sure the reason I still don’t like the Empire is because of the burned bodies of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. 640px-X-wing_SWGTCGStar Wars is violent. Wars bring death and destruction. I expect nothing less from Episode VII.

Disney is excited about the Star Wars franchise and they are already hinting that these movies are going to spawn side movies. They need to have young, intriguing and compelling characters to further the franchise with. We need to move past the Big 3 and I believe this will start with the death of Luke.

Everything Disney Needs to Know, it Can Learn from I, Jedi


Michael Stackpole’s novel I, Jedi has many qualities and ideas that Disney can learn from for the Sequel Trilogy. For those that know me it should come as no surprise that I am writing this article. Corran Horn is one of my favorite characters in Star Wars and part of the reason for that is what I experienced while reading this book. Stackpole wrote a book where he wasn’t afraid to be different, he correctly used a wide array of characters, his inclusion of romance and put together a fantastic journey for the reader to follow along with.

Don’t Be Afraid to Be Different

On the surface Stackpole’s main character, Corran Horn, sounds a lot like Luke Skywalker. Corran is an excellent fighter pilot in training to become a Jedi. However, as Horn goes through training we discover that he lacks one of the most basic and most utilized force powers we see from the movie Jedi, telekinesis. On screen this would make for some less than spectacular fight scenes, but I greatly enjoy the concept of a Jedi with a handicap. It was refreshing to see how Stackpole wove this lack of skill into the story and how Corran was able to overcome his inability to do telekinesis. Disney should develop unique Jedi for the ST. Read More

The Future of the Female Star Wars Fan

Sitting in the movie theater in May 2005, I was convinced that was the last time I would ever see new Star Wars live action material on the big screen.  George Lucas was clear that Star Wars was about Anakin Skywalker’s story and thus it was over for him as far as movies were concerned. After leaving the theater I admit to being disappointed for a variety of reasons. The biggest one was the way Padmé was written in the movie and how a strong female character was replaced with someone unrecognizable. Don’t get me wrong, I adored the movie and the action and I classify it as one of my favorites from the series, but it could have been hands down my favorite had Padmé’s storyline been handled a bit differently.

Fast forward to 2012 and the announcement that Disney is buying Star Wars. The news could not have been better for the female Star Wars fan. Over the past few years Disney has been on a woman empowerment kick with their movies. As a nanny I am subjected to seeing Disney movies rather frequently and sometimes repeatedly. For those who haven’t seen some of these movies I would look at the following: Rapunzel in Rapunzel, who throughout most of her journey is the one getting the man out of trouble, The Princess and the Frog which saw Tiana embarking on a journey to save Prince Naveen, and most recently Brave which featured a princess who refuses to be a prize to be won and goes on an adventure with her own skills and bravery. This trend of the Disney princess being more than a damsel in distress is surely going to be carried over into Star Wars.

The current information that we have about Episode VII casting suggests that we will see some strong females.

“Late-teen female, independent, good sense of humour, fit.”

“A second young female, also late teens, tough, smart and fit.”

The words “independent” and “tough” are what I like to see when discussions are centering on female choices for a character and I believe these are the types of characters that Disney has been most interested in portraying. These characters might not be the main cast. I get that but I’m hopeful that female fans could finally be getting the story they have been after for a long time.

One can’t discuss Episode VII without also discussing the important figures we already know about who will influence the story and direction of the film. J.J. Abrams has experience in strong female leads. His series Alias, starring Jennifer Garner as a female spy who uses brains and brawn to take down an international spy agency ran for 5 seasons. His series Felicity, which ran for 4 seasons, starring Keri Russell, chronicled the journey of a young woman coming into her own. Both showcase Abrams’ ability to create and use strong females in successful stories.

Michael Arndt’s involvement is also a hopeful sign for female fans looking for a strong heroine. He penned Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games, a story about a strong heroine who believes she is sacrificing herself for her younger sister. In the book by Suzanne Collins, Katniss is written as an unlikeable heroine who believes she can do anything to save someone who is a better person than she is. Katniss drags this person through seemingly impossible situations and is the ultimate survivor. I am optimistic that Arndt will take what he learned from working with Katniss and apply some of that to the females in Episode VII; though I am reserving judgment on Arndt until November when I can see for myself how he handles Katniss and her story.

George Lucas is the third person directly impacting the story for Episode VII and I consider him a bit of a loose cannon. He favors male-centric stories (Star Wars and Indiana Jones are examples) but he has created a strong female character before in Princess Leia. Yes she had to be rescued at one point (what Princess hasn’t?) but it was because of her strength of character and her determination to do what is right even at the risk of personal harm that put her into that spot in the first place. Princess Leia paved the way for the female heroes of today.  We see Leia constantly putting herself in danger and using her brains as well as strength to get herself out of danger. She fired blasters, ran with the troops on the front lines during the Battle of Endor and knowingly entered the lair of Jabba the Hutt to rescue her scoundrel.

As a female fan I want to see a heroine that I can point to and say to my niece, “See, you don’t need a prince to come rescue you.  You can be strong and do it yourself!” I am optimistic that the stars have aligned and Star Wars Episode VII is going to give me that. Look for a revisit of this topic in November after I get to see how Arndt handles Catching Fire.