—major Phasma spoilers ahead—
It’s interesting that both of these books have come out in close proximity to each other. Each exists to promote a different item – Phasma is a Journey to the Last Jedi book, while Battlefront II: Inferno Squad tells you exactly what it is about. Both give an Imperial viewpoint, but they do so in very different ways.
Inferno Squad puts us in the position of four highly skilled Imperials – fighter pilots, military mechanic, and intelligence officer – and shows us how they view the world. Phasma is a biographical tale of its enigmatic lead, but is wrapped up in a far more interesting story of conflict with a First Order true believer. Of the two books I found Phasma the easier read. Both books sketch a very unpleasant picture, but only Inferno Squad attempts to give the reader an inside perspective of the Empire. The equivalent picture for the First Order and Phasma’s view of it is never covered in Phasma, instead it’s a story of how others perceive her.
It comes down to brutal honesty versus salesmanship. Inferno Squad seems to want to sell the reader on the worth of Imperial ideals. Phasma does not care about that, she does not care about you. You don’t like how she does things? Phasma says fuck you. She’s too harsh? Phasma says fuck you. Can’t she look out for anyone other than number one? Phasma says fuck you. The reader still gets a very clear picture of who and what Phasma is all about, but there is a lack of justification offered. There is character in Phasma who is all about justified belief and that’s Cardinal, the red stormtrooper who wants to know her origin.
Inferno Squad gives the most extreme, hardcore Imperial viewpoint there has ever been. There have been Imperial characters before – Legends’ Jahan Cross in Agent of the Empire, Baron Fel in X-Wing, more recently Rae Sloane in A New Dawn / Aftermath, however, in all three cases, it was either very clear they did not care for superweaponry as represented by the Death Star or they were ambiguous in their support of it. Inferno Squad dispenses with this and gives us Iden Versio, who we first encounter defending the Death Star at the Battle of Yavin while she still exults in the destruction of Alderaan by it. Just to hammer the point home further, if this first impression was not sufficient, the squad later drinks a bottle of Alderaanian wine as a celebration. » Read more..
This article contains some plot spoilers after the intro
Leia: Princess of Alderaan is a true coming-of-age novel about one of the franchise’s most iconic characters, and seeing a sixteen-year-old Leia struggling to find her place in the world makes for a poignant and emotional story. We’ve seen Leia as the fiery leader of the Rebellion who’s wise beyond her years. We’ve seen her as the somewhat more jaded senator of the New Republic. And we’ve seen her as the Resistance general, who brings gravitas to every scene she’s in. But this Leia is younger and more untested. She is unsure of her place in the galaxy, both as the heir to the throne and as a person in her own right.
Last Friday, Jay did an excellent job detailing Leia’s struggle to make a difference in the lives of those hurt by the Empire. And even though the reader knows what lies in store for Leia, that doesn’t make it any less emotional to see her trying to do the right thing against a system she knows is unfair, to see her anguish over the sudden distance her parents are keeping from her, or to see her try to establish her own identity outside of “future princess.” It’s Leia at her most relatable, for who among us has not felt unsure about our place in the world or the identity we want to be?
But perhaps the greatest strength of the book is the depiction of the relationship Leia has with both her adoptive parents. We’ve seen plenty of Bail Organa in Star Wars before; Leia mentions him as a part of her plea for Obi-Wan’s help, he plays a major role in Revenge of the Sith, and has popped up in several books as well as the Rebels TV show. We have ample knowledge of how close he and Leia were and, of course, we know he trusts Leia with his life. But so far Breha hasn’t gotten nearly the same treatment; we know almost as little about her as we did when she first appeared on screen almost fifteen years ago. Fortunately, Claudia Gray stepped into that gap and wrote the mother/daughter story that Star Wars has sorely needed.
(some plot spoilers under the cut)
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(this article contains spoilers after the intro)
It’s a good thing I’m writing an analysis and not a strict review, because it’s hard to be objective about Leia: Princess of Alderaan. I’ve long wanted a young Leia book, and there were only three authors that I trusted to write it: Martha Wells (Razor’s Edge), Alexandra Bracken (The Princess, The Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy), and Claudia Gray (Bloodline) — and we got Claudia Gray! From the moment this book was announced at Celebration Orlando, I knew I’d love it — and my sky-high expectations were met. What expectations were those? Well, I wanted a story that did credit to my favorite Star Wars film character and showed us the development of her political heroism that ends up being the driving force of the rebellion. And that’s what we got.
Leia: Princess of Alderaan is a coming of age story: the narrative is book-ended by a particular Alderaanian rite of passage for the royal heirs, and it’s Leia’s relationship to her homeworld, her parents (Queen Breha finally gets a chance to shine, and gets developed in depth!), and Leia’s nascent awareness of a growing rebellion against the Empire that forms the framework for this story. It’s about relationships, and Leia maturing as a person and as a political leader. You’ll hear from Sarah Dempster on Monday about Leia’s relationships with her parents (particularly her mother) — today I’d like to talk about Leia’s political awakening and her involvement with the rebellion.
This isn’t a Star Wars book with moral gray areas. The Empire is clearly the villain in this story, whether we’re talking about Leia’s point of view or the Empire’s role in the story. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy question whether the Empire should be fought, because fighting carries consequences for Leia and those she loves. While the audience knows about the fate of Alderaan, Leia doesn’t. For her, the dangers are hypothetical — but they’re no less certain.
There are spoilers under the cut — do NOT continue if you haven’t read this book!
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Timothy Zahn made a grand return to the Star Wars canon with his book Thrawn. Its release timing was perfect for publicity, out a scant few days before the opening of Celebration Orlando, but that was part of the reason for a delay in any article on this site actually talking about it. Another reason for that delay is that the book is very good, a return to form for Tim Zahn, so a review would not be all that interesting. A simple quality check of the book would be redundant at this point since we would just be adding a voice to the chorus. Thus, rather than heap more praise onto it, we intend to instead analyze its portrayal of the two lead characters – Thrawn and Arihnda Pryce – and how they tie into Star Wars Rebels.
Be forewarned folks, we’re off the edge of the map. Beyond here, there be spoilers.
Thrawn being a part of the Rebels show itself is a topic we have discussed in the past. A topic we have not discussed is that he and Governor Pryce were both formally introduced to Rebels in the same season. Pryce was mentioned previously within the show but never seen, always having excuses made on her behalf by Minister Tua for not attending functions on Lothal herself, almost as if they were intentionally avoiding actually showing her. Then, she walks onscreen scant moments before Thrawn enters the scene. At the time, it just seemed a coincidence, the introduction of new antagonists to replace the ones who ended their journeys in the second season.
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(Note: This review is attempting to be spoiler-light – it’ll describe the main characters and that’s essentially it.)
Okay, hear me out. I know comparing dang near anything to the late, beloved Aaron Allston’s Wraith Squadron X-wing books is a tall order to justify. I don’t think anything could really fill those boots, but if I had to describe the first Join the Resistance book in a few words, “Wraith Squadron for kids” is exactly how I’d do it. It gets across what’s at the root of the story: a group of misfits trying to be heroes. Some of them don’t come across as misfits at first, and some definitely do. But they’re all imperfect people, trying to defy stereotypes and going through zany hijinks in order to get there. You have to suspend your disbelief a little further: if you could believe that Wedge Antilles could get away with assembling a squadron of washups who performed bizarre undercover missions, then this book asks a little more of you. It asks you to believe that the Resistance would recruit teenage cadets (not too unbelievable), and would train them on their headquarters at D’Qar (a little more unbelievable).
It’s important to remember that this book is for kids. But that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable for adults – it’s not as nuanced as the Servants of the Empire books, but I had a great time reading Join the Resistance and could hardly put it down. And it’s not un-nuanced, either. Like I said, the characters are not all what they seem to be. The story also plays into The Force Awakens and the political state of the galaxy, set as it is immediately prior to TFA. There’s some interesting new information in the book, but I wouldn’t say that anybody should read these books for information on TFA or upcoming movies. You’ll just be disappointed, and that’s not what these books are about. Rather, read these books if you want a fun TFA-era story about youngsters from different walks of life learning what it is to be good people and finding that it’s not as easy a question as it sounds. » Read more..