Star Wars: Guardians of the Whills

The week is here! In a mere two days Star Wars: The Last Jedi will finally be released in theaters across the world. So, to celebrate I’m posting my review of the final “Rogue One” novel; Guardians of Whills.

This novel focuses on the characters of Chirrut and Baze, two characters that I found particularly interesting from the film, Rogue One. As a result, I had really high hopes for this novel. Sadly, of the three Rogue One tie-ins, this novel was my least favorite. But that being said, it’s still a decent read overall- just not as good as Catalyst or Rebel Rising. Of all the “young readers” releases, this book is one of the few actually seems to feel aimed towards a younger audience. This, in itself, is not a bad thing. But, I suppose I just expected to see these characters in a bit of a grittier setting and situation.

The novel itself is a quick read. It also does a pretty decent job of providing a little backstory to the world of Jedha as well as providing some interesting info into the Church of the Force. But again, I feel there is so much more content to be explored here that was left untouched. It’s a shame and I really hope that we see some more detail in the future regarding “The Whills” and just what role the Force plays outside of the Jedi and Sith. Who knows, maybe we’ll get some of our answers in a few days.

Story: Interesting. But there is so much untapped potential around these characters that remains largely ignored.

Recommended:  For hardcore fans and young children.

Star Wars: Rebel Rising

December is here! And at the time of this writing, the new Star Wars movie is only two weeks away! My current goal is to get all caught up on “pre-Last Jedi” novels in time for the new film. That leaves me with two books to review between now and then. One of those books is this one, Rebel Rising.

To date, there’s been three main novels that tie-in directly to Rogue One. Catalyst, which I’ve already reviewed on this site, serves as a prequel.  Guardians of the Whills. (A novel I will be discussing next week). And finally, this book, Rebel Rising. This novel tells the backstory of Jyn Erso, the lead character from Rogue One.

I found this book to be much more interesting than I initially anticipated. It follow’s Jyn’s life from the moment she is rescued by Saw Gerrara to the very instant she is joins the Rebel Alliance. The author does a fantastic job of letting us peek into Jyn’s mind and thereby helping us better understand her character. In the film, Jyn’s persona appears very conflicted and complicated. In some ways, her motives felt contradictory. I had always suspected this was simply the result of the rumored last-minute script change and reshoots in Rogue One, and perhaps it is. But even if that’s the case, this book does a marvelous job of reconciling that, and really brings a level of depth to her character that, in my opinion, was badly needed.

Despite being marketed as a young-adult novel, I found this book to feel more like a piece of adult fiction. It’s very well written, and even touches on some very complex themes. So, if you’re concerned about the maturity level of this novel, don’t let that inhibit you. Rebel Rising is a welcome addition to the Star Wars canon.

Story: Masterfully written, informative, and it helps improve upon one of the series newest characters. Very well done.

Recommended:  For all Star Wars fans, but especially those partial to Rogue One.

Star Wars: Thrawn

My review of Timothy Zahn’s return to Star Wars is here! Having long been a fan-favorite from the old Expanded Universe, the character of Thrawn is back! That’s right, the Star Wars Story Group has officially brought Thrawn into the Star Wars canon. The character was reintroduced in the third season of Star Wars Rebels. This book, serves as his new official backstory.

For fans of the old EU, Thrawn is a long time favorite. Thankfully, not much has changed about the character. His introduction in this novel nearly mirrors that of his original origin story “Mist Encounter”. Some tweaks and refinements to that “legend” have been made, however. Personally, I find these changes to be welcome additions. For those who may not know, the character of Thrawn is an alien who’s origins lie outside of the galaxy, in a place called the “Unknown Regions”. The emperor has a great interest in the Unknown Regions and thus, takes an interest in Thrawn. Thrawn is recruited into the Imperial Navy where he becomes one of the Empire’s leading tacticians. This novel covers all aspects of his career, from his training all the way to the moment he is promoted to Grand Admiral. All in all, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable book. Personally, I enjoyed it much more that the old Heir to the Empire trilogy or even his previous origin story, Outbound Flight.

The story itself it well written and reads much like a military thriller. Thrawn’s portrayal here matches what fans of the original EU books would come to expect. He’s cool and calculating. Intelligent and always in control. This book also does a great job of humanizing him in some ways. Allowing fans to see past his historical portrayal as a villain In my opinion, this book serves as the perfect introduction to this wonderful character.

It seems that Disney has lots of plan’s for Thrawn. He continues to be a main character in the fourth season of Star Wars Rebels, he also has his own comic book on the horizon, not to mention a second novel in the works that’s due to for a 2018 release.

I can’t wait to see how Disney and Zahn continue to work together to further develop and use this character in the new Star Wars canon. It doesn’t matter if you’re an old fan of Thrawn from the EU or if you were recently introduced to him through Rebels, this book is certainly worth a look.

Story: Excellent reintroduction of a fan-favorite character. Well written, great pacing and plenty of action.

Recommended:  For all Star Wars fans

Star Wars: Rebels – Season 3

What a fantastic time to be a Star Wars fan! Now that the final season of Star Wars Rebels is on the air, I can go ahead an discuss season 3 with little care of spoiling anything. I last posted about this show just about a year ago. Now, the third season is finally available on DVD/Blu-Ray for your binge watching pleasure.

This is the season where the show really came into its own. Rebels no longer rides the coat-tails of Clone Wars. It features a cast of characters that are now fully developed, and a story-arc that fully bridges the gap between the prequel trilogy and the original trilogy. The character of Ezra has matured, Kanan has been forever changed, and we’re  beginning to see the mechanics of the early Rebel Alliance in better detail.

Probably one of the more exciting developments of this season is the introduction of Grand Admiral Thrawn, a popular Expanded Universe character who has now been brought into the official canon. This is important for a number of reasons. First, it gives us a good look at just how Disney plans to pluck content from the old EU. Second, it also tells us that they are listening to fans. Thrawn is arguably the most popular “non-Lucas” Star Wars character. Recognizing this, Disney took the initiative to incorporate his character, as we already know him, and bring him into the official mythology. They did this in lieu of inserting some cheap replacement/copy-cat. This is good sign.

The second big event in season 3 is the fate of Darth Maul. In this season of Rebels, fans finally get the chance to see the ultimate end of this character. For me, this was probably the most memorable part of the season. In case you don’t know, I’m going to go ahead a drop a spoiler here: Darth Maul is killed by Obi Wan Kenobi. (Yes. I know that happened in Episode 1… except, it didn’t.)  I loved seeing the portrayal of Kenobi in Rebels. The character’s introduction here is the perfect blend of the young and old version of Kenobi. The voice acting for character was SPOT ON. I also particularly enjoyed the noble way that Darth Maul was finally laid to rest and the massive hint provided by Obi Wan regarding a major plot point in the Star Wars story. (I’m not giving this one away).

In my opinion, season 3 of Rebels has been the best season yet. It’s a high point for the show and it has me very excited for the fourth and final season. If you’re a fan of Star Wars in general, this show is very much worth your time.

Star Wars: Tales From A Galaxy Far, Far Away – Aliens (volume one)

November is here! The release of Star Wars Episode VIII is now only a month away and… I’ve been slacking with my Star Wars reading. So, my goal is to get all caught up by the time the new movie comes out. This includes both novels and comics. This little push begins today with a new book review: Tales From A Galaxy Far, Far Away – Aliens.

This is another young readers release. It is actually a collection of short stories. Most of the stories compiled in this book were originally available for purchase separately. But eventually they were collected into one volume and published together at a low price. This book contains the following tales:

High Noon on Jakku –  (Featuring Constable Zuvio – a minor character who’s scene was cut from The Force Awakens)

The Face of Evil – (Featuring a Frigosian doctor – a background extra seen in The Force Awakens)

True Love – (Featuring Unkar Plutt – a minor character from The Force Awakens)

All Creatures Great and Small – (Featuring Bobbajo – a background character from The Force Awakens)

A Recipe for Death – (A murder mystery that takes place in Maz Kanata’s castle)

The Crimson Corsair and The Lost Treasure of Count Dooku – (Featuring The Crimson Corsair – a minor character from The Force Awakens)

Unlike most of the “young reader” novels set in the Star Wars universe, which tend to be surprisingly mature, this book is very much aimed at children. While all of the stories contained within the book are interesting to a point, even for adults, they are largely silly and simple. For example, A Recipe for Death is a ridiculous and immature “whodunit” tale. But, even though some of the stories included in this collection are silly, they are short and largely entertaining.

The gems of the collection are High Noon on Jakku and The Crimson Corsair. The later features a VERY interesting tie-in to the Clone Wars that I hope to see explored in later stories. I recommend at least both of these tales to any serious Star Wars fan.

All in all, the stories in this book are a must have for hardcore fans or for children who really like The Force Awakens. More casual readers will likely find the collection to be immature and pointless.

Story: The short stories in the book range from excellent to sub-par. They are short enough to be read individually in one sitting.

Recommended:  For hardcore fans and young children.

Star Wars: Aftermath – Empire’s End

February 2017 saw the release of the final novel in the Star Wars Aftermath trilogy; Empire’s End. This is the series that bridges the gap (somewhat) between Episode VI and Episode VII. Over course of the these three books, we’ve been introduced to new characters as well as been able to peek in on a few of our favorite personas from original trilogy.

In retrospect, I was a bit cold on the original Aftermath. I didn’t care much for many of the new characters introduced, and I didn’t like the way the story seemed to jump all over the place. With the release of “Life Debt”, I began to feel a little more at home in Wendig’s post-ROTJ era, but still had my reservations. Now, I’m happy to say that I’ve actually come to enjoy several of the new characters he’s introduced. To me, Empire’s End is easily the best of the three novels in the series.

Those curious about the secret identity of Supreme Leader Snoke in Episode VII, will still be disappointed. Despite what many readers suspected to be a major tease regarding that character’s origins – nothing about the character is actually revealed. What we DO get in this story is a lot of background info on the planet of Jakku, as well as the Emperor’s plans post-mortum. It seems like Lucasfilm will be unlikely to give us any major revelations outside of the actual films,  but we’re certainly getting plenty of hints and breadcrumbs.  But YES – in this novel, you will finally see the fall of the Imperial Remnant and the reigns of power being handed to the New Republic. This alone, makes this novel worthy of your attention.

I’ve been an open critic of Chuck Wendig’s writing style in the past, and I’m happy to say that he seems to have really toned it down in this novel. This books reads much more like a started fantasy novel in terms of verbiage and standardized punctuation. To me, this one actually feels like it was written by a professional author and not some amateur who’s looking to make his name by being different and daring.

If you’re a serious fan of Star Wars and you love to consume every morsel of new information out there. This book is a need-to-have.

Story: The bulk of this book follows the characters that we’ve come to know from the other Aftermath novels, as well as longtime fan favorites. This story, when combined with the other three books, puts a nice end-cap on the events that occurred in Return of the Jedi, and helps set the stage for what we eventually see in The Force Awakens. However, even thoug ha lot of answers can be found here, fans are still left asking plenty of questions.

Recommended:  FOR HARDCORE FANS.

Star Wars: Rebels – Season 2

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Considering the third season of Star Wars Rebels is already on the air and half over, I guess I’m a little late with this review. But, that’s ok since I plan to discuss several details in the series that can be considered spoilers. Be forewarned!

The second season of Rebels keeps the momentum that finished off the first season going. Over the course of this season, we can begin to see the Rebellion against the Empire as it starts to solidify. Different rebellious factions are slowly starting to come together. A big part of this season involves the search for a suitable location for the Rebellion to establish their first base. The second major story-arc focuses on Vader’s newfound knowledge that Ashoka, his former student, is alive and aiding the rebels. As a result of this revelation, Vader dispatches more Imperial Inquisitors to seek out and eliminate Ashoka. In the meantime, Ashoka is determined to learn all she can about the Emperor’s new Sith helper.

There’s a lot of content to digest in this season of Rebels. There’s certainly a fair share of fluff episodes. But the producers did a pretty good job of keeping the main story arcs going in this season. Again, much like in season one, the last handful of episodes are best. In the final two episodes Kanan, Ezra and Ashoka discover an ancient Sith temple. However, upon their arrival they learn they are not alone. The temple is currently occupied by none other than an aged Darth Maul as well as two Imperial Inquisitors. The inquisitors were there seeking to put an end to Maul once and for all, but upon discovering the Rebel’s presence they turn their attention to them instead. This leads to some really great combat scenes that put our heroes on the same side as Maul temporarily. Seeing an opportunity in young Ezra, Maul tries to plant the seed of the dark side into the boy’s young mind by convincing him to slaughter one of the Inquisitors, but in the end Ezra refuses. This results in Maul going on a rampage and finishing the job himself. Before it’s all said and done, Maul turns on the team and another battle ensues. During this fight, Kanan is seriously injured and blinded by Maul’s lightsaber.

Eventually, Vader arrives on the scene and an epic showdown ensues. After doing away with Maul, Vader turns his attention towards our heroes. Now fully aware of Vader’s identity, Ashoka confronts him one-on-one – allowing Ezra and Kanan to escape as the Sith temple crumbles around them. Naturally, Vader escapes the battle – injured but alive. The fate of Ashoka remains unclear.

All in all, Season 2 serves as a step up from the debut season. This second season does a great job of linking the prequel/clone wars era to the original trilogy. Things are certainly falling into place. I promise not to wait until six months after the release of season 3 to share my thoughts on it.

Comics: Star Wars – Doctor Aphra

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Happy Star Wars day!  That’s right, the release of Rogue One is finally here.  Well, technically the film releases on 12/16. But as usual, theaters nationwide will begin showing the movie this evening. So, in celebration of this event I will be posting two Star Wars related reviews today. First up – Marvel’s new Star Wars comic: Doctor Aphra.  **THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS OF DARTH VADER #25**

Doctor Aphra is a name that might not be familiar to everyone. Casual fans, or fans of the films-only have likely never heard the name before. So who is Doctor Aphra? Aphra is a character from Marvel’s “Darth Vader” comic.  She is a criminal mastermind that partnered with Vader for the majority of his solo series. In Vader’s book, she helped him with his secret quest to track down Luke Skywalker. Along with her black Wookiee bounty hunter and two sadistically programmed droids, she worked in the shadows at Vader’s command, doing his dirty work and laundering credits to help fund his search.  In the end, when the whole plan fell apart, she tried to save herself by revealing Vader’s plans to the Emperor himself. This only resulted in Vader ejecting her into the void of deep space, presumably to die. Of course, as the final pages of the the comic showed, she managed to survive.

Now, Aphra has her own comic book. Along for the ride are her droids and menacing black Wookiee. This first issue follows Aphra as she tries to slip back into her old lifestyle. However, unforeseen complications occur that may result in a few changes in Aphra’s near future.

Overall, I found the comic to be off to a good start. It’s always hard to take a non-core character and make them the focus of a new story. But so far, Marvel has done a great job of not only introducing us to a new face in the Star Wars universe, but also making us interested. I look forward to see where Aphra’s story goes in the coming months.

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Artwork: Very good. The art work here is on par with Marvel’s other Star Wars entries so far. Crisp, clear, and enjoyable.

Story: Great job so far crafting an interesting tale about a 2nd class character. The addition of BT1 and 0-0-0 to the book make for some great dark-humor laughs.

Recommended:  Yes. Fans of the Darth Vader comic will really enjoy this book as it seems to be a continuation of the tale found there. Casual Star Wars fans might even find something to their fancy here.

Star Wars: Catalyst – A Rogue One Novel

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Rogue One is almost here! The first “sidestory” film in the Star Wars franchise hits theaters Thursday/Friday nationwide. This film will finally tell the official story of how the Rebel Alliance obtained the plans for the Death Star. Now, if you’re a long time Star Wars fan, you probably know that this story has been told several times before in various Expanded Universe stories. But of course, all of that is out the window now. As Yoda once said, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” This is now the official account of events. So… just forget anything you may have heard about “Kyle Katarn”.

Before talking about this book, we first need to briefly discuss a few details about the upcoming film. Nothing spoilerish… but certain details made clear by the official trailers will be discussed below.

The Rogue One film focuses on a character named Jyn Erso, who is recruited by the Rebel Alliance to help uncover the details of a new weapon that is being developed by the Empire. She was selected because the Rebels have learned that the developer of the weapon is none other than her father, the brilliant scientist, Galen Erso. The trailer indicates a perilous mission will be undertaken by Jyn and a group of rebels to uncover and retrieve the details behind the new Empire’s new battle station. We also know from the trailer that the Death Star project is being overseen by an Imperial officer by the name of Orson Krennic.  But little of his story is revealed in the trailers themselves.

There’s a lot of hype surrounding the release of Rogue One. So, to go along with the new film, we naturally have a prequel book: Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel.

All I knew going into this book was that it was going to set up the events leading up the story told in Rogue One, but I had no idea just what that entail. Well, this book starts off by introducing the character of Galen Erso. In fact, the book mainly focuses on this character. It starts during the events of the Clone Wars  and extends several years into the reign of the Empire. In this novel, we learn who Galen is – his philosophies and loyalties. It is immediately clear that Galen is a good man. Not someone we would expect developing weapons for the Empire.

The book also pays a lot of attention to the character of Orson Krennic. It provides background into this character; his rise to power within the ranks of the Empire as well as his friendship to Galen. Fans wondering how someone as good-natured as Galen might end up contributing to a weapon as horrific as the Death Star will be able to see exactly how this scenario is played out. The relationship between Krennic and Galen provides quite a bit of insight here. I’m curious to see how much of this will be seen on the screen.

Having read this book, I certainly feel that I already know quite a bit about some of the characters we are going to see in Rogue One. But, it’s obvious that there’s plenty more going to be introduced in the film that’s not covered here. I suspect that fans who read this book will certainly benefit from the background information, but I do not feel that is required reading for the upcoming movie.

All in all, I found the contents of this novel to provide a lot of interesting detail, but to be overall a bit dry and slow-paced from time to time. Fans clamoring to connect the dots between clues seen in the prequel trilogy and the original film will be pleased.

Story: Detailed and interesting. But as mentioned above, a little slow a times. Keep in mind his novel is intended to provide backstory and set up for events in an upcoming movie. Despite being a prequel, it may very well end up being a better read once you’ve viewed the actual film. We shall see.

Recommended:  For older, legacy fans of Star Wars – or Rogue One specific followers.