Star Wars: Rebels – Season 4

The home video release has been out for almost a month, but I’m finally getting around to sharing my thoughts on the fourth and final season of Star Wars Rebels.

Over the course of these four years, I’ve sat and watched as this show matured from a loose-episodic narrative, to the serial drama that it has now become. This season does a fine job of taking the momentum put in place by season three and continuing to build on it. The relationship between the characters has now reached its crescendo, and fans are in for a real treat. The fate of Kanan is finally revealed, and I must say, extremely well done. Fans of Thrawn are treated to a number of appearances over the course of these episodes. Also, this final season of Rebels continues to bring back the religious mysticism of the force that was largely lost in the prequel era. It seems Disney continues their quest to restore certain parts of the Star Wars mythology back to its roots.

Overall, the entire season is well worth watching for nearly any Star Wars fan. However, it is undeniable that the final episode is one that fans will be talking about for years to come. For those that have not watched it, be warned. The following paragraph is a MAJOR spoiler alert:

As you may have guessed, the main Rebels storyline concludes with the death of Kanan and the formation of the Rebel Alliance. But it is actually the fate of Ezra that ends up stealing the most attention. In order to negotiate peace on the planet of Lothal, Ezra allows himself to taken prisoner by Grand Admiral Thrawn. Shortly after, Thrawn’s fleet is attacked by a slew of force sensitive space whales… (I know it sounds odd, but go back and watch season two and it will all make sense). During the attack, Ezra and Thrawn are whisked away by lightspeed to an unknown fate among the stars.

At this point, the finale takes a very ambitious time jump and picks up back up after the events of Episode VI. We learn that Hera was present during the battles portrayed in both Rogue One and Return of the Jedi, and that she had become pregnant by Kanan before his death. Now, with the galaxy seemingly at peace, Sabine has decided to take it upon herself to uncover Ezra’s fate. On her journey she is accompanied by none of than…. Ashoka Tano. That’s right, in a moment of shock it is revealed that Ashoka survived the events of season three.

Naturally, all of this fuels fan speculation more than ever. What happened to Thrawn and Ezra? If Ashoka is alive during the original trilogy era and after, does that mean she met or even trained Luke Skywalker? The possibilities are endless and it seems fans will have to wait for answers. But the hype train is going full speed ahead. All of this makes season four a must watch for serious Star Wars fans.

Star Wars: Canto Bight – Various Authors

Next up on my list of unread Star Wars novels is Canto Bight, a collection of short stories that take place on the casino world of – you guessed it, Canto Bight.

Now, I know that in the eyes of many (myself included), the Canto Bight sequence of The Last Jedi was probably one of the low points of the film.  But, I usually enjoy the Star Wars short story collections, so I decided to go into this book with an open mind. Sadly, it seems that even the printed word can’t save Canto Bight from its cursed reputation. 

The tales included in this collection try really hard to entertain. Collectively, they all do an excellent job of providing backstory to the infamous casino city. But the content of the stories themselves are pretty shallow. I found many of them to simply be nothing more than classic heist tropes, or high stakes Vegas drama wrapped in a Star Wars skin. At points, some of the stories manage to be interesting, but they almost always fall flat in the end.

If you’re a fan of capers and con-job tales, you might actually find quite a bit of enjoyment in this book. But general fans are likely to be left rolling their eyes. Canto Bight is already unpopular with a majority of Star Wars fans and this book doesn’t it any favors.

Story: This collections feels largely uninspired and is often downright silly. There are certainly entertaining moments to be found, but overall, I was very let down.

Recommended:  Fans of capers and pulp heist stories might feel right at home with this collection. However, the general Star Wars reader base is likely to find nothing but disappointment here. 

Star Wars: The Legends of Luke Skywalker – Ken Liu

For the last two months I’ve been making an extra-long commute to work. This has cut into my gaming time drastically. But on the upside, I’ve had more time during the day to read. I’m still grinding through “The Last Jedi” companion novels, but I’m almost to the end. Today, I’m going to share my thoughts on an interesting little book; The Legends of Luke Skywalker.

This is a strange entry in the new canon. Here, we have what is essentially a collection of short stories – all about Luke Skywalker. However, instead of being completely factual, the tales found in this book are presented as myths or “legends” if you will. Like someone who might hear these tales recited at a table in some far away cantina, the reader has no way of knowing if the content of these stories is historically accurate or not. The only thing “canon” about the tales included in this book is the fact that they represent the type of tall tales passed around the galaxy regarding the now infamous Luke Skywalker.

In total, this book contains six separate stories They vary from plausible to completely ridiculous. Having read these, I believe it is intended for readers to feel that some elements of truth can be found in most of these stories, but I also tend to think that each tale also contains a bit of embellishment by the storyteller. I found the concept to be quite original and entertaining. Most importantly, this book establishes the fact the the heroic deeds of Luke Skywalker are known to many beings across the galaxy. Many believe in him, but just as many consider him to be nothing more than a myth. When you think about it, this provides the perfect set up to Luke’s presentation in The Last Jedi. Something that I feel the fan-base desperately needs.

Story: Entertaining, with a good presentation. Some of the tales are more interesting than others. But all of them are very well done.

Recommended:  This is a must-read for older fans who are struggling with Luke’s portrayal in The Last Jedi.  Also recommended for general TLJ fans. More casual Star Wars fans may not get much from this type of book.

Star Wars: Leia, Princess of Alderaan – Claudia Gray

Finally catching back up on my Star Wars book reviews, I want to share my thoughts on Leia, Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray. This is a novel that really took me by surprise. I went into this book with low expectations. But ended up with a page turner that captured my attention from start to finish. From my experience, novels that feature Leia as the lead character have always felt slightly subpar. One recent exception to this was Bloodline, a book that was also penned by Claudia Gray. Claudia Gray really seems to understand what makes the character of Leia Organa interesting and has no problem whatsoever getting that to translate to paper. In fact, she does such a wonderful job that I find myself hoping she remains the de facto “Leia” author for some time.

This book focuses on Leia as a young girl, several years before events of Episode IV. It provides a lot of background information on her days growing on Alderaan, her introduction into galactic politics, and even how she came to be a member of the rebellion. This novel also does a masterful job of entwining characters and lore from both the original trilogy and prequel era in a relevant and cohesive way. Often times, when authors try to blend these two eras of Star Wars together, the result ends up feeling forced or gimmicky. Not this time.  If that wasn’t enough, this book also introduces the character of Amilyn Holdo and the planet of Crait – both featured in The Last Jedi.  This helps to further cement them into the ongoing narrative. Again, this is handled expertly in a way that only Claudia Gray could manage.

The Last Jedi was a film that was very divisive for many Star Wars fans, myself included. For many, the character of Admiral Holdo seemed injected into the movie with no backstory or real purpose. It is books like this one that just might be able to change the minds of those fans who have a hard time understanding just who that character is and why she so important to Leia. (Still, this should have been covered to some extent in the film itself, but I digress.) Fans who find themselves on the fence about the direction Disney is taking Star Wars would do themselves a favor by cracking open this book. It’s novels like this that keep that classic EU feel that so many fans love, but still manage to stay within the confines of the official canon.

Story: Very well written. Claudia Gray is a wonderful author and a boon to the Star Wars literary world. Great info on Leia Organa and the early days of the rebellion. Fans curious about Alderaan will find many of their questions answered here.

Recommended:  For all fans. Especially those that might take issue with some of the story decisions in The Last Jedi.

 

 

Star Wars: From A Certain Point of View – Various Authors

It has been a while since I posted a review of a Star Wars novel. In truth, I think I suffered from a bit of Star Wars burnout leading up to the release of The Last Jedi. I indulged on so many different books and other Star Wars media at the time, that once the movie was released I found myself needing a break. Now, a few months later, we are on the heels of Solo: A Star Wars Story, so I’m getting back into my groove. This time, I’m taking a moment to talk about a rather interesting entry in the new Star Wars canon; From a Certain Point of View.

This book is a collection of short stories that actually tell the tale of A New Hope, but from the viewpoint of various characters. (Hence the name of the collection).

As expected with any short story collection, some of the tales included in the volume are better than others.  It starts off strong with a story told from the perspective of Captain Antilles. This story does a wonderful job of bridging the gap between Rogue One and  A New Hope and serves as a perfect launching point for the book. But it is then followed by a slightly dull, but still interesting, tale about the Stormtrooper who stunned Princess Leia.

This ebb and flow continues for the first half of the novel. But then everything comes to a grinding halt when we reach the “cantina scene” from the movie. At this point, we are dished out what (felt to me) like too many random short  stories about the various  aliens found in the Mos Eisley Cantina. This portion of the book actually reminded me a lot of the old Expanded Universe novel Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina. In fact, several of the stories here offer retcons to some of the tales told in that old collection.

The last half of the novel is where things really pick up. There are some really insightful stories about Obi  Wan, Yoda, and even an interesting poem about Emperor Palpatine. It all makes for a very eclectic, if not refreshing book.

All in all, I found this collection to be a mixed bag. Some of the stories are very well done and interesting. Others almost read like satire and feel like throwaway content. Without sounding too controversial, I was also slightly irritated to see more of what seemed like “political shoehorning” in this collection. One story in particular reveals a homosexual relationship between a Stormtrooper and an Imperial officer… Ok. But, why is that important? I feel like if given some context or an important plot point this would make more sense. But to me, it just felt like it was tacked-on for the sake of having something LGBT friendly in the book. But, whatever – Inclusion, I guess.

Despite some minor flaws, I found this book to an overall worth addition to the new Star Wars canon. I enjoyed the “point-of-view” aspect to it, and I hope see more novels follow the same format.

Story: Mixed. Some of the short stories collected here are masterfully done. Others, not so much.

Recommended:  For all Star Wars fans.

 

 

 

Star Wars: Guardians of the Whills – Greg Rucka

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. To me, they seem better suited for a slightly more mature novel.

The book 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.

It’s difficult to provide any more details on this book without running the risk of spoiling plot points, so I’ll end the review here.

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 – Beth Revis

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 – Timothy Zahn

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 I… 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.