When starting this book, I feel very excited to start reading it, I’ve heard a lot of good things about it, hence the reason why Boaz and I decided to choose it as our last book. This book ties into the Star Wars movies and universe which I really like since I’m big Star Wars fan. I do think reading a book that ties in to a movie universe holds a certain negative prejudice, that’s it’s not “real literature”. I’ll wait and see how good this book is, but it’s getting great reviews across the board so I’m hopeful.
The book has a nice introduction of the main characters, a girl named Ciena Ree and a Boy named Thane Kyrell. I liked how they made Ciena and Thane inspired to join the Empire because them being rescued by a character that’s portrayed as evil in the movies. Grand Moff Tarkin saves them from getting beaten up and shows them around in a space shuttle which is a very nice act from him while in the movies he’s pretty vindictive, I guess everyone has a good side. Moving on I like how they go about Ciena and Thane training together in Thanes small old space ship, it’s done quickly enough so it doesn’t become boring, but the author writes enough so we see them solidifying their friendship.
Both of the characters make it in to the prestigious Imperial Academy of Coruscant (capital of the galaxy), some people said this was way too much of a coincidence since there are thousands of academies throughout the galaxy, but they send the best recruits to Coruscant and they were the best recruits from Jelucan so it made sense to me. I thought the reactions of the main characters to Coruscant was really funny, they both come from a “hill billy” planet at the edge of the universe and coruscant is this planet covered in sky crappers, so they’re blown away by the look of it. I like the new roommates introduced in this chapter, they’re very different characters personality wise, especially Nash Windrider seems like a cool dude to me. The training process in the academy seems pretty hard and it’s very competitive, I guess that makes a lotta sense though since they wanna recruit the best soldiers. What was remarkable to me is that unlike almost all militaries on earth where they train soldiers for a specific task and branch (think pilot in air force, engine repair in navy, marine, etc.) it seems that in the Imperial academy you basically do everything and once you graduate you get assigned a position you were best at. It’s a smart way to give someone the job they’re best at and also diversify they’re training so they adaptable to a lot of different situations, however it probably takes a lot longer to train someone in all of them instead of focusing on one specific task.
Interesting turn on events that Thanes canon was sabotaged, supposedly it was Ciena who sabotaged Thanes canon, pan but cmon thats not actually the case. Apparently someone with higher clearance edited the security system to make it look like Ciena was the only person to be near Thanes canon before he last left and the inspection. My running theory is that its Thanes older brother, when Thane saw him earlier he said he was promoted or transferred to a clerical job, so I’m thinking maybe his brother changed the acces log to pin out Ciena and Thane against one another.
As it turns out it was probably someone from the high command of the Academy, who tried to play Ciena and Thane out against one another to sever their ties to their home world and make them more competitive. Ciena and Thane both view this action very differently, and is this first concrete showing of their ideological differences. Ciena isn’t too happy with it, but sees it more as a way of making them part of the Empire instead of their home world Jelucan. While Thane sees it as an attempt to destroy your friendship. I personally think it was a bit unjustified, but definitely something to empire would do to create better soldiers. Thane goes a bit too far though which starts the whole fight with Ciena. I really like the parts on Coruscant in the imperial academy, it shows a very different side of the empire that promotes loyalty and hard work instead of the blank evil side we mostly see in the movies.
I liked the fact June and Thane are stationed on the Death Star to make us as the reader learn a little bit more about he Death Star. A think it’s great how this is filling in either more details or small plot holes from the movies, without making it too big. The movies are really about the heroes while the main characters in this book are just average people. You get to see the destruction of Alderaan and the death star from a very different perspective which i thought was really interesting. A lot of people within the empire were as shocked with the destruction of a planet as the rebellion, not everyone within the empire was pure evil and willing to kill so many people. It also makes you think about the destruction of the death star, in the movie is a big celebratory moment and victory, but in the book you know millions of people including good friends like June were on there. That’s what I really like about this book so far, it gives the Empire more dimension.
Thane who has always been the more cynical protagonist is seeing the best side of the empire up close, he’s witnessing slavery and extortion. Ciena on the other hand is experiencing more of the good the empire is doing, she’s saving people and defeating pirates. Thane unfortunately makes the mistake of misreading Ciena (on a holographic transmission) and defects from the empire thinking she will too. However Ciena doesn’t defect and tries to get Thane to rejoin the Empire, but he sees the empire as evil and can’t do it, which shows their ideological differences clearly we saw earlier in the book. It’s very much about Honor vs doing whats right and stability vs Justice. This is a hunch, even thought I’m pretty sure, that Thane is going to end up join the rebellion. I think that’s at the core of this book, that not everything is as black & white as it seems, everything has an up and downside. Justice means instability which leads to crime, defying your honor to do whats right betrays your values and so on.
Yep I was right this time around, Thane joined the rebellion after a sit down with Wedge Antilles. What’s ironic to me is that Thanes main reason for joining the Rebellion is not because he whole hardily believes in the rebellion, but because he thinks and I quote “nothing could be worse than the empire”. However if you know your star wars lore and saw the 2 billion grossing 2015 Star Wars: The Force Awakens, you will know the empire will transform into the First Order because of the actions of the rebellion and in my opinion the First Order is far worse than the Empire. I think the Galactic Empire can in a lot of ways be compared to the Roman Empire, definitely not short on bad things like Slavery, conquest and inequality, but it brought stability, equality and prosperity to a lot of countries. The First Order is more comparable to the Nazi Third Reich; hellbent on killing, extermination and hatred. So the ironic thing for me is that Than was wrong, things can be worse than the Empire, and the rebellion created a path for the First Order. I have to say throughout the book the Empire grew increasingly more corrupt and rotten from within so maybe it was time to go. On the other hand people like Ciena were still part of the Empire and the higher she is in rank the more good she could’ve done and maybe restored the empire from within. The rebellion is much more about freedom, but they’re not harmless either, they’re really a means to an end group that are willing to do some pretty nasty things.
I was a big fan of most of the ending and thought it was handled very well. I feel really bad for Ciena who lost her only connection to her (dead) twin sister and has basically given up on the Empire which has become unfixabely rotten after the Death of the Emperor. I think she’s very brave for still being loyal to her fellow soldier even if she isn’t to the Empire and she becomes captain of a Star Destroyer (huge capital battleship with a crew of in the thousands) which is pretty cool. The last part of the books very emotionally gripping, I think it might’ve been a better ending if they both died with the Star Destroyer crashing on Jakku, which I kinda saw coming (hence the cover of the book), closing the loop starting at their childhood and ending it like that. I’m glad they’re alive but it left the ending of the book very open, possibly for a sequel? Even though im not sure what that would really be about, but if it’s a good book I’m game.
Overall I really liked this book; probably my favorite new canon Star Wars book I have read. It’s a fun book to read, but it makes you think about certain themes of right and wrong too. It had its fair share of weighty emotional moments, well balanced with funny interactions, thoughtful moments and cool movie references or set pieces. So if you’re a Star Wars fan, like me, you’ll probably enjoy this book even more and also gives you more insight into the movies and universe which is great.