Recent months saw the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens multimedia project, with a number of comics, novels, and other publications being released in anticipation of the forthcoming movie. As of the writing of this review, it will be only a few more days before the film finally hits theaters in the United States.
Amongst the publications released in anticipation of the new movie is a trio of young adult novels, each chronicling a different character from the Classic Trilogy. The covers claim that each book also contains clues and hints regarding what fans are going to be seeing in the new film, despite said books actually being set far earlier in the Star Wars chronology.
Each book contains a prologue and epilogue which are set around the time of The Force Awakens (these are apparently the biggest source of the “hint dropping”) with the stories themselves being told by one of the characters (though the novels themselves are in standard third person omnipotent narrator format). While released simultaneously, the novels are not really a trilogy and do not really tie into one another, aside from a few common characters here and there.
The books feature minor artwork and are each broken into three parts, bookended by the aforementioned prologues and epilogues.
Are these books good and worth reading? Check out how they fare.
Smuggler’s Run: A Han Solo and Chewbacca Adventure by Greg Rucka
This story is set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, set not long after the former (and most likely prior to the Star Wars Marvel comic book series). At this point, Han Solo is still not sure if he wants to commit to being a part of the Rebellion, even though he has proven himself on more than a few occasions. Han and Chewie are sent to a desolate, domed planet to retrieve a Rebel scout whose services are desperately needed, more than ever in these times following the Rebellion being forced to abandon their base. Of course, like most things in Han’s life, this one will not be easy. A high ranking Imperial Services Bureau agent is hot on the scout’s tail, with some of the Empire’s deadliest foes in tow. Oh, and did I mention bounty hunters in the employ of Jabba the Hutt are after the pair as well?
Han Solo was by favorite character of the “Big Three” of the Classic Trilogy, as he was the character who developed the most from start to finish, going from a heartless self-serving bastard to someone who genuinely cares about his friends and a cause bigger than himself. This novel finds Han early on, not totally sure about what direction he and Chewie should go in. Already you can see the signs of him beginning to change, though he still finds himself in a personal crisis of sorts. Rucka writes the character fairly well and faithful to the films. The villains are fearsome and fairly well developed in their own right, which helps this to be a fairly strong novel. Do not let the young adult branding fool you; this is a surprisingly entertaining adventure, and is better than many past authors’ attempts at bringing Mr. Solo from screen to page.
The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure by Jason Fry
Like Han’s story, Luke’s is set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back (the story is most likely set following the Heir to the Jedi novel and prior to the Star Wars Marvel comic). Luke is sent on a mission by the Rebellion, but due to damage to his ship is forced to return to the planet Devaron, exploring places that he had seen in visions presumably brought on by the Force. Luke is still struggling to understand the Force and how to become a Jedi like he believes his father was, and goes on an journey to a Jedi temple on the planet. Unfortunately, his guide has other motives, and it may be up to one of the natives to help Luke and warn him of the impending dangers.
After having read the Luke-centric Heir to the Jedi, which was easily the worst novel in the new Star Wars canon so far, I was reluctant to read The Weapon of a Jedi. Despite the young adult marketing, this is actually a far better novel than that one which was supposedly made with mature fans in mind. Luke is far better written here, and the comic relief and awkward situations of that other book are kept to a minimum. This is Luke trying to understand the Force, and clearly desperate, with no real means of going further down the path; finding the temple is a major step in the right direction for him. We sympathize with Luke here, and Fry writes him as an interesting hero. The “villain” character feels a bit undeveloped by comparison, but the well-written version of Luke more than makes up for what shortcomings are present here.
Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure by Cecil Castellucci and Jason Fry
Unlike the other two novels, Leia’s is set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The Rebellion has become aware of a deadly Imperial plot that could spell the death of many throughout the galaxy. As such, Leia volunteers for a mission. With recruits, she travels to the opposite end of the galaxy, setting a trap that will divert Imperials from where their grand stand against the Rebellion is to take place. Throughout it, Leia faces a crisis with her crew risking their lives, and not being able to reveal the secrets of the mission for the sake of security and the plan’s success.
Of the three young adult novels released as part of this trio, Leia’s is probably the best. This is because the authors write the character very well, and put her into some interesting situations. She even faces a struggle between her duties and her personal desires, especially considering a certain man she loves is frozen in carbonite. The support characters initially start out fairly stereotypical, but we begin to bond with them throughout the journey. When there are tragic moments late in the story, we find ourselves sympathetic to Leia’s cause and all of the events taking place. For a so called young adult novel, it is surprisingly deep and powerful in places. Definitely recommended reading.
No Star Wars fan should overlook this set of novels; all three are excellent and beautifully add to the Star Wars universe, filling gaps between the films and helping to somewhat flesh out certain characters and story details. It is not clear exactly how much of what is presented here is actually going to serve as clues to what happens in the new movie, but in the meantime, enjoy these novels for what they are – surprisingly good tales set in everyone’s favorite galaxy far far away.