Book Reviews: Star Wars Novels!

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST CONTAINS AMAZON AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING I RECEIVE A SMALL COMMISSION IF YOU MAKE ANY PURCHASE THROUGH LINKS MARKED CLEARLY WITH AN ASTERISK, AT NO COST TO YOU. PLEASE READ MY FULL DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

I don’t mind admitting it: I am a big fan of “tie-in” literature!

A tie-in work is a work of fiction or other product based on a media property such as a film, video game, television series, board game, web site, role-playing game or literary property. Tie-ins are authorized by the owners of the original property, and are a form of cross-promotion used primarily to generate additional income from that property and to promote its visibility.

Source

You’d think that this kind of literature would be juvenile or poor quality, yet I’ve often been delighted by how much I’ve enjoyed a tie-in novel. I own at least a dozen Star Trek novels, for example, and one of them (My Enemy, My Ally by Diane Duane) remains one of my favorite books. I also own a Doctor Who novel called Deep Time, a Twelfth Doctor and Clara Oswald adventure as compelling (and terrifying!) as any episode. The joy of a well-written tie-in novel is that it gives you another opportunity to interact with these characters you already know and love in a 100% canonical context…which was why I recently had so much fun with four different Star Wars novels!

My Star Wars book collection!

I readily admit that one of Star Wars‘ biggest weaknesses (especially since Disney acquired it) is its heavy reliance on tie-in novels and comics. Nevertheless, I enjoyed these books precisely because they gave me the information I craved about the Skywalkers that I didn’t get from the movies.

Leia, Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray*

Once upon a time I wasn’t a big fan of Princess Leia. Yes, she was spunky and intelligent, but in the original films much isn’t said about her adoptive family or her home planet. This novel answered all those questions and gave so much context for Leia’s personality and priorities later in life.

Leia was raised by Breha, the ruling Queen of Alderaan, and her husband Bail Organa, the planet’s Viceroy. You do learn this in the Prequel films, but you don’t know what her adoptive parents are really like. This novel, which three years before the events of A New Hope, shows a 16-year-old Leia training for her role as the heiress to Alderaan’s throne. But she is also uncovering her parent’s darkest secret: Breha and Bail, together with their allies, are planning a rebellion against Emperor Palpatine. It’s as much a coming-of-age story for Leia as A New Hope is for Luke.

Best part of this novel: Leia’s growing friendship with Amilyn Holdo (played by Laura Dern in The Last Jedi). Amilyn is hilarious and such a great, whimsical foil for the more practical, no-nonsense Leia.

Last Shot: A Han and Lando Novel by Daniel José Older*

I really wanted to love this book. Set about three years after The Return of the Jedi, it did give me so much Domestic Han and Baby Ben content. For that reason and that reason alone, I shall keep it in my personal library.

Otherwise, this book was a disappointment. Han and Lando are tracking down a villain who wants to turn all the droids in the galaxy into Murder Bots, and both have a history with him. Unfortunately, the author chose to show this history by including flashbacks…but rather than present those flashbacks in a single scene, the book presented them as subplots woven through the present-day narrative. It was very confusing, and it was hard to keep track of what was unfolding in each “flashback subplot.”

Then there’s the obviously male character (he’s impersonating Han when we first meet him–he’s clearly a guy) using the pronouns “them/they/theirs.” I know this isn’t the “woke” thing to say, but it only made the already-jumbled narrative even more frustrating.

Still, Baby Ben Solo being an adorable child who just wants to be cuddled was the best part. More of this, please and thank you.

Bloodline by Claudia Gray*

Claudia Gray is at it again with another novel about Leia, only this time it’s set six or seven years before The Force Awakens. This story shows her grappling with the political ramifications of everyone (and I mean literally everyone except her husband and her brother) finding out she’s Darth Vader’s daughter.

It drives me nuts to think they kept this under wraps, yet Bloodline drives a compelling point: hiding Stuff(TM) will come back to bite you down the road. If Leia and Luke hadn’t kept Anakin Skywalker’s descent to the Dark a secret–if a political rival of Leia’s hadn’t dropped the bombshell for her own totalitarian purposes–would supporters of the First Order have gained so much ground? Would Leia have been so isolated by the time of The Force Awakens? Perhaps most importantly, would her son have gone off the deep end if, y’know, he’d at least known he wasn’t the only one in the family to be tempted by the Dark Side?

Leia’s inner and outer conflicts, as well as the origins of the Resistance, make for a truly fascinating, suspenseful story–one that I’ll definitely revisit in years to come. Best part of this novel: Leia being an absolute warrior as well as a princess and a politician.

Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse*

Remember how I said Star Wars is infamous for relying too much on ancillary materials? This is one of three noteworthy examples, the other two being The Rise of Skywalker novelization and The Rise of Kylo Ren comic series. Resistance Reborn tells the story of that very critical year between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker–a story that goes completely untold or even just quickly explained in the movies.

The Resistance was all but annihilated at the end of The Last Jedi…and yet by the time The Rise of Skywalker opens, they have a bunch of new ships and new recruits and no one in the audience knew where they’d come from. (*heavy sigh*) Resistance Reborn explains all that, thankfully. And it’s really a good book. Poe Dameron takes center stage and gets some quality character development, but Leia also has to deal with the fallout from the Battle of Crait and rally her own intimidated allies across the galaxy. My sole disappointment was that Rey didn’t get a lot of attention in this book; otherwise, I really liked it.

Best part of this book: The scene where Poe and Finn have to go undercover to a fancy party. Also, there is a BIG REVEAL about a Certain Character in Bloodline that made me squeal with happiness!

Have you read any of these books? Do you have any other good Star Wars recommendations? Let me know in the comments!

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