Star Wars Aftermath: Life Debt – Book Review

Aftermath: Life Debt is the sequel to the controversial novel, Aftermath. With a different writing prose, compared to other Star Wars novels, as well as story that may have been lackluster. Author Chuck Wendig had a large hurdle to overcome after the backlash of the first novel, but he certainly overcame it. Delivering a story that is suspenseful, action-packed, and explores deep into the mythos of Star Wars.

What the novel excels in is describing to us the state of the galaxy after Return of the Jedi. As much as it’s a story about a band of New Republic soldier, it’s the fragile state of the Empire that makes this a fascinating story. The story doesn’t shy away from starting with a bang, as our band of New Republic Soldiers.The team is led by ace pilot Norra Wexley, alongside is her son, Tommen, as well as Jam the Special Ops soldier; Jas, a bounty hunter, and Sinjir, a former Imperial Officer.. Together they are a band of misfits with a primary operation of picking up (kidnapping) Imperial Officers. Basically a legally assigned group of bounty hunters.

In the first novel, we are introduced to these characters, but we never get enough development of them and personally, I didn’t care for them as much. However, now that I’ve spent some time with them and know more about each character, each page is a delight as we learn more and more about them. I can honestly say that I now care about these characters. Eventually they go on a mission to find Han Solo who is lost and tried to liberate Chewbacca’s home planet Kashyyyk. What leads is a story of guerrilla warfare in the deep jungle of the planet with an Imperial officer who considers himself a warlord. Intense and brutal action, as well as heartwarming scenes. I actually cared for what was going on in the story and it’s characters, which made it carry more wait to what was happening, with a much bigger stake.

The newly appointed Grand Admiral Rae Sloane is on a mission to change and persuade the public of how order and stability of the Empire is what the galaxy needs. Introduced in a previous novel, Sloane has become a fan favorite, with her devout love for the Empire she would do anything for it, even change it. if it is required. She is also on a personal mission to find out who and where her head advisor came from. At the end of the first novel we are introduced to a new mysterious and sinister character in the name of Galius Rax. A character who shares a striking resemblance to character Grand Admiral Thrawn (without the blue skin.) Cold, calculating, and has a new vision for the Empire. Little is known about him, as to how he came to be, what he has done prior, and what is his endgame?

Although Rae Sloane is in charge of the Empire, it is Rax who controls her and she tries her best to escape him. While she maybe 10 steps ahead, he is 50 steps ahead, with a clear vision and endgame for the Empire, unlike Sloane. The dialogue between the two is fascinating and is what made the novel most interesting for me. The novel is filled with several twists and surprises,that lead to even MORE twists and surprises.

Although, I do like the character Rax, I have to admit he is very similar to old character Grand Admiral Thrawne, as previously mentioned. Some may even say it is a carbon copy of it and although I don’t see it, I can certainly see where people may think that. Also, the prologue was slow, but it had a secret that was interesting, but as you read the novel that secret is easily revealed, making the epilogue anticlimactic.

The novel does a great job at telling us where the universe is and giving subtle hints in the direction that leads to The Force Awakens. Although there were moments where I thought the pacing was a bit off and things were rushed, it doesn’t take away how amazingly fun and different it is from other Star Wars stories.

Rating: 8/10

Star Wars: Bloodline – Book Review

I have traveled from a galaxy far, far, away to give you my review on one of the most interesting political thriller novels, that isn’t Game of Thrones or House of Cards. But rather about two factions of politics at war with each other and Senator Leia is stuck in the middle of this amazingly told story, written masterfully by Claudia Gray.

Set six years prior to The Force Awakens, the New Republic is fractured by two opposing political factions. The Populist, who believe that individual planets should be able to govern themselves, while the opposing Centrist believe in a strong central government with an equally strong military. Leia is now a senator as has grown weary from her time, with all the endless debate and shouting that goes nowhere, but she can’t retire just yet, because she’s sent on a mission to uncover this criminal empire that threaten to undo everything the New Republic has worked so hard to achieve. On this mission however she isn’t accompanied alone…

Ransolm Casterfo is a new character introduced in this novel and he is a shining star. Casterfo is young, ambitious man who is a  rising star in the Centrist and in the Senate. When you first see him, you see him dressed very elegantly, his demeanor is very arrogant and when he and Leia first meet, things get heated. (Mild Spoiler) Casterfo collects old Imperial memorabilia and this drives Leia insane, but you come to realize that Casterfo isn’t like many of the centrist who want the Empire to return, but rather a politician who puts principle over allegiance. He gets a great arc throughout the novel and you completely understand where he comes from in terms of his ideology.

The chemistry between Casterfo and Leia is rich and plays around our very own politics. The Galactic Senate are in endless debates, which get nothing done and they practically hate each other. What’s great about the two characters are where you see that although, they have opposing views in politics, they both see the flaws and advantages in each others factions, which not only form an alliance, but a friendship. But the book is about Leia and her struggle; how she’s never really been free and has mostly put duty in front of herself and you get to see that take a toll on her, she just wants to fly away with Han and have quality time with her son Ben, and just be at peace, but she can never have it. There’s a scandal that happens and although you know it happens, it still affects you when you read it as you just see tragedy befall onto Leia. I would also like to add that Leia has never been written better and reading her is just like watching her in the original trilogy.

What I find amazing about the story is how well and easily accessible it is to read. There have been several Star Wars books in the past that at times may seem daunting to read, but Claudia Gray manages to make it approachable to read and be sucked into the world of Star Wars. The novel sets up what the galaxy is like in the Force Awakens era. You get to find out how the First Order came to power and how the Resistance started. Many questions you may have had from the film can be answered in this film. You get to know what the criminal underbelly is like and how they operate. This novel certainly helps tie the 30 year gap between Return of the Jedi and Force Awakens and actually adds some needed flavor to the film itself.

If I really needed to put anything negative about the novel, it was that I thought the other supporting characters like Joph or Greer, but that’s only a few of other great characters like Rinnrivin Di, a criminal mobster and Carise Sindian, a power hungry Centrist, with strong ties towards a looming evil.

In short, Claudia Gray creates a suspenseful, yet touching political thriller, with a twist of Star Wars and a heavy dose of Leia leading the charge and being the natural born leader she’s always been. For any Star Wars fan, I implore you to read this book to not only read a great story in general, but to also enhance your experience with the Star Wars saga.

Rating: 9/10