Friday, October 7, 2016

REVIEW | Star Wars: Lost Stars by Claudia Gray

 Lost Stars by Claudia Gray
Publication Year: 2015
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Awards: NA
Format: Audio
Narrator: Pierce Cravens

WHY?: I've recently developed a love for media tie-in novels (so far, Veronica Mars and Doctor Who) and Star Wars is a media franchise that I unsurprisingly love.  I chose this particular book as my introduction to the very confusing world of Star Wars novels because it didn't involve the known characters too heavily and was recommended by many I trust.  It has a 4.26 average rating on Goodreads.

SYNOPSIS:  The book starts in the early days of the rebellion, leading up to and then into the events of the three main movies (Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) and then continuing for a little ways after.  Cienna Ree and Thane Kyrell are growing up on the backwater planet of Jelucan just as the Empire comes in to take over.  Despite growing up on different sides of the tracks, they share a dream which makes them friends: to be starship pilots for the Empire.  As they grow up and their dreams are realized, however their view of the world starts to diverge and they end up on opposite sides of a war even as their feelings for each other blossom into more than friendship. So, star-crossed lovers and political intrigue - Yum! 

My first Star Wars book and it was SO good!  It is a great book even if you take away the Star Wars trappings but having those connections really enriches the reading experience.  I think technically this book is classified as Young Adult and I get why but I think it is only weakly classified this way.  I think it will work well for adult readers.  

It's worth noting again that my experience of this book was as a noobie so some of the things I really enjoyed and was impressed with, may be common themes in all the Star Wars back catalog.  For example, a veteran Star Wars tie-in reader may not be as blown away at the truly exceptional way Gray depicts the Empire from a completely different perspective - one that is not all evil and villainy.  This was definitely the highlight of the book for me.  The Empire we get in the movies is pretty universally Black Hat Evil  - the depiction here is a much more nuanced one, at least at first.  The primary view is from the perspective of two relative nobodies - all those anonymous storm troopers essentially - they are not evil and they fight for the Empire for very legitimate reasons.

Through this lens the book explores so many interesting themes the primary of which is honor and what it truly means.  Once you have made a pledge to an organization, is it dishonorable to abandon your pledge even when it becomes clear that the organization is corrupt and holds opposing values to your own?  Can you change your loyalties once you have more information?  For one character in the book the answer is a resounding and easy yes.  For the other it is an emphatic no - loyalty once given must be honored.  It becomes so much more interesting when these two characters are in love and have been lifelong friends.

I really enjoyed that we are focused on two regular grunts.  They are both superlative, super stars - graduated from the best school with honors but they are not "chosen", they can't wield the force, so they are the masses of pilots and techs you see out of your peripheral vision when watching the movies.   The main players we know from the movies make brief or off-stage appearances but the focus is definitely on Thane and Cienna.

Gray also does such a great job charting the path of someone who starts off as a gung ho imperialist  - one of the best and brightest recruits who then slowly transitions to join and then more slowly believe in the rebellion.  The switching of loyalties is not instant and passionate, it is a process that inches forward as more information is gained.  The development of both characters is really complex and interesting and I would describe this book as having a very character driven narrative. 

The book ends a little ambiguously which may not sit well with some but I thought it was the perfect ending that honored both characters and the story being told.  

I listened to the audio which I would characterize as awesome.  I don't remember too much about the narrator (which means he was fine) but the thing that makes the recording special is that it integrates a lot of Star Wars-y sound effects.  It was done in a way that enhanced the storytelling for me and didn't distract from it.  

FINAL VERDICT:  A really fantastic character driven tie-in novel which will enhance readers' view of the Star Wars universe.  I loved it and thought it was a great place to start within the Star Wars novels. 4 out of 5 Stars. 

Other Opinions are Available:  The Bibliosanctum 1 | The Bibliosanctum 2 | The Nerdist

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