Book Review: The Perfect Weapon by Delilah S. Dawson

As I’ve reviewed several Star Wars books over the past months, some of my favorites have been those with few stakes that make a genre fit within the universe. This is the case of The Perfect Weapon, a short ebook story that takes you to one of the missions of Bazine Nethal, a character briefly shown in ‘The Force Awakens’ at Maz Kanata’s castle.

Delilah S. Dawson takes this femme fatale character and takes her on a mission to find the identity of an unknown Stormtrooper. Bazine Nethal is headed to ask for her old mentor’s spaceship, making a deal were she can take the transport but she will do the mission with a trainee of his.

Bazine heads to a simple yet intriguing mission, as it has a couple on twists on the way that will keep you interested. The biggest forte of this short story is the fact that it embraces how simple it is, giving detailed descriptions of the action and scenes without making it longer than it actually needs. It’s a self contained story in the vein of the stories of Canto Bight. The story suffers from the simplicity, but the author has taken that and made a good plot out of it.

If you’re into simple stories that don’t have any stakes in the major plots of the galaxy we know, this could be a good story to read in one sitting. It isn’t a mandatory read for ‘The Force Awakens’, neither does it explain why Bazine was at Mas Kanata’s castle. We only see the merciless character that is Bazine Nethal. This mission driven story is a fun ride that will keep you turning the pages for a couple of hours.

Book Review: Three Years In Wonderland by Todd James Pierce

The construction of Disneyland has become a vital chapter of Walt Disney’s career. This project has been documented and talked about in documentaries, TV specials, promotional material, and more. Some of the difficulties they had, including opening day, have been mentioned several times, but others have been left out of the multi-year planning of Walt’s theme park.

‘Three Years In Wonderland’ narrates the untold story of Disneyland, shining light on one of the key talents that had been erased from history: C.V. Wood. This Texan businessperson was Disneyland’s first manager, as well as a planner that helped Walt and Roy during the early stages of the project.

C.V. Wood has been a lesser known character from the history of Disneyland because wasn’t fond oh him, thus erasing him from any official historiography. Even though C.V. Wood had many wrongdoings, there’s no doubt that his help was invaluable for Disneyland.

Todd James Pierce does a marvelous job documenting the life of C.V. Wood, from its early years to months before working with Walt. The beginning chapters flesh out Wood’s personality, business career and track record, showing the reasons why he would later have conflicts during the development of the Disneyland project. Later, the history of Disneyland is retold with this very important character in key moments from the development. These details are exhaustively researched, portraying the relationship between Walt, Roy, and Wood. The inclusion of the Texan businessperson even affects the opening of Disneyland, thus explaining some of the many other problems faced during what is known as Black Sunday.

Even though this book is mainly targeted at theme park fans, Todd James Pierce did an amazing job at writing a great book for anyone who doesn’t know anything about the history of Disneyland. This is what makes ‘Three Years In Wonderland’ a great read. The author didn’t just fill the gaps; he tells the story from the dry beginning and showing how the official history blends in with the omitted chapters. This book on the creation of the first American theme park will be cherished by theme park fans and historians alike for years to come.

Book Review: Most Wanted by Rae Carson

‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ shows us a young Han Solo struggling in the streets of Corellia. Q’ira is by his side, trying to do what it takes to escape from the White Worms and fly away with Han. How did these two bonded together in such a hostile place? Most Wanted by Rae Carson shows us the beginnings of this friendly relationship.

The book begins when Han and Q’ira are assigned different missions, only to later figure out they were having the same objective: trying to get an important object from an auction. Both Han and Q’ira get into trouble, teaming up to face the syndicates that are looking for them. In their adventure they are helped by Tsuulo, a nice Rodian, and Tool, a droid. For the next few days, they are about to learn to trust in each other, handle different plans, and understand that they are much more than just an asset from the White Worms.

Rae Carson’s style allows for detailed descriptions of what is happening in a small amount of time. The whole book takes place for several days, so each chapter happens in real time with few time jumps in between. Don’t be fooled in thinking this is just another mission driven plot. Once the characters are fleshed out, you will not want to drop the book. Even though it is a young adult novel, it handles the tropes really well, meaning that this isn’t another romantic novel.

The highlight of this book is Q’ira. Seeing her in the movie, you want to understand her thoughts and intentions. This book hints at the way Q’ira thinks and acts, making it a more compelling character. From the very beginning, she thinks very practical with subtle hints of weakness after meeting Han.

Even though this is a very well-written book, it has one major problem: it is a prequel book to a prequel movie. ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ advances the character in some ways, but not all of them because his arch is later developed in other movies. ‘Most Wanted’ suffers from the fact that Han’s arch is very subtle because his major arch occurs later in ‘Solo’. Rae Carson has taken this opportunity to develop Q’ira much more because she is not the main character in the film. The fact that this book revolves around a mission also justifies the fact that Han doesn’t change as much, which is a smart decision from the author.

This isn’t a mandatory read for the movie. What this means is that you can easily watch the movie without this book. What the books gives is 1) A fun adventure for Q’ira and Han 2) A better understanding of Q’ira as a character 3) A glimpse of life on Corellia.

Rae Carson has written one of my favorite books so far of the Star Wars canon. What makes this book great is the detailed descriptions, the internal struggles of the characters, and the right balance of action. Even though it keeps a narrowed story, the book is able to stretch it in such a way that makes it a very compelling read.

Book Review: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn

One of my favorite characters in Star Wars Rebels is Thrawn, so this book was on my reading list for quite a while. I preferred reading it after watching all the series to see how much it would inform the series. This character centric story is everything you might expect and more for a compelling villain that has reappeared after being one of the main characters of the trilogy that kicked of the Expanded Universe books (now Legends).

Thrawn by Timothy Zahn tells the story of the blue skinned Chiss as he slowly ranks up in the Imperial Academy and beyond. Every chapter builds up the character and moves the plot forward, giving intricate details of the character that are relevant in the book. Thrawn is the most empathetic villain I’ve ever read in the Star Wars books, giving more context to its decisions. Timothy Zahn takes his time to develop how Thrawn obsesses over small details to set up the tactical plans that made him Grand Admiral. The descriptions of how he interprets body language and art give a glimpse of the character in Rebels. I was always curious if Thrawn in the series collected art just because he was powerful enough to acquire it. When the novel explains how he can analyze the culture of a planet just by the art, you understand why he is so passionate about art.

While Thrawn slowly goes up the ranks of the Empire, we see a young Ahrinda Pryce trying to find her place in the galaxy after the political attack that took over her family’s mining facilities of Lothal. This story is as intriguing as Thrawn’s, sometimes even more interesting. Her struggles and feelings are developed to make us care about her. Pryce is trying to gain power as much as Thrawn’s but in the political world. It balances both characters really well and it explains why they have a mutual business relationship during Star Wars Rebels. Thrawn’s lack of knowledge about politics balances out with Pryce’s need of military power.

Other surprising character to appear was Colonel Yularen, which took me a while to remember his importance in The Clone Wars series. This is a light connection to other canon stories that doesn’t intrude nor it makes the world seem smaller. It makes sense that, as Thrawn ranks up, he meets a veteran of the Clone Wars.

Even though the novel is character centric, it has enough action in between. We see how Thrawn handles different missions, sometimes not understanding his decisions until the very end. That keeps you engaged in such a way that you just want to keep reading. There’s a moment when you think the story plateaus because of the several missions that happen one after the other, but the payoff at the end makes you understand why these missions are relevant to the story. Thrawn’s obsessions with Nightswan, an unknown bounty hunter, leads him slowly to find out who this character really is.

Overall, I can’t explain how good this book is. If you’ve enjoyed Thrawn in Rebels, this book will develop the character in such a way you’ll want to watch the series again. I haven’t read the classic Thrawn trilogy, but it will sure be in my reading list after enjoying this one so much. Take this book as soon as you can. A sequel, Thrawn Alliances, will be released soon. So if you’ve only read action packed Star Wars novels, take this book to deepen your toes in more character based stories.

Book Review: Canto Bight

With the release of The Last Jedi, I wanted to have more context in my upcoming viewing. The Last Jedi quickly became one of my top 3 favorite Star Wars movies and one of my favorite movies of all time. As my interest on Star Wars grew, I decided to take a leap into more canon stories, like the ‘Star Wars Rebels’ series and some books. I started reading Canto Bight and could take it off my hands until the very last page.

Some reviewers criticized this book by not giving good stories, but I couldn’t find a flaw in them. The first story maybe draw me less interested due to a different pacing, but the next three were such a joy I couldn’t stop reading. I don’t think this book is necessary to understand more of Canto Bight, but it does give context into how this city works and in this way understanding the economy of the war between the Resistance and the First Order. If you like mystery stories in a ‘film noir’ setting, then Canto Bight is your book.

The first story relates an attempt to kill somebody, taking you to different places. The second story involves the negotiation of an exquisite wine, and many things happen in between. In our third story, there’s an involvement with fathiers, the cute horses Finn and Rose ride on, as somebody is kidnapped. The last story involves the brothers Dodi, Thodi, and Wodi, clearly recognizable from the opening shot of Canto Bight, and their work in the casino. As you can see, they all have a criminal, Bond-like theme I thoroughly enjoyed.

One of the things I enjoyed the most of these stories is that they are only focused on Canto Bight, an unknown place since The Last Jedi. This makes the authors be in a free space to create, still conscious of the Star Wars universe but without the unnecessary mentions of other characters. You will see characters from other stories of the books mentioned in some parts, but it makes sense as they are all part of the same place. Besides that, there is no mention of other known characters of species.

Maybe the plots shown here could be odd to some fans that criticized the Canto Bight scene for being too earthy, similar to Las Vegas and the mafia, but I believe this book reflects how much it can be achieved when you give a whole new playground for authors and the Lucasfilm Storygroup to develop.

This book is recommended if you want to get into some Star Wars books without any knowledge of the rest of canon stories. I find this book to be a good starting point to see if you might like more Star Wars fiction in your life. In my case, I just want to get deeper and deeper into this universe. It could be hard to separate The Last Jedi from the stories in this book, but the more you read Canto Bight without thinking about your opinion on The Last Jedi, the better you’ll enjoy the stories as a whole.

Book Review: Star Wars Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig

The third book in the Aftermath trilogy, ‘Empire’s End’ had to tie the loose ends from ‘Life Debt’ while bringing closure to the archs of several characters. All of this occurs during an action filled novel, with the battle of Jakku in the background. The book works because it blends what made the last two books interesting from the start.

Even though the book isn’t as satisfactory of an adventure as “Life Debt” (a Han and Chewie adventure is really hard to beat), it gives something that few canon explores: conflict within the Empire. We see some hints of it during ‘Rogue One’, when Tarkin takes over the Death Star under Krennic’s helm, or ‘The Last Jedi’, with Kylo Ren and General Hux head to head. Rae Sloane, who was a really powerful character in the past two books, ends up crushed by her own Empire. This puts the character in a situation to reconsider her options. Sloane decides to attack Gallius Rax, current head of the Empire, who is responsible for putting Sloane in this complex situation.

The blend of politics and warfare was a surprise I didn’t expect. Even though in book 2 of the trilogy Mon Mothma does her good dose of politic shenanigans, she’s now in the midst of an electoral campaign, putting her also in conflict with her own New Republic. Tolwar Wartol, her political nemesis, becomes a compelling character to keep Mon Mothma in her toes.

The efficiency of the conflict in Jakku is defined by these different elements I mentioned. Besides this, it could be a very forgettable war. What ties Norra Wexley, Temmin, Jas Emari, Sinjir and Jim Barrel is the fact that Leia decides to make an attack on Jakku and the fact that Brenton, Norra’s husband and Temmin’s father, is with Rae Sloane after the attempt to kill Mon Mothma in ‘Life Debt’.

There are some unexpected surprises, like the appearance of the Hutt lineage. This was quite fun to read because you could clearly imagine Nima The Hutt roaming around the desert.

Overall, the book stays consistent even though it was jarring to keep up with all the different characters. There’s a moment when characters are in three different planets, each with their own mission and conflict. Still, the characters had really interesting archs that allowed me to keep on reading. Without the character, it would feel like a meaningless adventure.

The book also attempts to do some flashbacks in order to give Gallius Rax more depth. Even though it explained his intentions as well as his links to the Empire, I believe it barely contributes to the plot except in the near end. The book still keeps the interlude stories within chapters just like the past two books, many of them uninteresting compared to the past two books.

The Aftermath trilogy has its flaws, but what I found in reading is that it is no less flawed than any Star Wars movie or TV show. Chuck Wendig has been able to create a storyline that stands on itself. From the very first book, it doesn’t want to make a bridge between the original trilogy and the sequel trilogy. I find this a smart move, as there’s so much more to explore. With the Star Wars Resistance series and Jon Favreau’s upcoming live TV show, this 20 to 30 year period will be expanded in other ways.

If you like a blend of action packed stuff and fun characters, this is your trilogy. It is rough at times, but definitely worth a try if you can be patient enough.

Book Review: Star Wars Life Debt by Chuck Wendig

Even though the Aftermath trilogy wasn’t well received by fans, I wanted to give it a chance and see what all the fuss was about. Taking into account that, yes, the trilogy has some flaws (as with any Star Wars movie), I loved Life Debt. Filled with action packed chapters, characters that are way far from the main storyline, and pacing that gives the sense of urgency, it grabbed me by the hand to show me a different style of Star Wars novel. Book 2 of the trilogy, Life Debt, takes everything a step further, adding more layers to the narrative, bringing beloved characters in a way that makes sense, starting in a smart way were the last book left us.

Chuck Wendig has a love for Star Wars that it breathes in the pages. I find that the interludes he includes between some characters are his most personal writings, thinking about how the galaxy perceives the bigger narrative shown in the movies and the book itself. Now, Wendig brings Han, Chewie, and Leia in his story without shoehorning; the characters belong to this story as the original Aftermath crew has gained some recognition among the New Republic due to the task achieved by Norra, Jas, Sinjir and Temmin.

The story starts with Leia asking a personal request to Norra: to find Han Solo. Leia’s husband has been gone with Chewie, trying to liberate the Wookie planet of Kashyyk. The plot moves forward with Jas Emari, Temmin, Mister Bones, Sinjir and Wedge Antilles as they attempt a secret plan to find Han. In the middle of this situation, they eventually find Han and end up in the smuggler’s plan to save the Wookie planet.

The Aftermath crew has a bad feeling about this plan as problems arise due to the Kashyyk liberation plan, affecting the Imperial plans of Rae Sloane and Mon Mothma´s relationship with Leia. With Gallius Max as an enemy for Sloane, a great dynamic of power develops, reminiscent of the confrontation between Kylo Ren and General Hux in The Last Jedi. This tension pays off later in the book, with a satisfying resolution that leads straight to the next book.

I was reading this book while reading Last Shot and it became a great complimentary read for the upcoming Solo movie. The book handles Han Solo characterization very well while bringing more internal conflicts within him. These conflicts resurface later in Last Shot. Another great thing about this trilogy is the fact that there isn’t much of a time jump in between books, making it more immediately to start reading one book after the next.

As a person that was curious about the Aftermath trilogy, this is definitely a fun read that is unjustly maligned by many fans. Wendig achieves the daunting task of explaining how the Empire slowly turns into the First Order, presenting new characters, and taking into account what happens within Episodes 6 and 7. The author juggles all of these elements while not making the story itself conscious of all this juggling. With the release of ‘Solo’, this book is a great Han and Chewie story you can get into without even reading the first book of the trilogy. You could be lost in some places with the characters, but the book will fill you in with the needed information.