Author: Claudia Gray (http://www.claudiagray.com/)
Claudia Gray is the pseudonym or pen name of a bestselling, New Orleans-based novelist. Her home in New Orleans is more than 100 years old, and is painted purple.
Before working as a full-time novelist, Gray worked as a lawyer, a disc jockey, a journalist, and a waitress (a terrible one by her reckoning). She enjoys hiking, traveling, reading, and listening to music, but says she loves writing best of all.
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature & Fiction, Star Wars Cannon
Read on… the bus in Seattle while… traveling to and from work.
Music I listened to while reading this book: Star Wars Soundtracks (playlist available on Spotify)
Title: Lost Stars (Star Wars)
Publisher: Disney Lucasfilm Press
Publication Date: September 4, 2015
Purchase your copy here.
Review: 4 out of 5 Dogwoods
Summary (from Goodreads): A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
Eight years after the fall of the Old Republic, the Galactic Empire now reigns over the known galaxy. Resistance to the Empire has been all but silenced. Only a few courageous leaders such as Bail Organa of Alderaan still dare to openly oppose Emperor Palpatine.
After years of defiance, the many worlds at the edge of the Outer Rim have surrendered. With each planet’s conquest, the Empire’s might grows stronger.
The latest to fall under the Emperor’s control is the isolated mountain planet Jelucan, whose citizens hope for a more prosperous future even as the Imperial Starfleet gathers overhead…
Lost Stars, part of the new Journey to the Force Awakens cannon, sheds light on past events from the original trilogy of films, reveals new events, and introduces us to two new characters in the Star Wars universe: Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree.
For being such a fast read, Lost Stars covers a large amount of ground. Lost Stars starts before A New Hope, re-contextualizes the events from the original trilogy of films, and then takes us beyond the events of Return of the Jedi. Lost Stars adds texture and depth to familiar events while expanding the Star Wars universe. Looking at the book’s cover image and knowing that Lost Stars leads up to The Force Awakens, it is easy to guess where Lost Stars will end, but it is still a fulfilling journey and one of the better Star Wars novels I have read.
The backbone of Lost Stars is the romance between Thane and Ciena. They grow up on opposite sides of the tracks in the outer rim of the Empire on the planet Jelucan. Thane is a young man from the upper echelon and Ciena is an honor-bound woman from the lower class. Picture Romeo and Juliet set against the backdrop of a tyrannical intergalactic regime.
Thane and Ciena are brought together by a chance childhood encounter and bond over their shared dream of becoming Imperial pilots. Over time, Thane and Ciena’s friendship develops into something more, and their love grows against the backdrop of their disillusionment with the Empire. By watching Thane and Ciena go through their training in the Imperial Academy on Coruscant, we get the Star Wars version of Hogwarts from Harry Potter. Following our two main characters as they are students, watching them suffer at the hands of imposing teachers with strict lessons, and rooting for them as they scramble to be the best in their class – it feels familiar and fun.
With two main characters, Gray writes from each of their perspectives, alternating between two inner monologues, two sets of ideals and morals, and they are both distinct and wonderfully written. The detail that goes into this story and its characters is what makes Lost Stars so good. Since we follow Thane and Ciena from childhood, we know who they are front to back, just like they know each other. Rarely do you get to the core of characters like this in the Star Wars universe.
As Thane and Ciena progress through the Imperial Academy and rise through the ranks, we learn the Empire takes moral and decent people, and twists them until they are left misshapen. When the story progresses further through the original trilogy, we eventually see a fracture develop between Ciena and Thane; honor and loyalty threaten to tear Thane and Ciena apart as they find themselves on either side of the conflict in the war between the Empire and the Rebellion.
One thing I loved about Lost Stars is that it gets to the core of the war between the Empire and the Rebellion; it is a tragic civil war. We see friends and family fighting against each other on either side of the conflict. Lost Stars makes you realize that every Storm Trooper, every Tie Fighter Pilot, and every other faceless, helmeted member of the Imperial forces is a person who came from somewhere else, who lived a life before their enlistment, and who probably has a family. After reading Lost Stars, you will never look at a gathering of imperial forces as just a massive force of shiny white and black armor; inside of those uniforms are humans, just like the rebels.
Another great thing about Lost Stars is that we get to re-live the iconic moments from the original trilogy; not just from the perspective of these two new characters, but from the perspective of the Empire and Rebellion alike. It is an awesome experience to have an insider’s perspective on how Imperial soldiers are trained, the movements of the Rebels, and what the galaxy thinks of Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, and other major characters. We find out how people reacted to the destruction of Alderaan, the Battle of Yavin, the Battle of Hoth, the events on Cloud City, and the Battle of Endor; basically anything you loved from the original Star Wars trilogy is here, but with a twist.
As a result, Lost Stars does require familiarity with the original trilogy. It leaves out key details and paints some of its events with broader strokes because it expects the reader to already know the details of the original trilogy. While retelling events of the films from different characters’ perspectives is not new to the Star Wars companion novels, in Lost Stars it never feels like the original trilogy’s events are banging you over the head. Cursory appearances from secondary characters like Wedge Antilles serve to tether our two protagonists to those events without Thane or Ciena becoming inextricably integral to them. When the Emperor lands on the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi, some of the book’s characters are in the ranks there to greet him. It is particularly clever and it serves to expand the Star Wars universe.
My only complaint, and the only reason I could not give Lost Stars a full five-dogwood review, is the ending; I felt as if Thane and Ciena’s story was not completely resolved and I am hopeful that Claudia Gray will pick these characters back up at some point in the future. Also, the latter section of the book, once we got past the end of Return of the Jedi, felt somewhat rushed and compressed. Since the book comes close to 600 pages, it may not have been possible to expand the ending any further, which is okay because the ending still works pretty well.
Even though Lost Stars is classified as Young Adult, it stretches beyond that genre. Whether you read it and think of it as YA or not, you should really go check out Lost Stars; it did not fail to impress. It is a must read for any Star Wars fan looking to get a fix either before watching The Force Awakens or after. The book has some awesome connections to the new film, but no real spoilers. Lost Stars is a nice side dish to the main course of the original trilogy and newly started sequel trilogy. I read the hardcover version of the book, but the audiobook version is highly recommended: it apparently uses music and sound effects from the films, and the narration from actor Pierce Cravens is reviewed as being fantastic.
If you want more Star Wars, then check out The Cantina, my local watering hole where you will find up-to-date information about forthcoming Star Wars films and my reviews of other Star Wars books!