Lost Stars written by Claudia Gray is a story about two children who live their lives together in the shadow of the emerging Empire. It’s a fantastic Star Wars tale told through a love story between the two main characters. Though billed as a Young Adult book, it avoids most of the standard-issue YA themes. Rather, Lost Stars investigates the human toll experienced by individuals under the Empire.
This is perhaps the best book of the new canon books. Lost Stars has a strong focus on its two main characters while having well developed, believable, and diverse supporting cast.
The book follows the timeline from 5 years before Ep 4 through to a year or so after the Episode 6. As such, much of the exciting action sequences occur during the high points of those films. This adds an interesting dynamic to the book as we are watching these two characters go through their lives in a world that we’ve already lived in.
In many ways, it’s the best part of the book – seeing the human side of how these events impacted people. In particular, we see how the destruction of the first death star impacts our main characters and their friends. How do the imperials feel about the destruction of Alderaan – especially if you’re an Imperial from Alderaan? How do they feel about the destruction of the Death Star which housed many of their compatriots? These are all valid questions that fans have speculated about in many ways (and frankly fuels the continued endearment of Imperial characters such as Storm troopers and the 501st cosplay Legions throughout the world).
What I found interesting is how the book paints a picture of the moral quagmire into which the Empire places its members. Serving the Empire requires a level of loyalty and obedience that supersedes nationalism or family ties. We see our main characters struggle with this moral judgement and how it effects their choices. The Empire is run by those who become seduced by this quagmire. The Rebel Alliance serves those who refuse. This is a similar manipulative dynamic that we see within the Jedi Order that ultimately weakens them and leads to their destruction by The Empire.
The book does not, however, avoid gratuitous fan-pandering with various popular euphemisms (“stay on target”). It wasn’t too bad at first, but it got a bit worse during the end. But it’s ok.
Usually Star Wars books don’t do a great job of showing character arcs. This book, however, is all character arc, set within the original trilogy events. We see how these two characters change and evolve through their various experiences and life events. It’s interesting to see how they can be so similar, yet have such a different set of values. So I can’t complain a whole lot about any lack of characterizations or character arcs (unlike with Aftermath). Even the supporting characters show evolution through the book.
What I could take issue with – because I just like poking things – is how long it took the main characters to figure out they loved each other. They were in the Imperial Academy before anything went down. I don’t see how they could have gotten through their teenage years without… something. But it’s ok otherwise. It creates for the reader a “come on.. it’s so obvious” response which is frankly a great way of emotionally reaching the reader. So even that part was fun.
From the standpoint of its “Journey to The Force Awakens”, the book provides a perspective on the state of the Empire post-Jedi. We get to see how the empire evolves through these series of conflicts from the original films. After the Battle of Endor, we see the continued freying within the Imperial ranks. This is a human-centered story so we see some different decision-making and hear of ongoing infighting. But it does end with a perspective of the Empire that should be more frightening.
This book had the references to the Battle of Jakku that I was hoping to find in Aftermath (not going to spoil anything). However, the BoJ scenes were from the perspective of our two main characters (which is consistent with all the other scenes, they were just more familiar). So we don’t get a great sense of that battle or the context around it. So you do want to see more of it. But there’s some good and familiar references that make your mind start speculating – especially given the ending to Aftermath.