Jay Sherer is the author of Timeslingers, a time travel adventure available now on Amazon.com, and the soon-to-be released comic book, The Standard. He’s also a big Star Wars fan, if you couldn’t tell.
REVIEW SUMMARY: Thane and Ciena come of age during the galactic civil war, and we get to revisit pivotal moments from the original Star Wars trilogy as seen through their eyes. We also learn why there’s a wrecked star destroyer resting in the sand dunes of Jakku (from The Force Awakens trailer).
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Two unlikely friends from the planet Jelucan grow up together, only to find their allegiances tested and their relationship strained by the galactic civil war.
PROS: Great characters, nice connections between the original trilogy and The Force Awakens, and an interesting (almost Shakespearean) plot.
CONS: Extremely minor complaints. No big cons (read the full review for the minor complaints, because they’re not worth mentioning here).
BOTTOM LINE: A fantastic Star Wars novel—one of the best I’ve read. The YA-ish nature of the book may bother some, but I would argue that the YA label is unwarranted. Lost Stars is a fun story with great characters that reminds us of some of the original trilogy’s best moments. Plus, you’ll learn why there’s a star destroyer planted in sand dunes of Jakku. If you’re looking for a Star Wars novel to get you ready for The Force Awakens, this is a fantastic choice.
Most Star Wars novels have delusions of grandeur. Some are mediocre, others are awful, but there are a select few that radiate like a well-crafted lightsaber. Star Wars: Lost Stars by Claudia Gray falls into the latter category. Is it the best Star Wars novel ever written? In my book, it’s worthy of consideration (to be fair, it’s been a long time since I’ve read any of Timothy Zahn’s works). It’s definitely superior to Star Wars: Aftermath, which seems to have far more marketing dollars thrown at it, and it’s a fun read as we anxiously await The Force Awakens.
Lost Stars introduces us to a pair of friends from the planet Jelucan, Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree. The two are an unlikely pair. His family is rich, hers is poor. But, the two share a love for flying, and quickly become close friends. They practice daily, training hard to one day enter the Academy and train to be Imperial pilots. As they mature together, their friendship turns into something deeper. And that’s where things begin to fall apart, because the galaxy itself has fallen into civil war. Thane and Ciena find themselves at the forefront of several key moments in the Empire’s fight against the Rebel Alliance.
What makes Lost Stars so good? First, Ms. Gray weaves a compelling tale that follows interesting, well-rounded characters that we truly care about. We root for them, we feel for them, and we ultimately want to see them find their way in a chaotic universe. The plot isn’t original, but is oddly Shakespearian—something I don’t see in a lot of Star Wars stories. The downside to that is that it can feel a little Young Adult-ish (the book is marketed as such), but really, labelling Lost Stars as YA does it a disservice. This isn’t Twilight in space (“Thank the Maker!”), this is a legit addition to the Star Wars universe.
My favorite thing about Lost Stars is how it weaves parts of the original trilogy through its narrative. It’s fun to be reminded of some of the reasons we fell in love with Star Wars in the first place. Ms. Gray handles this artfully, reminding us of key plot points and showing us another side of the galactic civil war. For example, we get to revisit the Battle of Yavin and the ice planet of Hoth (just to name a few). We also get to experience pivotal moments from different perspectives: What does an Imperial pilot who doesn’t even understand the Force think of Darth Vader? Why do the Empire’s minions continue to follow orders from an evil regime? Ms. Gray gives us valid, viable answers without absolving the Empire from it’s horrific acts of violence and control. In the hands of a lesser author, this might come off as trite or unbelievable, but Ms. Gray handles it extraordinarily well. There is one drawback (albeit a trivial one): the universe ends up feeling smaller than I expected. In my head the Imperial fleet is vast and almost innumerable, but Ms. Gray made it seem smaller. Granted, this is an extremely minor complaint, but it’s worth noting.
Two more negative comments (and this is me actively trying to find things to warn you about): there’s one scene (near the end) that was a bit over-the-top for my tastes, though it’s not so bad that it would cause me to take even a half star off my rating. And another extraneous complaint: Ms. Gray keeps the story moving extremely well, but there were a couple of times where she seemed to move so quickly that I had to read it a couple times to understand what was happening. There’s a moment where a character abandons his snowspeeder and takes off in a starfighter, but it happens so quickly (in a single sentence) that I had to read it three times to understand that it had actually happened. Again, Ms. Gray’s writing is excellent, and this is an extremely minor complaint. I only mention it to be fair.
One of the best parts of Star Wars: Lost Wars? It explains why there’s a star destroyer resting in sand dunes of Jakku (as we’ve seen clearly in The Force Awakens trailer). And, though the way that unfolds is a bit over-the-top, it’s still super cool to see the connections between the original trilogy and the upcoming movie.
Put simply, if you like Star Wars (especially if you like books set in the Star Wars universe), then you can’t go wrong with Lost Stars. If you’re extremely sensitive to YA, then you might skip it, but let’s face it, many recent YA novels are very good (and as a point of comparison, this novel was far superior to The Hunger Games). As a male in my mid-30s, I’m not into most YA fiction, but Lost Stars didn’t bother me at all—quite the contrary, I thought it was a fantastic read. Is it the best novel in the Star Wars universe? Maybe so. I haven’t read them all yet, but I’ve read a lot of them, and it’s definitely near the top of my list.