Star Wars: Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson
Narrated by: January LaVoy
Published: September 1st 2017 by Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group. (Also available in hardback and paperback, this review however is for the audio book but most points will also apply to the written text as well.)
“That’s the problem with following all the rules—somebody else is eventually going to get ahead by breaking them, and then where will you be?”
One of the most cunning and merciless officers of the First Order, Captain Phasma commands the favor of her superiors, the respect of her peers, and the terror of her enemies. But for all her renown, Phasma remains as virtually unknown as the impassive expression on her gleaming chrome helmet. Now, an adversary is bent on unearthing her mysterious origins—and exposing a secret she guards as zealously and ruthlessly as she serves her masters.
Deep inside the Battlecruiser Absolution, a captured Resistance spy endures brutal interrogation at the hands of a crimson-armoured stormtrooper—Cardinal. But the information he desires has nothing to do with the Resistance or its covert operations against the First Order.
What the mysterious stormtrooper wants is Phasma’s past—and with it whatever long-buried scandal, treachery, or private demons he can wield against the hated rival who threatens his own power and privilege in the ranks of the First Order. His prisoner has what Cardinal so desperately seeks, but she won’t surrender it easily. As she wages a painstaking war of wills with her captor, bargaining for her life in exchange for every precious revelation, the spellbinding chronicle of the inscrutable Phasma unfolds. But this knowledge may prove more than just dangerous once Cardinal possesses it—and once his adversary unleashes the full measure of her fury.
I wish I had found this book sooner. This was my first real foray into the world of Star Wars books and I wasn’t sure what to expect. For years and years I’d seen all the different books and comics mounting up about one of my favourite film franchises and I did read a good few of the comics when I was much younger but there seemed to be so many books I had no idea where to start. In April 2014 the expanded universe became non cannon and gave way to a new set of novels and comics which I kept meaning to get back to and last year while waiting impatiently for “The Last Jedi” to release I had a spare audible credit and after seeing it crop up on social media and in my local bookstore I decided to spend it on Phasma. I was not disappointed.
If you’ve ever heard a Star Wars Audio Book before you’ll know how immersive they can be, they feature sound affects and music along with the narration and I was shocked at how much difference those details really make. As soon as I listened to a sample of this and heard ships firing, doors opening and closing, droids beeping and the background noise aboard “The Absolution” I knew this Audio book experience would be a completely new one for me and I couldn’t get enough. I’ve since brought other Star Wars audio books, much preferring to listen to them because of these extra details, each month I get a new audible credit means I get a new Star Wars books at the moment.
The plot in Phasma is two fold, we have the present plot of Vi Mordai, the captured rebellion spy being interrogated and the story she tells of Phasma’s past. I was worried switching between these two plots would be annoying but somehow it works and the interrogation frames Phasma’s story well as they weave together quite organically, although I’m not sure either story could completely hold it’s own (Phasma’s story comes fairly close) they support each other and makes the plot feel whole as the plots merge together in a way that is only partially satisfying. I wasn’t sure how I wanted this to end but it was only partially the way it did, something felt missing but as it was a precursor novel to “The Last Jedi” I feel I should have expected that. (Don’t get me started on Phasma’s story in TLJ though…) On the whole though I enjoyed both plot lines and the separate feels each had to them.
Before this book was released the way the story would be told was a cause for debate, would this just be a current story about Phasma or would we really get inside that Chrome helmet at last and see her inner workings. What we ended up with was a mixed result but that kind of works. I was expecting to get a back story from her point of view and we’d find out that she was misunderstood or there was a part of her to feel for but neither parts of this book are told from Phasma’s point of view and that just makes her feel more formidable and somehow even more of a mystery despite learning how she got to be where she is today. I’m surprisingly okay with this as it is kind of refreshing to find a villainous character today who is pretty much completely villainous. We do however find some possible redemption of a First Order character here with Cardinal, the high ranking storm trooper interrogating Vi and the trainer and mentor of the young children set to become storm troopers themselves.
The setting of Phasma’s story is her planet of origin, Parnassos and I feel like the planet was almost a character all of it’s own with a threatening presence to match Phasma herself and so many stories to tell about it’s past shown to us by the different trials our characters go through along the way giving the whole planet a very dangerous feel. As for our more humanoid characters I enjoyed meeting our current General (Armitage) Hux’s father Brendol and I’m honestly not sure if he’s better or worse than his son because they’re both such weasels. Other’s from Phasma’s clan join her journey across this deadly planet and a few of them are slightly memorable, Siv being the most developed as the story is from her point of view. Siv is a very likeable character, she does what she needs to do for her people and is brave and compassionate if not the most original character.
I think if I had just read this book I might have only given it XXX as it is an enjoyable book but nothing completely blew me away and I have a hard time imagining liking it as much without the added atmospheric sound effects etc. Nether the less I’m glad I read it and it’s certainly opened me up to reading (and listening to) more of the Star Wars books which can only be a good thing.
You can buy Star Wars: Phasma in print here with free shipping, or here on audible.co.uk, (you can listen to a sample too!) If you’ve never signed up before your first audio book is free! You can also add it to your goodreads here.
Don’t forget I’ll be posting Star Wars content all week! Tomorrow I’ll be reviewing Bloodline by Claudia Gray.