book reviews, spoiler free

Star Wars: Bloodline Review

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Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray

Rating: XXXXX

Published: December 1st 2016 by Arrow

“There was a limit to the amount of stupidity Leia could tolerate in one day, and she’d just hit it.”

Witness the birth of the Resistance

When the Rebellion defeated the Empire in the skies above Endor, Leia Organa believed it was the beginning to a lasting peace. But after decades of vicious infighting and partisan gridlock in the New Republic Senate, that hope seems like a distant memory.

Now a respected senator, Leia must grapple with the dangers that threaten to cripple the fledgling democracy—from both within and without. Underworld kingpins, treacherous politicians, and Imperial loyalists are sowing chaos in the galaxy. Desperate to take action, senators are calling for the election of a First Senator. It is their hope that this influential post will bring strong leadership to a divided galaxy. 

As the daughter of Darth Vader, Leia faces with distrust the prospect of any one person holding such a powerful position—even when supporters suggest Leia herself for the job. But a new enemy may make this path Leia’s only option. For at the edges of the galaxy, a mysterious threat is growing…

Bloodline is the first full length new cannon novel that is set closer to The Force Awakens than it is The Return of the Jedi and is penned by Claudia Gray who brought us the Star Wars YA novel, Lost Stars and went on to write another YA Star Wars novel about Princess Leia in her younger days (both of which I need to read as soon as possible) and is considered by some to be the best modern Star Wars writer.

This was the second Star Wars book I’ve read (that wasn’t a novelisation) and my favourite so far even after having read others. Unlike Phasma, I read this book rather than listened to it (as it was a Christmas eve Jólabókaflóð gift) and I’m glad I did as I don’t think the sound effects would have added much more than an annoyance in this book as it’s not as action based.  I wasn’t sure what I’d think of this book, I love Princess Leia but I was having prequel film flash backs about trade negotiations. That being said I managed to read half of the book in one sitting through Christmas eve on into Christmas morning so this book clearly did more than something right.

Set six years before The Force Awakens, Bloodline is an excellent mix of political thriller and intrigue with a healthy sprinkling of action throughout once the story gets going. The beginning of the book is a little slow but I appreciate that although we don’t necessarily need world building in the usual sense we do need to know about the political state of things, in this case that’s the goals and ideals of the populists and the separatists. Gray’s clever writing style here (and throughout) allows us to see that neither side is perfect (as is often the case with politics) and more importantly that due to their unwillingness to work together nothing important is getting done and change is needed, prompting the entire senate to want to elect a first senator, which Senator Leia feels comes a bit too close to repeating their mistakes that led to the creation of the Empire. I think the mix of politics and action felt right, especially for a story mostly centered around Princess/Senator Leia and I enjoyed it.

My favourite thing about Bloodline was how well Senator Leia was written and portrayed. It honestly felt like Carrie Fisher could just jump right off the page it felt so genuine. Gray has captured that complex mix of being still feisty but wise and yet sometimes tired of it all and unsure perfectly. I enjoyed the insight into Leia’s family life here, we get to see her interact with her husband Han Solo which is pretty much how I always imagined it as well as seeing her she feels about her son and the situation he’s currently in and how the events of this book will affect them as well.

The relationships in this book were done exceptionally well. Not just between Han and Leia but the way the characters reacted with each other was the heart warming side of semi realistic, one of those stories when there are two people who believe in different ideals but put their differing views aside for a common goal, I really enjoyed seeing that and it made it more difficult to ascertain who exactly was the “bad guy” in this book.

I can’t say too much more without heading into spoiler territory but I will say that I loved this book and it had the right balance to keep me intrigued. The only thing I do regret is the order in which I’ve read these books, I probably should have at least started with this one, if not Catalyst but that’s another story and discussion for another time.

If you want to buy this book with free shipping you can do so here and if you’d like to add this book to your good reads you can do that here.

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book reviews, spoiler free

Star Wars: Phasma – Review

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Star Wars: Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson
Narrated by: January LaVoy

Rating: XXXX

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.