Book Review | Star Wars: Lost Stars by Claudia Gray

Lost StarsIf the Star Wars trilogies are concerned with the operatic drama of the Skywalker family and their close associates, then Lost Stars delivers fills in the spaces in between by providing a sampling of back story into the individuals that make up the Imperial fleet and Rebellion fighters. In this way, Lost Stars is a valuable addition to the Star Wars cannon; and yet, something is lacking.

Lost Stars gives a flavor of what happened among the common people when the Republic fell and the Empire rose, following a pair of cadets through the Imperial Academy, into service in the Imperial Fleet and beyond. Claudia Gray’s plot takes us to every major confrontation from Episodes IV, V, and VI, including the last battle of the Empire at Jakku (explaining that hulking Imperial Star Destroyer that Rey is scavenging years later in one of the early scenes of Episode VII). The thread that strings them together is the romance between Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree, natives of the planet Jelucan. While hailing from the same home planet, Thane and Ciena come from cultures that are sufficiently distinct to provide a source of conflict through out their lives, a barrier that even their love will struggle to overcome.

And yet, the entire story feels like one giant back story, a “people’s history” of the rise and fall of the Galactic Empire. There’s romance, there’s adventure, and there are lots of nods to characters far more relevant to the Star Wars canon, but Lost Stars protagonists never seem to quite take on life of their own. Because we know what happens next in the story–the Death Star will be destroyed, the Rebels hunted to Hoth, Death Star II destroyed, etc–Thane and Ciena feel less in control of their lives than extras with expanded back stories. The problem is, other than to show what life as an Imperial Cadet is like, there’s nothing really very compelling about their stories. The magnetic pull of the main Star Wars plot line is so strong that Thane and Ciena never really seem to have a life of their own, but remain locked in orbit around the Skywalker saga.

Don’t get me wrong: Thane and Ciena are not poorly written or conceived. Quite the contrary. They just never seem to be able to exercise their own will to escape the march of events that are the Star Wars drama.

It’s not a new problem for the Star Wars Universe, which is why it feels unnecessary. In addition to the new Star Wars books (Tarkin, Lords of the Sith, and Aftermath to name a few), there is also the animated series The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. While both involve cameos–and leading roles–from leading Star Wars characters from the Trilogy and Prequels, they manage to develop their own heroes, resonance, and arches that stand on their own. Ahsoka Tano, to take one example, has become arguably one of the best developed characters that doesn’t appear in any of the Star Wars movies, resisting the strong pull to be dominated by the gravitational pull to grow and develop from child to apprentice to grown woman and former Jedi, a compelling character in her own right.

Lost Stars is valuable reading for development of the Star Wars back story, but otherwise seems to lack the resonance of other Star Wars stories. I recommend it for its look at life under Imperial rule or the experience of the Academy that Luke will later be so eager to attend, but unfortunately seemed to lack the tension that makes the Star Wars drama resonate.

Star Wars: Lost Stars Book Cover Star Wars: Lost Stars
Journey to Star Wars: the Force Awakens
Claudia Gray
Young Adult: Science Fiction
Disney Lucasfilm Press
September 4, 2015

This thrilling Young Adult novel gives readers a macro view of some of the most important events in the Star Wars universe, from the rise of the Rebellion to the fall of the Empire. Readers will experience these major moments through the eyes of two childhood friends--Ciena Ree and Thane Kyrell--who have grown up to become an Imperial officer and a Rebel pilot. Now on opposite sides of the war, will these two star-crossed lovers reunite, or will duty tear them--and the galaxy--apart?


About Daniel

Daniel Burton lives in Salt Lake County, Utah, where he practices law by day and everything else by night. He reads about history, politics, and current events, as well as more serious genres such as science fiction and fantasy. You can also follow him on his blog where he muses on politics, the law, books and ideas.