“LOOK THROUGH MY EYES.”
Note: The following review goes into detail about the novel. SPOILER ALERT. Every 25 days I will be reviewing another entry in the New Canon, this time the novels Aftermath and Lost Stars. Why every 25 days? Since it seems like the Star Wars movies have completely monopolized the holiday season for the next several years, it seems festive (you know, 25 days of Christmas?). Plus, I just like the number 25. Next month, on August 13, I will be reviewing the second volumes of Marvel’s Darth Vader and Star Wars, Shadows and Secrets and Showdown on the Smuggler’s Moon.
“Maybe The Force Was Bringing Them Together, Over And Over.”
At the heart of Lost Stars is its two protagonists, Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree. The friendship/tragic romance of these two is the glue that holds the entire story together, and it’s simply riveting. I have never been a huge fan of romance novels, but Lost Stars has just enough classic Star Wars combined with two of the most fleshed out and complex characters I have ever read that I honestly had a hard time putting the book down. Often times in forbidden romance stories the central conflict arises from a misunderstanding, such as Romeo killing himself because he believed that Juliet was dead, but she simply faked it. I have always had a problem with this approach, as it’s frustrating for characters to make fatal mistakes based on false information instead of making mistakes based on who they are as people. That is where Lost Stars truly shines.
The central conflict between Ciena and Thane doesn’t come from a misunderstanding, but from their two different ideologies. Ciena grew up in a society where honor is valued above all else, where it’s believed that if you make a promise to someone or something, you are honor bound to keep that promise. Thane grew up constantly abused by his entire family, giving him a healthy distaste for authority figures and bullies. After the two of them join the Imperial Navy and witness the destruction of Alderaan, their opposing ideologies finally come to a head. Ciena views the destruction as an unfortunate necessity in order to preserve peace, and stays in the Empire in the hopes of making it better from the inside. Thane sees the destruction as an unforgivable tragedy that convinces him to leave the Empire and ultimately join the rebellion. This leads to a falling out between the two, but the best part of their conflict is that they both understand the other’s viewpoint. It seems crazy to think that this is one of the few times I remember where the central conflict between the two leads in a romance story comes not from a misunderstanding or with one being stupid, but from two vastly different but equally valid ideologies.
“We Slaughtered Billions, And Afterward We Were Expected To Applaud.”
It’s ironic that I happen to be reviewing Aftermath and Lost Stars at the same time, since it seems like all of my issues with Aftermath are the biggest strengths of Lost Stars. Aftermath was shallow, its characters were mostly troupes and the central conflict was barely interesting enough to keep me reading. Lost Stars on the other hand has incredibly fleshed out characters and a story that is so deep it spans nearly 20 years and includes many Star Wars favorites in an organic way. One of my favorite things about Lost Stars is how well it fits into the Star Wars universe without feeling tacked-on or forced. Instead of manufacturing a made up event to start the main conflict between Ciena and Thane, Lost Stars simply uses the destruction of Alderaan, which not only makes sense in the story of Lost Stars, but also in the greater Star Wars narrative. This isn’t the only time Lost Stars does this either, the destruction of the Death Star, the battle of Hoth and the battle of Endor are also naturally woven into the story without ever feeling like fan-service.
Yet another strength of Lost Stars is what it adds to the Star Wars universe. It’s again hard not to compare it to Aftermath, which only gave us a passing glance at the galaxy post-Return of the Jedi. Lost Stars not only gives us a bit more information on that mysterious era, going so far as to show us just how a Star Destroyer ended up on Jakku, but it also fleshes out the original movies by more or less giving us an Imperial perspective on Episodes IV, V, and VI. Lingering questions like how the Empire justified the destruction of Alderaan, how Vader survived the destruction of the Death Star and how the Imperials reacted to its destruction are just a few examples of what Lost Stars has to offer.
“You Don’t Even Know What Loyalty Means.” “The Hell I Don’t! Ciena, If I Weren’t Loyal To You, Would I Be Here?”
The writing style of Lost Stars is easy to understand and engaging. Unlike Aftermath, which used a present-tense style which led to odd, disjointed sentences, Lost Stars is written in a more traditional manor. The narrative style, however, is top-notch. Lost Stars is a young adult novel, and although many consider that a horrible genre, Lost Stars is what young adult novels should be. As I mentioned earlier, this genre often uses misunderstandings to fuel character conflict. Lost Stars smartly sets up those kinds of conflicts and then avoids them at the last minute, which cleverly makes us more sympathetic to the characters.
An example of this is when Thane and Ciena are in the Imperial Academy and the Imperial logs reveal that one of them sabotaged the other. It would have been painfully easy for this to lead to a fight between the two where they are both convinced that the other sabotaged them, only for the couple to be reunited when it’s later revealed that someone else set them both up. Instead, they look at each other, immediately realize that neither of them is responsible and then work together to figure out who set them up. They then discover that it was the Academy itself because they were acting too friendly with each other and that is not the Imperial way. This leads to a big fight between Ciena and Thane as Ciena is convinced that the Imperials must have had a valid reason to do this and Thane wants to confront them directly and make them apologize. This setup has the same effect as a misunderstanding, but gives us a better understanding of their core beliefs and sets up their eventual falling out after the destruction of Alderaan. It’s setups like this that make Thane and Ciena more sympathetic to the reader, so that instead of lamenting why they simply won’t talk to each other, we are lamenting why they have to be so different from each other.
Lost Stars is everything that a Star Wars novel should be. It tells an engaging story with strong central characters that simultaneously and naturally fit into the Star Wars universe. All of this is done while giving us better context for previous events from a different perspective. Lost Stars also smartly avoids common troupes and pitfalls of the young adult genre in ways that only help us to better understand and care for its main characters. In short, Lost Stars couldn’t be any better if it wanted to.
Have any suggestions for what I should read next? Do you think I am giving it too much credit? Tweet me (please) @adam_mcconnell. And be sure to follow us @YouNerded.
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