Book Review: AFTERMATH: Empire’s End (Star Wars)
“Star Wars AFTERMATH: Empire’s End”
Content Disclaimer: This book review contains spoilers for those that haven’t read the final installment from the Star Wars Aftermath trilogy by Chuck Wendig.
An Excerpt from the book, “Star Wars AFTERMATH: Empire’s End”
EVERY END IS A NEW BEGINNING.
As the final showdown between the New Republic and the Empire draws near, all eyes turn to a once-isolated planet: Jakku.
Yes, the Rebellion won the battle on Endor, but the war is far from over. Remnants of the Empire scatter their forces throughout the galaxy after striking back against the Alliance – devastation and doubt surround the new democracy. Liberation Day left behind a sense of oppression instead of freedom.
Grand Admiral Rae Sloane is now the most sought after Imperial war criminal. Sloane’s prime role in the attack on Chandrila has led to a full-fledged pursuit to find her and bring her to justice. Per the urgent request of Princess Leia, Norra Wexley, a veteran rebel pilot now leads the desperate manhunt to put an end to the Empire once-and-for-all. But, is it all in the name of justice or is it something deeper that drives Norra forward? The Empire turned her husband into a murderous weapon to aid in Sloane’s assassination attempt upon Mon Mothma, and now, she’s struggling with thoughts of vengeance. So, is it justice or is it revenge?
That same question trickles its way into the Empire as well and Sloane, too, walks a tightrope between the notion of justice and revenge as she feverishly pursues her nemesis, Gallius Rax. Yes, Rax. The true puppeteer behind the Empire’s latest attacks. The one who has followed the Emperor’s schematics step-by-step with precise precision and with the upmost loyalty. He has gathered the last remnants of power the Empire has and has every intention to finish what Palpatine started, starting with what began on Endor.
Yes, Jakku, it all starts here; according to the plans laid out by Palpatine, and Rax intends to see it through. All that stands in his way is Norra, the Rebel Alliance, and Rae Sloane. Judgment day is at hand, and the future of the galaxy will finally be decided.
Finally, the conclusion to the first literary trilogy is here! Star Wars AFTERMATH is the New York Times bestselling trilogy set in the years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. It is the first of its kind, and it sets the wheels in motion for the upcoming events that will eventually shape the sequels into the episodic films of the Skywalker saga. Honestly, that’s one hell of a feat to accomplish, and so, I tip my hat to you, Chuck Wendig. In the words of Palpatine, “you did well.”
The analogy of chess is a continuous thread throughout Empire’s End and so, it only makes sense, at least to me, to utilize that analogy to piece all three books together. Star Wars: Aftermath was the foundation, the stage-setter or the chessboard of what was to come, and Life Debt placed the chessmen in their rightful placement on the board, setting them up for the final move on Jakku. Like a game of chess, the game ends as soon as the king is checkmated, and this is Empire’s End.
Throughout the Aftermath series, Chuck Wendig introduced us to a new cast of characters and even reintroduced some fan-favorites too. As he did, he built relatable relationships, not just with the literary cast, but with the reader as well. That said the character growth between the new cast: Norra Wexley, Temmin “Snap” Wexley, Mister Bones a.k.a. B1, Sinjir Rath Velus, Jas Emari, Jom Barell, Brentin Lore Wexley, Grand Admiral Rae Sloane, and the infamous Gallius Rax was exhilarating. In fact, after reading the entire trilogy and following along with their adventurous endeavors, Rebel Alliance and Imperial alike, you can’t help but to love these characters and feel for them, through the good and the bad.
Norra Wexley and Grand Admiral Rae Sloane take the lead in character growth when it comes to Empire’s End. In a weird way, the characters seem to switch sides with each other in matters of the heart, so to speak. Norra is fueled by anger. An anger that has transgressed into revenge. In the meantime, Sloane goes through a moment of humanity. There’s nothing left to fight for, the Empire as she knew it, is gone.
As we become further invested in this mishmash band of characters, we are also reunited with some familiar faces along the way: Leia, Han, Chewie, Mon Mothma, Lando, Lobot, Mas Amedda, some hints of Luke, and little Ben Solo. The development of these familiar characters at this point in the timeline is crucial, and only enhances what we know so far, and will continue to do so for the stories that are yet to come. Namely, Mon Mothma, Leia, Luke, and Ben Solo. Now, while we don’t get too much on Luke and Ben, their marks are made through the eyes of Leia. Mon Mothma, on the other hand, she’s transformed – more outspoken. She’s opened herself up to possible loopholes, but in a not so obvious way, even if that means taking risks. Even her sense of urgency has increased, and it has made her character more relatable in the real world.
Now, what may seem important to me might not be to you. Nevertheless, I am going to mention them anyway. For starters, I am a huge fan of connections, and I love it when something new just happens to line-up with what has come before. So, you can just imagine my excitement when we find out that Luke has explained the Skywalker path to Leia by merging the analogy given to us in the novel adaptation of Revenge of the Sith.
Luke said to her, “Leia, we all have that. He explained the brighter the light, the darker the shadow.”
“The brightest light casts the darkest shadow.” (Matthew Stover) They, the Skywalkers walk a different path – between the shadows of the light and dark side of the Force – limbo.
My excitement got the better of me. I reached out to Mr. Wendig and asked whose idea it was to go in this direction. The story group or his? And this was his response:
“It was mine, though nobody stood in its way, obviously.”
Ok, next up is Mr. Bones, the B1 droid remolded by Snap Wexley. I have said it before, and I’ll say it again, this is the greatest droid in all of Star Wars history! Mr. Bones is by far the most twisted character in the galaxy far, far away. That said, what does that say about his creator, Snap Wexley? Regardless, he’s a creation of sheer brilliance and is the only droid I’ve ever seen equipped with A.R.M. – Automatic. Reassemble. Mode. This scene was superb and the slaughtering scene that immediately followed-it-up was amazingly insane! Four words, “I HAVE PERFORMED VIOLENCE!”
Now, for those of you hoping that Gallius Rax was Snoke, well, sadly, your theory died in Empire’s End. Yes, checkmate, Rax dies, and the old ways of the Empire die with him. Still, he did manage to implement the very first order of the First Order. Children. Yes, Rax was taking children and molding them into murderous soldiers on Jakku. And with that implementation came our first glimpse at what will eventually become General Armitage Hux.
All in all, destruction is replaced by creation and every end is a new beginning.
*We’d like to thank Del Rey Publishing for providing us with an advanced copy of Empire’s End for review.*
- Becca is the Editor-in-Chief for the former The Cantina Cast website, Co-host on Tarkin’s Top Shelf, a literary Star Wars podcast, and a Host on Kanata’s Castle Podcast. She also prepares titles and captions for Lucasfilm artist Steve Anderson, and contributes a monthly blog for Coffee with Kenobi. You can connect with Becca on Twitter @urangelb