Del Rey’s newest release is a collection of a couple of previous novels Tarkin and A New Dawn. In addition it also contains three new short stories: Mercy Mission, Bottleneck, and The Levers of Power. Stuffed in a paperback these stories tell of the Empire’s rise to power (hence the title). While the two novels included are great reads, I really like the hardcover books in my collection and this somewhere-in-between sized paperback doesn’t quite look as cool on the shelf. The cover is kinda just the A New Dawn cover standing on a pic of Vader with the title stuffed in between. With how awesome every other cover has been looking lately I would’ve loved to see some cool new art here. Super nitpicky and this collection shouldn’t be judged by cover alone but take it for what it’s worth. Now this review is gonna get a bit weird so please bear with me. I’ll just start at the beginning…
The first short story involves Hera Syndulla on a mission to Ryloth with medical supplies. As simple as that sounds it’s a pretty great story…
For those keeping score Hera talks about how she hasn’t been back to Ryloth without Cham. While she’s not the captain on this particular ship she does mention Chopper at one point. We also learn that the Free Ryloth Movement was more or less broken down by the Emperor shortly after his visit (see Lords of the Sith). A few noteworthy moments include Hera piloting the ship as only she can, reminders of the dangers within Ryloth’s forests, and Moff Delian Mors at work much more diligently than we last saw her. There’s a nice scene where the idea of Hera leading her own rebel team seems to be planted nicely.
Enjoyed this story a lot! Lots of great moments from a young Hera for all her fans out there and it’s a wonderful look at a different time in her life.
See my Tarkin review here. Overall I give this story a solid 8.5. (Easy part over.)
This story puts Grand Moff Tarkin and Count Vidian to find the problems in the timely production of stormtrooper armor. It sounds boring but it’s not.
This one sort of reads a bit like a mysterious corporate espionage tale. While most of the tension revolves around Tarkin and Vidian’s interactions there is much more going on here. Fans of Rae Sloane will also be happy to spot her cameo and her interactions with Tarkin.
I don’t really want to spoil any of the mystery here but that’s what this story reads like. A really cool whodunnit starring Tarkin and Vidian. And also Vidian doing what Vidian does (which is calling people inefficient).
A NEW DAWN
See my A New Dawn review… wait… I never did one? Well here’s my chance!
A New Dawn was the first novel to come from the new canon story group about a year ago. It stars Kanan and Hera and tells about their first adventure together.
When I first read this book I was a bit disappointed not to learn a bit more about Hera. Because of my expectations I was expecting a Kanan/Hera book (more like what Dark Disciple actually is) but it’s really a Kanan book that has Hera is in it. While it doesn’t take away from Hera character at all it also doesn’t delve as deeply into her thoughts and convictions. That being said it’s still a great story. Having the chance to review this after watching a season of Star Wars Rebels and reading an arc of Kanan: The Last Padawan is actually a very interesting to place and helps put context to characters and their growth.
Kanan in this book is a pilot and bartender on the mining world of Gorse. The day by day ideal of Kanan ready to move on to some other corner of the galaxy is a great place that picks up after the young Caleb’s adventures and where we last saw him, trying to live with no ties and willing to do what it takes to survive. I really like that when Kanan starts to think about risking his anonymity to help others he blames it on Caleb. This Kanan fits pretty perfectly in between the Caleb from the comics and the Kanan from the show. He’s lost everything in his life and started over to hide everything he was but there’s still a tiny bit of the hero he once aspired to and will one day become.
Hera is also great in this book. While she seems a bit more evaluative than in Star Wars Rebels we also don’t have the luxury of knowing anything about her previous life. Until this book. (While it’s not much, we do see a bit of her adventures in Mercy Mission.) It’s also valuable to know now that her father is Cham Syndulla, who was a leader of the Free Ryloth Movement on Ryloth from The Clone Wars. With that information it’s interesting to see her evaluating everyone she meets to see if they’d be a valuable part of her ideas of rebellion. It’s something her father was good at. Seeing his team’s strengths and weaknesses and trying to guide them in the best way possible.
The other characters I’ve always enjoyed in this book: Skelly I never really liked but I think he was written that way on purpose; Zaluna is adorable and heartbreaking to watch as her safe, ordered life falls apart before her eyes; Vidian is a physical representation of the evil the Empire represents–a man who forfeits his humanity for power and efficiency is a solid metaphor for Imperialism. Rae Sloane was such a cool character introduced here. An acting captain of the Ultimatum assisting Vidian, her attitude and wits were a great foil for Kanan’s attitude and wits. Alone this book makes that character shine as a great enemy for our heroes; but now, one year later, we see from her appearance in Aftermath and other stories that she is a central figure in the new canon. I’m certain she has a bright future in the Star Wars mythos and I can’t wait to see where she shows up next… Rebels maybe?
Looking back on this book now with all the information we have about these characters kind of sheds new light on what is already a great “origin” story (so to speak) of Kanan and Hera’s adventures together. I always liked this book but giving it a re-read now shows how well the story group had planned things out from the very beginning. The final grade of this story? 8!
THE LEVERS OF POWER
This story tells of Admiral Sloane at the Battle of Endor. It’s very interesting to see her at this time in her life. The last moments before The Emperor’s fall.
The story is told through Sloane’s eyes in a very interesting way. The people she’s served with and looked up to advise her still. She sees Tarkin, Vidian, and Baylo react to unfolding events. Their reactions almost show her what the best path to take is. It’s a strong connection to how their ideals live on past their mortality and I think it shows how the Empire’s ideas can be the seeds of the First Order. While the story is far from that time it shows how her teachings allow her to survive at Endor and anticipate and formulate a plan for the future.
Solid story for Rae. Great insight into what makes her tick and her strengths.
FULL BOOK THOUGHTS
All five stories in this Anthology (or collection of Star Wars stories… whatever) are great reads. I think the stories are in chronological order and that is awesome for me to finally put everything in its place.
Lords of the Sith > Mercy Mission > Tarkin > Bottleneck > A New Dawn > Levers of Power
I’m glad the stories all have a little to tie them to each other. Whether it’s a familiar locale or a character we’ve seen before, it helps us put perspective on everything. The characters really shine here and I’m glad to see them on different points on their journey. I think far and away the most interesting one here is Rae Sloane. While I doubt she will be seen in The Force Awakens at all I do feel that she is a very important character in this mythos and I can’t wait to see her again. The short stories alone are worth the purchase and if you still haven’t read Tarkin and A New Dawn this is a great opportunity!