Aftermath: Empire’s End brings together a large swath of plotlines to their final conclusions, at least for the time being. From the battle of Jakku to the Empire’s surrender, there’s some significant events that go down in this novel. Many characters meet their fates, some finding rewards or new purposes in life while others find their deaths. It’s a long story with many paths winding together with the Empire’s fall. While not perfect, it’s a pretty enjoyable read that pushes you on to read the next chapter, and the next, and the next.
With this being the third book in the Aftermath trilogy, it’s hard to talk about what happens without spoiling anything. However, the surprises therein are definitely worth retaining. On one hand this book tells the tale of the battle of Jakku, something we’ve caught mentions of and a battlefield we all saw in The Force Awakens. After all, Jakku is Rey’s homeworld or at least it’s where she grew up. It’s a sandy desert planet littered with the corpses of the Empire. Massive ships jut out from its dunes. And while we all asked where they came from, Empire’s End answers that question. More importantly, it answers what happened to the Empire after Return of the Jedi. Through this story, Chuck Wendig lays down the history of what happens to the Empire, their fleets, and their commanders. He reveals how the galaxy reacts, how the New Republic’s government comes to be, and the challenges that Mon Mothma is faced with. From a big picture standpoint, Empire’s End is essential reading.
On the other hand, Empire’s End is also a personal story of individual characters finding purpose in their lives. There are the original characters at the heart of the story: Norra and Temmin ‘Snap’ Wexley, Grand Admiral Rae Sloane, Sinjir Rath Velus, Jas Emari and Gallius Rax. There’s an assortment of original side characters, many of them showing up in the interludes sprinkled throughout the book, and then there is also the legacy characters like Han, Leia, Chewbacca, Lando and Mon Mothma, some of whom show up in the interludes and others who play a part in the main story. All of those characters have a story in this book. For Norra, it’s a journey to hunt down Sloane and to face her inner demons for a chance of peace. For Rax, it’s a twisting, mysterious plotline that offers glimpses into Palpatine’s master plan and how the First Order came to be. Readers get to see Chewbacca reunited with his son, Lando returning to Cloud City, and Jas interacting with bounty hunters from her past that will surely have some fans grinning ear-to-ear. With Mon Mothma, we get a meaty story arc highlighting her struggle to lead the fledgling New Republic. Han and Leia mostly stay on the sidelines, but we get the birth of Ben Solo. Every character, every storyline plays its part and adds a little something to the overall story. In the end, it gives readers a lot to like as there’s something for everyone.
Yet regardless of history or characters, the real merit of any story is the enjoyability of the adventure. Chuck Wendig does have a very different style from other authors as he uses third person present tense narration. And, as with any author, he brings his own sensibilities with his characters. Plus there is his take on what happens after Return of the Jedi. These three factors play a very important role in the entertainment value of the story. Thankfully, in my opinion, they all manage to work. In regards to the third person present tense narration, the first book in the series was the most jarring. The second book was less jarring. Somehow Empire’s End wasn’t jarring at all. In this book, Wendig found his groove and the story flowed quite smoothly. The style and prose was easy to get submerged into and lost in. I didn’t find myself thinking how weird something sounded, but instead was captivated by what was happening in the story. That’s the kind of magic you want in a book. Part of that magic is capturing intriguing characters. While I didn’t like all of the characters in Empire’s End, for many reasons Norra eluded me throughout the entire series as a character I just couldn’t get behind, there are so many to choose from that it allows for you to dislike some and still get a lot of enjoyment out of the book. So in that regard, Wendig succeeded in providing a cast of characters that readers can latch on to. Bringing that altogether, it still relies on the base story points that form the foundation of the tale. With so many stories having been told in Legends, this version of events has to compete with what some readers have already read, and with what other fans have simply created in their head after seeing the films. Tackling the fate of the Empire and our beloved characters is no easy feat. Yet even in this, Wendig manages to do a good job, presenting readers with a sensible chain of events and some entertaining surprises.
It would be hard to recommend checking out Empire’s End without first reading the other two books in the trilogy. I had some serious reservations with the first novel, but looking back at it, even with its flaws, it’s not a book you can skip for the trilogy to truly worth. To get the most out of it, you have to read the entire Aftermath trilogy. Empire’s End isn’t perfect, but it does have its rewards and there are some great moments. Furthermore, it helps detail the fate of the Empire in the post-Return of the Jedi era, making it essential reading for Star Wars fans thirsting for more. While it won’t reveal who Snoke is or who Rey’s parents are, Empire’s End is an enjoyable read that will keep you entertained from beginning to end. I give it a four out of five metal bikinis.
Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.