If there was a Star Wars books hype contest, Lost Stars would be the winner. Written by Claudia Gray, this Young Adult book comes in at 551 pages. Unlike the other Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens books that Disney Lucasfilm Press has been putting out, there are no illustrations in this book. It’s pure story. There is also no framing chapters for this novel. Instead, this adventure begins a short time after Revenge of the Sith and progresses all the way past the Battle of Jakku. Whereas Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath was a glimpse of the events following Return of the Jedi, Lost Stars is a look at all the events leading up to Jakku, the internal composition of the Empire, and its metamorphosis from celebrated government to a hated evil empire. It’s also a love story.
Romance often creeps its way into Star Wars, but it’s very rare for it to play the pivotal driving force of a story. Yet that is exactly what Lost Stars does. The book focuses on two characters: Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree. Thane is the boy from a upper middle class family who lives up in the mountains of Jelucan. Ciena is the girl from a lower middle class family that lives down in the valleys of Jelucan. Thane’s parents hate him, Ciena’s parents love her. Thane is a cynic, and Ciena is deeply devoted to the idea of honor. In many ways they are opposites except that they both love to fly. It is this love that not only brings them together, but also draws them into the Empire.
I tried very hard to stay away from spoilers for this book, and I found it very surprising that the story centered on two kids who join the Empire. The early part of the book is almost like a Star Wars version of Harry Potter with Thane being Harry and Ciena being Hermione. They go to the Imperial Academy, deal with classes and teachers, challenges and a never ending competition to see who is the best. The characterization is a lot of fun and I found it easy to get swept away with the early part of the book. From the story of Jelucan’s two distinct types of settlers to the aspects of what it’s like in the Imperial Academy, it was fascinating. However, through key events in the story, the two characters of Thane and Ciena grow apart. That division also created a divide between me and the characters. Suffice to say, that division hurt the story a little. It went from being a great book to a good book, which is where it settled in the end. So if you’re avoiding spoilers, here is a good place to stop.
The book starts eight years after the birth of the Empire. It skips fives years at chapter one, and by chapter two, both characters are fourteen years old. Soon they are 15, then 16, quickly jumping through time and showing the kids’ progress in school. It’s very much a story of two people growing up together, overcoming obstacles and challenges, and becoming closer for it. Yet underneath is a subtle exploration of the morality of self-sacrifice and the repression of desire. It’s an engrossing combination that had me ensnared. I read the first 160 pages in one evening, and by page 121 I was almost brought to tears. It had me.
But with any school, kids at some point graduate. Thane goes off to fly TIE fighters for some new battlestation and Ciena becomes an officer on a Star Destroyer called the Devastator. At this point the book begins to weave into the films. The Devastator is the ship that capture’s Leia’s blockade runner in A New Hope. Thane narrowly avoids being blown up on the Death Star. They both wind up at the battles of Hoth and Endor and eventually Jakku. Yet the actions of the Empire take a toll on one of the characters, driving them toward the awaiting arms of the Rebellion. The budding love between the characters becomes a burden. Torn between loyalties and a war, their relationship is doomed, but fate continually throws them together.
The one flaw for me was the character who stayed with the Empire. Their inability to face reality and adapt made them very unrelatable and I found it difficult to like them. Thus at a certain point of the book, I only had one character to root for, and it never really changed from there. Still, I had one character who I could relate to, who I really liked, and the events of the book were a lot of fun and it explores some great stuff. There’s some laugh out loud moments, some truly touching moments, and some interesting run ins with famous characters. Yet one thing to keep in mind is that the book ends on a little bit of a cliff hanger. Hopefully it won’t be a permanent one.
In the end, Lost Stars isn’t perfect, but it is pretty good. There are some great moments and it has a wonderful start. For those who have been looking for more romance in their Star Wars novels, this one has you covered. But for those who could do without it, there’s still plenty of action and adventure. The characters are first and foremost in the story, and their adventure together forms the through line. So if you’re looking to find out more about the Empire, the Rebellion, and what leads up to the Battle of Jakku, Lost Stars is your answer. I give it a four out of five metal bikinis and look forward to reading more Star Wars books by Claudia Gray.
Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.