Currently available to download for free on Amazon, the 2014 Star Wars Sampler includes chapter excerpts from four upcoming novels: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller, Tarkin by James Luceno, Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne, and Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp. Despite the lack of a female writer and significant female protagonists in the first wave of new novels, I kept an open mind when I opened up the digital sampler. To my surprise, I was overall pleased with the stories and the glimpse of diversity that we got from each excerpt. Nevertheless, I hope we get to see more female authors in the near future.
I should preface this post by saying that I have not read a large portion of the Expanded Universe (now known as Star Wars Legends). Therefore, I won’t be referring to that material or making comparisons.
First up is A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller. Personally, my eyes tend to gloss over works of writing with lengthy and verbose descriptions. That said, based on this sample chapter, John Jackson Miller excelled where most authors tend to fail. The glimpse of the story contained the adequate amount of description to visualize the characters and events in my mind’s eye. The character who captured me the most was Count Vidian, the half-man/half-machine antagonist. In many ways, he reminded me of Vader and Tarkin combined. Another character that caught my attention was Rae Sloane, the dark-skinned female captain. I have to admit, I shouted “Diversity!” when she appeared on the first page. Ambitious and desperate to climb through the ranks, I’m curious to find out more about her and her role (if any) in this story.
The description of the novel gives the impression that Kanan would be the main focus, so it was a pleasant surprise to see the Empire’s might through Hera Syndulla’s perspective. Despite her lone wolf strategy, the last paragraph easily foreshadowed what eventually will be her relationship with Kanan and the recruitment of other like-minded individuals, even though she wasn’t on a recruitment trip. I look forward to the conflict that will transpire between these characters and how it will set the stage for the Star Wars Rebels animated series.
The next novel I am most interested to get my hands on is Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne. I’ve seen some people dislike Luke’s first person point of view, but reading it from his perspective was my favorite part! Luke is easily one of the most relatable characters because he’s curious, awkward, and selfless. In addition to capturing Luke’s character, I loved how Hearne referred to the power converters quote from the film–one of my favorite lines. His interaction with Nakari Kelen, another woman of color, helped reaffirm his love of ships and demonstrate how far he’d come since leaving Tatooine. In this chapter alone, I’ve come to appreciate Luke in a way that I overlooked in the films. I enjoy material that expands upon an established character, so Heir to the Jedi certainly sits near the top of my list.
The next book I’m desperate to own is Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp. The big reveal behind this novel is the introduction of Twi’lek freedom fighter Cham Syndulla. First appearing in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Cham was fighting to free Ryloth from the Separatists. Back in September 2013, long before Hera Syndulla was announced, I wrote a post about Cham, the possible connection he could have with Star Wars Rebels, and the words he exchanged with Mace Windu about how a Jedi/Republic occupation was no better than a Separatist one, “How long before I am fighting you, Master Jedi?” Now that the Republic has become the Galactic Empire, Cham is doing just that–fighting to free Ryloth all over again, but this time, from Imperial rule.
Moving back and forth between perspectives, the excerpt was structured this way to enhance the suspenseful nature of the events. It reminded me of a comic book, visualizing and absorbing pockets of information before moving on to the next panel. Now that we know that Cham Syndulla is involved, I can honestly say that I fear for his life. The chapter not only demonstrated Vader’s might and fury against Cham’s Twi’lek comrades, but it eloquently presented his twisted and warped views of the Force, especially when it concerns order and snuffing out those opposed to the Empire.
Lastly, we have Tarkin by James Luceno. Tarkin’s last canon appearance prior to A New Hope was during Ahsoka Tano’s trial in the final season five episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. To be honest, I don’t find the character all that fascinating to have an entire novel focused on him. However, I will admit that I was impressed by the sample chapter and his introduction during this new Imperial era. The characterization was strikingly on point, right down to the fleeting smile he flashed in response to a moment of humor. Besides Tarkin himself, I also have to point out the presence of a female specialist. Given how the original movies were products of their time, I’m so glad that the image is changing to one where women are also being included in the Imperial ranks. Finally, I am interested to discover in greater detail what the conflict will be and how Tarkin’s reputation will live up to the task.
All four books will go on sale in the near future, starting with A New Dawn on September 2, 2014, Tarkin on November 4, 2014, Heir to the Jedi on February 17, 2015, and Lords of the Sith on April 21, 2015.