As a new student at Lothal’s Imperial Academy, Zare Leonis does everything it takes to pass as a model cadet. But secretly, he is a hidden enemy among Imperial loyalists…
Zare’s personal mission to find out what happened to his missing sister, Dhara Leonis, continues in the second installment of the Servants of the Empire series by Jason Fry, Rebel in the Ranks. I purchased the book the day it was released, but held off on reading it because I wanted to read it closer to the third book’s release date on July 7, 2015. It was well worth the wait. The story takes place before and during the Star Wars Rebels season one episode “Breaking Ranks”, but if you’re worried the book is a direct retelling of those events, then you’ll be quite surprised for what’s actually in store. In fact, the book does a fantastic job filling in the gaps and expounding upon the adventure we see unfold on the screen, making it a necessary read for fans of the animated series.
Shifting from the trials and tribulations of leading a grav-ball team and finding out what the Empire is truly about in the first book of the series to facing a different set of challenges at the Imperial Academy in the sequel, Zare continually finds himself in a difficult position between excelling as a cadet and carrying out his true mission. A large portion of the book gives readers an inside and detailed look at stormtrooper training and assessments, and much of it reminded of me of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode “Clone Cadets”.
The character who continues to impress and steal the show, however, is none other than the tech savvy and data slicer maven Merei Spanjaf. Determined to help Zare discover the truth about his sister, she puts herself in daring and dangerous situations. It is her involvement and actions throughout the novel that add to the uncertainty and suspense of what’s going on. Despite the events in “Breaking Ranks” already revealing what happens to Zare, Jai Kell, and Ezra Bridger, author Jason Fry successfully weaves in and rounds out the story with new interactions and details, such as a conversation between Zare and the Inquisitor and Merei encountering a few familiar faces from the series.
Rebel in the Ranks takes “Breaking Ranks” several steps further, and if you enjoyed the episode and the character of Zare Leonis, then this four-book series is definitely a must. The novels are aimed at a younger audience, but adults can easily jump in and enjoy what the story has to offer. It’s a great companion to the Disney XD series, especially for younger members of the family looking to absorb more Star Wars. The growing mystery of Zare’s sister will keep you wanting for more, and with the third installment scheduled for release in July and the animated series on break until the fall, now is the perfect time to pick up a copy and immerse yourself in the action.