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 spy among Imperial loyalists, determined to discover the truth about his missing sister and to bring down the Empire. Luckily, he has his tech-savvy girlfriend, Merei, by his side, willing to help him however she can–even if it means dealing with criminals in the shadiest parts of Capital City. In the meantime, Zare must face down a dangerous foe of his own: Captain Roddance, who seems bent on pushing Zare to his breaking point.
Things become more suspenseful and dangerous for duo Zare Leonis and Merei Spanjaf in the third installment of Jason Fry’s Servants of the Empire series, Imperial Justice. The rebels have attacked the Imperial Academy, and now, the much revered Empire Day. Imperial procedures have become stricter and more brutal for the general populace, and both Zare and Merei feel the grip of the Empire endangering everything they hold dear. Like the previous novel, Rebel in the Ranks, this story brushes against events from the Star Wars Rebels animated series, but it continues to be its own world with its own set of challenges. Last we saw of our main characters, Zare had discovered the truth of his sister’s whereabouts with the help of his girlfriend, Merei, whose tech savvy skills landed her in big trouble. With Zare’s focus and attention now shifted towards doing everything possible to have himself transferred to the Imperial Academy on Arkanis, Merei is stuck between a rock and a hard place as she tries to shake off her mother’s intrusive investigation and her connection to a criminal organization.
This is the point in the Servants of the Empire timeline when the story starts to mature and the repercussions start to feel more real and life-threatening for the main characters. Zare faces the ramifications of being overly invested in finding his missing sister, while Merei feels the walls closing in around her as a result of gaining access to classified Imperial information. The two meet at a crossroad and the added pressure of living apart also takes a toll on them. As the consequences of their actions start to catch up with them, you also feel the suspense start to catch up with you as the fates of these characters move closer and closer onto thinner ice. Much like our heroes in the animated series, we don’t know where Zare, Merei, and Dhara will end up, and the third book does a fantastic job at setting us up for the final stage of the story.
One of my favorite things about this book is seeing the variety of relationships at play. There’s Zare and Oleg, the bully cadet with the goal to make Zare’s life as miserable as possible. Zare experiences similar pressures from Captain Roddance, while Lieutenant Chiron believes in Zare’s ability to excel and be the ideal cadet. Then, there’s Merei and Yahenna Laxo, the overseer of the Gray Syndicate, who’s quite fond of Merei and her bold attitude, but blackmails her for his own benefit. At home, she also has to deal with the scrutiny from her parents. Despite all of that, she finds solace in a new friend, especially when her boyfriend isn’t around to provide support. All of these relationships inform Zare and Merei’s actions throughout the course of the story, making this book all the more captivating and hard to put down.
And of course, there’s the ending! As we know from the Star Wars Rebels episode “Vision of Hope”, Zare successfully achieves his personal goal in getting to Arkanis, where he believes his sister is located, but there is more involved that puts our heroes’ lives in jeopardy. The cliffhanger will have you frantically shaking the book in the air, hoping all of its secrets will drop out of it. If you’ve been on the fence about these books, now’s the time to hop on over and complement what you see on the screen with Star Wars Rebels, especially since The Secret Academy appears to feature some of our favorite rebels from the animated series. There’s real substance to the story that makes it appealing to the younger crowd as well as the older audience.
Finally, illustrated by David Le Merrer, it’s wonderful to see Merei on the cover, since she is a central character to the series. She remains to be a favorite of mine. Intelligent and bold, she takes risks for the people she cares about, but she’s not perfect and her flaws make her more relatable. She’s a great character for young girls to read about, especially given her skill in the field of technology. I hope having her on the cover attracts more female readers as they pass by the bookshelf or browse through online catalogs.
Many thanks to Disney Book Group for providing TWG with a review copy.