Star Wars: Lost Stars by Claudia Gray is another key step on the “Journey to the Force Awakens.” Released at the same time as Star Wars: Aftermath, but marketed much differently, this gem has escaped the full measure it is due.
Claudia Gray charts this part of the course with a sure hand that makes you excited for the Star Wars saga all over again. This is the sort of book I wanted to get me hyped for the new film, but had to turn to the Young Adult section to get it.
Judging a Book by its Genre
First and foremost, let’s just acknowledge and move past the fact that it’s released as a Young Adult title. I myself picked up the copy in the store, looked at it, saw it was YA, and moved along. I wondered how a YA novel could ever hope to appeal to such an urbane and educated man as myself.
However, as I had promised to read it so I could review it as part of a panel discussion for The 602 Club, I bought a digital copy and sighed deeply, sure I was in for several hundred pages of eye rolling and grimacing. I could not have been more wrong.
Lost Stars is an eminently satisfying novel no matter how you measure it, and one I highly recommend to any fan of Star Wars. Heck, I’d recommend it to non-Star Wars fans looking for an “in” to understanding what the heck is going on in a galaxy far, far away.
It captures the flavor of that fictional landscape as well as anyone has with the written word. The characters are fresh yet familiar, the world-building is harmoniously woven into the mythology, and everything feels new again. Gray tells familiar parts of the original story from new perspectives, imbuing a vitality often missing from ancillary material.
For example, she creates the character Nash Windrider. He’s from Alderaan, which everyone knows as the doomed planet from the original film now known as A New Hope. As we accompany him through the story, we gain an understanding of how someone can be so dedicated to “The Cause” as to absurdly reconcile the mass murder of his homeworld.
There are many characters in the whole of the book who define themselves in moments designed to remind you of the incredible scale and impact of acts you’ve witnessed so many hundreds of times on your re-watches of the films as to have lost sight of their significance. It really does give you pause to realize how massive repetitive viewings dilute the impact of what’s happening on-screen.
What truly makes the book so compelling, though, are the star-crossed lovers at the center of the story. Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree are in an epic love story that glues the story, with sympathy and believability. They are complex beings with muddied motivations, frequently forced to challenge their own presumptions about what’s happening in their lives.
The sense through the entire novel is that these characters are reacting as we would to the events of the Galactic Civil War. They are torn by their loyalties and forced to choose or reject love at every turn. They are made to decide between their morals and their desires.
They are, in a word, human. Gloriously, relatably human. As a friend of mine pointed out as well, it’s a Star Wars story without any Jedi protagonists. There are encounters with Vader and the Emperor, but these are familiar story moments from a different perspective; this doesn’t suffer from Yet Another Jedi syndrome as has plagued Star Wars EU in the past.
Just Buy It Already
While I want to avoid spoilers and urge anyone reading this review to purchase a copy and start reading today, I will reveal one great tidbit. The book “shows” us the Battle of Jakku in the final act. We learn amid the climax of the love story how that crashed Star Destroyer, so famously shown in the first shot of the Episode VII trailer, comes to be there.
To be sure, this will not be a novel lauded in critical circles for achieving a new Nabokovian cleverness within the genre. This is a book written to serve a purpose, but what elevates it is that Gray isn’t satisfied with serving the expected snack. She serves a full meal, one that is terrifically satisfying to consume and that amazes you with its richness.
This is what I’d hoped for from Aftermath, but found instead here. The crime is that, thanks to the marketing and labeling of this book as a Young Adult title, many have overlooked it and others will continue. The fact is that this is the keystone upon which they should have built the hype bridge to The Force Awakens. Upon finishing this terrific tale, you will be ready for the new film and excited about what you might see.
Rating: Five Death Stars out of Five.