Hello everyone! If you weren’t aware of this, May the 4th is Star Wars Day. (“May the Fourth Be With You”–get it?) I got hooked on Star Wars books thanks to my marathon reading project last year, so now I’m finally reviewing Claudia Gray’s Lost Stars. Joe has been insisting that I read this book for months, and I see why: it is easily the best Star Wars book I have ever read.
Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree are both natives of the Outer Rim planet Jelucan. It’s remote enough that the Empire’s influence hasn’t taken over quite yet, but also its citizens see no need to sympathize with the Rebellion. So Thane and Ciena grow up together with a shared love of flying, an ambition to join the Imperial Fleet and fly the fastest ships in the galaxy, and slowly start to fall in love. However, the destruction of Alderaan and the Rebels’ retaliatory strike against the Death Star has them questioning their loyalties. Thane eventually deserts his post; Ciena does not. The bulk of this story details their struggle with clashing opinions over which side of this war is the right one, and their desire to stay together despite that.
It sounds like a Romeo and Juliet type of doomed romance on the surface. While on some level that’s true–the phrase “star-crossed lovers” is delightfully fitting–it’s also not that simple. What Claudia Gray has done is so much more than a doomed romance. Lost Stars is about the struggle to see right from wrong clearly when both sides are keeping secrets and information is being fiercely hoarded in a world where even looking like you might be thinking the wrong thing can get you killed. The key is it’s told through the points of view of two people with radically different values, thanks to their upbringing, social class, and sense of duty.
This isn’t exactly sympathetic to the Empire, but it’s hard not to feel for the people fighting on the Imperial side–those who aren’t Palpatine and Darth Vader, anyway. In the movies it’s always crystal clear which side is the “right” side. Here the line between good and evil is much blurrier. There are good, decent individuals on both sides, and some of them won’t make it out of the war alive. I was particularly gutted by the loss of a tactical genius (I won’t spoil the name for you) who was aboard the Death Star when Luke Skywalker destroyed it. There’s no way I’ll be able to watch that scene in the movie the same way again.
I think that’s why so many of us keep going back to this franchise over and over: to see it with fresh eyes, and a different perspective. Thane and Ciena are the same age as Luke and Leia, which means we get to follow them through the timeline of the original trilogy, but at the center of different battles, conflicts, and moments of personal growth. Because we know the overarching story of the Rebels and the Empire, but not these particular characters, there’s a sense of mystery and tension surrounding Ciena and Thane that you might not get with other tie-in novels that focus on characters we already know. Finally, I feel like this book paves the way for The Force Awakens much better than any of the other “Journey to The Force Awakens” books I’ve read so far.
Happy reading, and May the “Fourth” Be With You!