July 13th, 2017
A Review by Chris Fried
In Ackabar Port, Prisma is a young girl looking for a bounty hunter to avenge her father’s death. Accompanying her is a war robot named KRS-88, who has been reprogrammed to be her bodyguard. Elsewhere in Ackabar, Captain Keel and his co-pilot Ravi are smugglers taking on a job to protect a princess and her compatriot, both of whom are working for the Mid-Core Rebellion. But as the Republic brings its might to bear on Ackabar and cracks down on its lawlessness, the Legionnaires suspect him of harboring fugitives and a firefight ensues!
Elsewhere, the infamous and invincible bounty hunter Tyrus Rechs, in his fearsome Legionnaire armor, is being pursued by the Republic as well as by Prisma, who wants to hire him. But Rechs has a long history of doing his job and an even longer list of warrants for his arrest. Why does the Republic want to capture him so badly?
As all of these disparate story threads are drawn together, it coalesces into one larger story played out on a surprisingly large canvas. Rechs’ rich and layered past plays an important part of the story, and Prisma’s tale takes on more importance than you would suspect. Why are so many people chasing after her anyway? At first, this is a story of individual characters following their own motivations and pursuing their own individual goals. But as all the different story threads are drawn together, there is something larger and more sinister at work behind the scenes as the larger galactic government uses its forces to manage the galaxy as it sees fit.
First, let’s talk about the action here: it’s fast and furious. Captain Keel and Ravi are no strangers to the seedy parts of the galaxy and are adept at talking themselves out of tight situations as well as blasting out of them if talking doesn’t work. Rechs proves why he’s the best of the best in each and every encounter, pulling out an impressive array of weaponry and using his cunning and skills to outwit every opponent he faces. Given that the enemies he faces continue to get more difficult and better armed, his job is a difficult one as we’re delighted when he goes up against each antagonist, no matter how outnumbered he is as he tries to figure out how to win.
There are plenty of gun battles, battles between rogues and Legionnaires, lowlife scum and a mysterious enemy who emerges in the midst of this galaxy slowly descending into chaos. The aerial battles over land and in space between spaceships are spectacular, as you ride along with our characters zooming in and out of atmosphere just struggling to survive. Freighters, starfighters, capital ships and pirate ships all mix it up as one force goes up against another. It’s intense and also really fun to read, as the description places you in the cockpit with the characters as you dodge and weave, finding yourself one blaster cannon bolt away from being vaped into oblivion.
“He came up firing on full auto. There were six of them. He took down two with direct hits to their chests. Smoke rose from the holes burned into their newly issued armor by the high-velocity blasts. Rechs triggered his jump jet and bounced back the way he’d come. A short hop but away from them. He fired as he rocketed to the side and backward, hitting another.”
Next, the cast of characters. There is something to like about each of them. Captain Keel is instantly charming as the crafty rogue, Ravi is his co-pilot with more than his fair share of wisdom and the yin to Keel’s yang. With that complementarity, they are still almost opposites from each other, yet are still able to work together. Prisma’s situation with her dead parents really pulls at your heartstrings and her yearning for revenge is both sympathetic and sad at how her life has drastically changed.
Rechs is easily my favorite character because not only is he such a badass, he has a lot of military experience as a soldier. But there is a world-weariness to him and he questions why he’s fighting and the purpose of his life in doing so. His interactions with Prisma showcase something truly deep with him as he contemplates the horrors of what he’s seen, who he’s killed and whether he should accept Prisma’s job offer. He’s more than just a bounty hunter, he’s a well-rounded character.
All of the major characters are well-rounded individuals who you get to know over the course of this novel. Each one is distinguishable from the other, with personality traits, interesting cultural backgrounds, and unique talents. And all of them bring something to the story collectively that is more than the sum of their individual parts. Each character has a dislike of the Republic’s armies and facing them down is a daunting prospect on their own. But collectively, they all make for a force to be reckoned with.
There is plenty of humor and especially fun banter between characters and some of the situations they find themselves in, especially with Leenah and her general from the Endurian system. In particular, Captain Keel and Ravi are comedy gold and their exchanges together are priceless, especially when someone is locked up in the hold. It brings quite a bit of levity to the darker proceedings in this story.
This novel also connects seamlessly to the first novel in the Galaxy’s Edge series, Legionnaire. It completely picks up from the literal end of the Battle of Kublar from that story and functions as both an epilogue to the previous novel and a prologue to this one, linking the two indelibly together. Then, seven years later, we pick up with the state of the galaxy and how each character fits into it. There are some surprising connections, returning characters, hidden agendas and malicious forces at work in the galaxy. The narrative is tightly woven, with plenty of action and suspense and not a whole lot of time to take a breath. That’s because it moves along at a breakneck pace and is relentless in its pacing through its involving plot, its group of characters and the way the story brings them all together.
You don’t have to have read Legionnaire to understand this novel but it does provide some background to this universe and with the characters shared between the two novels. Reading them in order is not necessary but it does enhance your enjoyment of this novel if you read Legionnaire first as it does illuminate the connective tissue between them. It also demonstrates the great care the authors took in creating and fleshing out this universe, making it consistent between them.
The ending of the novel was the most jaw-dropping sequence of events I’ve read in a long time. The raw power, dark majesty and deep repercussions from it will reverberate strongly throughout the rest of the Galaxy’s Edge series and make you wish the sequel was available that much sooner. I want to know what happens next! The story you think you’re getting at the beginning of the novel is nothing like you think it will be by the time you reach the end. The plotting of these events throughout the novel are so surprising and so unexpected, that this conclusion was the only one that made sense, even though you never knew it would end this way.
Finally, the connection to Star Wars. This universe is based on what the authors think Star Wars should be like. They take out the stuff they don’t like and break down the tropes of Star Wars. A princess in distress. An all-encompassing evil. A corrupt government. A wise old man. A fast-talking smuggler. A bounty hunter looking for money. Then, it reconstructs them and builds them back up into something original and breathtaking, with a galaxy that feels lived in. It has a deep history going all the way back to its progenitor races and hides an endgame so startling and severe, the galaxy will tremble when it’s revealed.
Captain Keel is Han Solo with a dark secret. Ravi is his sidekick with a twist, who is Chewbacca and Obi-Wan Kenobi rolled into one. Leenah is like Princess Leia from Alderaan, except she’s Endurian, but she has special skills. Rechs is a world-weary Boba Fett-type bounty hunter who has unexpected depth, a deep moral center and a strong purpose guiding him. KRS-88 is C-3PO but undergoes a startling transformation later in the novel. There’s also a Darth Vader kind of character, but to talk more about him would be a spoiler.
Keel’s ship is the Obsidian Crow, not the Millennium Falcon, and the cockpit is on the left-hand side of the ship, not on the right side like it is on the Falcon. Add in a young innocent pirate named Garret who’s a genius with electronics, Prisma, a child with a robot protector and you have built a unique cast of characters in a story that feels like Star Wars but is wholly unique and completely enjoyable. It’s truly Star Wars but not Star Wars. It’s a terrific recipe for space opera on a grand scale but seen through the eyes of all these characters who inhabit this universe. It weaves all of their individual storylines into one larger tapestry, making for one helluva novel.
One minor issue for me, I didn’t like how the wobanki, Skrizz, didn’t get a whole lot of development, as his motivations aside from money, weren’t very clear. We meet him later in the story, he gets swept up into the action and kind of tags along for the ride through the rest of the novel. How did he get these skills, why is he risking his life for people who were strangers to him not too long ago and why is he so invested in helping everyone out when he barely even knows them?
Overall, it’s edge-of-your-seat excitement that creates a dark mood, a healthy dose of comedy and immerses you in it. It kept me locked up in its story wouldn’t let me put it down until I finished the novel. At that point, I felt like I could finally emerge from the book and take a deep breath and marvel at the fantastic story that I just read. It’s an intense roller-coaster thrill ride that is bursting with action that hits the ground running and doesn’t stop until its tremendous conclusion.
It makes me feel like that giddy six-year-old kid who sat down and watched Star Wars in theaters for the first time in 1977, marveling at the sheer imagination on display in front of me on a big screen. It even caused me to make sound effects with my mouth while I read, just like I did in the movie theater. (You know you did this too as a kid watching Star Wars for the first time.)
The wonder of the Star Wars universe has been resplendently recaptured for me in the form of this novel. Surprises, adventure, excitement, spectacle, and thrills are all woven together here. This is all the elements of Star Wars mixed together in a brand new and refreshing way to bring you a scintillating tale of a galaxy in turmoil and those who are trying to make their way through it, trying to survive another day. I look forward to the sequel and to more stories set in this universe. Pew pew!
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