Welcome to Book Reviews. In this series I will look to review any canon books that come out in the Star Wars galaxy. I am no expert in book critic or expert in writing (as you may be able to tell), so this is very much from a fan’s point of view. I will generally try to give a quick idea of what the story is about but avoid any spoilers. In each review, I will also try to point out a few “Moments in Canon” – moments that link into the wider canon and references to other canon stories – and also give my opinion if it is worth reading. Today I will be looking at Claudia Gray’s Lost Stars.
Be aware, there may be some mild spoilers for the story, though I have made sure to leave these to tiny details and arguably the biggest spoiler in this review is given by the blurb and publisher’s summary.
“Corona Four, right behind you.”
Released as part of the “Journey to The Force Awakens” series, Lost Stars was Claudia Gray’s first novel in the Star Wars galaxy (at time of writing she has now wrote 4 novels).
Lost Stars follows the characters of Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree from their first meeting as children to their service in the Empire, showing how the 2 become close friends and more, before the reality of the Empire’s atrocities leads Thane to join the Rebellion, testing his and Ciena’s loyalties both to their respective causes and also each other.
This was no small band of malcontents. The Rebel Alliance was an army.
The novel stretches from 8 years after the fall of the Republic to just beyond the Battle of Jakku and the end of the Galactic Civil War and is shown through the eyes of the 2 main characters.
So usually I would leave my overall thoughts on a story to the end, but for this book, I felt that I had to get it out of my system early. If I was to describe Lost Stars to someone, I would call it a young adult romance novel within the Star Wars galaxy… something that would not interest me at all if it wasn’t part of Star Wars. Having read the book, I can comfortably say that this is currently one of my top 3 canon novels and potentially even top of the list! Furthermore, having read this and heard Gray in interviews discuss young-adult genre as simply stories containing lead characters in their teens, then I now find myself more willing to give a chance to novels in a genre that I would have previously described as “Twilight and that kind of rubbish” (nothing against you if you like Twilight, but that was never really my sort of thing).
Look through my eyes. There were infinite wonders to behold, and finally she had a chance to see them all.
While the story is a romance at heart and has a number of similarities in its basic premise to Romeo and Juliet (on their home planet they come from 2 different waves of settlers who do not get along, then find themselves on opposite sides in the war during the second half of the novel), there is so much more to the story. Both Thane and Ciena are fully fleshed out characters with reason for everything they do. Thane’s distrust of authority helps explain his willingness to leave the Empire but also his reluctance to join a faction who killed so many of his friends, which gives him a great arc as he comes to believe in the cause they are fighting for. Likewise, Ciena does not let her poor roots count against her and is not blind to the evils of the Empire, but the importance of honour to her people is set up so well it is so clear that she is trapped in her role, not just to be a part of the Empire, but to be the best she can be within the Imperial machine. The romance between them is there throughout the novel once they are in their teens, but despite being such an important part of the story it never really feels like it is the base of the story with Star Wars added around it, but instead something that feels completely genuine within the universe.
From that day on, her service to the Empire would be more than her duty: it would be her atonement for loving even one person in the galaxy more than her honor.
Even the other characters around them all feel genuine and natural, even if they are falling into many of the classic tropes you would find in groups of friends: Kendy Idele and Nash Windrider are the easygoing ones of their respective groups, who both go through changes in their character as they are affected by the war – especially Nash, who was from Alderaan – while Yendor takes on a similar role once Thane joins the Rebellion; Ved Foslo is entitled due to being from Coruscant and the son of a general, but while he is easily the least likeable of the group, he is not too over the top that it is hard to imagine the others being friends with him; Jude Edivon is the most scientifically-minded member of the group, who as a result is not as comfortable socially as her peers. All these original characters – and the many others Thane and Ciena meet throughout the story – do a great job of feeling natural to the situation. The story also sees cameos from a number of characters from the movies, who all feel in line with their depiction in both the movies and other canon material – Tarkin especially sticks in my mind despite just a few short appearances in this story.
Capturing a rebel ship and winning praise from a Grand Moff before lunchtime? Ciena grinned. This day was turning out to be spectacular.
Rather than just being a story largely in the same time frame as the Original Trilogy, Claudia Gray constantly brings the story back to show events from the movies from at least one of the protagonist’s point of view. We see the capture of the Tantive IV, the destruction of both Alderaan and the Death Star, the Battle of Hoth and Battle of Endor among others, yet none of these events seem shoehorned into the story. Both protagonists are set up as being highly capable officers, so it makes sense that they would be stationed on places like the Death Star or Vader’s flagships, while Thane being brought into the Rebellion by Wedge Antilles just weeks before the Battle of Hoth means that it would be odd if he wasn’t present for that battle or Endor, where the Rebellion is meant to be throwing in all their available resources. The one shame is that there was no mention of the Battle of Scarif during the capture of the Tantive IV, though I know that this is due to the story releasing over a year before Rogue One‘s release and I can use my own headcanon to imagine that Ciena had not been on duty during the battle so had not had time to hear about the news by the time the story picks up with them nearing Tatooine.
What’s happening? he wondered—
—and then the Death Star blasted Alderaan, and an entire world exploded before him.
For me, the biggest disappointment in the story was actually not with the story itself, but that the publisher’s summary on the back of the book reveals that Thane abandons the Empire and joins the Rebellion. While I understand that a number of readers may prefer this prior knowledge (I remember a lot of people being unhappy with Iden’s shock defection in the Star Wars Battlefront II story mode, though that may have been due to the marketing of an Imperial story), I personally felt that a more vague summary teasing that the war’s revelations could test their relationship would have led to a great reveal in the story when Thane abandoned the Empire and later joined the Rebellion. That is just my personal opinion, however, and I imagine there was research done beforehand that led to the decision to reveal his change of allegiance in the summary.
For me, Claudia Gray is the Star Wars writer that I get most excited about when I see new books announced currently as she has smashed it out the park with everything I have read from her in the canon. Now I desperately need a sequel to this book to continue Than and Ciena’s story!
Should I read it?
Most definitely, yes!!! As I said t the start of my review, this is one of my favourite stories in the new canon and I have heard so many other Star Wars fans rate it highly too.
I’m really doing it, he thought. It still seemed unreal. I’m going to war against the Empire. I’m joining the Rebel Alliance.
I also think that this story is a great entry for someone into the wider canon if they are looking for their first Star Wars book due to the number of times the story aligns with that of the movies.
Moments in Canon
- Thane and Ciena’s study texts describe Mace Windu as the leader of the criminal organisation that caused the Clone Wars
- Ciena and Nash are the ones who disable the Millennium Falcon‘s hyperdrive on Cloud City
- Thane and Corona Squadron identify D’Qar as a possible location to set up a base
- Imperial propaganda still hides Palpatine’s true appearance, similar to the hologram we see in the finale of Rebels
- The Anoat sector is cut off by blockade following the Battle of Endor, shown through multiple media in canon, including Star Wars Battlefront II’s story mode and the mobile game Star Wars: Uprising
Have you read this book? What were your thoughts on it? Thanks for reading and May the Force be with you…