Star Wars: Razor’s Edge: Empire and Rebellion by Martha Wells

It’s no secret, Star Wars is my first love. As much as I love the various hyperspace lanes it’s traveled, it is nothing less than a treat for me to return to the Galaxy Far Far Away in its original time period: the classic Rebellion Era. It’s been so long, and there’s so much anticipation… would it hold up to expectation? I am new to Martha Wells’ work, so I come into this only with an understanding of what I think should be the hallmarks of a quality Star Wars tale.

The first requirement is characterization. These are much-beloved characters, and they must be treated with dignity. Wells did that. She found their voices in a way that seems quite effortless. With Han, you can see the transition in his character from where we left him at the end of A New Hope and where we would meet him again in Empire. His loyalties to the Rebellion are tenuous and seemingly all about getting paid, but it’s pretty clear that fear of his past, the motivations of his conscience, and Leia are the reasons he stayed with the Rebels. The character’s voice sounds like it comes from the mouth of a young Harrison Ford. As this is Leia’s book, however, our Princess takes center stage, and we find her fresh from the destruction of Alderaan and the Death Star, confronting a less than ideal example of what’s left of her people. Balancing her role between diplomat, royalty, and freedom fighter, the reader is invited to see the galaxy through Leia’s eyes and witness both her strengths and vulnerabilities. And, of course, Leia wouldn’t be Leia if she didn’t take the most difficult and noble path through all of this. Razor’s Edge, indeed. But again, the character’s voice comes through flawlessly and effortlessly as though it were being written for a young Carrie Fisher. The secondary characters are all equally well-written, their motivations and personalities coming forth and playing off our heroes in ways that keep us turning pages.

Next comes plot. This is where the novel doesn’t live up as well in my eyes, but it’s still quite enjoyable. The plot doesn’t break any serious ground, but it does give us a good look into the world of pirates and smugglers. This is fun. This is a lot of fun. Han is our guide, but it’s Leia that has to navigate the mine field. The downside, and this is to be expected, is that it also feels decidedly different than classic Star Wars in that we aren’t pitting our heroes against the likes of Darth Vader. Sue me, I’m a Vader fan, and I believe our heroes are at their best when facing him. But this is Expanded Universe, and this story does give us that expansion nicely into other opportunities for chaos and mayhem.

In reading, the book is fast, fun, and quirky as Star Wars should be. It presses no envelopes, but everything hits in ways that still says this is Star Wars without straying from that idea. In a lot of ways it reminds me of those early days, reading Splinter of the Mind’s Eye or the old Marvel comics, only not as jarring to the Star Wars sensibilities. In other words, while it doesn’t open things up to the level of Darth Plagueis or the Darth Bane books, it does offer something else that makes it a completely worthy read in my eyes: at long last, after exploring all of the other eras for so long, this feels like coming home.

4 stars

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