For all those who wanted more out of ‘Star Wars: Aftermath’, be it more action, more classic characters or a faster paced story well you got what you wanted with ‘Star Wars: Life Debt’.
Chuck Wendig’s follow-up to the bestselling ‘Star Wars: Aftermath’ fires on all cylinders and delivers the book that I think fans were expecting from the first part.
Like any (planned) trilogy the first part always acts as a setting up. We meet characters, we discover the world (or Galaxy in this case) and we get the general lay-of-the-land. This allows the second part, the bulk of the trilogies overall story to be told without too much back story clogging up the proceedings.
Set three months after the previous book (roughly) we are now (again, roughly) nine months after Return of the Jedi and the pieces are starting to come together towards a climactic endgame. Norra and her crew, Sinjir Rath Velus, Jas Emari, Jom Barell, her son Temmin and his droid Mister Bones have been working for the New Republic hunting high powered Imperials and bringing them to justice.
Grand Admiral Rae Sloane of the Imperial Navy is working to bring the Empire back to its full glory with the help (or rather the manipulations) of Gallius Rax, a mysterious but influential member of the Empire who had a close personal relationship with Emperor, who is using her to fulfill Palpatine’s last wish.
The team are approached by Princess Leia who is concerned that her husband, Han Solo is in trouble and asks the team to track him down and bring him home. The team manage to find him and join him on his mission to save Chewbacca who has been captured by the Empire.
Their adventure takes them to Kashyyyk and in their mission they end up freeing hundreds of Imperial prisoners, including Chewie and Nora’s husband/Temmin’s father, Brentin.
The story splits between Chandrilla and Kashyyyk for the rest of the novel, Han and Chewie lead the freed Wookiees and freed prisoners in liberating Kashyyyk whilst on Chandrilla Norra, Brentin and Temmin need to adjust to their life together as Chancellor Mon Mothma invites Sloane to peace talks which devolve into a mass assassination attempt where the freed prisoners have been programmed to attack the New Republic leaders. Sloane realises this was Rax’s plan all along and that she has been thrown to the wolves. She is severely injured but escapes with Brentin’s help. They land on Jakku in time for the full Imperial Remnant to arrive, led by Gallius Rax.
This novel gives us the first proper look at what the classic heroes are doing post-Return of the Jedi after the events of Shattered Empire and Battlefront 2, the latter of which ties into the events of this book, the Han Solo level is set in the months between Aftermath and Life Debt when Han has grown the beard.
Leia is the counterpart to Sloane, both are the faces of their faction and in the end both are rejected by their factions. Sloane is left out to die by Rax and Leia becomes a political pariah after she goes on a personal mission to rescue Han on Kashyyyk and takes Wedge and Ackbar with her.
This book gives the team some great character development throughout.
Nora’s crew becomes divided but comes together again with the exception of Jom who stays on Kashyyyk to aid the liberation. The thing that brings them back together, apprehending Sloane.
Temmin has received the nickname ‘Snap’ by Wedge who is teaching him how to pilot X-Wings and Mister Bones is starting to develop a stronger love of violence.
Sinjir is required to threaten to torture some Imperials for information, something he would have to do in his former role as an Imperial Loyalty Officer but now it makes him feel ashamed, he wants to forget that life and move on, except when he is faced with someone who hurt and upset his friends, something the Sinjir of the Empire probably would never have said.
Jas Emari is the Bounty Hunter who is starting to fight for the cause rather than the paycheque and her time with the crew has begun to ware her hard exterior down, especially with the New Republic Special Forces soldier Jom Barell who had a small role in the previous book and gets more time to shine here.
There is a lot of weight to this book, and by that I am talking ‘the feels’. Relief and happiness that Norra and Temmin are reunited with Brentin and we completely feel for them both and get what they’re going through when Temmin is angry that things are not ok between his Mum and Dad, and given the circumstances it’s understandable, they have been apart for years, he was believed to be dead and he has come back from an extended induced coma to find that the war he was fighting in secret has been won.
The characters we feel the most for, if only because they are the most familiar are Han, Leia and Chewie. Leia because she is essentially alone and going through her pregnancy whilst working with the Senate and getting nowhere. She finally takes action by breaking away from her political duties and doing what she feels is right by running off to save Han.
Han starts out completely lost. Chewie is missing and he’s trying to find him. He reluctantly accepts help from the team and together they rescue the prisoners on Kashyyyk and start to liberate the planet. Once the attack on Chandrilla occurs Han knows that he has to go back with Leia whilst Chewie has his own job to do on his own home world. Their ‘goodbye’ moment is beautifully written and is played out exactly as it should be. Not prolonged and drawn out but serves as both a testament to Wendig’s skill as a writer and the power of the two characters involved. Not one beat in this scene felt out of place for either Han or Chewie. As fans we know this isn’t the last time they see each other but it’s heartbreaking nonetheless seeing our favourite smuggling duo break up.
At the end of the novel all of the pieces are set for the inevitable conclusion of the trilogy, the Battle of Jakku and as an audience we awaited the conclusion of this trilogy with baited breath.
I remember feeling conflicted when I bought this book. It came out just before Celebration Europe and it had been announced that there would be a convention exclusive cover BUT my local bookshop has a habit of having some of the Star Wars books on sale early… what to do? In the end I bought it early and took it to the convention with me and was reading it in the queue for the Rebels Season 3 wristbands which led to a conversation about the books with a guy called Craig.
I must say, in addition, that this book has a lot more resonance now after the release of ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’, where we not only see the origins of Han and Chewie’s partnership, but the fireside conversation where Chewie talks about looking for his tribe/family and then the moment between Chewie and Sagwa on Kessel. It all makes those tugs on the old heartstrings all the more tear inducing.
I have started my reread of Empire’s End so look out for my review soon.
Thank you for visiting My Star Wars Life Debt.
If you have enjoyed this blog, please like/share/comment/follow.
If you would like to contribute to the upkeep of the blog please visit the Patreon page here.