Star Wars Vintage: Clone Wars 2D Micro Series – Volume 1

Oh Disney+, you wonderful, beautiful beast you. Treating us to a whole array of Star Wars: Legends content.

Back in the 2000’s when this series first aired I really annoyed my parents, taking over the TV to record these onto VHS, in five minute bursts. But I didn’t care, it was wonderful new Star Wars content and I was living for it.

Now, I’m not going to lie, back then and up until now I’ve had issues with the series, the short runtime being one, probably because I just wanted more content and five minutes a piece wasn’t enough for me at the time. The character design was another issue for me, I really didn’t like how they looked, especially Anakin. I had some other issues, but I’ll go into those later in the post as I write about the series itself as I watch it through (Durge). Hopefully this rewatch (the first time since the 2000’s) will alleviate some of those issues.

Here I go…

… and that was painful. I went in hoping to get hit with some nostalgia feels and see what it is that fans rave about, and unfortunately I wasn’t and I didn’t. I spent most of the time feeling bored, the hour and three minutes runtime dragged so much, I had to check how much there was left on a couple of occasions.

Anakin was worse than I remembered, the whole teen angst that we got in ‘Attack of the Clones’ has been dialled up to eleven, the voice sounds more like a fourteen year old than a twenty year old. The petulant attitude makes ‘Attack of the Clones’ Anakin look like a model student. I’m really pleased that they took Anakin in a different direction for ‘The Clone Wars’ 3D series, I think I would have really struggled with it if they had kept this version of Anakin.

The introduction of the Bounty Hunter, Durge, with his army of IG Droids on Speeder Bikes with lances, that can take out an AT-TE by stabbing it, I’m not the only one that thinks that’s ridiculous? Right? Durge just keeps making me cringe as he fights Obi-Wan, gets slices in half only to return (ok, I get the Darth Maul parallel here) and return as a giant monster made up of worms. And now they’re bringing him into the Doctor Aphra comics… *sigh*.

Thankfully, Obi-Wan is a saving grace for the series, his Battle Armour looks amazing, and with James Arnold Taylor voicing him he’s almost perfect, with the exception of the dialogue with Anakin, it’s like they took the condescending tone from ‘Attack of the Clones’ and dialled it up to eleven (just like Anakin). I wouldn’t complain but if this had been done across the board as a stylistic choice I’d get it, but the rest of the characters don’t get this kind of treatment.

It’s not all bad, there are a couple of episodes that I do enjoy, the Kit Fisto episode where he leads the Clones and Mon Calamari forces against the Separatists and the Quarren is enjoyable and an obvious precursors to the ‘Water War’ arc from the fourth season of Filoni and Lucas’ ‘Clone Wars’ series.

Mace Windu vs. The Whole Droid Army on Dantooine is a fun episode, watching Windu lay waste to the Droids is incredibly enjoyable. The animators absolutely nail Samuel L. Jackson’s style as Windu very casually deflects blaster bolts and the slick way he takes the drink from the young spectator and returns to the fray is pure Jackson.

Of course, how could I forget the final episode of the season, where fans got their first encounter with General Grievous. The Droid General has never been so terrifying as he is here, taking on a group of Jedi, including Shaak Ti and Ki-Adi Mundi (and Sha’a Gi who looks just like Shaggy from Scooby Doo but with a Padawan braid). Grievous here makes his cinematic and 3D counterpart look like a whiny baby as he battles a whole group of Jedi, killing Sha’a Gi and another before the rest escape.

Whilst I still am not a fan, I’m pleased that I gave this series another chance, for a while this was the only on screen Clone Wars content as we waited for ‘Revenge of the Sith’, and whilst a considerable amount of it was cast aside by the books and comics (more so in Season 2), it was new Star Wars content, which is always exciting.

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Tyrant’s Test by Michael P. Kube McDowell Audiobook Review

As the New Republic and The Duskhan League trade ultimatums, Leia faces dissent within her own ranks. Luke’s quest to find his mother comes to a startling conclusion and Lando, Lobot and the Droids finally understand the ship they have been stuck on.

Returning to a standard format that jumps between the different plot lines, ‘Tyrant’s Test’ brings McDowell’s trilogy to a surprisingly satisfying ending.

Leia faces a hard choice, whether or not to step away from the role of Chief of State whilst the Yevethans have Han prisoner or to stay in power without the full support of her closest allies, fearing that she is emotionally compromised. After receiving a horrific video of Nil Spaar beating Han within an inch of his life, Leia visits her friend and mentor, Mon Mothma, before meeting with the New Republic Senate and announces her intention to stay in power until, at least, the end of the war, knowing her decision could cost Han his life.

Luke and Akanah end up on the planet J’t’p’tan, close to the Yevethan conflict, where they finally find the Fallanassi hiding and using their powers to hide The Temple of the Hidden Spirit, disguising the Temple as a set of ruins to make the invading Yevethans that they were dead. Luke enlists their help with the coming battle.

Chewie, with his son, Lumpy and two of his cousins, embarks on a rescue mission. Using an underworld contact they take the Millennium Falcon right to Nil Spaar’s Star Destroyer and make their way through, finding Han who is with a captured Fallanassi woman who uses her powers to confuse their captors until Han is rescued.

The battle begins, with the Fallanassi making the Yevethans believe that the New Republic fleet is much larger, the former Imperial soldiers, taken prisoner by the Yevethans, take back a number of their ships. Their leader orders the ships to leave the battle, reducing the Yevethan fleet considerably, the Commander, Sil Sorannon, takes control of Nil Spaar’s flagship, taking the Yevethan leader captive and locking him in an escape pod which they launch into hyperspace.

Luke learns that Akanah had lied about his mother, using the name and story of a woman whose twins had been taken from her to manipulate Luke into joining her. Feeling betrayed, Luke goes on a new mission, to find Lando.

On the Vagabond, Lobot has become connected to the ship through his cybernetic attachment as the ship encounters more and more attackers and becomes increasingly damaged. Called back to its home world by the crew of The Lady Luck. Luke arrives and with the scientist is able to rescue Lando and the crew as they learn of the Vagabond’s true purpose, to revive the Qella species once their home world of Brath Qella was ready to exit its sudden ice age, reviving the species.

Luke returns to Coruscant where he reunites with Leia, Han is doing much better in the Med-Centre and the two of them discuss family, Luke’s desire to find out about their mother and how he wants to be involved with the training of Jacen, Jaina and Anakin.

As the conclusion of the trilogy, ‘Tyrant’s Test’ works brilliantly. After the events of ‘Shield of Lies’ we get to see the aftermath here and it doesn’t disappoint. We know how great a leader Leia is and that point is Reuter ten-fold as she stakes her claim over the presidency of the New Republic, pushing all of her personal feelings for the situation away and focusing on what is best for the Galaxy at large. Even in the canon stories, we’ve never seen Leia this close to a breaking point, even when Han is killed by Kylo she keeps on going, but it is redressing to see her vulnerability shine through, even for a brief moment.

Akanah’s inevitable betrayal of Luke’s trust finally happens when she finally finds her people, and Luke, whilst initially angry manages to make peace with it. However, Luke does learn a new way of envisioning the Force and how to utilise it in new ways, which come into play in the rescue of Lando, Lobot, C-3PO and R2-D2 from the Vagabond. It was also great to see Luke fully back to his old self by the end, wanting to pass on his Jedi knowledge to his niece and nephews.

The new Chewie and Han storyline, starting with Lumpawaroo’s rite of passage being interrupted, with Chewie, his son and two other members of their family going on a mission to rescue Han in the Millennium Falcon. This part, for me, is the only bit that feels like a good old Star Wars adventure, risky odds, a daring rescue and infiltrating an Imperial ship (yes it’s under Yevethan control but it’s still a Star Destroyer). And they are in the Millennium Falcon. And of course they save Han.

The big problem, that really doesn’t tie into the rest of the plot, is the Lando storyline. My prediction that the Vagabond would emerge from hyperspace in the middle of the battle was wrong, instead the storyline remains separate until Luke arrives (after the battle is over). It feels like a waste of the characters involved when they could have been part of the main storyline.

Whilst I think this was the better of the three (audio)books, it’s not without its flaws. Firstly, the Fallanassi woman who helps in the rescue of Han from the Yevethans by using her powers of camouflage seems to appear out of nowhere in the audiobook which was truly bizarre and confusing.

I get the feeling that this audiobook had to skip a lot to meet the three hour run-time, whilst understandable given the time it was made, I feel like the abridgement could have been better executed. As far as the trilogy, it definitely got better as it went along but it’s not one I’d revisit.

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Shield of Lies by Michael P. Kube McDowell Audiobook Review

The second part of McDowell’s ‘Black Fleet Crisis’ Trilogy takes the three separate storylines from ‘Before the Storm’ and throws the characters headlong into their adventures.

Split into three parts, the first part focus’ on Lando, Lobot, R2-D2 and C-3PO as they make their way through the lost ship, the Teljkon Vagabond, which is blasting its way through Hyperspace, even taking out an Imperial Frigate that they happened to come across. They learn that the ship is alive and is able to recalibrate itself to accommodate the passengers on board.

The second part focus’ on Luke Skywalker and the Fallanassi woman, Akanah who is searching for her people. She has Luke travel to numerous planets, under the pretence of finding her people but she is really searching for her father a Gang Leader who has lost his long term memory to a drug addiction. After learning that she would have no relationship with him, she continues quest to find the rest of the Fallanassi people, including, supposedly, Luke’s mother.

Leia is busy with the building situation with the Yevethans. The New Republic army is gearing up for war and as much as Leia want to avoid it, she knows it’s going to happen and she has to remain in control as the Chief of State. Once the decision is made and a large number of New Relublic forces are killed in a surprise attack, war is inevitable. Leia has Han take command of the Fleet, but he is kidnapped by the Yevethans on the way which leads to members of the High Council along for Leia to resign her post.

McDowell really steps up the game for the second (audio)book of his trilogy. With the set up out of the way in ‘Before the Storm’, the heroes really get into their storylines in ‘Shield of Lies’. However, and this could just be for the audiobook, each of the plot lines are told individually, there’s no cutting back and forth, which was a huge detriment in my opinion.

The first part focused on Lando’s story, and whilst by the end the story had found its direction, for the most part it’s all about a group of people wandering around a ship and on the outside, the political fallout because the Vagabond has vanished again and the New Republic forces searching for it get pulled away except for the Commander who, with a small crew, continues their search for the ship. Whilst not the weakest storyline, I’m struggling to see how it will fit with the overall story other than the Vagabond arriving out of Hyperspace slap-bang in the middle of a battle and Lando, Lobot and the Droids save the day in some Deus Ex Machina style of finale.

The second part was Luke and Akanah, which is still the weakest of the storylines. Luke is being dragged around on a wild-goose-chase and it’s all coming across like an elaborate manipulation by Akanah who just wanted a Jedi protector and used Luke’s desire to learn more about his mother to get what she wants. It’s a real deviation for Luke’s character and quite disappointing to be honest.

The storyline that really held my interest and was the one I was most looking to hearing. The situation with the Yevethans has escalated and the New Republic is helpless. Leia’s position as Chief of State is also in jeopardy, she doesn’t want to enter a new war but Nil Spaar is forcing her hand with every planet the alien race conquers. The Yevethans take countless lives in their attacks and when the New Republic forces do respond the Yevethan tactics cause a horrendous defeat. By the end, when Leia puts Han in charge of the fleet and he is captured, Leia just goes to show how strong a leader she is, she doesn’t act impulsively whatsoever and instead remains calm and collected, much like how she acted through ‘A New Hope’ after Alderaan is destroyed.

Far more enjoyable than ‘Before the Storm’, which in hindsight was acting as a way of setting up the trilogy (something I didn’t consider when writing my review), ‘Shield of Lies’ does pick up the pace in terms of the story, however, the format of keeping each of the stories separate falls flat for me, especially feeling the slog of finally getting to the part I was most looking forward to.

However, some of my issues with the first book, predominantly the characterisation of Luke were alleviated somewhat. Luke feels more like himself, rather than how he acted in ‘Before the Storm’ which was completely unlike any version of Luke we have ever seen, and whilst still not the best version of Luke, McDowell has gotten closer to the character we all know and love.

Getting to see the inner workings of the New Republic is different, with a lot of Leia’s part focusing on the politics of the oncoming Yevethan conflict and how tied Leia’s hands are it’s a great insight into the Galactic Council, and something I went on to enjoy years later in Claudia Gray’s ‘Bloodline’.

A definite step in the right direction but far from the greatest Star Wats book of the nineties, I’m hoping that the third part of ‘The Black Fleet Crisis’ Trilogy, ‘Tyrant’s Test’ can steer the ship in the right direction for a grand finale.

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Before the Storm by Michael P. Kube McDowell Audiobook Review

When I was younger I bought this book, and as much as I tried, I just couldn’t get into it. I don’t think I ever made it past the first chapter. Something just didn’t click with me and it ended up in a box until I gave the majority of me EU collection to charity in 2015.

I later came across it a few years ago, going for a relatively low price along with the third part of the ‘Black Fleet Crisis Trilogy’ (of which this is the first part), and as I was just about to finish the Corellia Trilogy I went for it.

I got through about 90 pages, and that took me a really long time, and this was at a time before having a child where I would sit in the bath EVERY NIGHT (our shower was broken) and read as a way of winding down before going to bed. But around page 90 I just about had enough, I read something else and tried to go back to it but it just wasn’t happening.

So imagine my trepidation when, in my Post-ROTJ, Bantam Era Legends binge when I got to this one. I was not looking forward to it, especially after listening to four less than spectacular books in a row.

Thankfully, for the most part, the abridgement really worked for me. I still had issues with the story at times but I was able to finish it, where I never managed it with the book.

Set twelve years after the Battle of Endor, Chief of State Leia Organa welcomes Nil Spaar, the Viceroy of the Dushkan League, representing a vast number of systems with great wealth and advanced technology, to a meeting in regards to the New Republic and the Leagues future together. Over many meetings, it becomes apparent that the Yevetha (the species that forms the League) just wants to be left alone, with no interference from the New Republic.

Many of Leia’s key members of staff distrust the Yevethans and send the newly established ‘Fifth Fleet’ to Dushkan League space to scout for any trouble. Han Solo ends up in charge of the Fleet after his predecessor is fired by Leia after he disobeys her orders, Han continues the mission.

Nil Spaar launches attacks on all the planets in the Dushkan League and kills all non-Yevethan people in a mass genocide, blaming Leia for instigating war between the New Republic and the Yevethan people.

Meanwhile, a bored Lando Calrissian gets entangled in a search party for a missing ship, often considered a myth. The fleet he is with, as well as his own team consisting of himself, Lobot, C-3PO and R2-D2 join the mission that locates the ship, ‘The Teljkon Vagabond’ and Lando’s task force manage to crack the code to get access to the ship where the rest of the fleet cannot. Before they know it the Vagabond jumps into hyperspace and the team has no idea where it’s going.

Luke is on his own journey, after stepping away from the Jedi Academy, believing that he should go into exile like Obi-Wan and Yoda before him, he takes up residence in Darth Vader’s palace on Coruscant. After asking Han to tell Leia to leave him alone, a mysterious woman who claims to have ties to Luke and Leia’s mother arrives and Luke joins her to find a key to his past.

And, Chewie takes the Millennium Falcon to Kashyyyk for Lumpy’s coming-of-age ceremony and only appears in the book briefly.

Personally, I really could have just taken Luke’s storyline from this (audio)book and cut it out completely. I’m not sure if it’s because I just don’t like it, or that it is completely contradictory to when we got in the Prequel Trilogy (but Luke going off into exile is kind of like ‘The Last Jedi’, in a really loose way) about Padmé. If I were ever to jump on the #NotMyLukeSkywalker movement it would be about Luke in this (audio)book.

I’m guessing McDowell didn’t quite know what to do with Chewie here because the Wookiee is written out of the story very early on. I can understand why, writing a companion that doesn’t exactly speak can be a bit tedious, how many different ways can you describe the vocalisations of a Wookiee? But it does leave Han without a companion, so Solo is shipped off on a military mission to try and find answers on the Dushkan League. Of course, it all goes a bit wrong for them when their presence gives the Yevethans an opportunity to commit their abhorrent acts and proclaim it to be in defence of the New Republic people attacking the Yevethans.

However, it’s Leia’s storyline that I found to be the most interesting, with her slow descent into uncertainty at how she is performing in her role as Chief-of-State. She becomes erratic towards her colleagues, even accusing Ackbar, one of her strongest supporter, of working against her and against her best wishes, even though her meetings with Nil Spaar and becoming increasingly more and more pointless as very little gets achieved beyond their first couple of interactions. It all comes to a head when Nil Spaar announces to the Galaxy that the Yevethans have fought and defeated the New Republic citizens living within the Dushkan League. And it’s that storyline that makes me want to listen to the next one.

As I said before, I really could have done without Luke’s storyline in this novel, but I’m sure that by the end of the third part of the trilogy, Luke, Leia, Han and Lando will reunite with each of their storylines merging together for a good old team-up.

The Yevethans are an interesting species. After years of slavery under the Empire, the Yevethans become incredibly xenophobic, considering any other races to be ‘vermin’. My one issue with them however, it seems like McDowell has made them to be quite overpowered from the start, incredibly intelligent, quick, strong, amazing ship builders and a retractable needle like blade that comes out of their wrists.

The (audio)book focuses heavily on intergalactic politics, which in the abridged version is palatable, however, given my ongoing struggles with reading the book I wonder how it would have come across. I quite enjoy the galactic politics in Star Wars, one of my favourite canon novels is ‘Bloodline’ which gives a great look at the politics of the New Republic, and ‘Before the Storm’ gives us an interesting political tête-à-tête between Leia and Nil Spaar. It’s interesting seeing how Spaar uses and twists things to his own gains, leaving Leia and her people struggling to find out what they have done wrong to offend the Yevethans whilst Spaar puts his plan in motion. In terms of villains, it’s great to see one who works more on Leia’s level than another Pirate or Dark Jedi which are on Han and Luke’s levels respectively.

Much more palatable as an audiobook, the main story is interesting and for the most part, the characters feel like the on-screen versions than some of the previous (audio)books I have reviewed recently, except for Luke… which may or not play out later in the trilogy, but so far it’s not my cup of tea.

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The Crystal Star by Vonda N. McIntyre Audiobook Review

Imperial fanatics, a extra-dimensional chunk of meat, a kidnapping plot and the worst vacation ever pretty much sun this one up.

After Jacen, Jaina and Anakin Solo are kidnapped by Lord Hethrir, a former apprentice to Darth Vader. His goal is to restore the Empire with the help of the extra-dimensional being, Waru.

Han and Luke are on a vacation to Crseih where Han is looking for some much needed downtime whilst Luke believes there is a lost Jedi on the planet. They meet a former love interest of Han’s who was the one who supplied information about a possible Jedi, but she was in fact talking about the being, Waru. Waru had become almost like a cult leader, families would bring their sick and Waru would either heal them or they would die. Luke becomes obsessed with Waru as his connection to the Force begins to diminish, leading him to become distrustful of Han.

Leia follows the trail to her children and encounters a ship with a pair of Firrerreo on board, on is unhelpful but the other, a woman called Rillao who helps Leia after they realise they are both searching for the same person, Hethrir.

Hethrir has a number of children detained, some work for him in keeping the new acquisitions in line, including Jacen and Jaina. Meanwhile, Anakin is kept separate from his siblings, in the care of a child called Tigris, who works as Hethrir’s assistant. Hethrir takes Anakin, Tigris and a number of other children to the main city (where Han, Luke and Waru are) where Anakin is to undergo purification.

As Luke attempts to be healed by Waru to help reconnect to the Force, Han stops him in time and drags Luke away from Waru. During their departure Han sees Anakin being led by Hethrir and Tigris. As he starts to go after his son, he meets Leia, Chewie, Riallo and the Twins (whom Leia, Chewie and Riallo rescued after the twins staged a mass breakout and escaped Hethrir’s followers).

To save Anakin, Luke leaps into Waru (ew) and is followed by Han and Leia whilst Riallo battles with Hethrir over their son, Tigris, who Hethrir has lied to, calling his mother a traitor for taking away his Force ability, when Tigris never had a Force connection to begin with.

Han and Leia, with the help of the cries of the Solo children manage to get Luke out of Waru. The creature, still hungry and desperate to return to its own dimension consumes Hethrir and, using Hethrir’s Force connection transports them to Waru’s home.

Despite the end of Waru and Hethrir, Crseih is still in peril, orbiting an crystallised star (the real cause of Luke’s lack of connection to the Force), the star is being pulled into a black hole. The heroes manage to escape in time, bringing Crseih station with them, with Hethrir’s followers stuck on the planet-ship.

Oh I had so many problems with this (audio)book, and I can’t chalk them all up to being down to it being abridged.

Firstly, Anakin has a companion who is taken along with the Solo children and becomes one of Hethrir’s prisoners. It has no name and is referred to as a Wyrwulf… a six legged wolf-like creature. A freaking werewolf? Seriously? When they reach puberty the wyrwulf forms a chrysalis and emerges as a being called a Cordu-Ji. Werewolves in Star Wars? Really?

Secondly, Han Solo. Or more specifically McIntyre’s characterisation of Han Solo. In his first scene he basically gives an absurd impression to Luke that Han thinks it’s alright, as a married man, to go about flirting with women. I’m sorry, but what? Han has always been 100% committed and faithful to Leia and his family. And, if n a complete change of character, spends most of his time prattling on about being on vacation and putting a lot of time into drinking and gambling, than paying attention to Luke who is obviously going through some issues whilst on the planet. It’s only when he realises that Anakin is in danger that he becomes somewhat more like the Han Solo we know. Which again leaves me to wonder if McIntyre really doesn’t know Han Solo in the post Return of the Jedi era because the whole ‘when the cats away the mice will play’ attitude he has going on is utterly bizarre.

Whilst this is only the third time we have had a Solo Children kidnapping plot, and the first successful one, the whole idea just feels very played out. I will however give McIntyre some credit in how she writes the children which was really well done and the twins following in their parents footsteps as leaders, when they take charge of the breakout from Hethrir’s camp, which could have come across more like a kids adventure book is well played out.

And then there’s Waru… the extra-dimensional lump of meat protected by strange gold scales. I can get behind extra-galactic creatures, but extra-dimensional is a bit too far-fetched, even for Star Wars. It’s almost like, in a Galaxy full of different alien beings an unknown alien race wouldn’t seem much of a threat, so extra-dimensional was the way to go (well it worked for Lucas when Spielberg didn’t want do do aliens in ‘Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ so he made them extra-dimensional instead).

I feel like ‘The Crystal Star’ relies heavily on Science Fiction than Science Fantasy that Star Wars has more in common with, which is understandable seeing that McIntyre was a well known Science Fiction author, but she really didn’t quite grasp that Star Wars feel that other authors like Timothy Zahn and Kevin J. Anderson had done previously. Had this not been set in the Star Wars universe, this could have been a great Sci-Fi novel in its own right.

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Planet of Twilight by Barbara Hambly Audiobook Review

I can safely say I am happy to be done with this ‘Callista Trilogy’.

‘Planet of Twilight’ finishes off this series, that Hambly started with ‘Children of the Jedi’ and followed by Kevin J. Anderson’s ‘Darksaber’. So far I haven’t been too thrilled with this run of (audio)books, finding the stories to really not have any sort of ‘Star Wars’ feel to them, and quite frankly have incredibly bizarre storylines.

Set around a year after the events of ‘Darksaber’, Hambly takes us to the planet of Nam Chorios, a veritable smorgasbord of problems. Killer bugs, disease and grouchy people fighting.

Leia is there to meet one of the political leaders, Seti Ashgad. After being drugged, Leia is kidnapped by the Force Sensitive Beldorion the Hutt. Her captors continue to keep her drugged until Ashgad’s aide, Dzim informs her and she manages to overcome the effects of the drugs.

Luke is also on the planet after receiving a message from Callista. After learning of Leia’s capture he makes his way to Beldorian’s stronghold, however, Leia manages to escape after killing Beldorion (Hutts are not so quick in a lightsaber duel it seems).

Luke arrives at the palace and finds out Leia has escaped but learns that Dzim is actually an evolved Droch, the killer insects I mentioned earlier and has been keeping Ashgad, Beldorion and Taselda, a Jedi who Luke encounters alive for centuries.

Leia meets with Callista during her escape and after Luke is imbued by the raw power of the Force the Droch and Dzim are defeated and their plan to use crystals mined on the planet to power weapons and fighters is thwarted. After Luke meets with Callista and they part ways forever, Luke and Leia escape the planet.

Not pulling any punches with this one. I didn’t enjoy it at all. The main villain being an evolved murder insect that has become sentient and can keep people alive? Way too far fetched for me. I appreciate the attempt to make a villain that isn’t just another Imperial Warlord or Dark Side wielding maniac but Dzim just wasn’t that compelling a villain. Murder bugs I can handle, and if they were being used as a weapon by someone then I could probably get behind that more, but yeah, this wasn’t one I could get behind.

I did like the idea of a Force Sensitive Hutt, that idea is incredibly compelling to me and it’s something I think would be very interesting to see again, especially in ‘The High Republic’ where we are seeing more and more Jedi, including Sskeer, the Trandoshan Jedi, a species that has until recently been exclusively villains.

The Callista storyline could have easily been removed from this (audio)book, she acts as more of a tool for exposition for Leia and her conversation with Luke was basically a less angsty version of her farewell hologram at the end of ‘Darksaber’. Of course this could have been down to the abridgement but I’m honestly not interested in picking up the book (I have a copy and was going to read it for this review, glad I didn’t) to find out. Even though Hambly worked with Anderson on how to write the love story between Luke and Callista out in order for Luke and Mara Jade to become an item (a decision that Lucasfilm had come to behind the scenes), the inclusion of the character here feels like Hambly wanting the final word on a character she created, in a similar way that Michael A. Stackpole essentially wrote an exit for Corran Horn in ‘The New Jedi Order’ series so that he wouldn’t get killed off by anyone else.

A disappointing entry into the EU, with very little to develop any ongoing stories. Easily one I would skip over in the future.

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The High Republic Adventures Issue 2 Review

The Nihil attack on Bralanak City escalates as the Jedi face overwhelming odds and the disdain of the locals.

Daniel José Older’s inaugural contribution to ‘The High Republic’ initiative continues with an action filled issue.

Lula, Farzala, Qort and their new companion Zeen must fight off the Nihil who are in league with the Force User-hating cult who populate the city. They are backed up by other Padawan’s as well as Masters Yoda and Buck, whose nickname is revealed to be “Buckets of Blood”, because he is a Jedi Healer, not because he’s some sort of mass murderer in a Jedi Robe. Although… fanfic alert!

We learn that Marchion Ro is leading the Nihil attack, and his ruthlessness shows no bounds here, going as far as threatening to leave Zeen’s former friend Krix who, as any normal child would, feels conflicted between the hatred of the Force that his people preach and his loyalty to his friend. During the escape, Ro almost destroys a Republic Medical Frigate during the Nihil’s escape.

With Zeen stranded, but her Force abilities being quite powerful, Yoda agrees that she should join the Jedi on their way to the Starlight Beacon.

I am really enjoying Older’s series. Two issues in and I am really engrossed, the characters are great fun, seeing this era from a different perspective and a new way of seeing Jedi Padawans, going off around the Galaxy with Yoda and Buck, my question however is, are they all Yoda’s apprentices? Are they you Jedi waiting to be taken on by a Master? I’m sure the answer will become clear at some point, so I won’t bother Older on Twitter just yet.

Yoda shows his age in this issue, being around 700 years old he definitely seems more sprightly, going off to try and rescue Krix from Marchion Ro, almost convincing the boy to go with them instead of The Nihil and taking on some of the pirates (with the help of Zeen’s pet bat Cham who full on eats parts of a Nihil). Yoda’s trademark sense of humour is also on show, the Jedi Master really comes across more favourable in this era, obviously, as the Jedi Order changed his outlook changed too, maybe it was his age as well, at 860(ish) in ‘The Phantom Menace’, his views of the Galaxy and how it has changed could have effected him.

One thing I did find interesting, Lula insists on Zeen joining the Jedi because of her abilities, which is understandable. However, Zeen is obviously in her teenage years, older than Anakin was in ‘The Phantom Menace’, and Yoda accepts her to join the mission. I know that this isn’t exactly a sign that Zeen is allowed to join the Order, but, it seems to indicate that the Jedi are willing to take on new members who are older. Maybe they prefer to take younger children in, but don’t outright deny others with abilities. Perhaps with the Republic expanding, as new worlds are discovered then the Jedi are opening their doors to train Force Users of any age from the outlying worlds of the frontier?

Maybe we will learn through this series why the Jedi become stricter on the age of children becoming part of the Order? Could Zeen be the reason? So… many… questions…

I really enjoyed this issue. I’m loving the writing and the art. Seeing a group of Jedi in battle is amazing and great fun and well worth a read.

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Alphabet Squadron: Victory’s Price by Alexander Freed SPOILER FREE Book Review

After the events on Troithe, Alphabet Squadrom would never be the same again. Picking up some time later, ‘Victory’s Price’ throws us right into the emotional aftermath of Quell’s defection and how the Squadron must come together as the end of the war draws closer.

Alexander Fred’s work in the Star Wars canon has been nothing short of fantastic. After throwing us into the front lines in ‘Battlefront: Twilight Company’ it was hardly a surprise to me when it was announced that he was writing the novelisation of ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’, which he absolutely nailed. When he was announced to be writing a Trilogy about star fighter pilots I was ecstatic and the first two instalments in the ‘Alphabet Squadron’ Trilogy were fantastic, and I had no doubt that the third would follow suit.

Boy, did I underestimate it.

‘Victory’s Price’ is phenomenal, I can’t put it any other way whatsoever. The emotional journeys that the main characters went through in ‘Shadow Fall’ really resonate here, the events of the last book changed all of them drastically, and Freed really lets us feel that here, and as the character development continues, it gives us some new dynamics that you (or the characters themselves) probably never would have thought possible.

Not even the Empire’s 204th Fighter Squadron, came out of the last book unscathed, with Shadow Wing being crammed into a “rinky-dink freighter” and Yrica Quell back with her former commander, Soran Keize and now under the command of Admiral Rae Sloane, Shadow Wing has a new mission which could have serious repercussions for the rest of the Galaxy and its down to Hera Syndulla’s Star Destroyer, The Deliverance to stop them.

Freed not only crafts an amazing story here, but he weaves details from other books, specifically to Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath: Empire’s End’ and allusions to the game ‘Star Wars: Squadrons’ which tied more into ‘Shadow Fall’ but gets referenced here.

‘Victory’s Price’ gives us an incredibly emotional, action filled and satisfying conclusion to a brilliant trilogy, it was a tough book to put down. Whilst the previous two books had more action sequences, the action here is more tightly packed into a couple of areas but once the action gets going it is all encompassing and as always with Freed, written to perfection. Where we don’t get the action, the character depth we get into is wonderful, seeing what this group of characters go through in this one really drives the story and how they move forward as the story builds just shows how well written they are.

At 460 pages (hardback edition), it’s one of the more heftier books in the Star Wars Canon but at no point does the story feel like it’s dragging, every beat of the story is well placed and works to move the story forward, putting characters in the right place or situations at the right time to drive the story.

The end feels well earned, things come as a surprise, others are expected but not obvious, and, without giving anything away, felt reminiscent of the last episode of the Netflix series ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ and it worked so well.

A brilliant end to a brilliant Trilogy. Freed doesn’t pull any punches and puts the characters through the ringer for a well deserved and satisfying conclusion, it’s left me wanting more Star Wars books from this great author.

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Darksaber by Kevin J. Anderson Audiobook Review

Boy, oh boy.

Darksaber sees the return of Kevin J. Anderson, the author of the ‘Jedi Academy Trilogy’ but the book falls short of the quality that I had expected after those great books.

Set not long after ‘Children of the Jedi’, the book follows a number of storylines that eventually tie together at the end, in a climactic battle that almost makes up for the lacklustre first and second acts.

Luke and Callista are trying to find a way for the latter to regain her connection to the Force. After Luke and Han go on a failed mission to Tatooine where Luke visits Obi-Wan’s old home and visit Jabba’s Palace where they learn that Durga the Hutt has been searching through Jabba’s computers, stealing information on The Empire.

Luke then takes Callista to a Comet which is part Mining Colony part Tourist Resort but soon leave when Callista gets frustrated when the relaxation Luke was hoping would help bring back her Force connection doesn’t work and they instead go on a tour of the places that Luke felt strong connections to the Force, taking them first to Dagobah where the two of them fight off the native wildlife and then Hoth where they end up joining a group of Wampa Hunters who end up under attack by a pack of the beasts, led by the one Luke encountered and dismembered in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. When they manage to get back to their ship and fight off the Wampa’s, Luke and one of the Hunters repair the ship enough to limp away from the planet into the nearby Asteroid Field.

Meanwhile, Leia, Han, Chewie, R2 and 3PO are on their own mission, investigating Durga the Hutt and his allegiance with some known Imperial scientists who worked on the two Death Stars. Durga has them building a new version of the Death Star which is a bare bones mobile version of the planet destroying Super Weapon, which is being built in… the Hoth Asteroid Field. The New Republic fleet, with the help of Han’s team on the Falcon work to destroy the Super Weapon, named The Darksaber. After a sabotage mission led by Crix Madine fails, the New Republic Admiral is killed by Durga before the weapon is destroyed. The Falcon picks up the shuttle with Luke and Callista on board, Callista in an environment suit whilst Luke is in a deep Jedi trance, both near death. After they recuperate they decide that it’s time to go back to Yavin IV, Han, Leia, Chewie and the Droids take them in the Millennium Falcon.

Kyp Durron and Dorsk 81 are on their own mission, trying to locate Imperial Warlords and bring their reigns of terror to an end. What they find however is much worse than they could have imagined. Numerous Imperial united under the rule of Admiral Daala. Her plan, to vanquish The New Republic once they have enough forces, but at the time their forces are too small but an alternative target is chosen, the Jedi Academy on Yavin IV. Kyp and Dorsk 81 race against time to warn the Jedi at the Academy.

On Yavin IV, after Kyp and Dorsk 81 warn the Jedi students, the attack begins. Luckily the Students had been working at one of the other Massassi Temples and manage to wipe out a number of TIE Fighters and other Imperial Forces on the planet and, working together, use the Force to throw the majority of Daala’s attack fleet to the edges of the Yavin system and disable their hyper drives but Dorsk 81 is killed in the process.

The Millennium Falcon arrives in the midst of the battle and lands at the Jedi Temple, joining the fight on the planet, with Kyp joining Han and the crew on the Falcon and they take the fight to Daala’s Super Star Destroyer until Admiral Ackbar’s reinforcements arrive.

On the planet, Callista, after finally tapping into the Force, but only through the Dark Side, feels like her and Luke’s relationship is doomed to fail unless she reconnects to the Force on her own path, takes a downed TIE Bomber to the Super Star Destroyer. Once on board she sabotages a hanger full of TIE Bombers which causes a chain reaction that severely damages the ships hyperdrive. Callista confronts Daala and the two escape the doomed ship.

Luke, believing Callista is dead, is shocked when he receives a message from her, telling him she loves him but has to sort her Dorce issues out herself. Meanwhile, Dalla’s escape pod is found by Pellaeon. Daala relinquishes her command, promoting Pellaeon to Admiral, and the leader of the Imperial Remnant.

When I was younger I read this, again it was one I only read the once because I didn’t remember the majority of the events. After doing the Audiobook I remember why I only read it the one time.

What could have been a really enjoyable duology, what we get here is a single book crammed full to the brim with too many plot lines that really needed time to breathe and they get somewhat lost in the Audiobook version. The abridgement really makes a choppy book even choppier.

Had this been made into a Duology, the Darksaber project could have taken up one part and the second part could focus on Admiral Daala’s push to reform the Empire and the final conflict at Yavin. I would have liked to get more about Kyp and Dorsk 81’s quest to hunt down the Imperial Warlords. There was so much promise for that storyline but it just didn’t get enough attention.

The Luke/Callista storyline ends up being a greatest hits tour of Luke’s Force hotspots, and the Hoth section and the Wampa battle, with the one armed Wampa leading the battle is far too coincidental for my liking. And the fact that, even on Dagobah, Luke and Callista have to fight for their lives against giant bugs. Seriously, couldn’t that have just gone and not had a life and death confrontation?

The saving grace is the final confrontation at Yavin IV. The Jedi Students really get to shine although their working together is incredibly overpowered, and probably part of the reason that fans were expecting an overpowered Luke in ‘The Last Jedi’, seeing as a group of students manage to hurl a fleet of Star Destroyers through space… I mean, come on, as if… but it makes cool reading.

A disappointing listen to be honest. Far too much going on for the short runtime. So far the ‘Callista Trilogy’ hasn’t been as enjoyable as I had hoped, especially after the good run I of good – great Audiobooks I’ve reviewed so far this year.

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The High Republic: There is No Fear Part 3

As Keeve Trennis investigates a sink hole with a local boy, Marshal Avar Kriss must deal with Terec, who is acting strangely and Master Sskeer who’s recent odd behaviour has been noticed by Kriss and other Jedi.

Cavan Scott and the crew have brought us another great issue of ‘The High Republic’ ongoing series.

The Jedi face hostility and friendship from the locals of Sedri Minor, with Keeve investigating the disappearance of Ceret and a local boy whose parents are desperately searching for him. She is joined by a young boy, Bartol and the two of them discover a sinkhole.

They go into the underground cavern filled with strange vines. Held up against the wall in the same vibe are Ceret and the missing child, Julus. Keeve cuts them down, Julus is dead but Ceret is still alive and Keeve removes a strange parasite from him, a moment later they are attacked by the creatures responsible for the problems on the planet, the plantlike Drengir.

On the ship, Sskeer has been left with Terec who begins to act posessed, causing Sskeer to break down in despair at his inability to help.

In the cavern, Keeve, Bartol and Ceret are saved by Avar Kriss who cuts the attacking Drengir in two, but the two halves each become a new adversary, which is the least of their problems when a possessed Sskeer arrives under the control of the Drengir.

The horror vibes are strong with this issue, starting with Keeve in the field, it’s almost out of Stephen King and Joe Hill’s ‘In the Tall Grass’ and followed with Keeve and Bartol in the underground cavern finding their friends stuck to the wall in a moment reminiscent of ‘Aliens’. That’s not all though, Scott gives us some really creepy moments with the twins as they go through their possession moments and the parasite that Sskeer finds is a reference to ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’.

Sskeer’s descent into madness (or the Dark Side) is being noticed by the Jedi now and I think it’ll have been too late, now that he’s been possessed by the Drengir, and that ominous looking cover for Issue 5, which of course could be complete misdirection. I’ve not yet read ‘Into the Dark’ which also features The Drengir, so I’m not completely clued up to how they operate (hopefully I will be caught up by the time Issue 4 comes out).

In terms of the Jedi, we really get two amazing representations on how the Jedi are during this era in Avar Kriss and Keeve Trennis. Keeve is the kind of person that people gravitate to, as we have seen in this issue with Bartol and in Issue 1 with Kanrii. I think it’s safe to assume that Keeve is going to be the one me who connects with people on her adventures, using her empathic nature to best figure out problems and hopefully get through to Sskeer and bring him back.

I found it interesting that back on the Starlight Beacon, that Jedi Master Maru was part of a team that are performing an autopsy on the murdered Hutt from the last issue. I’d never considered the Jedi would personally perform autopsies, however they may have stopped doing so by the time of ‘The Phantom Menace’, or maybe on a rare occasions it was considered “Jedi business”.

Only three issues in and next to ‘Doctor Aphra’ this is one of my most anticipated comics each month. Everything about it is fantastic month-to-month and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

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Darth Vader: Into the Fire Part 5

As Vader and Ochi are chased by Sly Moore into the Red Nebula on their way to Exogol, they experience visions of death before finally arriving at the long lost Planet of the Sith.

We really get to see again how great a pilot Vader is, as he avoids destruction from the giant Space Cthulhu creature as well as legions of TIE Fighters sent by Sly Moore in a hope to stop Vader from reaching Exogol.

After evading the threats, Vader and Ochi enter the Nebula and experience visions. Vader sees moments of his past, both of his duels with Obi-Wan and his battle with Luke from ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ but at one point the roles are reversed and it is Luke who cuts off Vader’s hand. Luke strikes at Vader, stabbing him through the chest and leaving him for dead as he walks away with The Emperor. Some of this is foreshadowing the events of ‘Return of the Jedi’ with Luke gaining the upper hand, cutting off Vader’s own hand and Palpatine claiming that it’s Luke’s destiny to turn to the Dark Side.

Once the pair reach Exogol, they are followed by Space Cthulhu and Vader uses to Force, when Ochi reminds him that he is forbidden to do so or the Emperor will kill him, Vader talks about fear leading to anger, anger leading to hate and hate leading to power when he manages to defeat the creature and using it as his mount that takes him to a cliff top above the Sith Temple from ‘The Rise of Skywalker’.

This issue really picks up the pace of this arc, now five issues in I feel like the story is finally going somewhere and I’m seriously hoping that next issue isn’t the final part because if it is I know I’ll feel short changed.

Pak finally reaches the part of the story that has been teased for what seems like forever and was the big draw for me, Vader reaching Exogol and tying in with ‘The Rise of Skywalker’. Sure we have had Ochi featuring heavily in the story, but by now my thoughts on Ochi have been pretty clear, not good, and The Eye of the Webbish Bog can hardly be classed as a tie-in because it wasn’t in the final cut of the film. And with the introduction of Exogol I’m hoping we get some backstory on what has been going on there leading up to Palpatine’s ‘death’ on the Death Star.

I have to really give Raffaele Ienco a shout out for this issue, the art is sublime. Vader’s space battle is beautifully depicted and it reminds me of Vader’s battle against the Rebel Starfighters in ‘Vader Down’. Ienco really brings Vader’s visions to life here as well and he has created one of the best pieces of Star Wars illustration in my opinion.

A true return to form after a lacklustre arc so far. I wouldn’t say that it’s been fully redeemed in my opinion, but I am finally looking forward to the next issue of this series which I haven’t been doing for he last few issues so the creators, for me, are heading in the right direction again.

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Children of the Jedi by Barbara Hambly Audiobook Review

I am not going to lie, as I listened to this, after reading it back in the late 90’s and barely remembering any of it, I had a few “What the #*$%?” moments, where I would have to take a moment to process what it was I had just listened to.

The story follows two plot lines, one where Han, Leia and Chewie go to the planet Belsavis after a former associate of Han’s attacks them. They trace some jewellery he was carrying and a mysterious note to the planet where it is believed there are hidden tunnels and crypts where they may find evidence of a group called the ‘Children of the Jedi’.

On Belsavis Leia encounters a former ‘concubine’ of Palpatine, Roganda Ismaren, who meets with Leia and convinces her she is in hiding but is secretly working with former Imperial supporters and her Force Sensitive son, Irek, who can use the Force to manipulate technology, bring a hidden weapon, The Eye of Palpatine online and help rebuild the Empire.

Meanwhile, drawn to the Eye, Luke Skywalker, C-3PO and two of Luke’s Jedi students, an A.I. genius turned Jedi, Cray Mingla and her lover, former Jedi Nichos Marr, who’s mind has been implanted into a Droid body after he succumbed to a life threatening illness find the ship, ‘The Eye of Palpatine’ which had been though lost for thirty years and was now performing its main objective, by visiting planets and picking up beings to turn into Stormtroopers. The creatures the ship picks up are tribes of Gamorreans, a group of Talz, Jawas and Tusken Raiders, among others.

When Cray is taken captive, the spirit of a former Jedi, Callista, reaches out to Luke and they save Luke’s student, retire The Eye of Palpatine and rescue all the beings on board before making sure the ship itself will self destruct. During all of this, Luke and Callista fall for each other.

Due to Nichos becoming more Droid than man, he sacrifices himself to assist in the rest of his team escaping. Cray, still in love with Nichos decides to give her life to be with him, allowing Callista’s spirit to take over her body. She escapes in an Escape Pod and is reunited with Luke.

Callista’s Force ability is no more after her spirit was transferred but she decides to pursue a relationship with Luke and the two of them return to Yavin IV to the Jedi Praxeum whilst Han, Leia and Chewie return to Coruscant.

‘Children of the Jedi’ is the first part of a loose trilogy, dubbed ‘The Callista Trilogy’, it is followed by ‘Darksaber’ and ‘Planet of Twilight’ and its one of the more absurd novels of the early EU era that I have encountered so far. The main storyline has Luke essentially fall in love with a ghost in a computer, amidst a turf war between the Gamorrean Tribes who have been brainwashed into becoming Stormtroopers and are wearing parts of Stormtrooper armour.

Some of the characterisations of the main heroes feels a bit off, at one point Han describes Cray as ‘The blonde with the legs.” to Leia. At no point has Han ever spoken like that to Leia, or anyone, even when he was trying to get under Luke’s skin in ‘A New Hope’ about Luke’s crush on Leia or his flirty bickering with Leia in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. It feels really out of character and out of place.

When we were introduced to Nichos Marr, the way it is written, which could’ve be down to the abridgement, feels like this is someone we had been introduced to in a previous novel (I had to look it up just to check), turns out this is his first appearance. This made it more complicated that it needed to be, having just come off the back of the introduction of Luke’s Academy in ‘The Jedi Academy’ Trilogy and not meeting this character. And then getting a whole backstory where he was sick and got transferred into a Droid body, which was essentially a way of easing us into the idea that Luke could fall I love with a spirit in a computer. A bit much really, and (again probably to do with the abridgement) the character pretty much gets relegated to background fodder once Callista appears. And when we finally see Cray during the team’s rescue mission she is cursing Nichos because he’s more Droid and unable to help her… but then decides she can’t live without him… it was all very odd.

The whole Luke and Callista romance feels very forced, they have a few interactions but nothing really that would lead to them developing such intense feelings for each other so quickly. Sure you could attribute it to the Force, but still, that excuse can only work so many times. And the fact that Callista possesses the body of one of Luke’s students (who has been described as very attractive in many different ways) feels really uncomfortable for me. Surely there’s some boundaries being crossed there?

Part of me is pleased to say that this is the first of the EU/Legends novels that I have consumed in the last few months that has been disappointing for me. I’m not sure if it’s the abridgement or the story itself that doesn’t work for me, or probably a bit of both, but I’ll happily leave this one off of my list to revisit down the line.

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Luke Skywalker and Grogu: Master and Apprentice

Since last December, Star Wars fans have been asking the same question, “What happens to Grogu now he’s with Luke?”, which often is followed up with “Did Kylo kill Grogu when he destroyed the Jedi Temple?”

Both are fair questions (the second however is flawed as ‘The Rise of Kylo Ren’ comic series revealed that Ben didn’t actually destroy the Temple and only killed a couple of students).

For me, I do not believe that Grogu had anything to do with Luke’s Temple, which he didn’t start until Ben was in his early-to-mid teens, probably around eight-to-ten years after the events of ‘The Rescue’.

Roughly, according to the book ‘The Legend of Luke Skywalker’, and the Luke mission on ‘Battlefront 2’, he spends those early years after the death of Palpatine searching for any shred of knowledge about the Jedi, learning as much as he can to that he could become a better Jedi and eventually a Jedi Master. It’s at this time that Luke and Grogu meet.

As we learned in ‘The Jedi’, Grogu already has Jedi Training but has suppressed his abilities to keep him safe whilst the Empire was the ruling power and the majority of the Jedi had been killed, but instinctually he can use the Force (‘The Child’) and his confidence grows, using his powers to protect Din Djarin (‘The Child’, ‘The Reckoning’ and ‘Redemption’) but as Luke says, “talent without training is nothing.” By this, I don’t believe Luke will be giving Grogu any formal Jedi training, Luke’s not ready himself to undertake that responsibility, but perhaps he will guide Grogu is mastering those abilities and strengthening his connection to the Force, like I said, Grogu already has the foundation and all he really needs is some fine tuning.

I can’t picture Luke and Grogu heading off around the Galaxy like a Master and Apprentice from the Prequel era, but rather a more intensive boot-camp, allowing both of them to learn, because, let’s not forget, Grogu is the only character Luke has met (that we know) who was a member of the Jedi Order other than Yoda and Ono-Wan, and they didn’t really teach him about the Jedi of the past other than that they were the “Guardians of peace and justice of the Old Republic.”

When Grogu returns to Din, and we all know he will, however long that may be, I don’t think we will be seeing the kind of Jedi we are used to from the Prequels, I think we will be seeing a Force User who chooses the path of the light, much like Ahsoka and by the time Luke begins his Jedi Academy, Grogu and Luke will have parted ways, Ben may well have never met him, or if he did it could well have been as a child when Luke was visiting Han, Leia and Ben at some point.

Star Wars: Operation Starlight Part 3

Lobot’s life hangs in the balance whilst Starlight Squadron faces off against Zahra’s Star Destroyer and take on a daring mission into the heart of Zahra’s ship.

Lando and Kes’ showdown comes to a head whilst C-3PO is up to something. He manages to download the needed language into his own memory and turns off the Talky, freeing Lobot in time to get him to the Med-Centre and save him. Lando becomes distrustful of the Rebels after they were willing to risk Lobot’s life. He contacts Jabba, and instead of sending Rebel codes he agrees to send the deactivated Talky.

Meanwhile, Starlight Squadron is in trouble. They have no way to escape to Hyperspace without the Astromech’s to help navigate and syncing the X-Wings and A-Wings computers would take too long. When they get stuck in tractor beams they destroy the emitters before flying into to main dock in bay and blow up as much as they can. When Zahra sends ground forces in, Shara has the rest of the Squadron to hold them back. They steal an Imperial Astromech and Shara downloads as much information on the Empire’s dealings before sending the Squadron back to base after her ship is destroyed in the battle.

When the fleet are informed of what’s happened, Leia announces that they will take the fight to Zahra.

This issue left me feeling unimpressed. I hate to say it but it did. The Lobot storyline was predictable (and I’m not just saying that because I already knew he survived thanks to his appearance in a post-Return of the Jedi novel), but the whole story with the Talky was essentially to allow C-3PO to learn this new (old) language. I’m also really not all that keen on the whole Lando double-crossing the Rebellion. Sure, by the end we’ll find out it’s some sort of triple-cross that gets Lando into Jabba’s Palace in time for ‘Return of the Jedi’ but it just feels convoluted, and if he does get found out, why would he end up getting promoted to General (other than his manoeuvre at the Battle of Tanaab).

The Starlight Squadron story arc felt more interesting to me, and the whole attacking the inside of a Star Destroyer with starfighters is nothing less than genius. My issue here, however, is one that I have had before and I feel like an idiot for it being such an issue, but the stakes aren’t high. There are three characters in Starlight Squadron who are essentially untouchable and be of those is left behind enemy lines. As I’m reading it I feel like banging my head against a wall because I already know what happens and it made the cliffhanger ending feel redundant.

I have a feeling that I’m feeling this because of ‘The High Republic’. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but now we have been introduced to this brand new era, with new characters and genuine high stakes which whereas this run of ‘Star Wars’, being set between two films and with a number of stories set later in the timeline is essentially filling in the gaps, which is no bad thing, as it does add to the overall story of the saga.

Whilst the issue, and the story are enjoyable, I’m starting to find the lack of suspense a bit dull. Where other series like ‘The High Republic’ and ‘Doctor Aphra’ don’t have major ties to the stories that films tell, this run and to a degree, the ‘Darth Vader’ series have a defined ending which takes away most of the sense of surprise, which is a bit disappointing for me.

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I, Jedi by Michael A. Stackpole Audiobook Review

Rogue Squadron Pilot Corran Horn begins his Jedi Training and uses his CorSec skills to track down the Pirates who have kidnapped his wife.

Michael A. Stackpole writes a first person story focusing on Corran Horn who he introduced in the ‘X-Wing’ series. The story weaves through the narrative from Kevin J. Anderson’s ‘Jedi Academy’ Trilogy.

After experiencing a tremor in the Force where he feels his connection with his wife, Mirax diminish. Corran learns that she was working on tracking a Pirate group called The Invids. With the New Republic unable to assist him, Luke Skywalker offers Corran a place at his new Jedi Academy where he can learn how to hone his connection with the Force to help him in his mission.

Corran, under the alias Kieron Halcyon, joins as one of the original twelve students. The story tells the events on Yavin IV from the perspective of Corran.

Corran interacts through the already established story, adding some side plots to keep from changing Anderson’s narrative. He forms a friendship with Mara Jade, he attempts to confront the spirit of Exar Kun in Kun’s Temple and he fixes up the Z-95 Headhunter that Kyp stole and returned.

Once Luke is saved, Corran chooses to leave, feeling that he’s not being true to himself by focusing his attention on his Jedi Training after having a vision of his Grandfather’s death at the hands of a Dark Jedi.

He visits his Father-In-Law, Booster Terrik, a once famed smuggler who tries to blame the disappearance of his daughter on Corran who turns it back on the older man, knowing that Booster would have been helping Mirax and that Terrik hasn’t been in touch to discuss Mirax’s disappearance in the months since it happened.

Corran creates a new alias, Jenos Iranian. Under this new identity, Corran infiltrates a group of Invids, the Khuiumin Survivors and becomes part of their star fighter group. As his reputation grows he becomes one of the Squad leaders. They start working with the leaders of the Invids on raids, attacking a Caamasi Remnant planet.

On the ground, Corran saves a Caamasi, Elegos A’Kla from a group of the Pirates and badly wounds one, Sasyru. Elegos becomes Corran’s body servant. Horn is approached by Lenova Tavira, the Invid leader. She offers him the chance to become her consort, a position that would grant him access to a lot of sensitive information, including the location of Mirax and he has a month to decide.

Using his time wisely, Corran begins sabotaging the Invid’s base on the planet, wearing a hooded cloak and using Jedi techniques the Pirates become scared of the Phantom Jedi.

Tavira brings in a group of Force Sensitives called The Jensaari. Corran encounters them and is almost bested but is saved by the appearance of Luke Skywalker. They capture the five Jensaari and with the help of Corran’ Rogue Squadron wing mate, Ooryl Qrygg.

They interrogate the Jensaari and find out Mirax’s location within Tavari’s headquarters in Yumfla. Corran, Luke, Ooryl and Elegos make their way through the base and rescue Mirax before facing off with more Jensaari and their leader, Saari-kaar, who was with her Master, Nikkos Tyris, when the latter killed Corran’s grandfather. Using his Force powers of mind manipulation, Corran subdues Kaar. The Jensaari are neither Jedi or Sith and Luke extends an offer to Kaar and her disciples to join his Academy to learn to focus on the Light Side and dismiss the Sith practices from their order.

Meanwhile, Tavari’s forces are subdued by Booster Terrik’s ship, The Errant Venture, Rogue Squadron and Pash Cracken’s A-Wings, with the help of Corran’s mind manipulation of Tavares, causing the Pirate leader to escape.

The book is quite large, and for it to be condensed down to three hours a lot gets cut out. Whilst I have never finished the book when I read it as a kid, I did notice some emissions. The first I noticed was early on in Corran’s time at the Jedi Praxeum where Luke shows him to his sleeping quarters in the old Pilots Barracks from the time the Temple was used as a Rebel Base. Luke show Corran marks carved into the wall from him and his fellow pilots before the Death Star attack.

The other missing part was a section where Corran returns to Corellia after meeing Booster Terrik, before heading off to infiltrate the Invids. On Corellia he meets with his Step-Grandfather, Rostek Horn and they discuss Nejaa Halcyon, Rostek’s former friend, Jedi Master and Corran’s paternal Grandfather.

One thing I did enjoy was the introduction of Elegos A’Kla, seeing how he became part of Corran’s life and his connection to Corran’s past. The fact that he is also a descendant of Neeja’s partner is a tad coincidental but, is it coincidence or was is the Force at work… And seeing as I recently read more about the character in ‘The New Jedi Order: Dark Tide (Part 2) – Ruin‘ and his eventual demise and how it affected Corran’s character in that book, the new information from ‘I, Jedi’ really makes me appreciate his arc in that book more.

I enjoyed the change of perspective, using the first person narrative style that is well known for the hard boiled Private Detective stories from Raymond Chandler in the late 1930’s. Whilst it doesn’t have the same tone, the Audiobook certainly does its best to emulate the feel of the genre. It’s not the first time I have questioned the choice of Anthony Heald as narrator but I think a grittier performance would have suited the tone more.

Whilst an enjoyable book, the Audiobook experience was slightly lacking for me. I’m probably going to make an effort to pick the book up in the future for the full experience.

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The High Republic: A Test of Courage by Justina Ireland Review

WARNING!

SPOILERS!!!

Being a Star Wars fan in the UK can have its ups and downs… on the plus side, we tend to get the films earlier in cinemas (by a day). On the down side, we always have to wait longer for the Middle Grade and Young Adult novels to get released, and never as eBooks or Audiobooks.

That was the case with ‘A Test of Courage’, and I’m not going to lie, the wait was killing me. After Charles Soule’s masterpiece ‘Light of the Jedi’ and two amazing issues of ‘The High Republic’ comics, I was chomping at the bit to read this, especially as it was almost a month and a half since it got released.

Justina Ireland’s first entry into ‘The High Republic’ was worth the wait. Having already read the first three chapters (though not the prologue) I had already met four of the five main characters, Vernestra Rwoh, Avon Starros and her Droid Companion, J-6 and Honesty Weft but soon after that we meet our fifth protagonist, Imri Cantaros, a Jedi Padawan. The five of them are the only survivors of the Nihil sabotage of the Steady Wing, a luxury cruiser, the destination, The Starlight Beacon, just in time for the dedication ceremony.

Of course, the ship is sabotaged and the survivors land on a nearby moon called Wevo, where the ecosystem is nothing short of deadly with storms of acid rain and strange plant life that regrows itself every day.

The five heroes must survive and learn to overcome their feelings, with Imri and Honesty mourning the losses of their Master and Father respectively. But when The Nihil responsible for the attack show up, the two of them seek revenge but are stopped when they are captured and subsequently saved by Vernestra and Avon. With the Pirates captured, Vernestra must save Imri from himself as his anger at the loss of his Master starts to lead him towards the Dark Side. And to add to the already brilliant story, a surprise cameo from the fan-favourite Trandoshan Jedi Master Sskeer just makes a great book perfect.

Set during the events of ‘Light of the Jedi’, the Galaxy is still reeling from the Nihil attack on the Legacy’s Run which cements this story at a specific time and gives us an idea on how much time passes during Soule’s novel.

The characters we meet are a motley crew, Vernestra is a newly knighted Jedi and one of the youngest Jedi Knights in history. She’s proud of her achievements but still very unsure as to what she should be doing. She’s well connected to the Force and able to keep the unruly Avon in check.

Thanks to Vernestra, we get to see the introduction of the lightwhip into the Canon, having been previously utilised in the ‘Legends’ timeline. She was able to modify her lightsaber after having a vision in her sleep and spent the rest of the night working on the weapon and it comes in handy.

Avon Starros (an ancestor of Sana Starros) is somewhat of a wild child. A child genius, she’s always trying to learn as much as possible and usually trying to find a way to cause chaos in the process, even going as far as reprogramming J-6, her babysitter/bodyguard Droid, who at the start of the book could give C-3PO a run for his money in being prissy, but thanks to Avon’s shenanigans begins to act more like K-2SO.

Honesty Weft, the son of the Dalnan Ambassador who was travelling to the Starlight Beacon to meet with the Chancellor to discuss the possibilities of Dalna joining The Republic. He is angry at missing out on a rite of passage that his peers would be undertaking And is prone to arguing with his father. After the destruction of the Steady Wing and the death of his father, Honesty becomes angry and racked with guilt because his final interaction with his father had been another argument. As the days pass, his temper begins to wane thanks to Avon and Vernestra. However, once they discover The Nihil on Wevo, he wishes to take action and capture them. It’s at this point when Imri draws Honesty in and feeds off of the boy’s anger and the two of them go to confront the Pirates. During his capture he comes to realise that combat wasn’t the best option and instead asks Avon if it’s possible for Avon’s mother, a Senator, to get Honesty the chance to speak before the Council and plead a case for them to hunt down The Nihil.

Imri is the Padawan of Jedi Master Douglas Sunvale who is also on the Steady Wing when it’s destroyed. Imri is devastated by the loss of his Master, whom he refers to as his Father when thinking a bout him. Over the course of the book he lets the anger and rage fill his emotions until they boil over and he attempts to get revenge against the two Nihil on Wevo. However, after he is captured and then rescued he ends up battling Vernestra before coming to his senses. Back on Starlight Beacon, he believes that he will be punished but learns that if every Jedi was punished and expelled from the Order for one time losing control of their emotions then there wouldn’t be a Jedi Order left.

What’s amazing is that this book deals with the concept of death and how people deal with the loss of loved ones through Imri and Honesty, whilst it also tackles how people deal with those coping with loss through Vernestra and Avon, luckily it’s done in a way that doesn’t feel like a lesson but it comes across subtly. I think this is the first Star Wars book I have read that has been somewhat a morality tale, much like how Lucas planned the films to be.

‘A Test of Courage’ is not only an excellent continuation of ‘The High Republic’ but a fantastic Star Wars story, Justina Ireland’ first entry into the series deserves its place on the New York Times Bestseller list and I am very much looking forward to her next entries to the series, the Manga, ‘The Edge of Balance’ and the YA novel ‘Out of the Shadows’, which will feature Vernestra, Imri and Avon in an all new adventure. Can’t wait.

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Champions of the Force by Kevin J. Anderson Audiobook Review

With Jedi Master Luke Skywalker in a comatose state and Kyp Durron continues his path of destruction, it’s up to Han and Lando to stop the possessed Jedi whilst Leia worries about the ailing Mon Mothma and an attack on the secret location of her and Han’s third child, Anakin.

Kyp uses the Sun Crusher to destroy the Imperial Training Facility on Carida, he finds out that his brother Zeth is on the planet but it’s too late before the sun explodes, wiping the facility out in an instant. He continues his personal mission, attacking other targets when Han and Lando catch up to him at a former Imperial stronghold.

Luke is watched over by Leia, Jacen and Jaina and his students, but when a former informant to Commander Furgan, Terpfen, arrives with the news that Furgan is on his way to Anoth to capture Anakin, Leia, Terpfen and Ackbar give chase, leaving Jacen and Jaina at the Jedi Praxeum.

Luke’s spirit reaches out to Jacen and Jaina, and uses Jacen to protect his body from a swarm of Exar Kun’s evil two headed poisonous flying scorpion creatures. Jacen kills the three with his Uncle’s lightsaber and the twins communicate to the Jedi students that it is Exar Kun’s spirit that is causing all the trouble on Yavin. The Jedi students work together and manage to destroy Exar Kun’s spirit, allowing Luke to return and destroying the hold that Kun had on Kyp.

Kyp, with Lando and Han returns to Coruscant where they allow Kyp to pilot the ship to Kessel where it was to be sent into The Maw. Luke joins Kyp after he undergoes a Jedi Trial to ensure the Dark Side influence had left him, on the mission to assist him with the plan. Han takes Lando to Kessel to meet Mara Jade about him taking on a Spice Mining Operation with the Smugglers Alliance. The Millennium Falcon, along with the Smugglers ships end up in a space battle against Admiral Daala’s Star Destroyer, ‘The Gorgon’ that escaped the Sun Crusher’s attack at The Cauldron Nebula.

The Millennium Falcon flies into the Death Star to destroy the reactor, whilst Luke and Kyp arrive at the Maw Installation where Wedge and Chewie have led an assault on the base to learn the Empire’s secrets. The scientists on the Death Star attack the Installation which leads to an evacuation. Kyp steals the Sun Crusher to take down the Death Star.

Han, Lando and Mara Jade escape the superstructure after damaging the reactor and Kyp fires alone of the Sun Crusher’s missiles, which sends the Death Star into one of The Maw’s Black Holes which also sucks in the Sun Crusher. Kyp escapes the ship in a message container and is saved by the Falcon.

Leia arrives on Anoth in time to stop the Empire from kidnapping Anakin and returns to Yavin IV with her baby. Han brings Kyp back to Kessel after Luke got away with Wedge and Chewie’s team.

Cilghal uses her Force Healing abilities to get rid of the poison in Mon Mothma’s system what had been administered by Furgan at a diplomatic event. Whilst Mon Mothma is healed she is still weak and needs time to recuperate, and she informs Leia that the New Republic Council has voted that Leia is to be the new Chief of State.

Admiral Daala and what remains of ‘The Gorgon’ find a new hiding place where they can rebuild their forces. Leia, Han, Ackbar, Mon Mothma Wedge and Chewie go to a ceremony on Vortex where a new Cathedral of Winds has been constructed after Ackbar’s sabotaged BWing crashed into the old building in the previous novel and back on Yavin IV, Luke holds a ceremony for his newly Knighted students as they prepare to go on the next step of their Jedi paths.

The third part of the ‘Jedi Academy’ Trilogy ties up all of the storylines introduced in the previous novel, ‘Dark Apprentice‘ very nicely, of course with the exception of the surviving Admiral Daala who will return at various points in the EU.

This was the book I remembered the least about from my youth, the only part I could recall was the sequence where spirit Luke guided Jacen Solo with the lightsaber against the evil two headed flying scorpion creatures, so going back to it via the Audiobook was great fun and my enjoyment wasn’t diminished by noticing missing parts to the story. What shocked me was how fast paced it was, it’s at around the halfway point that Luke’s body and spirit are reconnected and Exar Kun, the seemingly big bad of the trilogy.

I was audibly shocked when ‘The Gorgon’ entered the Kessel sequence (I may have said something out loud in the middle of a supermarket when I heard it), and had to double check the end of ‘Dark Apprentice’ to make sure I hadn’t missed something, luckily I hadn’t and the reason for its appearance here is explained a bit later on.

I really enjoyed the fact that Han, Lando and Mara had to perform the same manoeuvre to destroy The Death Star prototype as Lando did in ‘Return of the Jedi’ and the fact that it doesn’t go to plan. The fact that it all comes down to Kyp to save the day really shows his complete change of heart after he’s no longer possessed by Exar Kun, and his actions manage to kill two birds with one stone and get rid of both super weapons.

Kyp’s storyline in this novel is really well played out. Firstly his attempt to save his brother from Imperial service leads to his killing of his last remaining family member. He never really deals with that under Kun’s power, it’s not until he undergoes his ‘cave scene’ in Exar Kun’s old Massassi Temple on Yavin IV where he encounters a vision of Zeth which gives him some closure.

The rest of the Jedi students get to shine in their valiant defeat of Exar Kun, working together to disperse his spirit into oblivion, saving their Master in the process. Cilghal gets a considerably more focus as her Force Healing power is used later on in the book, and she ends up becoming a temporary leader to the students after her time working as a diplomat on Mon Cala.

Listening to this trilogy and revisiting the story after so many years made me enjoy it a whole lot more now I’m older. As a kid this was my favourite series in the EU, and looking back I understand why, but when it comes to this period of the ‘Legends’ releases, I think (so far) that Zahn’s ‘Empire’ Trilogy has claimed that top spot.

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The New Jedi Order: Agents of Chaos (Part 1) – Hero’s Trial

After bumping into Roa, an old friend, Han Solo leaves his friends and family on a quest to track down and wipe out a group of Yuuzhan Vong allies called ‘The Peace Brigade’ and ends up in the middle of a New Republic Special Ops mission with a new ally, a Ryn called Droma.

Meanwhile, the Yuuzhan Vong has formed a plan to rid themselves of the Jedi menace by sending Elan, a Priestess to the New Republic under the guise of a defector with Vergere, her familiar. The Vong make it seem like they are high value targets but they are really on a mission to use a bio-weapon within Elan to kill all the Jedi at a meeting where Luke and the majority of the New Jedi Order will be present.

The Vong plot is thwarted when Han realised that the whole thing is a trap and manages to kill Elan with the bio-weapon she is carrying and lets Vergere escape, after the alien creature gives Han a vial of her tears. On her instructions, Han gives them to Luke to help cure Mara Jade of her life threatening illness.

I was in two minds about this book at first. Whilst I have enjoyed James Luceno’s work in both the Legends and Canon timelines, I have often struggled with his books. I can’t put a finger on why that is, I have thoroughly enjoyed the three other books of his I have read but I end up having to push myself through them.

The same was the case with this book, I ended up taking a few days at a time away from reading which isn’t normal for me, I always seem to find time to read, even if it’s only a chapter or two but once again I really enjoyed his work and am looking forward to the second part.

What I really enjoyed was that this book focused more on Han, who took a bit of a back seat in the ‘Dark Tide Duology’, left to wallow in his grief over losing Chewbacca in ‘Vector Prime’. However, we get to see Han and the rest of his family as well as Luke attending a memorial service for our favourite Wookiee before heading home. Han is just pushing everyone away in his grief and it’s so well written that anyone who has lost anyone will understand what Han is feeling and going through. His ire is especially directed at Anakin, his youngest son, who was with him when Chewie died on Sernpedial and was the one who flew the Falcon away from the planet as Chewie took his last stand.

With his friend Roa, a former Smuggling associate and teacher, who also lost someone, his wife, during the war, the two form an alliance on common ground and their sights are set on ‘The Peace Brigade’. Following leads they end up in the wrong place at the wrong time, on a space station above Ord Mantell when the Vong attack the station, using a snake like creature to suck people from the station, Han is able to rescue refugees with Droma. Their initial bickering leads to an unlikely friendship that really drives their scenes in the second half of the book, luckily he doesn’t become a replacement for Chewie but he does fill a hole for Han as a companion on adventures. After Droma saves Han’s life, Han vows to help his new friend find other members of his species who have been scattered around the Galaxy.

The Yuuzhan Vong plot of fake defectors being used to kill enemies isn’t a new one, but the way they play the New Republic into believing Elan has truly had a change of heart is interesting, by mounting two attacks to try to reclaim her and Vergere but feinting a defeat, something that goes against the Vong beliefs. It just goes to show how much they have begun to fear Luke Skywalker and the rest of the Jedi. It’s fortunate that Han catches on to the plot which would have led to the majority of the Order killed and the Galaxy without the hope that they inspire.

I am pleased that Han is able to patch things up with Anakin by the end of this book, reading about how the two of them were at odds was pretty rough for both characters, especially when Anakin could have died numerous times in the ‘Dark Tide Trilogy’ with their relationship strained as it was surely would have been a nail in the coffin for Han as well. It’s also great to get back to a more recognisable Han Solo.

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Dark Apprentice by Kevin J. Anderson Audiobook Review

As Luke’s Jedi Academy grows, so does a Dark evil, threatening to destroy the fledgling Jedi Order before it had even begun, meanwhile, Princess Leia has to contend with an ailing Mon Mothma and the sudden depart of Admiral Ackbar after piloting error caused the Mon Calamari to crash his ship into a historic monument on the planet Vortex. Meanwhile, Admiral Daala begins her attack on the New Republic, intent on avenging the fall of the Empire.

Oddly enough, I seemed to remember a lot more from this book than I did Jedi Search in terms of the story but I couldn’t tell you what was missing in the Abridged version of the Audiobook.

The story follows on about a month after ‘Jedi Search’, Luke’s Academy has grown, with more students having been recruited, numbering at 12. His lessons consist of learning from a Jedi Holocron and independent study. However one student, Gantoris, has far exceeded the skills of his peers. However, his power comes not from Luke’s teachings, but from the spirit of Exar Kun, an ancient Sith Lord. Kun shows Gantoris how to build a lightsaber and once the weapon is completed he challenges Luke to a duel, Luke bests Gantoris who is later found dead, immolated by Exar Kun.

Meanwhile, Leia and Ackbar narrowly avoid death when Ackbar’s modified B-Wing Fighter crash lands killing thousands, Ackbar resigns his command as a result. It turns out to be a Ship Technician who tampered with the Admiral’s fighter under the influence of Imperal brain implants. The Tech leaves Coruscant and turns out to be working for the Overseer of the Carida Training Facility, Furgan and gives the Imperial leader the location of Han and Leia’s third child, Anakin.

Han and Kyp, are taking time to get Kyp acquainted with normal life, but Han is pulled away, leaving Kyp to help dispose of the Sun Crusher in the Gas Planet of Yavin before he joins Luke’s Academy.

Han and Lando play a game of Sabacc for the Millennium Falcon which Han loses.

Leia learns that Mon Mothma is dying, and an attempt to maintain normality in the New Republic she goes to Mon Cala, and with the help of a Force Sensitive Mon Cala, Cilghal, she finds Ackbar.

Admiral Daala makes her way across the Galaxy. After losing one of her four Star Destroyers in The Maw, she takes what is left of her forces and attacks a settlement on Dantooine, wiping out the population. Her attention then turns to Mon Cala.

As Kyp begins his training, he is targeted by Exar Kun. Kyp begins to act out against Luke and his teachings. When Mara Jade arrives to do some training, Kyp steals her Z-95 Headhunter and finds Qui Xux who is with Wedge on Ithor. As the two become romantically linked, the happiness is cut short when Wedge finds her in tears with little memories left aft Kyp attacked her and stole her memories of how to operate the Sun Crusher.

Daala’s forces arrive at Mo Cala. Leia, Cilghal and Ackbar work furiously to fend off their attackers. Han also gets word of the attack and attenpts to commandeer the Falcon from Lando. On the way, they play another Sabacc game and Han wins back the ship.

The Battle of Mon Cala is devastating for the people of the planet, but Ackbar manages to turn the tide by remote piloting a Mon Cal ship and crashing it into one of Daala’s Star Destroyers. The battle is lost for the Empire and they retreat to The Cauldron Nebula.

Kyp returns to Yavin IV, and with the help of Exar Kun, retrieves the Sun Crusher from the planet Yavin before facing Luke and rips Luke’s soul from his body,l leaving his body in a coma-like state before taking the Sun Crusher to The Cauldron Nebula and wiping out Daala and her remaining forces.

The ante is certainly upped across the board from ‘Jedi Search’. Gantoris prophecy of his end coming at the hands of the Dark Man comes to pass is a more sinister way than I could have imagined (as a kid). The reveal of Exar Kun and the way he is described as almost oozing out of the wall is creepy.

The fall of Kyp Durron was easily predicted. In ‘Jedi Search’ we see him tapping into the Dark Side because the only way he could control the Force was by tapping into his anger. However, the Audiobook makes the transition go faster than Anakin in ‘Revenge of the Sith’, of course this is all down the to abridgement and Kyp’s descent to the Dark Side takes a bit longer. Once he’s gone Dark, his power is seemingly limitless with the assistance of Exar Kun. His mind manipulation of Qui Xux is horrifying and of course it comes at the worst time ever, just as her romance with Wedge is blossoming. Followed by his ability to pull the Sun Crusher from the heat of Yavin AND rip Luke’s souls from his body, it’s easy to say that Kyp is incredibly over-powered. It’s easy to say that someone can be incredibly strong with the Force, but even Luke has limits, which are noticeable even in ‘The New Jedi Order’ when he becomes exhausted after using the Force too much (and hey, just look at ‘The Last Jedi’ when he Force Projected which led to his death).

The Audiobook sidelines Han considerably. He gets a handful of moments, but they are reduced somewhat. Whilst Han gets a back seat here, it was Leia who got a back seat in the ‘Jedi Search’ Audiobook, so really, given the abridgement whittles the book down to its most important plot lines, and a second Sabacc game would have taken too much time away from the rest of the story at Mon Cala.

The introduction of Luke’s other new students, Dorsk 81, Tionne, Kirana Ti and Kam Soulsar get sidelined for the most part, except for Tionne who gets one moment with Kyp, but mainly the students who get most of the attention are Gantoris and Kyp. Again understandable but I do feel that this book has a lot of content that was skipped.

Overall I did enjoy the story as it was told but I did want more and I feel the need to pick up the whole trilogy for a proper revisit.

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The High Republic Adventures Issue 1 – Collision Course

WARNING!!!

SPOILERS!!!

This is the first issue of any of the IDW Star Wars comics and if this is any indication of the quality of the main series then I’ve got a lot of reading to do because it’s good!

The highly anticipated first issue of Older’s series does not disappoint (except for the lack of Sskeer) and introduces us to a whole range of new Padawan Learners who are under the tutelage of Masters Yoda and Torban Buck as they are called to the planet Trymant IV to protect its capital city from destruction as an Emergence of wreckage from the Legacy Run disaster occurs in the system.

On the planet, the Padawans try to help the people evacuate but the only ship big enough is a Spider Cruiser that belongs to The Nihil, who are protecting the leader of the city, whose population are fearful of and and have nothing but contempt for the Jedi and other Force Users.

One of the population, a young girl called Zeen, is a Force User and keeps her powers secret until a large piece of wreckage is about to crush her, her friend and the group of Padawans, she reaches out with the Force and stops the wreckage landing. With the help of the Jedi they save the people from the debris but in their distraction find that they are surrounded by The Nihil.

As I said before, we are introduced to a number of new characters. Firstly, Zeen, who has spent her life hiding her growing connection to Force from those around her, including her best friend Krix, who, when Zeen reveals her powers turns on her in a horrific manner. Luckily she is in the company of Jedi and will be able to join them.

Speaking of the Jedi, there are quite a few Padawans in Yoda’s care, but there are three that the book focus’ on, Lula Talisola, a human female who is the second main protagonist along with Zeen. Lula is intelligent and skilled but unsure of herself and how she will perform in the field. Her two friends, Qort and Farzala are her backup and seem very confident with following Lula’s lead, showing that they trust her judgment.

The writing is top notch and the art looks wonderful. The art team really managed to capture the terrifying nature of the Emergences, as these massive storms in space, for a comic that is geared towards a younger audience that looks scary (and I loved it). Just imagine if they ever showed one in live action.

A solid introduction to some great new characters. After initially being wary of Older helming a series after disliking his ‘Solo’ Tie-In novel ‘Last Shot’, needless to say my trepidation was unnecessary and all I can really say now is being on the next issue.

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#CollectionCorner – The Mandalorian (Beskar Armour) Black Series Figure

What a beautiful figure! What amazing packaging! It’s so beautiful!

This was one of those additions to the collection that just made my day when it arrived from Star Action Figures (mere days after the influx that was the whole set of ‘Rebels’ figures).

The Black Series figures have always had a high level of detail, sometimes there are flops, just look at Krennic from the ‘Rogue One’ set, or any of the Poe Dameron figures, and it’s always easy to get a masked character spot on. But this figure looks amazing.

The little details really accentuate the greatness. The wrinkles and folds in the under-suit look well worn and the brown really highlights the silver of the beskar, which could look awful but the contrast really lets the silver shine.

The helmet is the same sculpt at the Triple Force Friday 2019 release with a shinier paint job and the two blasters are also the same, but everything else looks new (perhaps the belt and bandolier are the same too). The addition of the Jet Pack is nice, we essentially got a Season 2 version of the character before the show came out.

One detail that really makes me smile is the Mudhorn Signet on the pauldron. It’s a really, really nice touch and looks great.

The new packaging is amazing. The artwork on the side is stunning. The orange tone really gives the character a Western feel, and, when put together with others in the series (Mandalorian, Clone Wars, Revels, Return of the Jedi etc.) they make a great looking mural.

It’s a really great addition to my collection and an overall great figure.

Jedi Search by Kevin J. Anderson Audiobook Review

If ever there was a trilogy of books that I regretted getting rid of other than Timothy Zahn’s ‘Empire Trilogy’ it’s Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Academy Trilogy.

‘Jedi Search’ was one of my most-read Star Wars books when I was younger, along with the rest of the trilogy, for me it was all about the training of new Jedi. I was always fascinated in the kinds of lessons they would have had, nothing as dull as Maths and Science that I was relegated to in real life.

And whilst ‘Jedi Search’ doesn’t delve too deeply into the lessons of new Jedi, it introduces us to some potential Jedi recruits. Now it has been many years since I read this book and diving back in with the Audiobook was something I was greatly looking forward to, and whilst it was enjoyable, and I was reminded of parts of the book it had forgotten (the Lando subplot), there were things that I did remember that were missed out, but that’s what you get with Abridged versions.

Han and Chewie are sent to Kessel to try to bring the Spice Mining planet into the New Republic, unfortunately, Moruth Doole who runs the Spice Mining operation has a few problems with Han Solo from their past dealings and afterHan and Chewie are captured they are forced to work in the Spice Mines.

Working in the mines they meet Kyp Durron, a young man who has Force abilities. When Han volunteers the three of them to help scout a fresh mine and their handlers are killed by a native creature, the three hatch an escape where they steal an old Imperial Shuttle but their escape sends them into The Maw, a series of Black Holes. Kyp navigates The Maw using the Force but they end up being captured by Admiral Daala, a former protégé of Grand Moff Tarkin who now runs the Maw installation where they developed Imperial Superweapons, designed by Qui Xux who believed her creations were to be used for good (the Death Star was meant to be used to break up dead planets for mining purposes), the last weapon she made was The Sun Crusher.

After she learns that her creations were used for evil, she breaks Han out and they break out Chewie and Kyp and they steal the Sun Crusher and escape the Maw, being chased by Daala and her Four Star Destroyers.

Meanwhile, Luke asks the New Republic for their blessing to start a Jedi Academy and to opportunity to find and trail potential Jedi. He finds two possible students, Gantoris and Streen. When they arrive back on Coruscant, Luke meets with Lando who had also been on a trip to locate a potential Jedi, but what he, R2 and C-3PO did was stop a gambler rigging races to escape from his suitor. Leia tells Luke and Lando that Han isn’t back, he’s almost a week overdue and that he had missed his children Jacen and Jaina finally arriving on Coruscant after they had been placed in hiding to thwart kidnapping attempts.

Luke and Lando travel to Kessel, pose as potential investors and find that the Millennium Falcon has been put into service on Kessel. They steal back the Falcon and in the ensuing chase, the Falcon and The Sun Crusher cross paths and the heroes work together to escape when the Imperial and Kessel forces begin to attack each other.

Back on Coruscant, Han is reunited with his family, he also introduce Luke to Kyp and they find out that Kyp has a very strong affinity for the Force, making Luke very excited to begin the young man’s training.

Two scenes that were noticeably omitted in the audio book that I remembered from my youth are the discovery of a device that is able to measure an individual’s Force ability. Luke uses it on himself and Leia before using it in Wedge, which of course yielded negative results. The device is mentioned however when Lando uses it to find out if their potential Jedi is actually that (obviously not).

The second is on Bespin when Luke and Gantoris meet Streen, Luke gives them an exercise where they are to use the Force to nudge a spire making local birds fly away. Both of the Jedi trainees are able to do this, Gantoris even manages to do it without gesturing with his hands, mastering the art of telekinesis quickly.

Despite the omissions, I still enjoyed the Audiobook. Anthony Heald narrates it well, although he doesn’t rank anywhere near to Marc Thompson in my book (seriously that man is Star Wars royalty). I’ve already started ‘Dark Apprentice’, the second in the ‘Jedi Academy’ Trilogy and boy is it bringing back memories.

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Star Wars: The High Republic Issue 2 – There is No Fear Part 2

WARNING!

SPOILERS AHEAD!

Sskeer, Keeve and the twins, Ceret and Terec have been sent to investigate a distress beacon.

When they arrive they sense a single survivor on the inactive ship. On board they realise the ship was attacked by The Nihil. The group splits up, Sskeer and Terec explore the ship looking for survivors whilst Keeve and Ceret go to the Flight Deck.

Sskeer and Terec are attacked and Terec is injured, the attacker, an injured member of The Nihil attacks Sskeer who easily defeats the pirate and proceeds to have flashbacks to the Battle of Kur where he lost his arm and savagely dismembers the dead body.

Keeve and Ceret arrive at the flight deck to find the corpse of a Hutt and a record of what was being transported, Vratixian Barley, a key component in the making of Bacta. After contacting Avar Kriss on Starlight Beacon, the Marshal brings a ship to the wreckage to meet Keeve and Ceret whilst Sskeer and Terec go to Sedri Minor where the crops originated.

Keeve shows Avar the dismembered Nihil and the two discuss Sskeer and how he’s been different since the events of ‘Light of the Jedi’.

Meanwhile, on Sedri Minor, whilst Sskeer is talking to one of the locals, Terec follows a Rodian into a field. Back on the ship, Cerec feels something terrible through the Force. Sskeer goes after his companion but only finds Terec’s lightsaber half-buried in the ground.

Scott, Anindito and co. have knocked it out of the park again. The character arc of Sskeer has me hooked already and given this fresh new era and a vastly different Jedi Order than we are used to, how they will deal with Sskeer going forward, and why, if they have already noticed his changing attitude why hasn’t anyone done anything to help him?

We have a new mystery to solve, the strange tentacle that seemingly grabbed Terec. From the looks of it, it could be the introduction of The Drengir, the strange plant-like creatures that, from what we have heard, will be properly introduced to in the upcoming ‘Into the Dark’ by Claudia Gray, and if it is The Drengir, then what are they doing on Sedri Minor and are they in league with The Hutts?

I loved to get a visual representation of the aftermath of a Nihil attack, the ruthlessness and savagery is fantastically depicted, and the dead Hutt is just the icing on the cake.

The cameo of Vernestra Rwoh is a nice touch, it just goes to show how much interconnectivity is going on in this Publishing Initiative, now I just need to get ‘Test of Courage’ when it comes out in the UK.

I’m definitely enjoying this series so far, the new characters, ships, locations and overall feel slots right in with ‘Light of the Jedi’, and once ‘Test of Courage’ and ‘Into the Dark’ are out it will be keeping ‘The High Republic’ going before the next books come out later this year. Now I only need to find a way to get ‘The High Republic Adventures’ digitally.

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#CollectionCorner – Trouble on Tatooine Lego

After the struggle that was acquiring ‘The Razorcrest’ (for my wife anyway), I was cautious when going in for this one, mainly due to the shortage of Lego we’re seeing at the moment due to COVID.

But as I kept my eye on this set, waiting to have the necessary funds available I thought I was in luck, it was in stock everywhere. Not a problem. So when the funds became available I went straight to a the Lego Online Store… Back Order available… Will ship within 60 Days…

Amazon… no idea when it would be in stock.

It was time to go local, there are two toy stores near me, on has closed due to various COVID restrictions, not even offering Click and Collect (which is annoying as I have an order waiting to collect) but thank the maker that the other was open. And I snapped it up and picked it up, the clerk was wearing a Star Wars face mask too, which only added to the experience. Once I got it home and had time (wife and daughter asleep) I dove in.

The box contains three bags and the instructions, with no stickers the build would be pretty straightforward.

Bag 1 build the Speeder Mando borrows from Peli Moto in ‘Chapter 9: The Marshal’ and includes Mando and Grogu.

The Speeder Bike is well designed with some really great design elements. It’s a great looking take on a Speeder Bike which I have never seen before and it’s incredibly screen accurate. The way the two bags are placed at the back makes it easy to swap them out for Boba Fett’s armour to make it look like the end of the episode.

The Mando mini-fig has him in his Beskar armour and the detail is gorgeous. His pauldron also has the Mudhorn signet and his gauntlets have their gadgetry painted on too. The Grogu mini-fig is the same as we got in ‘The Razorcrest’ set and can slot into a little pouch like in the series.

The second bag gives us the Tusken Raider hit and campfire. The hut is a good build, with some nice detail and the campfire is a decent size to fit a few mini-figs on for display and play.

The Tusken Raider mini-fig is the same as we have had in previous Tatooine based sets in the last few years and comes with a buildable Gaderffii Stick like previous versions.

The giant crossbow weapon used in the Krayt Dragon attack is a really nice addition to the set. The screen accuracy is top-notch. Even the missile launcher that is out on display looks right at home. The winch at the back rotates for play.

Overall, this is a really good set and the price/piece ratio is brilliant, at £27.99 for 276 pieces is great. The mini-fig selection is good, it’s a great and affordable way for people to get the Grogu mini-fig without paying £120 and the new Beskar Mandalorian looks beautiful. The set is great for new builders and older builders and I highly recommend getting it, if you can, given the fact that Lego.con won’t be sending any more out until late February/March.

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Doctor Aphra: The Engine Job Part 2

I love this series. There. I said it. Out of the three ongoing series I read (and not including’The High Republic as we are only one issue in) it has been consistently fantastic and this issue is no different.

Aphra finds Sana Starros on Corellia and spends the majority of the issue trying to convince Sana to help her get a meeting with Lady Proxima, leader of The White Worms Gang from ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’.

Sana kicks Aphra out of her apartment but finds Aphra outside the next morning and decides to help.

At the White Worms lair, they are granted an audience with Lady Proxima, who it turns out that Aphra already knew and had double crossed before, but her past transgressions are forgiven when she reveals to Proxima what she is looking for and hope that Proxima has information on (which she does).

Meanwhile, after finding out his gambling addicted brother is in over his head with a local crime boss, Just Lucky offers his services as an assassin to pay off his brothers’ debt.

Have I said how much I love this series? Oh, yes I did. There is so much great happening in every issue and this one is no exception, and for the most part it’s just people talking. In an apartment, and a corridor. The only really ‘Star Wars’ thing happens when they meet Proxima.

The relationship between Sana and Aphra is the focal point of this issue. Their past, which we get to learn about in Sarah Kuhn’s ‘Star Wars: Doctor Aphra’ Audio Drama that came out last year. It goes into how they first met, how their relationship developed and the inevitable break-up and in the few moments they were together in previous comics, Sana was always pretty cold, understandably. But now they are back under the same roof and Aphra needs Sana’s help, leading to the two of them having to work together on the job. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this plays out over the rest of this arc.

Getting to see The White Worms, so many year after the events of ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ shows us how little life for the gang has changed. Lady Proxima is just as vile as she was in ‘Solo’ and the artists really bring her to life, so much so that I can hear her voice in all of her speech bubbles.

So far, this has been a consistently fantastic series and this issue is no exception, its definitely one of, if not my favourite series from the Marvel era.

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The Courtship of Princess Leia by Dave Wolverton Audiobook Review

My binge of Star Wars ‘Legends’ Audiobooks took a turn away from the X-Wing series for a moment, after tearing through the first four books of the series I opted to take a break from the rip-roaring fast pace of Star Fighter Pilots. In doing that I have also made the decision to listen/read all of the early EU novels from 1991 – 1999.

Of course I recently reviewed Timothy Zahn’s ‘Empire’ Trilogy and last year reviewed ‘Shadows of the Empire, so I’ll cross those off my list. After finding out that ‘Star Wars: Truce at Bakura’ isn’t available on Audible (WTF??) I went for another book I had missed out on in those early years of my fandom, ‘The Courtship of Princess Leia’.

Returning to Coruscant from the hunt for Imperial Warlord Zsinj, Han Solo on the Mon Remonda is shocked to find a legion of Hapan Battle Dragon ships orbiting the planet. It turns out that the Hapes Consortium has arrived to bestow gifts on Princess Leia in a ceremony, where she is given jewels, a mind control weapon called ‘The Gun of Command’ and the most extravagant gift, the Queen Mother has sent her son, Isolder, to propose to Leia so she may take the Hapan Throne one day.

Angry, Han Solo tries his best to convince Leia otherwise, and after a couple of heated encounters between Isolder and Han, the former smuggler plays some high stakes sabacc games where he wins the planet Dathomir, intending to give it to Leia as a new home for the Alderaanian refugees still searching for a place to call their own.

When Leia hints that she may take Isolder up on the proposal, Han gets desperate and uses the ‘Gun of Command’ to get Leia to the Falcon. When she comes to her senses she realises she has been kidnapped but the Falcon is on its way and Han has locked the controls so only he can change course. He asks Leia to give him one week, if she doesn’t fall in love with him all over again he will leave.

Once at Dathomir, they find that Zsinj’s forces are above the planet, and after some not-quite-great piloting the Falcon lands in Imperial territory. They hide the Falcon but are captured by Imperial forces before being freed to a clan of Force Witches who follow (as much as possible) the Light Side and they find out that The Nightsisters, a clan of Dark Side Force Witches has taken control of the Imperial facilities on the planet.

Isolder, with the help of Lukeand R2 arrive on Dathomir to track Leia, Han and the others. On the planet that locate an old Jedi Starship which was a travelling Jedi Academy. They are attacked and captured by Teneniel Djo, a Light Side Witch who claims the two men as her slaves. They make their way back to her clan, on the journey, Luke spurns her romantic advances as she wishes him to mate with her because of his connection to the Force but she develops feelings for Isolder.

Her clan is the same that Han, Leia, Chewie and C-3PO encountered and they learn that Zsinj is collaborating with the leader of The Nightsisters, Gethzerion, Zsinj knows Solo is on the planet, and he wants Gethzerion to capture Han and give him to the Empire, in return he will give the Nightsisters a ship on which the clan can leave Dathomir. If she refuses he will activate a Satellite Chain that will block the sun from the planet and essentially kill all life.

After a battle between the two clans in which Luke is injured and Teneniel Djo uses Dark Side powers and must exile herself for three years, Han hands himself over to Gethzerion, planning to kill as many of the Nightsisters as possible with a suicide bomb.

As the Imperials arrive to take Han and Gethzerion arrives in the hanger, it turns out his bomb was disarmed by a Nightsisters who detected it. The head Witch breaks Han’s leg using the Force and is about to inflict more agony on him when Luke, Leia, the Droids, Chewie, Isolder and Teneniel Djo arrive in the Falcon, they save Han but the Nightsisters escape on a transport. Luke chases the transport but the Imperials in orbit don’t want the Nightsisters to flee into the Galaxy, so after being lured into Luke’s trap they destroy the evil clan.

The Hapan fleet arrives as well, to save Isolder, and they battle the Imperials. Han manages to locate Zsinj and kills the Warlord by getting close enough to his Super Star Destroyer to fire missiles into the control deck.

Free from the Empire and its satellite weapon, the heroes along with the Light Force Witches and the Hapan leadership celebrate. Leia tells Han she wants to marry him, Han gives the planet to the head of the Witch Clan and Isolder announces that he and Teneniel Djo are to be married, much to his mother’s chagrin.

The book ends with Luke arriving late to Han and Leia’s wedding.

It’s strange, reading this novel, learning how Han and Leia ended up getting married in this strange adventure full of Force Magic and Rancor riding Witches, with satellites that block out the sun in a way that would make ‘The Simpson’s’ Mr Burns green with envy. And yet, once this was removed from the Canon, Han and Leia basically elope on Endor. Where Lucasfilm are taking aspects of the old EU and making them Canon, surely the story of Han and Leia’s wedding could have had at least one Rancor. Yes, I do kind of feel short changed here.

But in all seriousness, I did enjoy this audiobook. The story was great Star Wars fun and introduced a concept that George Lucas would one day visit in ‘The Clone Wars’ when he made his version of The Nightsisters (no Rancors though).

The Hapan Consortium is introduced, and they would continue to appear through the EU, especially the daughter of Isolder and Teneniel Djo, Tenel Ka who was one of the Young Jedi Knights from the series of books of the same name.

The book has some interesting Jedi lore, a Jedi Academy Ship, the Chu’unthor had landed on the ship and was sealed against anyone accessing the Jedi secrets within. However, one of the Elder Witches had met Master Yoda when he had tried to reclaim the ship for the Jedi. She met Luke and told him she had once had a vision of him coming to Dathomir and ridding the planet of the Nightsisters, and I return she would give him a box, the box is filled with data cards that contain Jedi teachings from before the Empire, something that Luke would need in rebuilding the Jedi Order.

So far, not my favourite of the EU books, but certainly not the worst I have ever encountered. It’s a fun and well paced adventure and a must read for anyone wanting to jump into the ‘Legends’ timeline.

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Darth Vader: Into the Fire Part 4 Review

On the run from Ochi’s Droid Assassins, most of the issue is taken up with action as Vader destroys the Droids.

Once they are vanquished, he threatens Ochi’s life, forcing the assassin to help him hook up the Wayfinder to the Jedi Interceptor used by Anakin Skywalker to reach Mustafaar in ‘Revenge of the Sith’.

Taking Ochi with him by connecting their ships, Vader arrives at the Red Nebula on the path to Exogol where they encounter a strange monster in space.

Personally, this arc is starting to drag. Every issue there’s more enemies to slice apart with a lightsaber and a few quips from Ochi, a bit of exposition and lore and then a cliffhanger. The cliffhanger Incan live with, it gets us pumped for the next issue, but right now the rest of the issue is just a repeat of the last couple in terms of plot points.

There were two things about this issue that stood out for me, the first, one of the Assassin Droids manages to slice a component off of Vader and goes on about how Vader is made up of outdated parts, something we already knew but I think that this was the first time it’s actually been mentioned in a story. The second, they finally get off of Mustafaar, and Ochi explains how to connect a Wayfinder to a ship’s navigation system.

I’m still not a fan of Ochi’s character here. He’s in no way a threat, he’s actually scared of his Assassin Droids and ends up being dragged along for the ride to Exogol, for no other reason that I can see, than to have someone on hand for Vader to talk to on Exogol. Seriously, leave Vader to be stoic and have him narrate the next couple of issues, dump Ochi on some planet somewhere until it’s time for him to hunt down Rey.

One saving grace is the art. Ienco has been a saviour for this arc for me, his design of the cobbled together Vader continues to be a great way of changing the character visually and still have him maintain his imposing presence, and some of the panels where Vader is in shadow are beautiful.

Unfortunately, this was a mostly disappointing issue and what, for me is a disappointing story arc. I had high hopes after the fantastic previous arc but the quality now is on a downward slide and I hope it really picks up over the next two issues and gives us a decent pay-off.

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The New Jedi Order: Dark Tide (Part 2) – Ruin by Michael A. Stackpole

After the loss of Dantooine, The New Republic looks for allies and answers as a new weapon presents itself that could turn the tide of war.

With the New Republic on the run once again, Leia turns to The Imperial Remnant, led by Admiral Gilad Pellaeon for aid against the Yuuzhan Vong.

Corran Horn, Ganner Rhysolde and Jacen Solo lead a scouting mission on the planet Ghent, where they plan on taking some Human slaves so that scientists can find a way of saving those infected. During the battle, they discover that the Yuuzhan Vong’s living armour is allergic to a certain type of pollen from trees originating from the planet author. With this knowledge they return to the New Republic.

Luke, Anakin, Mirax, R2 and a man called Chaco go in search of the Jedi Daeshara’cor who, after learning that the Vong take slaves, goes in search of old Imperial Super Weapon technology. Through the efforts of the whole team, Anakin and Chaco finally locate her and bring her back to the Jedi.

Meanwhile, Senator Elegos A’Kla, on a fact finding mission with the leader of the Yuuzhan Vong forces, Shedao Shai, is outed as a friend of Corran Horn, the Jedi who killed Shai’s kin on Bimmiel.

The Vong send A’Kla’s ship back to the New Republic, who are staging for an attack on Ithor, with a message for Corran, in to form of A’Kla’s bones, arranged in the formal Yuuzhan Vong fashion.

Corran devises a plan, to call out Shedao Shai for a duel to give the people of Itho a chance to evacuate. After a battle above the planet and a small incursion, Corran sends his message to the Vong leader who accepts the terms, if Shai wins he gets the bones of his ancestor recovered from Bimmiel, if Corran wins then Ithor is to be safe from further Vong attack.

The fight, observed by Luke Skywalker and Shai’s underling Deign Lian, Corran is mortally wounded, but endures by using the Force. He manages to beat Shai, leaving Deign Lian to return to the Vong Warship. Lian, secretly working for Vong Warlord Tsavong Lah, goes against the agreed terms and sends Yuuzhan Vong missiles onto the planet, the missiles expel a bacteria that eats and destroys all life on the planet.

Ithor is destroyed, luckily most of the population has been evacuated with samples of the trees that produce the pollen that the Vondum Crab Armour is allergic to. However, the Warship’s escape is hampered by an Imperial Interdictor Cruiser that disables the Vong’s gravity based defences and the ship is destroyed, killing Lian in the process.

After his Bacta treatment is complete, Corran holds a meeting with Luke, Ganner, who after being injured in a battle with a Vong warrior on Ghent and realising the threat they do possess and changes his point of view of the Force and how the Jedi should act and Jacen Solo, who had grown closer to Corran and Ganner in their work together. The purpose of the meeting is to announce that, after the people of the New Republic were seeing him as the reason Ithor fell, which would cause a political nightmare for the Jedi Order, he was going into self-imposed isolation on Corellia, admitting that his plan to fight Shedao Shai was spurred by the Vong leaders murder of his friend and the fact that, during the battle, Corran’s murder of Shai came not from a place of defence, but from an act of revenge, touching on the Dark Side. Ganner and Jacen both try to convince him to reconsider but his decision has been made.

‘Ruin’ really ups the ante from ‘Onslaught’, the stakes become increasingly higher, especially with the pollen which could turn the tide of the Yuuzhan Vong invasion before its really begun. We learn more about the Yuuzhan Vong through conversations between Shai and A’Kla, as well as through Shai’s treatment of Lian. Their embrace of pain and how they use it to strengthen themselves truly makes them a formidable enemy, even before you take into account their technology and the fact that they are invisible in the Force.

Something that can be said about this series is that we can easily be introduced to new Jedi very easily, some of which will go on to become major players and others who are used as Yuuzhan Vong, one of such we get in this book, Daeshara’cor, who plays a major part in the book and becomes a big part in Anakin’s life, later teaching him more about loss. Jaina also experiences this when her Rogue Squadron wing mate Anni is killed in combat which leads to the two of them having a touching sibling moment towards the end of the book. Jacen and Jaina get one earlier on before Jacen goes on his mission with Corran and Ganner, but the dynamic between the twins is different than with their younger brother.

One part of the book that, in a way seemed quite petty on Stackpole’s part is how he sidelines Corran Horn at the end. The self imposed exile of Horn basically takes him off the board until further notice, but he is more than happy to use other authors original characters from the series.

The book really pushes the series forward at a fantastic pace. Stackpole was a great choice to drive the series forward here, making the Yuuzhan Vong a genuine threat after the New Republic defeated them at the end of ‘Vector Prime’ and laying the groundwork for the next authors to carry on the series.

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The New Jedi Order: Dark Tide (Part 1) – Onslaught by Michael A. Stackpole

I’ve finally gotten around to reading this after finishing ‘Vector Prime‘ months ago. It’s not because it’s taken me months to read (it’s barely 300 pages) but the mass amount of Star Wars content we have had since has kept me busy.

‘Dark Tide: Onslaught’ was the first book from ‘The New Jedi Order’ series that I read, when I got it to read on the train from London to home with my Grandparents. Needless to say I was very confused, Chewie was dead? What were the Yuuzhan Vong? Luckily, Michael A. Stackpole took Stan Lee’s rule that every comic was someone’s first and so Stackpole gives us just enough information to get us up to speed.

Following on from the events of ‘Vector Prime’, the Jedi and New Republic are in a state of panic, with the threat of the Yuuzhan Vong lingering. Although defeated they will be back.

After an attack on Lando’s mobile mining city on Dubrillion, the facility is in ruins and the survivors need to be evacuated. Leia, Jaina and Danni Quee help on the ground whilst Gavin Darklighter and Rogue Squadron help from above. After losing pilots in skirmishes with the Vong, Jaina joins Rogue Squadron at Leia’s request to Darklighter.

Luke and Jacen go to Belkadan to investigate the ExGal facility after the Vong reformed the planet. They find that the Vong are using the planet to grow their technology using slaves. In an attempt to free the slaves after having a vision, Jacen goes to the Vong’s farm(?) but is captured and later saved by Luke. The two leave Belkadan to join Mara Jade and Anakin on Dantooine.

Anakin, after feeling guilty over Chewie’s death and Han’s attitude led towards him, is sent to care for the ailing Mara Jade on Dantooine where Anakin is taught how to not rely heavily on the Force for everyday tasks. They meet a tribe of locals who become allies until the tribe is attacked by a Yuuzhan Vong group. Anakin defeats the Vong soldiers and takes Mara into the mountains where they are pursued by more Vong attackers until they are saved by Luke and Jacen.

The evacuation of Dubrillion is foiled by the Vong, using their gravity-based shields as makeshift gravity wells, stopping the refugees going to their destination, luckily they are able to plot a new course, to Dantooine.

Meanwhile, Corran Horn and Ganner Rhysolde are sent to Bimmiel to rescue a group of scientists, who it turns out have found remains of a Yuuzhan Vong scout, dating back fifty years. After a pair of scientists go missing, Corran and Ganner find a Yuuzhan Vong settlement, and after some planning, evacuate the scientists and rescue the captured pair. In the escape, Corran battles two Vong warriors, killing both but mortally wounded in doing so.

On Dantooine, the Refugees and the Jedi join forces where they await the Bothan Capital Ship ‘The Ralroost’ to return with enough supplies to take them on the rest of their journey, but they are attacked by Yuuzhan Vong ground forces. Luke, Anakin and Jacen help the soldiers on the ground whilst Leia, Danni, Lando and Mara hunt for Vong infiltrators in disguise. Rogue Squadron keep the Coral Skippers at bay whilst destroying as much of the Ground Forces as possible.once the refugees evacuate, their escape is once again blocked by a Warship but they are saved when the Ralroost returns with aid and destroys the Warship.

Corran, it seems, was saved at the last minute by Ganner and placed in a Bacta Tank in time before his wounds took their toll.

Despite the victory, half of the Refugees are killed in the battle, and when a report is brought to the New Republic High Council’s attention, it is almost laughed out of the office. Only with Leia’s help and the threat of the military breaking away from the Republic does Borsk Fey’lya concede, with the New Republic now at war with the Yuuzhan Vong.

Stackpole fills this book with some great action sequences. From dogfights to melee combat, each fight feels like it could be the last for any of the characters, something Stackpole is good at, given that he would kill off pilots in each of his X-Wing novels, outlining the perils of combat.

The Yuuzhan Vong expansion into the Galaxy is slowly becoming a larger threat and in these early days. These new villains aren’t given much of the spotlight here, but this adds some mystery to their ways. Rather than have things dictated to us, here we learn about them and their ways as the main characters do.

The main characters from the films take a step back in this book, even though they are integral to the plot, we get more focus on the EU characters, for example, the scenes with Luke and Jacen are told from Jacen’s perspective which is refreshing and allows the newer characters to shine more. The same could be said for the Corran and Ganner storyline, but Corran has already held his own as protagonist in Stackpole’s X-Wing series. It was quite enjoyable for me reading this as I had been listening to the X-Wing audiobooks so I got to see Corran Horn and Gavin Darklighter at different points in their lives.

‘Dark Tide: Onslaught’ is (for me) a much more digestible introduction to the series that ‘Vector Prime’. It doesn’t rely on the shock value from the previous novel but instead slams us back in our seats for a Galaxy-changing adventure and gives enough time to the old and new characters.

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Star Wars: Operation Starlight Part 2 Review

As C-3PO and R2 work on fixing the ‘Talky’ Droid, it reactivates and goes haywire until Lobot steps in and uses his cybernetic link to calm the Droid allowing it to communicate. C-3PO requests that the Droid assist them in translating the Thwark language. Talky initially denies the request and Lando steps in to make a deal which the Droid and Lobot both accept as Lobot has to keep the Droid’s memory working.

Lando gets a message from Bib Fortuna asking for Lando to cough up information that he owes Jabba for not killing him before. Lando dishes all the info on the Rebellion he can without jeopardising their mission too much.

Leia sets up a new Fight Squadron, ‘Starlight Squadron’ consisting of Wedge Antilles, Shara Bey, L’Ulo L’Ampar, Mary Matten and two new pilots we’ve never seen before, Freyta Smyth and Evaan Verlaine. Their mission is to locate the missing groups of the Rebel Fleet. They locate the ruins of the Sixth Division and a group of Probe Droids who attack the Fighters’ Astromech Droids, attempting to retrieve the rest of the Rebel locations. They eject the droids, which self destruct but are soon attacked by Commander Zahra’s Star Destroyer.

The Talky communicates with Lobot before telling Leia, Lando, Chewie and Kes that the connection between them is killing Lobot. Lando calls for them to break the connection and find another way but Kes shuts him up by pointing a blaster at Lando.

For me there was one major factor riding against this issue.

It came out the same day as Star Wars: The High Republic Issue 1, probably one of the most anticipated Star Wars comics in recent history.

Whilst the issue has some action, the majority is a series of conversations, which really slows the arc down after last issues action-packed story and an attempt to build tension around the idea that Lobot will die because of the connection with Talky, however, Lobot isn’t going to die yet as he shows up in ‘Aftermath: Empire’s End’. Unfortunately, for the story there aren’t many characters introduced so far that could give us an emotional loss, so it feels like Soule is clutching at straws for a good old tug on the heart strings.

Unfortunately, even the Starlight Squadron scenes don’t have enough emotional connection with us where any of the characters we already know are in danger. Granted, there are three of the six pilots who we know make it through the Original Trilogy (and I doubt that Charles Soule is pitching Mart Matten to be a big emotional death). However, we do get the return of Commander Zahra and her really cool looking damaged Star Destroyer.

For me, it was a disappointing second part of what looks to be a three part story arc. Thankfully, the story is bolstered by some amazing art here, especially in the dog fight scenes, and the final page with Starlight Squadron being chased by the Star Destroyer is beautiful. Hopefully prt three will be a return to form for this series. Soule has been knocking it out of the park so far and this could just be a build-up issue before the proverbial hits the fan.

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#CollectionCorner – The Razorcrest Lego

It’s with extra special thanks to my wife Sara that this post is possible.

After hunting online for this in all the usual places (Lego, Amazon, Smyths Toys) and coming up empty handed in the run up to Christmas, I had resolved myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to be getting this set until the new year. Was I disappointed? Yes. Out of all the current sets, this was my grail, in fact, it’s the only set I could say that about since getting The Death Star last year.

But my wife, who didn’t want to lose the title of ‘Gift Giving Goddess’ after last Christmas’ Death Star reveal went to work.

And thanks to her intrepid E-Bay skills, mere days before Christmas she bid her final bid and beat out almost 50 other people, throw in a 20% discount voucher, she ended up paying just over the £120 price.

Of course, she tricked me on the day, packing the instructions and the first Bag in a mid-sized box. Let’s just say I was just as surprised as last year. And when she directed me to the box I got an even bigger surprise, the name on the box ‘The Razorcrest’, rather then the Copyright inflicted name ‘The Mandalorian Bounty Hunter Transport’. Whilst not a huge difference, it added something a bit more special.

Naturally, I started building as soon as I could.

The set is made up of 1023 pieces, which come in six bags (and a loose canopy piece) with a sticker sheet for added details.

Bag 1 contains the base of the ship. At this point I had no clue which was the front of back given the design of the ship, it does however give us a look at how the ship will be put together, with Technic pins and supports showing.

Bag 1 also gives us the first two mini-figs for the set, Din Djarin himself with his Ambien Phase Pulse Blaster and a Scout Trooper with Blaster. Mando comes in his Chapter 1 & 2 armour with cape. Leaving the Beskar clad version for this years ‘Trouble on Tatooine’ set.

The ship’s layout becomes clear with Bag 2. Detail for the lower deck is built and the top deck is added, including the cockpit. Again there are quite a bit of Technic parts to put the ship together securely, and it’s very secure to say the least.

And we also get the cutest mini-fig ever, The Child (according to the packaging, seeing as his name hadn’t been revealed yet). He has a soft, rubber like head on hip of a plastic body. The details in this are really good given the size and I’ve had a hard time prying him away from my daughter.

The Third Bag gives us a bit of the top hull of the ship, leaving space for the canopy and the middle section. We get a couple of stickers to add the details on either side of the canopy. There’s not a whole lot of greebling here, but the detail is still very, very good and screen accurate. Granted, not many ships need a lot of greebling other than The Millennium Falcon. We also get the IG-11 mini-fig. Which is essentially IG-88. This is probably my one disappointment with the set, as they could have easily altered the design to make him more screen accurate. Three landing gears are added so the ship doesn’t rest on its base when landed.

Bag 4 puts the bulk of the outer hull together at the front and the lower portion of the ship. All of which are connected with clips at the bottom to allow the set to open up to access the interior, which includes a pair of Carbon Frozen Bounties for Din Djarin to deliver to Greef Karga (one of which is Mythrol from Chapters 1 and 12). The design is spot on and looks great.

Bag 5, the smallest of all the sections, builds the canopy in two sections, the back is hinged and opens to reveal a pair of clips to store weapons, the front half lifts away completely and gives access to the seats in the cockpit. The middle part of the top hull is put together in the form of a one-mini-fig escape pod. The main part of the pod fills the missing section nicely and has some nice little details with the two thrusters. The lid of the pod has the outer hull detail and slides on easily.

We also get Magistrate Greef Karga in his Season 1 attire along with his two blaster. It’s well detailed and gives us two expressions, a smug grin and the other grim determination.

The sixth, and final section is the two large engines. Using a large sticker on each, they are solidly built and have some decent detail, especially with the individual flaps that go around the intakes.

Overall, this has got to have been one of my most enjoyable builds in the past year. Taking away the stress of taking apart and rebuilding a pre-owned set (I’m still building The Ewok Village) and the sameness of building new version of older sets (Millennium Falcon, X-Wing and TIE Fighter), tackling a whole new design has been wonderful (not to say that building the other sets wasn’t great).

The selection of mini-figs is accurate but somewhat lacking. I have been clamouring for a Kuill mini-fig since the series came out and it would have fit perfectly with this set, and a more a more screen accurate IG-11 would have worked well too. The Mandalorian was always going to be part of this set, and it didn’t matter which version we got. Greef Karga is a great addition. Whilst not mini-figs, the addition of two Bounties in Carbonite is a very welcome added detail, especially Mythrol. The second Bounty isn’t a named character but it looks remarkably like D.J. from ‘The Last Jedi’.

With some interesting building techniques, good mini-figs and fantastic detail, The Razorcrest is a brilliant set, a fun build and a very welcome addition to the collection. I just hope that my daughter doesn’t take inspiration from Chapter Fourteen (when it gets destroyed). Now I’ve just got to go and move the Grogu mini-fig to a more inaccessible location.

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#CollectionCorner – Summer 2021 Lego Rumours

Thanks to the always informative JediJacPenguin, recently updated with some exciting looking sets, which at this point are rumours, and what’s exciting, a couple of these were even on my recent Mandalorian Lego Wishlist.

Summer 2021

On the list for the Summer, there are seven sets on the list, however not all of them have information yet, so it’s a waiting game on those for now.

First up is ‘The Mandalore Throne and Vault’ coming with Ahsoka and Darth Maul. The piece count is pretty low at 147 pieces but this could be a great set for kids and it’ll be a very affordable way of getting the ‘Clone Wars’ era Ahsoka and a new Darth Maul from the latest season.

One of my Wishlist sets is up next. A 478 piece version of the Imperial Troop Transport, complete with Greef Karga, Mortar Trooper and two Stormtroopers. I’m reserving the right for mild disappointment, only because I would have liked a Mythrol mini-fig. Given the piece count and the two Stormtroopers, I wonder if it includes a Speeder Bike or two?

Next up is a 592 piece version of Slave 1 with Boba Fett and Han Solo. I’m not surprised that we are getting a new Slave 1, especially in the new range with fewer pieces at lower prices.

To coincide with the upcoming release, ‘The Bad Batch Shuttle’ with Wrecker, Hunter, Crosshair, Tech and Echo and 969 pieces is lined up for Summer release, leading me to believe the show will at least be starting around August. But seeing as we are only really getting ‘Clone Wars’ Season 7 sets at the tail end of last year and this summer, then is could very well be a tie-in to that rather than their own upcoming series.

Another ‘Clone Wars’ set looks to be on the cards in the shape of a ‘Mandalorian Fighter’. There’s no rumoured piece count yet, but the mini-fig selection includes Bo Katan, Gar Saxon and a Mandalorian Loyalist. The Bo Katan and Loyalist figures could also be used along with ‘The Mandalorian’ sets.

Speaking of which, the second of my Wishlist predictions is one I am most hopeful for… ‘Moff Gideon’s Light Cruiser’. An unknown number of pieces but a price of $160 makes me believe that it’s a big one. Featuring Mando, Grogu, Cara Dune, Fennec Shand, Moff Gideon and a TBA mini-fig, this is right at the top of my list.

There is also a Darth Vader Meditation Chamber set on the cards for summer, featuring Vader, Admiral Piett, and a Stormtrooper. This listing has no other details on price or piece count but it does have an 18+ next to it, I’m not really sure what that would mean for a Lego set, seeing as there are other listings for UCS sets. Perhaps one of those Lego Portraits?

Speaking of the UCS sets. There are three listed for this year. The May release has no details, so it’s anyone’s guess right now. Could it be the rumoured 11,000 piece Death Star?

The seconds, with a release date of ‘2021’ is the Republic Gunship, clocking in at 3292 pieces. This was the winner of the fan choice poll in late 2019/early 2020.

The third and final of the UCS sets, with a piece count of 6782 and a release date of 26th November, the AT-AT. There are no rumoured mini-figs yet, but I imagine an AT-AT Driver and a General Veers.

In September there will also be the annual release of the Advent Calendar, which I will make sure is top priority to purchase when it is released. Not missing out on that one this year. It wouldn’t have been so bad last year but I didn’t even get a chocolate Advent Calendar to dull the pain.

I’m infinity more excited for these sets than the one from the Winter and Spring waves (other than ‘Trouble on Tatooine’ of course). Lego seem to be really holding the good stuff back, probably due to the fact that there seems to be a worldwide Lego shortage in the age of COVID so they’re playing it safe and hoping by Summer things will be looking better.

I’m most excited for ‘Moff Gideon’s Light Cruiser’ and I’ll be squirrelling away some money every week to make sure it’s here as close to release day as humanly possible. The ‘Clone Wars’ sets look exciting too, I’ve been wanting a ‘Mandalorian Fighter’ for a while now due to their interesting design. And I’ll more than likely grab the two smaller sets as and when.

I’ll reserve excitement for ‘The Bad Batch Shuttle’, I wasn’t the biggest fan of their story in ‘Clone Wars’ Season 7 and, whilst I’m looking forward to the new new series, it’s one I’ll have to bide my time before I invest in it that much especially when the set will cost around £100.

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Star Wars: X-Wing 4 – The Bacta War Audiobook by Michael A. Stackpole

After the majority of the team resigned their post, Rogue Squadron is well and truly rogue and taking the fight to Isaard on Thyferra.

Wedge Antilles and the rest of Rogue Squadron end up on their own after resigning in the previous book, The Krytos Trap. Their newfound freedom from the Politics of the fledgling New Republic allow them to take the fight to Isaard who has been made the ruler of Thyferra, the main source of Bacta in the Galaxy. Isaard is slowly unraveling as the Rogues thwart her plans by stealing/liberating Bacta and distributing it to those in need.

The group also find help from a pair of notorious smugglers, Talon Karrde (who was introduced in Timothy Zahn’s Empire Trilogy) and Booster Terrik, father of Mirax who has become Corran Horn’s romantic interest, the book follows their relationship as it grows rather quickly, which also leads to tensions between Corran and Booster.

The Squadron find a new base of operations within a space station which Booster ends up running, but are soon betrayed by an Imperial spy in Karrde’s operation. They use this to their advantage, luring Isaard’s forces to them whilst the Squadron and some support ships attack Thyferra using a newly liberated Star Destroyer.

The battle is fierce in space, whilst on the ground, Iella Wessiri and Elscol Loro make trouble on the ground, where they find and capture Fliry Vorru, Isaard’s second in command who has seen Isaard begin to go mad and has made contingency plans for his escape which is thwarted not only by Wessiri and Loro, but by Isaard herself who steals his escape shuttle.

Isaard attempts to flee, but thanks to the efforts of Corran Horn and Tycho Celchu, she is defeated in a spectacular fireball.

Once the battle is over and the Imperial forces at Thyferra defeated, the New Republic welcome Rogue Squadron back, along with a number of captured Star Destroyers, including the Lusankya Super Star Destroyer where Corran was held prisoner.

This book feels like a season finale, tying up the story arc started with Stackpole’s first book in the series, which followed the newly formed Rogue Squadron as their missions built to this intense crescendo. Plot threads tie together, questions get answered and we get to see our heroes learn and grow.

One thing that has been a constant in the series has been the romance between Mirax and Corran. The children of two enemies, their fathers fight doesn’t hold the two back from developing feelings for each other, and, although the romance seems to develop quickly in this book (after it starts in earnest at the end of Krytos Trap), they get engaged very quickly, which, given their given professions seems to make sense, they both face insurmountable danger on a regular basis. But by the end of the book they are married. Granted I have been listening to abridged audiobooks so everything moves along at a quicker pace, but the romance feels rushed, they are barely out of the honeymoon period and they are eloping on a captured Super Star Destroyer… come to think of it that would be cool.

In a surprise move, former Rogue Squadron member Bror Jace returns, seemingly from the dead. His death was staged by his family, who owned one of the two lead Bacta manufacturers on Thyferra to make the opposing group believe he had perished so that he could work with a rebel group on the planet to oppose his family’s rivals who favoured The Empire and Director Isaard. His return was timely as he managed to save Corran’s life after he was shot by an enemy.

Stackpole once again utilises characters and scenarios from previous novels to make the growing Expanded Universe feel connected. Having Talon Karrde enter the story as a fellow Smuggler for the newly introduced Booster Terrik to work with was a great choice, especially when Stackpole could have just given us a new character with no ties anywhere. The Katana Fleet, which was a massive plot line in Zahn’s ‘Empire Trilogy’ is also mentioned as well as ‘Outbound Flight’. These little connections really help flesh out this series and cement it as part of the overall and growing story that helped develop the Expanded Universe.

A solid end to a great story, I really enjoyed listening to the first four parts of the X-Wing series that really make up this overall story arc. At some point I will start on the next set of books in the series that were written by Aaron Allston but before I do I’m going to do some catch up on the early Expanded Universe novels (in audiobook form), starting with Dave Wolverton’s ‘The Courtship of Princess Leia’.

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Darth Vader: Into The Fire Part 3

Continuing his punishment by Palpatine, Vader encounters The Eye of the Webbish Bog and finds the key to learning The Emperor’s grand plan.

Cut off from Ochi, Vader travels through treacherous terrain, guided by a mysterious voice as he battle creatures and visions until he encounters The Eye where he acquires the Wayfinder that Kylo Ren would find thirty-three years later. As he finds a ship (the Jedi Interceptor that took him to Mustafaar in ‘Revenge of the Sith’) to take him away from Mustafaar, Ochi returns with a squad of Assassin Droids.

An improvement on the previous issue, Ochi takes a bit of a back seat for a bit, I’m still not a fan of his portrayal in this book, but that’s more down to my interpretation of the character based on what little we saw of him in ‘The Rise of Skywalker’. I was anticipating more of a silent killer, like Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh in ‘No Country for Old Men’ than the talkative ‘Arkham Knight’ rip-off we’ve gotten so far.

Vader’s journey has him fighting the local fauna, firstly the large Flea-like creatures we saw the Mustafarrans in ‘Revenge of the Sith’ riding. Then he encounters a large beast which puts the Minotaur to shame. His visions of Obi-Wan and Luke give us the requisite flashbacks that have been a staple of this series.

The encounter with The Eye reveals that the baby head the weird spider-creature sits on has a body under the water, which is revealed when it hands Vader the Wayfinder.

Part of me expected more from this encounter, probably because I built it up on my head to be grander. Although I expect that Vader will return to converse with The Eye later on in this run, especially seeing as he has to place the Wayfinder in the chest for Kylo to find it.

I’m hoping the Ochi storyline will come to an end soon. We’re this character named anything else I wouldn’t mind but this is the danger of having a head-canon that doesn’t mesh with the story we are given. However, the issue doesn’t suffer for this in my opinion.

Whilst not the best issue of the run, I feel like this and the last issue are building towards something greater, now he has the Wayfinder, the logical theory is that Vader is going to Exogol, where Palpatine’s contingency plan would be well underway.

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#CollectionCorner – The Mandalorian Lego Wishlist

With two seasons of ‘The Mandalorian’ under our collective belts, I can’t help but wonder if, next year, we’ll be seeing some new Lego sets based on the series.

At this point we’ve got four sets, the AT-ST Raider, The Razorcrest (or The Mandalorian Bounty Hunter Transport), The Child Buildable Character and Trouble on Tatooine.

There are still plenty of opportunities for new sets, and even, because of the time line of the series, the chance to update some older sets.

One possible set from Season One that I have been dying to see is a Blurrg and Kuill set, slap a Scout Trooper and a Speederbike in with them and you have a ‘Chase on Nevarro’ set, and whilst they’re at it, throw in IG-11 and Grogu mini-figs for some added fun (and make a way of differentiating IG-11 and IG-88).

Season Two has given us a smorgasbord of potential sets, so I’m going to try and go through some ideas in Episode order to make it easier to follow.

The Marshal – Where was Cobb Vanth’s Pod Racer engine turned Speeder in the Trouble on Tatooine set? With a Vanth mini-fig. Add a buildable Bantha with a pair of Tusken Raider’s and the Weequay Bartender and you’ve got ‘Krayt Dragon Assault’. Or swap out the Bartender for the Hermit looking Boba Fett.

The Passenger – I don’t need much from this episode, just a Frog Lady mini-fig. However, similar to Aragog’s Lair from the Harry Potter Lego Theme, you could have a large buildable Krykna and some smaller ones with a bit of an Ice Cave build. Could be fun. Also, had this years X-Wing not come with Luke, Leia, R2 and Dodonna, just imagine getting Carson Teva and Trapper Wolf with their respective Astromechs.

The Heiress – A couple of options present themselves from this episode. Firstly, the boat that Mando and Grogu take where they are ambushed by the Quarren and then saved by Bo Katan, Koska Reeves and Axe Woves. With Mando and Grogu, add in a Quarren Pirate and one, two or all three of his Mandalorian saviours. Another option is the Gozanti Freighter. We’ve already seen this in the Imperial Assault Carrier set from the ‘Star Wars: Rebels’ theme but now it’s made its live action debut let’s get an updated version. Complete with the Imperial Commander played by Titus Welliver, a couple of Stormtroopers, Bo Katan and her followers.

The Siege – Come on, this one’s obvious. The Imperial Marauder Transport complete with Greef Karga, Mythrol, Cara Dune and a Scout Trooper. Throw in a Speeder Bike for the kids to have a play. It’ll be a decent upgrade on the Imperial Troop Transport Battle Pack that came out with ‘Rebels’ and could be a pretty solid set.

The Jedi – What could they do with this episode? Simple, Duel on Corvus. Like ‘Duel on Starkiller Base’ and ‘Duel on Mustafaar’, have Ahsoka vs. Magistrate Morgan Elsbeth. Just think how beautiful that zen garden look would be in Lego form. We’d also get a ‘Mandalorian’ style Ahsoka mini-fig and the Beskar Staff.

The Tragedy – Imperial Dropship! The predecessor to the First Order version that came out in 2015 with the initial wave of ‘The Force Awakens’ sets. Throw in a couple of Stormtroopers, a Dark Trooper perhaps and maybe, best of all, Boba Fett and Fennec Shand. Add a mini version of the Seeing Stone location with Grogu and we’d snap it up in a heart beat.

The Believer – Well, the best we would get, and I admit it would be pretty cool, the Imperial Transport Vehicle, complete with Mando and Mayfeld in their disguises, but we don’t get Din Djarin’s face. Oh no, that’s reserved for something else I have in mind. We’d also get a pair of the Pirates who are trying to blow the Rhydonium up. Hell, give us a Valin Hess mini-fig too.

The Rescue – This is the set that we go all out for. Moff Gideon’s Light Cruiser. I’m talking the same size as the ‘First Order Star Destroyer’ from ‘The Last Jedi’. Moff Gideon, Dark Trooper x 2, Bo Katan, Cara Dune, Grogu and an exclusive Din Djarin, with a face. And you know what? Luke Skywalker as well. Just as the cherry on top.

Honourable Mention – Slave 1. Boba Fett, Fennec Shand, Mando, Cara Dune, Mayfeld. But… why release it now, it was only 2019 when we got the 20th Anniversary version. I say wait for 2022 to cash in on ‘The Book of Boba Fett’.

Now, I don’t expect any of these to grace the shelves of the nearest Lego Store, it’s just a bit of fun, but I do think that Lego have been lacking in terms of sets from the series and with a wide range of options, surely it’s time for Lego to cash in?

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Star Wars: X-Wing 3 – The Krytos Trap Audiobook by Michael A. Stackpole

With a terrifying virus killing non-humans, one of their own on trial for treason and another imprisoned, believed dead, Rogue Squadron must save the day on many fronts.

‘The Krytos Trap’ does something I never even thought I would encounter, let alone enjoy. We get a courtroom drama in Star Wars. The trial of Tycho Celchu, for the apparent murder of Corran Horn was a surprise but executed perfectly. Whilst the Rogues are pulled this way and that defending shipments of life saving Bacta that is in high demand due to Ysaard’s Krytos virus. Whilst the Squadron go the the highs of victory and the lows of their losses we learn that there may be another traitor in their midst who has been an informant for the Empire.

Corran Horn, who actually survived the sabotage of his Z-95 Headhunter in ‘Wedge’s Gamble’ has been imprisoned in Ysaard’s hidden prison, Lusankya where the Imperial Director is attempting to brainwash him into becoming a sleeper agent, like Celchu is believed to be. When the manipulation of his mind fails he is thrown into a labour camp where he, using his skills as a CorSec Officer, manages to find a way to break out. His escape leads him to a hidden Jedi Museum where he finds a display about a Corellian Jedi Master Neeja Halcyon. He takes Halcyon’s lightsaber and with the help of his R2 Unit, Whistler, manages to arrive at the courthouse and give testimony that Celchu is in fact innocent, based on records he was able to uncover.

Throughout Celchu’s trial, lawyer and Rogue Squadron Pilot, Nawara Ven finds the Imperial Operative and nemesis of Rogue Squadron, Kirtan Loor, who defects but is later killed by Isaard’s sleeper agent, Diric Wessiri, the husband of Corran Horn’s former CorSec partner, Iella.

Of course, the final battle is fought in the skies of Coruscant, when Ysaard’s Super Star Destroyer, Lusankya, takes off from its underground hiding place, the ship housed the prison the Corran was held in. Unfortunately, the ship escaped after the real traitor is revealed, Flight Officer Erisi Dlarit.

Despite Ysaard’s escape, Rogue Squadron are heralded as heroes. Thanks to Qlaern Hirf, a cure of the Krytos Virus is found and administered. Finally, at a party celebrating the victory, Luke Skywalker arrives and tells Corran that he is actually a descendant of the Jedi Neeja Halcyon, before Wedge, Corran and the rest of Rogue Squadron quit the New Republic in order to bring the fight to Isaard and end her new reign of tyranny on the planet Thyferra.

The plot threads of the previous two novels in the series come together very nicely in this volume, leaving the next book to focus more on the Squadron and their new, self imposed mission.

The plot is paced really well, with political intrigue being a main theme, a far cry from the previous two books, but the story does allow for some great action sequences around the drama of the courtroom.

Given that the audiobook is abridged, I feel that so far out of the three I have listened to, this is the one with the most content cut out. I am really tempted to pick up this book to see if we get more of Nawara Ven doing some sleuthing, because the trial plot line was really interesting as it’s not something we have had much of in Star Wars (obvious exception being Ahsoka’s trial in ‘The Clone Wars’ Season 5).

The series has definitely picked up the pace after ‘Wedge’s Gamble’ felt slow for me, but I’ll be honest, the Audiobook would really benefit from adding the ‘Dramatis Personae’ that is included in the book, there have been times, especially in this one, where it’s been easy to confuse characters because their names sound similar to those of other characters.

If my only complaint is that I wished there was more content in the Audiobook then they must have done something right, and I’m very much looking forward to diving into the next part in the series.

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Star Wars: The High Republic Issue 1

It’s here! It’s finally here!

Having read ‘Light of the Jedi’ last month (Spoiler Free Review Here), I have been waiting desperately for new content from ‘The High Republic’ and after finding out that ‘A Test of Courage’ will be released in February in the UK it’s al down to the Marvel run of ‘The High Republic’ to give me a quick fix.

Cavan Scott leads the way, writing a story set within the timeframe of ‘Light of the Jedi’ towards the end of the book (somewhere between the last chapter and the epilogue) and introduces us to the main character, Keeve Trennis who is on the planet Shuraden with her Master Sskeer, the Trandoshan Jedi Master who was introduced in ‘Light of the Jedi’ who received a rather serious injury in the novel.

Keeve undertakes a Jedi Trial to graduate from Padawan to Jedi Knight by climbing some large stone needles to retrieve a pendant that Sskeer has planted but is interrupted by a swarm of giant space bugs that have been thrown off their natural course by a frequency being emitted from the Starlight Beacon. With the help of Jedi Master Maru she is able to divert the insects (using a Jedi Vector Star Fighter) whilst Maru alters the Starlight Beacon’s frequency.

Once the swarm leaves, Keeve assists the local people rebuild their home when Sskeer returns, calling for a pickup seeing as they no longer have a ship. Once on the Beacon, Sskeer introduces Keeve to Jedi Master Avar Kriss, who has just been appointed the Marshal position on the Space Station by Grandmasters Yoda and Veter. Kriss formerly knights Keeve and she joins the Jedi Knights and Masters on a stage at the dedication ceremony that officially opens Starlight Beacon (which we get to see a visual representation of the scene from ‘Light of the Jedi’).

The first issue throws us in with Keeve, and lets us get to know her through her conversations with a Shuraden native who is fascinated by the Jedi. She doesn’t come across as a typical Padawan, using foul language in front of her Master (and later Avar). What is fascinating for me is that we get to see her undertake a Jedi Trial, something we haven’t really seen before. From the looks of it, I get the impression that a Jedi Master can set any sort of task as a trial, which seems different from what the more formal sounding Trials mentioned in ‘The Phantom Menace’.

The art is beautiful, the scenery, especially the interior of Starlight Beacon really show off the populace of the Galaxy. The design is very similar to the design of the Prequel Trilogy, lots of curves, intricate art work, even on the ceremonial Jedi attire we see them wearing at the end of the issue.

Getting to see characters I had only met in the novel was great as well as seeing some of the designs of their weapons and the Jedi Vector in action is something special, and it really goes to show how much work has gone into ‘The High Republic’, not just in the writing but all of the design work that has gone along with it.

Also, seeing a representation of how Keeve sees the Force and how she connects with one of the insects is beautifully rendered by the artist, Ario Anindito, who has done a wonderful job in this issue.

I suppose now I’ll just have to wait for the next issue, or the next book, whichever reaches these wayward shores first. But I can certainly say that thanks to this first issue, I have certainly got a great adventure ahead of me and I can’t wait to read more of Cavan Scott’s first wave of content from this mass media project.

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Star Wars: The High Republic – Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule Book Review (SPOILER FREE)

Wow!

Just… wow!

Charles Soule has introduced us to a phenomenal new era in the Star Wars saga in a way that, I feel, few others could have done.

From the explosive first chapter right through to the end, Soule gives us a rip-roaring adventure that hasn’t been seen in Star Wars since ‘The Empire Strikes Back’.

I don’t know if it’s down to the COVID lockdown in my area giving me more time, but I real this book very quickly. Split into three parts, I read part 1 the first night I got it, and it was only my incredible need to sleep that made me stop. Part two, which was around 200 pages was the next day, unfortunately, Christmas got in the way and I didn’t finish the third part until after Boxing Day but needless to say I tore through it when I got the chance.

For anyone who read the first eight chapters released back in November, they make up the first 30 – 50 pages and barely scratch the surface of the cataclysmic events that form the main narrative of the book.

The novel follows a number of main characters, introducing us to a few different mindsets and perspectives of the Force, let alone the Galaxy. The Jedi feel a lot looser within the Order. The rigidity that we see in the prequels hasn’t yet taken hold. Whilst their ideals are the same, the Jedi feel more separate from the Republic that what we have seen, despite their role as peacekeepers for the Galaxy.

The introduction of The Nihil, a band of Pirates and Marauders who have a terrifying ability to manipulate Hyperspace in ways the Galaxy only dreams about make them a threat unseen by us or the Jedi before. We learn a lot about The Nihil and their hierarchy through the book and get to know the leaders well. It’s true, we haven’t seen anything like this group before which feels new and refreshing and their threat level is high. I liken them to a more organised and sane version of The Reavers from Joss Whedon’s ‘Firefly’ and ‘Serenity’, these evil characters appearing from deep space and taking what they want, when they want and the rest of the Galaxy seemingly unable to stop them, even down to the design of their ships and some of the tactics used in battle, there are some similarities and quite possibly Whedon’s villains were used as a template.

If I had any criticisms, it’s this, the lack of a ‘Dramatis Personae’, with a whole new roster of characters, such a guide would have been welcome, if only to keep track of who’s who, especially at the start when we are introduced to a lot of characters in a short amount of time. Of course, some are there to fill a purpose at the time, but a guide of the main characters would have been handy.

One tiny complaint I have, it’s too short! At just under 400 pages it’s not a short book, but I was feeling very greedy, luckily we’ve got two more ‘High Republic’ books coming in the next couple of months, which I am looking forward to very, very much, especially having read the sampler and getting a look at the stories. Both are referenced in ‘Light of the Jedi’, not in an ‘in-your-face’ manner, but mentioned in passing, which helps bring the stories in the series together to make one big story.

For me, this is required reading for Star Wars fans. It’s fresh, it’s new and it takes us places we haven’t been before in a time we’ve never seen before and it’s incredibly enjoyable too. I’ve been looking forward to this since ‘Project Luminous’ was hinted at back at ‘Star Wars Celebration Chicago’ in 2019 and I was completely gutted when the release date was pushed from August to January, but after reading it, it was totally worth the wait.

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Rebels Revisited: A Life Debt Podcast

Just when you thought it was safe to plug in your headphones again…

Starting today, The Life Debt Podcast is back with a special series that will be released DAILY until 5th March, the third anniversary of the end of the amazing series.

Rebels Remembered was originally a Life Debt Patreon Exclusive, a series of bite-sized reviews of ‘Star Wars: Rebels’ but when I made the decision to shut that down, I didn’t want all those episode going to waste, so here they are now for your listening pleasure, including a handful of episodes never before.

You can find the podcast HERE on Anchor.fm, where you can find links to all the Pod-Catchers the show can be heard on.

So, remember to hit that subscribe button folks, and a rate/review wouldn’t go amiss either.

Enjoy the show.

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Life Debt readers.

It’s been a tough one these past 365 days but we’ve made it.

I just want to take a moment to thank you all for your support over the past year. It’s been My Star Wars Life Debt’s best year by far beating last years Views/Visitors count in September and far surpassing my goal for the year by over 500.

This time last year I was planning for a bigger year on the Podcast, which unfortunately didn’t come to fruition as I hoped. Reaching the 100th Episode was a great achievement but I needed to step away for a while, bringing it back for Season 2 of ‘The Mandalorian’ was great fun but given my work schedule is all over the place, setting a regular time to record is difficult, however, there is something coming up soon which may be of interest that I will talk about in a moment. The YouTube channel was also something I tried my hand at, and whilst it attained some success, it’s not something I am currently planning on continuing at the moment. And of course, the Life Debt Patreon was shut down due to the lack of time I had after starting my new job.

2021 is going to be a big year for Star Wars. We will be getting a brand new animated series, ‘The Bad Batch’ as well as Season 3 of ‘The Mandalorian’ to keep our whet our appetites in terms of viewing, but the books and comics will be giving us a whole array of content, starting with the first two books in ‘The High Republic’ series in the first week of January, all of which I will be reading and reviewing.

In terms of content, I will be adhering to the regular schedule as much as possible, two posts a week (minimum) and of course more as the Star Wars news comes out.

There is some new content on the horizon, The Life Debt Podcast is returning for a special third season, starting January 4th, a daily Podcast which will end in March to celebrate the third anniversary of #RebelsRemembered called ‘Rebels Revisited’. This was formerly a Patreon Exclusive that unfortunately never got finished, but now that all the episodes have been recorded it’s time to release them, so hit that Subscribe Button on your Podcatcher of choice.

I am also toying with an idea to bring back the Patreon for anyone interested in supporting the Blog. In terms of bonus content, I’m skewing away from tonnes of exclusive Podcasts or Blog posts, instead I’m aiming for something fun, but that will be revealed in time.

Once again, thank you to everyone who has read the blog, be it one post or every post, thank you to everyone who has hit that subscribe button on the Podcast, or even just listened to the odd episode. Your support means so much to me and it’s very much appreciated.

So let’s hit 2021 with a bang (as much as the various lockdown regulations will allow) and have a great Star Wars year, and please, direct your attention to the new Life Debt URL mystarwarslifedebt.com.

Jonny

Doctor Aphra: The Engine Job Part 1

Aphra comes face-to-face with Domina Tagge after doing her best to avoid the Bounty Hunters sent after her.

After a great first arc, the adventure continues at a great pace. Told the story is bookended between Aphra’s arrival on Domina’s ship, The Acquisitor and the meeting between Domina and Aphra. The bulk is essential how Aphra evades various Bounty Hunters, including her former partner in crime, Black Krrsantan who informs her of the incredibly high price on her head, which in true Aphra fashion, she completely understands Black K’s motives. I imagine that further down the line they will work together again with no, to very little hard feelings.

Of course, Aphra does end up getting captured by Lucky and his Dr. Mandible looking associate and brought to Domina Tagge. Initially believing that her capture was due to her destruction of Ronan Tagge’s apartment and leaving Ronan for dead, it turns out that she was being tested by Domina on that job, and she passed it.

Domina has a mission for Aphra, to locate a device called a ‘Path Engine’, the one Domina has her eyes on is also of Nihil design. Aphra accepts the job and knows of one person she can turn to for help, Sana Starros.

A meeting between Domina and Aphra was inevitably going to happen after the events of the previous arc in the series, and rather than just dive in, we got an exciting issue full of action to counteract the dialogue heavy meeting.

And nice again, ‘The High Republic’ makes its way into the current timeline. Despite my excitement for the series, I do feel that the current series’ are relying quite a bit on items/locations from the upcoming publishing event as McGuffins for the heroes to find for whatever reason. Granted, we were meant to have already gotten the first wave of books from ‘The High Republic’ by now but they were delayed by COVID, however the reliance of ‘The High Republic’ in the current timeline may become tedious for those who don’t dive into that timeline.

I’m very much looking forward to the next issue, with the return of Sana Starros, who was first introduced in the first Star Wars run back in 2015 and she has made quite an impression on the fan base. My excitement may have to do with the expansion of their relationship as it was detailed in the ‘Doctor Aphra’ Audio Drama. The dynamic between Aphra and Sana has always been tense but now with more context I’m sure that whatever we get will be much more enjoyable.

A good issue that sets up the arc in a fun way with great action and fantastic interplay between the characters which leaves us wanting more with a well conceived reveal at the end.

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Star Wars: The Last Command by Timothy Zahn Book Review

Grand Admiral Thrawn’s grip on the Galaxy tightens as The New Republic struggles against him machinations whilst Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade must face C’boath in a dramatic confrontation.

Thrawn’s machinations reach an all time high, with his development of Clones filling out the Imperial ranks after the acquisition of the Katana Fleet which has left The New Republic in a tricky, and outnumbered position, which only gets worse when Thrawn attacks Coruscant and leaves a trap that keeps them occupied and stranded in the Capital.

Luke forms an alliance with Talon Karrde who in turn gathers a number of his old Smuggling buddies who form a loose alliance to help fight back the Empire, which almost ends with the group believing Karrde to be an Imperial Agent until the true villain is exposed.

After an attack at the Imperial Palace where a captured Imperial Commando claims that Mara Jade is an Imperial Agent, she is sprung from her house arrest by Luke, Han, Chewie, Lando and the Droids and they head to Wayland to destroy Thrawn’s Clone Facility in the Emperor’s store house in Mount Tatniss that C’boath was guarding, leading to the two Jedi facing the insane Jedi Master and his Clone of Skywalker.

Stuck on Coruscant, Leia, Winter, Garm Bel Iblis and Ghent try to locate an Imperial Spy in their headquarters whilst attempting to break out of Thrawn’s trap.

Zahn does not pull any punches in this final act, he throws everything at our heroes, bringing them together again into a final battle, which does emulate the Battle of Endor from ‘Return of the Jedi’ to a degree, but the comparison is even noted by the characters. With various battles going on at the same time both in space, wher The New Republic walk into a trap set by Thraw, and on a planet, with an Imperial Facility being sabotaged as well as a battle between the Light and Dark sides of the Force. Zahn manages to keep the story fresh, it never feels like a rehashing, with the spotlight moving away from the main heroes and gives other characters a time to shine, in the Battle of Bilbringi, even with Wedge being a main focus, we also get to see the events through the eyes of Aves, one of Karrde’s inner circle. On Wayland, the final battle isn’t fought by Luke, Han or Leia but rather Mara Jade who overcomes her programming by Palpatine by killing Luuke, the Clone of Skywalker as well as taking on C’boath and coming out triumphant.

The trilogy comes to a fantastic and nail biting conclusion, with Zahn killing off the fan favourite Grand Admiral in a spectacular moment that comes out of nowhere. Thrawn isn’t given a dramatic death scene, rather the moment, told from Pellaeon’s point-of-view as the Noghri bodyguard Rukh first attacks the Captain before escaping, only after a moment do we see Thrawn, stabbed by his Assassin, uttering his last words before expiring and leaving Pellaeon to lead in his stead.

The first full trilogy of the Expanded Universe certainly had a lot pinning on it and high expectations which I believe are met ten-fold, firmly establishing Timothy Zahn as a Star Wars literary MVP for both the Expanded ‘Legends’ Universe and the new Canon series.

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Star Wars: Operation Starlight Part 1

Kes Dameron and the Path Finders are sent on a mission to locate an ancient translator Droid for the Rebellion.

I feel like this is the story arc I have been waiting for in this series. I’ve been hoping to see Kes Dameron and Shara Bey in action after Soule reintroduced them to us in the first issue of the run, and their plan to locate the Starlight Station from the High Republic era to put out a message to the rest of the Rebel Fleet scattered across the Galaxy.

To do this, Leila sends Kes and two other Path Finders, Needle and Frell to a museum on Coruscant with Lando and Lobot to help break them in.

Once inside, Kes and Frell go in search of the Droid in the Curator’s private collection whilst Needle runs a distraction that eventually leads to his death.

Back with the Fleet, C-3PO attempts to access the Droid’s memories but is unable to do so.

I’m really excited that we are starting to break away from Luke, Leia and the rest of the main characters from the films and starting to get stories about other members of the Rebellion, so much happens between ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and ‘Return of the Jedi’ with the gathering of the Rebel Fleet that if we were only going to focus on the main characters then we would miss out on some potentially amazing stories and great new characters.

Given the title of this arc, ‘Operation Starlight’ and the fact that Charles Soule is the author of this arc and the upcoming novel ‘Light of the Jedi’ which will kick start the ‘High Republic’ series, there is an obvious connection between the two, the title references a Space Station called ‘Starlight Beacon’ which will feature heavily in the upcoming series. Soule has been dropping hints in a number of places over the past year, starting with (as far as I can tell) his ‘Rise of Kylo Ren’ mini-series and now we are going to see the past and present meet, something I feel will be very interesting, and may help Luke learn more about the Force, which would help develop his character growth between Episodes Five and Six of the Original Trilogy.

The arc has started with an explosive bang and I hope that it continues to keep the pace throughout. The expansion of Kes Dameron’s character is a high point for me and I hope it carries on in this run and I really hope we get to see Shara Bey return later in the arc, who doesn’t want to get more time with Poe Dameron’s parents?

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Star Wars: X-Wing 2 – Wedge’s Gamble Audiobook by Michael A. Stackpole

Rogue Squadron take the offensive to the Imperial Capital of Coruscant in the second part of the X-Wing series.

Rogue Squadron infiltrate the planet with a group of former Black Sun operatives who work to foil the Imperial leadership and claim the planet in the name of the fledgling New Republic.

Corran Horn and his Squadron spend most of this story grounded, with only a few instances of in air/space battles.

We also get a lot more Galactic politics this time around, with the New Republic Council appearing, including a scene between Leia and Wedge, two old friends reunited briefly, it’s a welcome cameo and lets us touch base with the heroes of the Original Trilogy without an unnecessary amount of time being taken away from the story.

We also get to see a few well known EU characters, with Councillor Borsk Fey’lya, Winter and Moruth Doole from the Kevin J. Anderson’s ‘Jedi Search’, giving the EU some nice connectivity.

Whilst it doesn’t live up to the previous instalments excitement and fast pace, we do get some well plotted action for the Rogues, however I feel that when you buy into a series about X-Wing pilots, you want as much star fighter action as possible.

Director Isaard’s plans for taking out Rogue Squadron as well as the New Republic come to the fore, which will play a larger role in the upcoming novels in the series, with the Krytos Virus beginning to take hold within the alien species on the planet, and even some non-human members of Rogue Squadron, I feel that the series will ramp up with the next book, and this one was more of a intermediary story, putting the characters in place and building up to the main bulk of the overall story, more like the first half of the second act of a film, with act one having introduced us to the characters in the previous book.

However, the story ends with two of our main characters in serious trouble. Tycho Celchu has been arrested for the sabotage of the Z-95 Headhunter which Corran was piloting at the end of the book and the suspected murder of the lead character. Meanwhile, Corran Horn has been taken captive by Isaard and being transported to the Lusankya, the same Imperial Facility that Tycho Celchu was held before he “escaped”.

Whilst I would say that I was disappointed with ‘Wedge’s Gamble’, it wasn’t exactly what I expected but I’m sure, as with most ongoing series, once everything has been put together it all makes perfect sense.

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The Emotional Aftermath of ‘The Mandalorian’ Season 2

WARNING!!!

SPOILERS FOR THE MANDALORIAN SEASON 2 FINALE!!!

READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!

To preface this post, I am 34 years old, I have a wife and daughter. We own a house. We have four cats. I have depression which I am on medication for.

All in all, I’m an adult.

And Chapter 16 – The Rescue reduced me to the kind of tears I have only seen when I have taken a toy off my daughter after she used it as a projectile. That heavy, hard, ugly kind of crying. And that was on the second viewing, even when I watched the Steele Wars Live Reaction I wept. I said the day before it came out that I wasn’t emotionally ready but I had no idea.

When Din Djarin and his team were trapped on the Bridge with the Death Troopers breaking down the door, I, like many others were probably chomping at the bit wondering how they were going to get out of it. Who would die in the assault? Would Din save Grogu? But Deus Force Machina kicked in, a single X-Wing arrived. I was expecting Carson or Trapper to come over the speakers heralding a New Republic Strike Force. Imagine my shock when a robed figure started laying waste to the mechanical Troopers with a lightsaber, and a familiar looking green one at that.

Luke’s reveal on the Bridge cemented something for me. Favloni can give me the thing I didn’t want and make me love it all the same. It also proved me wrong in that a Jedi would show up and Grogu would choose to stay with Din. It didn’t make sense, Grogu needs training in the Force, but the relationship between Din and Grogu, for me, was the central core of the series.

When Din says goodbye and finally removes his helmet, revealing his face to the being that had become like a son to him, I wasn’t sure they would go their separate ways, and Pascal plays their farewell beautifully. That final look between the two of them speaks volumes, and that just made the sobbing all the worse.

After the first viewing I was excited, I was confused and I was ecstatic. But the second viewing was what hit me on a higher emotional level.

Afterwards I felt broken and hollow. Something didn’t feel right and then it clicked for me and it turns out I was in some state of mourning. But why? In true Filoni fashion, no one died.

Then I realised that I had connected so much with the relationship between Din and Grogu that seeing them separate again, after so short a reunion was heartbreaking. Din so desperately wanted Grogu to stay with him that he instantly told Luke that he didn’t want to go with him. At that moment I think Din would have killed Luke if it meant keeping Grogu, but Grogu made his choice. To go with a Jedi and learn to master his powers.

Din told his son that they would see each other again, and I believe him. So far, Din Djarin has been a man of his word, he has his own code of honour that had led him to this moment and only death would stop him.

As this is set around five years after The Battle of Endor, it’s seems far too early in the timeline for Luke to start his training temple, which if we are led to believe he didn’t set up until Ben was at least in his early teens, so I think Grogu is safe from the Jedi Temple Massacre that led Ben to leave Luke for dead into the waiting arms of Snoke. By then I’m confident that Din and Grogu are together again, the latter probably searching for his father on Mandalore.

Regardless of the future, whether or not ‘The Book of Boba Fett’ will replace Season 3 (I really hope not), the story of Din Djarin and Grogu will always have a special place in many fans hearts and, in time we will see them again (hopefully next year), but I won’t lie, the uncertainty is killing me, c’mon Lucasfilm, give us some confirmation!

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Star Wars: X-Wing 1 – Rogue Squadron Audiobook by Michael A. Stackpole

Please allow me to take you down memory road for a moment…

Back in late 1998, the release of the highly anticipated N64/PC game ‘Rogue Squadron’ was something I was very excited for, that was right at the top my Christmas list.

In my preparation to be the best damned fighter pilot this side of the Rebellion I decided to do my research.

I watched the Battles of Yavin, Hoth and Ensor almost religiously (I even broke the rewind function on my VCR) and I spent that hard-earned pocket money on a new book, ‘Star Wars: X-Wing 1 – Rogue Squadron’ by Michael A. Stackpole.

And I don’t think I ever finished it…

As a twelve year old, for some reason, I struggled with this book. Probably because it wasn’t a how-to guide on piloting an X-Wing, which for some unknown reason I had it in my head that it was.

I tried revisiting it on a few occasions but that first time seemed to have left a sour taste in my mouth and I could never really get into it. And so, as did 95% of my Star Wars ‘Legends’ books, once Lucasfilm reset the Canon I put them out to the pasture, or rather to a book charity.

… Until now…

With the announcement of Patty Jenkins’ upcoming ‘Star Wars: Rogue Squadron’, my mind drifted to those X-Wing books that I never finished, hell, just because I enjoyed the first Chapter of ‘Rogue Squadron’ I bought books 2 and 3 and they never even got opened. So I did a bit of hunting for a copy of the book but they were way too overpriced (£50 for a paperback, you gotta be kidding), but I did have some Audible Credits burning a proverbial hole in my pocket so I picked up the first ‘X-Wing’ Audiobook, read by Henry Thomas (E.T.).

The audiobook has been abridged, so I’m sure listeners aren’t getting the full story, however, I found it to be extremely enjoyable (can someone smack 12 year old me please), and as it’s the bare bones of the story itself, one day I may pick up the book and give it another go.

The story follows Corran Horn, a New Republic Pilot who is picked by Wedge to join the newly reformed ‘Rogue Squadron’. Corran and his wing mates go on their first few missions over the course of the book, and Horn, in a truly stereotypical fashion goes from being the lone wolf type and learns to work as a part of a team. We are also introduced to Tycho Celchu, a former member of Rogue Squadron who has returned after escaping an Imperial Detention Facility, Mirax Terrik, Daughter of Smuggler Booster Terrik who was an infamous smuggler and Corran’s father’s nemesis. We are also introduced to Ysanne Isard, the Director of Imperial Intelligence and the main villain of the series and her subordinate, Kieran Loor who has been tasked with eliminating Rogue Squadron who has a tumultuous past with Corran.

Of course, Rogue Squadron would be nothing without their leader, Wedge Antilles who plays a major part in the training of the new recruits and also acts as a go-between the Military leaders and the Squadron.

The Squadron make their way through three major battles against Imperial forces, two of which are for the planet Borleias which is their first step in making their way deeper into the Galactic Core to retake Coruscant from Imperial Control.

It’s refreshing to see (or hear) stories where the characters do fail as they learn the ropes, and have character flaws that need addressing as the character develops. Corran, whilst being comfortable working as team prefers to work alone because that’s the only way he can be sure the job gets done, but by the end of the book he’s becoming more and more open to operating within the team. He shares some qualities with another well known pilot, he’s cocky and arrogant and he knows he’s a great pilot but the way he comes across at times you’re almost waiting for him to say it to the rest of the team, but this is a very different character to the Corran Horn from the book ‘I, Jedi’, set years later who feels a lot more grounded.

Stackpole’s first book in the series is a strong and enjoyable one, so much so that I have listened to the three hour audiobook twice (I listen at 1.5 speed so it’s shorter than that) and I have been a bit presumptuous and bought books two and three on Audible as well.

Whilst I’m sure Patty Jenkins won’t be adapting this book or series in her film, I do hope that she takes some cues from Stackpole and gives us some great and memorable characters like some we get here.

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#Collection Corner – 501st Legion Clone Troopers Lego

I held off on buying this for quite a while, originally feeling that there were plenty of other ‘Clone Wars’ vehicles we could have gotten instead of another AT-RT and a Speeder Bike, but sometimes those sets you don’t get excited for become a saving grace.

After a pretty rough week, mental health wise I needed some of that zen that building Lego gives me and I just am not getting it from the ‘Ewok Village’ set I am almost finished building (a lot of missing/broken pieces that are hindering progress) so on a trip to the local Supermarket I had to decide between this and the Boba Fett buildable helmet (I still think they don’t look right) and this set won the coin toss.

Split between two bags, the set also has a pretty full sticker sheet and of course, the instruction booklet.

Bag 1 build the BARC Speeder and provides two 501st Troopers and two B1 Battle Droids.

The BARC Speeder is really well designed, it has a sleek design and the little details using the ski’s look really good and not out of place.

The front end has some interesting building techniques to give the Speeder is sleek look. Four stickers add details at the front and back and the pilot seat fits a Trooper nicely and the steering handles fit perfectly into a Mini-Fig’s hand.

In terms of size, the build is bigger than I expected which was a pleasant surprise. Whilst I originally thought that this would be more of a Battle Pack sized build, I can safely eat my words on that one.

Bag 2 builds the AT-RT. This was a sticking point for me when it was first announced, seeing as we got a brilliant AT-RT set last year as part of the 20th Anniversary Wave of sets (check out my review HERE).

The 501st version is slightly smaller with less detail, which I would have thought would be a disappointment but it doesn’t actually bother me at all, the build is still well made, the building process enjoyable and the details the stickers give it are fantastic. The contrast between this and last years green/grey looks great when you look at them both together.

This section also comes with two Mini-Figs. A regular 501st Trooper with a hefty looking blaster and a 501st Jet Trooper, who is easily identifiable in the back with subtle differences in his design and a blue Jet Pack completes the look (although I may steal it for the Beskar Mandalorian in next years ‘Trouble on Tatooine’ set if he doesn’t already come with one).

Overall a surprisingly enjoyable set which I had already mentally rejected. The builds are fun and solid and the Mini-Fig selection is pretty good. However I would have loved to get a Fives, Rex or Jesse Mini-Fig in place of one of the three 501st Troopers, just to add a spot of variety.

At £25 for 285 pieces, the price/piece ratio is very good, we’re not looking a loads of small 1×1 pieces in this set. I can honestly say I’m pleased I picked this up.

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Star Wars Reveals at Disney+ Investor Day 2020

Bob Chapek’s introduction gave us a hint of what we were in for later on in the four hour video aimed at investors, and it was a wonderful hint, 10 new Star Wars series/films.

After the first selection of shows from FX and Star, Kathy Kennedy stepped up to discuss Lucasfilm’s offerings for Disney+.

And initially discussing ‘The Mandalorian’ and its huge success. A brief showreel featuring footage from Season 2, no new footage however it did end on a beautiful showcase of Boba Fett.

John Faverau and Dave Filoni are working in TWO new series set alongside ‘The Mandalorian’, ‘Rangers of the New Republic’ and ‘Ahsoka’. I get a strong feeling that we will be getting a crossover or two, and hopefully a full time acting gig for Dave Filoni as Trapper Wolf. Kennedy also confirmed a Christmas 2021 release for ‘The Mandalorian’ Season 3 (thanks COVID for making that delay happen!).

Kathy then went on to discuss ‘Andor’, a spy-thriller to debut in 2022 and a special look at the series with behind the scenes interviews and set building. Diego Luna sounds like he is over the moon and a confirmed length of TWELVE episodes, wonderful concept art and a beautiful logo.

‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ gets the spotlight, set 10 years after ROTS and confirmation of Hayden Christensen returning as Anakin Skywalker for what is said to be the “ultimate showdown” with Deborah Chow helming the series. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the special presentation on the live stream for non-investors (might have to set up the Patreon again).

After some ‘Clone Wars’ hype we get confirmation of ‘The Bad Batch’ and a trailer. From the looks of it, these guys will be doing a lot of travelling as well as spending time as part of the Empire, with Tarkin making an appearance. I think it will take place through the end of The Clone Wars and the early days of The Empire’s reign. And from the looks of it, Fennic Shane may be making an appearance. The animation looks beautiful and the style is that of ‘The Clone Wars’ which looks amazing!

‘Star Wars Visions’, an anthology series of Star Wars inspired Anime episodes, directed by legendary Anime creators.

Lando Calrissian will be getting his very own limited series, ‘Lando’, created by Justin Simien (Dear White People) I expect this will be wonderful, I hope this has both Billy Dee and Donald Glover reprising their roles as the iconic character, hopefully joined by Jannah and L3 respectively during the relevant time periods.

Leslye Hedland’s series gets further confirmation, called ‘The Acolyte’ and set during the end of ‘The High Republic’ Era.

R2-D2 and C-3PO will be teaming up with a new droid in ‘Star Wars: A Droids Story’, a series from Lucasfilm Animation and ILM.

After discussing Willow, Indiana Jones and Children of Blood and Bone, Kathy talks briefly about Taika Waititi’s upcoming film (which he is hard at work developing) before announcing ‘Star Wars: Rogue Squadron’, helmed by Patty Jenkins and released Christmas 2023 and will be centred on a new team of Pilots, Jenkins added hype to the announcement by tweeting THIS video of her giving a brief detail on her inspiration for the film.

What a slate of content. Granted we don’t know the timeline for release on a number of these upcoming shows, and the information is pretty sparse, it’s all great sizzle and gives us a shed load of content to get very, very excited over.

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Star Wars: Dark Force Rising by Timothy Zahn Book Review

The Empire and The New Republic are in a race again time to locate the lost Katana Fleet, whilst Leia and Chewie go on a daring mission to gain new allies, Luke, Han and Lando try to prove Ackbar’s innocence and meet some potential new allies.

This book travels at breakneck speeds, and even when it slows down we can barely catch our breath. Zahn perfectly crafts a Star Wars adventure that keeps you hooked throughout.

We follow the heroes on their various adventures, at times working together but then splitting up only to come back together again for a brief moment before another mission whisks them away again. We get some more great Han and Lando scenes, the interplay between the two is fresh and fun, with Lando being dragged back into the fray because Han needs someone with him to fulfil their mission to disprove Borsk Fey’lya’s accusations of Admiral Ackbar being an Imperial Spy. Doing this they encounter former Corellian Senator Garm Bel Iblis, who has miraculously obtained a small number of ships from The Katana Fleet.

Leia and Chewie go with C-3PO to Honoghr, the homeworld of the Noghri, the creatures that Thrawn has been sending after Leia to bring her to C’boath after agreeing with Khabarakh to go with him to try to free the people from Imperial rule, as she is the Daughter of Vader who brought the Noghri into Imperial service years before. Her time on the planet, whilst fraught with peril at being found by the visiting Thrawn, proves to be a success, with the Noghri turning to her as a leader.

Meanwhile Luke, after helping Han and Lando on their mission is diverted to the planet Jomark where he begins Jedi training under Joruus C’baoth whom Luke learns has gone insane. It’s not until Mara Jade, searching for Luke to ask for his help in rescuing Talon Karrde that Luke is able to escape C’boath’s influence.

It’s their rescue of Karrde that leads the New Republic to the Katana Fleet, whilst Thrawn has used a former associate of Karrde to also locate the lost ships and a final battle over their last remaining Dreadnaughts, seeing as Thrawn’s forces have already taken the majority, where the New Republic are victorious with the help of Karrde’s forces and the appearance of Garm Bel Iblis’ ships.

The use of the known and loved characters really helps legitimise the new characters, Han’s reverie for Iblis helps give the character some weight, with a grounded backstory into his time with the Rebellion in its early stages helps give him a vague recognition whilst the characters introduced in ‘Heir to the Empire’ get a chance to be fleshed out more, with Mara Jade getting a more defined character arc here as well as inner turmoil which gives the character a real edge.

As a continuation to ‘Heir to the Empire’ the book works completely. The two books so far in the trilogy run back-to-back with very little time passing between them. I get the feeling that Zahn was really telling one big story with his trilogy that got cut into three books rather than three stories with a pay off at the end.

This book has it all for fans of the franchise, there’s political intrigue, space battles, shoot outs, gangsters, Jedi, alien races and on top of all that it’s good fun.

I’m seriously looking forward to jumping straight into ‘The Last Command’ because I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this reread of the trilogy so far, and with ‘The High Republic’ starting in a few weeks, I want to dive into Zahn’s next book as soon as possible so I can enjoy it without distraction.

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Darth Vader: Into the Fire Part 2

Vader’s punishment continues.

Broken and beaten, Vader makes it to the Techno Union outpost but is being followed by a mysterious character.

Once inside he relives his massacre of the Separatist Leaders whilst he has a group of MSE Droids help attach various droid limbs to allow him full movement.

The mysterious character arrives, introducing himself as Ochi of Bestoon. The two begin to fight which takes them out of the outpost. Vader beats the assassin and threatens his life for answers, Ochi tells Vader that the Emperor is building something which Vader wants more information.

During the interrogation, Vader awakens something from inside a cave which calls to him. Ochi tries to shut the cave by causing a rockslide but Vader gets through where he finds The Eye of the Webbish Bog.

This issue lacks something and I can’t put my finger on it. So far it’s the first issue of the series I have felt disappointed with, I feel like the continued brilliance of the series up to now has spoilt me and this part of the story, which is essentially putting the next set pieces together to build up to a bigger and greater story, but with very little pay off except Vader rebuilding his removed limbs and finally meeting The Eye of the Webbish Bog, which we have had teased for months when Marvel released images of the cover for next months issue.

The build up around the introduction of Ochi the Assassin doesn’t pay off here. To me he looks like a rejected design for ‘Red Hood’ in the ‘Arkham Knight’ game which is disappointing to me, why they didn’t choose to keep him without the mask makes no sense to me, he doesn’t come across as threatening like he does in the brief glimpses we in ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ with his face on show. He also comes across as very cocky as he interacts with Vader, again, not something I would have imagined a follower of the Sith would do in the presence of a Sith Lord, even if he is disgraced at the time. I’m sure he will continue to show up in this arc and so hope that the character pays off in the end and isn’t just a tenuous link to the Sequel Trilogy, only there as a small piece of connective tissue.

It’s not all bad however, Vader’s flashbacks to his turn to the Dark Side, where he aided in Order 66 and the slaughter of the Younglings haunts him, we see that Anakin/Vader was hesitant to kill the children but did so at the behest of Palpatine. His eventual attack on the Separatist leaders also causes Vader to hesitate but once again, he follows his Master’s orders. It seems evident that he wasn’t truly converted to the Dark Side until the culmination of his duel with Kenobi where he felt truly abandoned by everyone he loved.

Whilst the story is lacking and the design of Ochi in his armour is lacking, the art in general is stunning and has some of my favourite imagery from the run so far, especially when Vader enters the Techno Union stronghold and finds the remains of the Separatist Leaders.

The issue works in terms of building towards something bigger but with very little pay off it feels a bit ‘filler’, however once the full run has been released it will probably feel better in the grand scheme of the story.

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#CollectionCorner – Winter 2021 Reveals

Over the last few days, Lego have been releasing information about next years Winter sets and THE BROTHERS BRICK put out the Star Wars selection recently.

First up is the new ‘Red 5 X-Wing’, featuring Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, R2-D2 and, for the first time, General Dodonna. This is one of the new “Reboot” sets, which come with less pieces, are less detailed but the price is significantly less than normal.

The build is 474 pieces with a price of £44.99 which is a very good price/piece ratio. The last version was 730 pieces and the reduced number does affect the detail of the ship, but as a mid-level build it looks good. In actuality, had I not got the last version a couple of years ago, I would go for this. It doesn’t look like an overly complicated build, but as a representation of an X-Wing it’s really spot on.

Of course, it comes with the pre-requisite Luke Skywalker and R2-D2, it is Luke’s X-Wing after all, it also comes with Princess Leia with her robes, rather than the usual mini-fig legs, which until now was exclusive to the Tantive IV set, making this a more affordable way of getting this version. The final mini-fig has never been released before, General Jan Dodonna.

Next up is the TIE Fighter reboot, again, like the X-Wing, it is smaller with 432 pieces for £34.99, which is an incredible piece/price ratio with three mini-figs, TIE Fighter Pilot, Stormtrooper and an NI-L8 Protocol Droid.

From the images, we can assume that the main area where there are less pieces are the wings, as they seem too small compared to the cockpit, but in terms of displaying and playing this doesn’t feel like a big issue. Again, if I hadn’t go the TIE Fighter from the first ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ wave I would pick this one up.

The new Millennium Falcon Microfighter with Han Solo is next, it’s the third iteration of the Falcon, and second with Han Solo. I understand why they are re-releasing the Falcon as it’s a popular ship but we got on not long back with ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ so it feels a bit early. I also feel like there are so many vehicles that haven’t been converted to the Microfighter range that there’s more opportunities to make some different vehicles.

At £8.99, it’s a standard price/size for Microfighters.

A new Microfighter two-pack is coming soon as well, whilst it having any official images released, it was revealed on the box art for the Millennium Falcon. The new two-pack consists of Hoth Luke Skywalker on his Tauntaun against an AT-AT and AT-AT Pilot.

This is the second time we have had an AT-AT Microfighter, but that was all the way back in the second wave. The new version looks to be a huge improvement on the build.

Whilst I don’t generally go for the Microfighters, I’ve bought two over the years and those were for the mini-figs, I may actually go for this two-pack, mainly for the Luke and Tauntaun, the Tauntaun build look pretty impressive and I’d love to pick up a Hoth Luke.

These sets are due for release on 1st January, along with the ‘Trouble on Tatooine’ set I wrote about HERE last week (which I will definitely be buying on Day 1).

For me, it isn’t the most exciting Wave of sets, I’ll definitely be waiting anxiously for the Spring releases, but it will give me a chance to catch up on sets from this year that I’ve missed out on so far (an hopefully seeing some reduced prices in the January Sales).

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Lego Star Wars Holiday Special Review

Happy Belated Life Day folks!

I may have forgotten but Disney didn’t this year which I’m thankful for because Lucasfilm and Lego have teamed up and brought us a 47 minute bundle of Star Wars joy to take our minds off of 2020.

The story, set after ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ centres on Rey as she goes on a journey to learn how to be a better teacher to Finn who has begun Jedi Training. Rey goes to a list Jedi Temple and finds a key that allows her to travel through time and space.

At first she observes different Masters with their Apprentices, Obi-Wan and Anakin, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, Luke and Yoda and then Palpatine and Vader.

But the shenanigans go awry when Palpatine sends Vader to take the key which leads to a lightsaber duel between Vader and Rey and they fall through various time periods, collecting characters from all the films a long the way (even the top half of Darth Maul).

Palpatine eventually gets his hands on the key and they find Kylo Ren (post The Last Jedi) who tells Palpatine how he dies (thrown down a reactor shaft, no one comes back from that) which leads to Palpatine becoming angry with Vader and he takes Ren on as his new Apprentice.

Force Ghost Yoda visits Rey who has brought Luke from ‘A New Hope’ through a portal by accident before losing the key. Yoda teaches her about being a teacher. Rey figures out how to unlock a portal thanks to Yoda’s words of wisdom and arrives in The Throne Room on Death Star 2, as Vader arrives with Luke (ROTJ) and it becomes a free-for-all of fights. Kylo is just angsty as he tells past-Luke’s that he has to pay for what they did to him (they are completely unaware) but eventually the numbers start to thin out as Rey sends people back to their own times.

Vader throws Palpatine down the reactor shaft, Rey takes ‘A New Hope’ Luke home, fixes the timelines by sending everyone back to when they should be, before returning to Kashyyk where Poe, Rose, Finn and Chewie have been setting up and throwing a Life Day party with numerous guests including Chewie’s family, Lando, Jannah, Maz and even Max Rebo.

The story is told with the kind of Lego humour we have come to expect, and of course they have to have toys to tie-in, which will be coming in the Star Wars Lego Advent Calendar.

There are so many great nods to the Star Wars franchise, and even on my second viewing I was noticing more, and it’s all great fun. Watching Attichitcuk chase and try to eat Porgs doesn’t get old, as well as the great banter between Rose and Finn as Poe tries to organise the Life Day preparations.

One of the highlights for me was Palpatine, he’s a great mix of Galaxar from ‘Monsters Vs. Aliens’, Michael Scott from ‘The Office’ and 10 year old petulant child which is not at all what you expect from the ruler of the Galaxy. But that’s what Lego is good at, messing with the characters we know and love, whilst also respecting the stories.

The level of detail on the ships is phenomenal, not a brick out of place on Rey’s X-Wing and the Falcon looks great.

A great number of Star Wars Alumni lend their voices to this Holiday Special, of course, Anthony Daniels and Billy Dee Williams return as C-3PO and Lando respectively. Kelly Marie Tran comes back to voice Rose who deservedly gets more screen time than in ‘The Rise of Skywalker’, some of her bather with Finn is great fun (and I want a TROS Rose mini-fig). James Arnold Taylor reprises his role of Obi-Wan, this time voicing the character at four different points in time, and a three-way “Hello There!” will surely become the go-to meme in days/weeks to come. Matt Lanter, Dee Bradley Baker and Tom Kane round out the actors from ‘The Clone Wars’, giving me a whole swath of nostalgia for the series, so I’m possibly seeing a rewatch in my future.

It’s decidedly not Canon, but it’s a great, fun adventure that feels like ‘Star Wars’, it doesn’t take itself seriously at all and it keeps you entertained throughout, and the whole family will enjoy it. I hope we’re seeing the beginning of a tradition here, the franchise could lend itself to a Lego Holiday Special each year, or every couple. Just imagine, next it could be all about how Mando gives The Child his first proper Life Day celebration and the usual shenanigans ensue (Disney/Lucasfilm/Lego I want some form of Credit for this if you use it).

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Speculation: The Mandalorian Chapter 14

WARNING!!!

POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!

Last year, just as ‘The Mandalorian’ was about to come out, Season 2 was in Pre-Production, Making Star Wars was putting out scoops from the set as things were gearing up to film, including THIS, which has been on my mind recently.

In the article, Jason Ward details a chance meeting with some people who worked on ‘The Mandalorian’ and struck up a conversation where they showed him some images from a workshop where there were multiple Yoda species puppets in various stages of construction. He was also informed that George Lucas consulted on the episode (possibly the sixth episode) and gave information on Yoda’s species.

During the first season I was waiting for the sixth episode with baited breath and we got ‘The Prisoner’ which was my least favourite of the first season. But given the timing of the article, my anticipation may have been a bit premature.

What I am thinking is that after meeting Ahsoka, she will either send of join Mando and The Child to locate more of the The Child’s species, but problems will ensue seeing as The Razorcrest is being tracked by Moff Gideon’s forces.

Could we see Mando and The Child go their separate ways here? Will Moff Gideon find all of the creatures and take them all for his nefarious experiments? Only time will tell…

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From A Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back Review

With ‘From A Certain Point of View: A New Hope’ firmly on my list of Star Wars books I’m really not all that keen on, ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ version gave me a bit of an internal debate. On the one hand, ‘Empire’ is and always has been my favourite of the films, it’s the one I hold the rest of the films up to in terms of perfect ‘Star Wars’, so to get a new look at the film is something I’d look forward to, but as a follow up to one of my least favourite books in the franchise (Canon, nothing could be worse for me than ‘Before the Storm’, the first part of ‘The Black Fleet Crisis’ Trilogy’) it was a tough one to settle on.

Well I needn’t have worried at all.

Where a group of the authors involved with ‘A New Hope’ decided to inundate the book with stories about the denizens of the Cantina, which slowed the book down to no end, ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ doesn’t suffer from this problem.

There are two major locations that we spend a lot of time in, Hoth and Cloud City, where we get stories ranging from ‘Hunger’, or as I refer to it, ‘The Wampa’s Point of View’, and ‘This is No Cave’ that I could have happily skipped and may do in the future, and whilst I didn’t enjoy them, it’s not to say that they are bad stories, far from it, but just not my cup of tea.

For the most part I really engaged with this book and as a huge fan of ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ I love that the stories shed light on some of those secondary and tertiary characters, even the Imperial Captain who dies in a hologram to Vader gets a story, which ties into another story featuring the fan favourite Rae Sloane.

Fans of the Bounty Hunters are in luck, they all get stories, Boba has his own, as does Bossk, whilst IG-11 and Dengar are thrown together, forming a very loose partnership and another details more about 4-LOM and Zuckuss in ‘STET’ by Daniel José Older which also features the return of one of my favourite characters from his novel ‘Last Shot’.

There are three stand-out stories for me that I would have to give 5/5, those are ‘Rogue Two’ by Gary Whitta, ‘Rendezvous Point’ by Jason Fry and Vergence by Tracy Deonn, which gives a voice (so to speak) to the Dark Side Cave on Dagobah, which as I read I could hear it in Sam Witwer’s voice as ‘The Brother’ from ‘The Clone Wars’, unfortunately for me, in the audiobook Witwer narrates ‘Disturbance’ by Mike Chen, which is about Palpatine (for the record I didn’t do the Audiobook for this one, just fan casting).

For me, this collection is a complete step-up from the ‘A New Hope’ version, probably because its my favourite film. For me the pacing of the book, the way the stories are arranged feels much better, they flow together and you never feel bogged down by a single location.

Whilst it’s not one of the best of the current Star Wars book series it’s far from the worst, it’s enjoyable and as I said before, engaging. Well worth a read for fans of the franchise but not one for a newcomer to the books to start with.

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#CollectionCorner – Winter 2021 Mandalorian Reveal

Well thank you BRICK FANATICS for making me even more excited for 2021 than I already was.

Images of the upcoming Lego set based on ‘The Mandalorian’ has been revealed and its shot right to the top of my ‘must buy’ list.

Direct from Chapter 9: The Marshal, this 276 piece set brings us The Mandalorian himself, in his shiny Beskar armour (unlike the previous two mini-figs that depict him pre-Beskar), The Child (at a much more affordable price-point than The Mandalorian Bounty Hunter Transport/Razorcrest set) and a Tusken Raider. Mando and The Child get to ride their Speeder Bike as donated by Peli Motto to aid Mando in his search for another Mandalorian supposedly on Tatooine.

The Tusken Raider also gets some love, with a hut and campfire as well as a giant spear-launcher, both shown in the same episode.

Am I surprised by this set? Not at all. Mando and The Child on that Speeder Bike has been depicted in promotional material for the show, seen heavily in the trailers for the series and a great way to package the two leads in one smaller set. I am however slightly shocked by the Tusken Raider, hut and launcher, I would have thought that Lego would have cashed in very quickly on Cobb Vanth and his Podracer engine-turned-Speeder Bike, but this could purely be hindsight as, at the time this set was devised, the popularity of Timothy Olyphant’s character was known only to the readers of the ‘Aftermath Trilogy’, and I’m sure we’ll get that set in the future.

Looking at the images, this set looks pretty screen-accurate, the Speeder-Bike looks spot on, even for a smaller vehicle and the Hut and Campfire are a really nice detail to add for collectors to display (I’m already planning mine).

In all honesty, this will probably be the only set I pick up in the first Wave next year, with the majority of the sets being updated to older sets (with less pieces), this is the only “New” set. Luckily this will give me a chance to catch up on some of this years sets I haven’t had chance to pick up yet (and focus time to finally build the ‘Ewok Village’).

More info on the set will arrive with next weeks #MandoMonday event, but given the piece-count, I think we’ll be looking at around a £25 price-point, £30 at a push which is pretty standard for this size set.

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Star Wars: The Will of Tarkin Part 2

In the midst of battle, Commander Zahara finally comes face-to-face with her quarry, Leia Organa.

In a flashback, we see a conversation between Vader and Palpatine who tasks Vader with hunting down the Rebels after the events of ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ but Vader refuses but tasks Zahara, who has been overseeing an Imperial Mining Operation on Kessel to do the job.

As the Rebels Fourth Division takes the fight to Zahara’s fleet, with Leia on the Seventh Divisions flagship and Luke leading the fighter squadrons against the TIE Fighters.

Commander Zahara leads a Boarding Party who blast their way through Leia’s ship and sabotage the Engines, the only way to get them working again is to send Leia to her and she’ll reactivate them.

Leia goes to Zahara whilst Luke and the fighters along with Lando and Chewie in the Falcon manage to destroy enough enemy fighters to allow Wedge and the rest of the fighters on Home One a chance to join the battle.

Zahara taunts Leia in the engine room, firing at her from the shadows and attacking her with a sword. Zahara is ready to kill Leia but is thwarted by the arrival of Luke. Zahara threatens to kill Luke, but tells him that Vader wants him alive. The Imperial Fleet escapes after Zahara reaches her ship.

Zahara tells Lieutenant Gorr that even though she didn’t kill Leia this time, that she has gotten under Leia’s skin, and that will break Leia’s spirit bit-by-bit, which could lead to a bigger issue for the Rebellion.

This two-part story has been great. Full of action and character development, we really get to know Commander Zahara who looks to be the main antagonist of this run. We finally get a villain on the same level as Leia, Han had Boba Fett and Jabba, Luke had Vader and now Leia has an antagonist who will be a great foil for the Princess. I’d like to see a real game of Cat and Mouse between the two of them to really drive the series forward.

There is some amazing imagery of the space battle and the fighter dogfights, the fleet combat looks great too and the return of Wedge is great to see.

A short but memorable story arc that really places Zahara high on the list of memorable villains, her drive to avenge the memory of her former mentor, Tarkin and prove she is worthy of his forgiveness, even if he’s dead, just go to show how determined she is to accomplish her goals.

And with a new story arc about to start which looks like it will tie-in to the upcoming ‘High Republic’ in a big way, the anticipation can only get higher.

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#CollectionCorner Episode 8 – An Unpacking

This is the eighth episode of the #CollectionCorner VLog, This week I unpack some Hasbro ‘Black Series’ figures, and I’m pretty excited.

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Doctor Aphra: Fortune and Fate Part 5

The first arc draws to an enjoyable and an incredible ‘Indiana Jones’ style conclusion.

Now on Canto Bight, Aphra and her crew are the Prisoners of Ronan Tagge, who gets to do a Bond-Villain style monologue about why he wants to destroy the Rings of Vaale (bit of a pain-in-the-ass Kid who is living in his family’s shadow). Aphra, knowing he also want to kill Professor Okka so that all knowledge of the Rings would be destroyed. Aphra sets it up so that Tagge would attempt to destroy the Rings and Okka together whilst testing the Rings powers of eternal life and fortune.

Tagge throws Okka into a disintegration chamber that her Droid TA-148 has accessed and decreased the chambers power. Believing the deception, Tagge takes the rings from Okka and is thrown into the chamber. Aphra resets the chamber and activates it.

The crew escape whilst Lucky, seeing something going on in Tagge’s apartment makes his way there to find the body of Ronan Tagge, still alive but severely injured.

Aphra and her team discuss the recent events and lack of evidence, but Okka’s Droid had made some detailed scans of Vaale and took some souvenirs to prove its existence.

Meanwhile, Lucky visits Ronan’s Aunt, Lady Domina who wants revenge on Aphra.

Whilst being fairly confined to Ronan Tagge’s Penthouse, there’s enough action to make the scope feel much grander. Tagge’s juvenile attitude really plays to the forefront here, his entire plan for the rings is essentially to destroy them in an effort to be noticed and taken seriously as a member of the prestigious Tagge family, but really it comes across as a whiny brat who wants his own way. I’m hoping that if (when) he returns, he’s dropped that element of his personality and comes back as a much stronger villain. I’m not saying he’s a bad villain, he’s exactly what we needed for this particular story but with him surviving it really gives Alyssa Wong a chance to play around with the character and give him some growth, even if it is to make him more villainous.

We get a rare opportunity to see Aphra’s softer side when she talks to Okka about why she threw Okka under the bus, Aphra will always be a shady character, there’s no getting around that but she does have that soft, caring side that doesn’t always get to come out, but when it does it’s lovely. My hope is that, one day the character gets a chance to fully let that side out but that won’t be for a while because there are plenty more stories to tell about the shady rogue archaeologist.

The arc overall has been great, a slap-dash mix of ‘Indiana Jones’ with a ‘Star Wars’ twist with Tagge being an excellent representation of Julian Glover’s Walter Donovan from ‘The Last Crusade’ but a healthy dose of horror manages to keep the story fresh and as always a cute Droid to save the day in a moment that reminded me of when Jon Osterman is blasted in the radiation chamber that transforms him into Dr. Manhattan in ‘Watchmen’.

A successful first arc for Aphra’s new creative team, and the next arc looks to be a heavy one for our beloved anti-hero, with Domina Tagge after revenge and the return of Sana Starros. Very exciting.

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#CollectionCorner Episode 7 – Han Solo

This episode I take a look at the ‘Han Solo’ from ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ Black Series figure from Hasbro.

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Darth Vader: Into the Fire Part 1

Vader is in trouble!

Palpatine is very displeased with his apprentice who has allowed his anger and hate to slip away and become grief-stricken after his encounter with Sabé and the Amidalans.

Vader is struck with the Emperor’s lightning before being attacked by the Royal Guards. Mas Amedda tells Vader that his actions, allowing Luke to escape and not wiping out Sabé and her band of rebels survive, are surmountable to treason and punishable by death but Palpatine doesn’t want to lose his prize pupil.

Palpatine destroys Vader’s cybernetic limbs that replaced those he lost to Obi-Wan before taking him to Mustafaar and dumping him where Obi-Wan struck him down. Palpatine then tells Vader that he must build himself back up on his own, as Vader reaches for his lightsaber with the Force he is chastised and told that if he uses the Force his Master will know and his punishment will be more severe.

Vader manages to crawl towards the Techno Union stronghold where his and Obi-Wan’s battle started whilst Palpatine and Mas Amedda watch from a distance.

Even though we have seen Vader suffer at the hands of The Emperor in the previous Darth Vader comic series’, this issue, for me, really shows the evil lengths the Sith Masters would go to keep their apprentices in line.

Palpatine steps away from his emotional torment of Vader and rather than a mere blast of Force Lightning, he essentially has Vader beaten by his thugs and then in true evil overlord fashion, strikes the final blows by rendering Vader, in a manner of speaking, useless. Taking away three of his limbs and forbids Vader from using the one thing he has relied on for most of his life, The Force.

This issue starts to establish why Vader seems so downtrodden in ‘Return of the Jedi’ when in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ he is on top of his game, after winning back Palpatine’s favour in Kieron Gillen’s ‘Darth Vader’ series, but in ‘Return of the Jedi’ he comes across more like a wounded puppy, almost begging his master to acknowledge his triumphs. Vader is used as a messenger in the beginning of the film, and later banished to The Executor. When Vader dares to return to The Death Star with the news that Luke is on the Forest Moon he is questioned, obviously, now we begin to understand why and if Palpatine hadn’t believed him then I can only assume that a similar punishment would have met Vader in the Throne Room. Like ‘The Clone Wars’ giving us more insight into why Anakin turns his back on the Jedi in ‘ Revenge of the Sith’, this series is giving us a deeper look into why Vader is conflicted when it comes down to him fighting Luke, and it’s not just because if he doesn’t he will be killed and I get the feeling this comic run will make us see that duel in a different light once it reaches its conclusion.

This already strong series continues to get stronger in terms of the story and the lore building that goes with it. It’s truly brutal to see and makes you really feel for Vader, despite the evil deeds he has committed and allows us to follow his path to redemption more closely.

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