Good and Evil is More than the Light and Dark Side
How do good people come to commit great acts of evil? Does that make them evil in turn? These are the questions that Star Wars has always concerned itself with. But where it normally tells the story of the Jedi and how emotions can tip the scales and lead a hero to the Dark Side (“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda), this story, like the newest movie, The Force Awakens, concerns itself with the Imperial forces that so often serve as nameless, faceless troops.
Cienna Ree is a poor girl from the planet Jelucan. She is one of the valley-folk who believe hard work, honor, and an oath are the highest of all callings. Thane Kyrell is a second-waver, from a rich, self-important family that has never cared much for him. They may be from the same planet, but they might as well be from different worlds. If not for the fact that the two share one dream, one love: flying. They form an unlikely friendship, built on the desire to become pilots. Together they practice, building each other up, so that one day they can fly for the Empire, which seeks to bring order and stability to the galaxy.Mostly, Thane just wants to fly and escape his cruel family. Cienna believes the Empire can bring aid to those in need and wants to bring honor to her family. Thanks to their joint training, the pair not only get accepted into an elite Imperial Academy, they excel. They become first in their year and upon graduation are given important postings. But as they serve, their paths diverge. Thane becomes disillusioned with the Empire as he sees the destruction and devastation it creates while Cienna remains steadfast to her oath to serve and rages against the rebels that kills someone she cares for. When Cienna and Thane end up on opposite sides, can their love for each other and their inner goodness overcome everything that threatens to tear them apart?
I have read a number of Star Wars books over the years, but this might be my favorite. Cienna and Thane are both well-defined, real people who are relatable and easy to root for. Even as they make bad choices, you hope they will be able to see their mistakes and make up for them. In some ways they remain naive even as they reach the point where they should be jaded, but where it can be a turn-off in other stories, there is something endearing about this quality in Cienna and Thane. This book puts a face on the nameless masses that help the Empire reach its great successes and shows how they might have come to fight for a tyrant.
The only thing that ruined my reading experience was the fact that I kept trying to figure out how everything fit into the bigger Star Wars universe. The back-of-book summary promises some sneak peeks into the new movie and I could not help but scrutinize every new character, every ship, every incident to see if I could figure out what pieces would be relevant. Is there a character with the last name Ree or Kyrell? What about Windrider? Should I have heard of the planet Jelucan or the ship Mighty Oak Apocalypse? The questions were distracting and made it harder to stay in the mindset of the book. The exact timeline of the book is not laid out clearly in comparison to the cinematic universe. It took a lot to decipher when things in the book lined up with events in the movie. It was almost like a puzzle that I would have liked to spent less time solving, but it was not enough to keep me from enjoying Lost Stars anyway.