About the Author:
Jason Fry lives in Brooklyn, New York, USA with his wife and son.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
3.4 out of 5
Star Wars: Rebels - Servants Of The Empire: Edge Of The Galaxy
6 BBY. The first book of the Servants of the Empire series, set just before the first season of the 'Rebels' TV series. This book follows Zare Leonis, a teenage student whose grandest dream is to join the Imperial Academy on Lothal and then serve the Galactic Empire. However, events soon conspire to reveal to him that the Empire he loves is a sham, hiding a grim and brutal reality.
I've long enjoyed Fry's various Star Wars writings, but this is the first time I'd read one of his novels. Sadly, this book does two things that I always dislike. The first is having its main characters uncover a mystery to which we, the readers, are already party; in this case the fact that the Empire is bad. The second thing is that it focuses on sports.
I'm not a fan of sports at the best of times and certainly have no interest in reading about them, particularly in the case of fictional sports, whose rules you have to tediously try to figure out if you're to follow what's going on in the ubiquitous 'big game'. Here Fry bases the rules and style of Grav-Ball on American Football but, as an Englishman, that didn't really help me to get a grasp on it. Also, I've just never understood the way in which school sports are played and followed with an almost religious fervour in America and that is exactly how Grav-Ball is represented in this book. I'll admit it's certainly a new idea for a Star Wars story, but really not one that appealed to me.
That first element that I disliked, however, did manage to redeem itself. Sure, we know from Page 1 that the Empire is evil and up to shady things, so to begin with it is a little frustrating to see the main characters rationalising things to keep the Empire looking rosy. However, Fry does a good job of showing us Zare's gradual disillusionment and, ultimately, his loss of innocence.
Overall, not as good as I had hoped for from the author but good enough to intrigue me into reading the rest of the series (as if there was any doubt, considering my obsession with Star Wars!).
3 out of 5
Star Wars: Rebels - Servants Of The Empire: Imperial Justice
Book three of the series, set approximately 4 BBY. Continuing his deception as a model student at the Imperial Academy, Zare Leonis finds himself faced with a difficult moral dilemma as he is forced into the front lines of the Empire's ruthless and fascistic control of the planet Lothal. Elsewhere, Merei Spanjaf becomes increasingly involved with the criminal underground and comes ever-closer to being caught by the Imperial authorities.
This is a far better book than the previous two books of the series, as there's a real sense of desperation and danger to both Zare's and Merei's storylines. The failings of the last book have been improved and I particularly liked the moment when Zare decides to draw a line in how far he's willing to go to blend in with the Empire's troops.
Once again, Merei is the best element of the book and it's great to read about how she develops an unlikely attachment to the criminals whom she finds herself forced to work with. The grim conclusion to this storyline was one that has every bit as much impact as it needs.
Overall, a far more exciting and enjoyable read than the other books, which leaves you hungry to read the conclusion to the story in book four.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: Rebels - Servants Of The Empire: Rebel In The Ranks
5 BBY. The second book of the series, set during the first season of the 'Rebels' TV series. Zare Leonis has infiltrated the Imperial Academy on Lothal in the hope of finding clues to the disappearance of his sister. Meanwhile his girlfriend Merei uses her talents as a slicer to get ever-deeper into the Imperial network in an attempt to aid Zare's mission.
The vast majority of this book was okay. Just okay. Whilst occasionally Zare's storyline tackles interesting issues, such as should he be helping fellow cadets to become better Imperial officers, for the majority it is just repetition of militaristic training tasks and assessments. I was pleased by the absence of grav-ball but it made me realise the big problem with this series; Zare's just not that interesting a character. Without grav-ball, there's nothing that really makes him stand out from the crowd. Sure, his rebellious nature regarding the Empire should do that but he has to hide that part of himself anyway.
Far more interesting and enjoyable were the scenes dealing with Merei's mission, which includes her making deals with the criminal underworld and infiltrating an Imperial ministry. Adding tension to Merei's storyline is the fact that her parents, loyal Imperial citizens, are the people who the Empire employs to root out criminals doing exactly what she does.
The final third of this book is a retelling, from Zare's point of view, of the episode of the TV series in which Ezra infiltrates the Imperial Academy. I'm in two minds about this section. On the one hand, being tied to the plotting and scripting of the cartoon makes things seem stunted and awkward, but on the other hand it was interesting to read Zare's thoughts on events and, in particular, on the cocky new cadet. Once again it was Merei's participation which proved the best part, in a brilliant scene where she manages to impress Zeb and Sabine.
I keep waiting for Fry to blow me away since, as I said, I'm a big fan of his other Star Wars writing. Unfortunately, it looks like I'll have to keep waiting for now.
3 out of 5
Star Wars: Rebels - Servants Of The Empire: The Secret Academy
4 BBY. The fourth and final book of the Servants of the Empire series. In this book Zare has been transferred to the Imperial Academy on Arkanis where a mysterious secret society of cadets may be his chance of finally locating his missing sister. Meanwhile, back on Lothal, Merei's deceptions begin to come unravelled and she must put a desperate plan into action to save herself, her family and her friends from the vengeance of the Empire.
This is a strong end to the series and, like with the previous book, both Zare's and Merei's storylines make for compelling reading as each of them reaches the point where they can no-longer live a lie and must come out in open defiance of the Empire.
I also enjoyed the fact that the book ties in closely with the final few episodes of the Rebels TV series' first season, in which the crew of the Ghost undertake their own full-scale rebellion. Here we get to see the impacts of Ezra's broadcast across Lothal, the affect that the death of the Inquisitor has on Zare's mission and what Ezra, Zeb and Sabine get up to in the immediate aftermath of season one's finale.
For those of you keen to get involved in the so-called 'Journey to The Force Awakens' (Lord knows I'm not, but that's because it represents Disney destroying my beloved Expanded Universe) then you'll be interested to see Commandant Hux, whose opinions on training Stormtroopers from birth are taken up by his son in Episode VII.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: The Weapon Of A Jedi
0 ABY. Whilst on a mission for the Rebellion, Luke Skywalker finds himself grounded on Devaron where he feels a strange pull towards an abandoned temple in the jungle.
Because I'm a big fan of the old EU canon and have no interest in (evil) Disney's new post-RotJ canon, I avoided reading this on the basis that it's part of the Journey to The Force Awakens series. However, I learned that, aside from a very brief Prologue and Epilogue, the majority of this book is set shortly after 'A New Hope' and therefore decided to give it a go.
Things started really strongly here, with Luke flying his X-Wing alongside Wedge Antilles as part of Red Squadron. It immediately gave me that pleasant feeling of settling in for an adventure alongside old friends. I also liked the way that Luke decides to go somewhat off-mission in order to follow the pull of the Force, a nice nod to his competing motivations of fighting for the Rebellion and learning to become a Jedi. The idea of Luke setting off alone to explore a long-abandoned Jedi Temple had me hooked.
The problems arise, however, from exactly when this story takes place. I've always despaired of Han, Luke and Leia stories set 'just after the Death Star is destroyed' for the dual reasons that a) there's already far too many of them and b) very little actual character development can happen. This second point is exactly what trips this book up here. By the necessity of having to fit in with the events of 'The Empire Strikes Back', there's very little development of Luke's Jedi training that can happen here and, in fact, Luke's pondering on the dangers of the dark side is at odds with him learning about them for the first time from Yoda (sure Obi-Wan mentions it, but without any explanation). So, by the end of this short book Luke has learned almost nothing new and has done nothing which significantly adds to his saga. It's not that it's a bad book, it's just that it's an inconsequential one.
And if you are interested in the links to 'The Force Awakens', then they amount to the aforementioned Prologue/Epilogue (basically just a conversation between Threepio and a Resistance pilot), the inclusion of happabores and a single background character from Jakku. There are no significant narrative links.
3 out of 5