The sprawling casino city of Canto Bight might sparkles with promises of great things, but hides a darker side. The latest tie-in novel to Star Wars: The Last Jedi explores the newest location and it’s less than savory aspects through multiple stories that make up one of the more engaging Star Wars novels of late. Come inside to check out my full review!
Canto Bight launched earlier this month as a tie-in to The Last Jedi, giving us a glimpse at one of the film’s all new locations. The novel unfolds through a series of four short stories/novellas (all from different authors), each telling a different story about the lavish casino city.
Canto Bight isn’t your ordinary place. Sitting within an otherwise unassuming desert planet (Cantonica), the city has built itself up as the pinnacle of entertainment. Think of it like Las Vegas here on Earth, but cranked up to 11. The four stories are presented in this order:
Rules of the Game - An honest salesman meets a career criminal as a dream vacation turns into the worst nightmare imaginable in a story by Saladin Ahmed.
The Wine in Dreams - Dreams and schemes collide when a deal over a priceless bottle of wine becomes a struggle for survival as told by Mira Grant.
Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing - Old habits die hard when a servant is forced into the mad struggle for power among Canto Bight's elite in a tale by Rae Carson.
The Ride - A deadbeat gambler has one last chance to turn his luck around, all he has to do is survive one wild night as told by John Jackson Miller.
Each author brings their own unique style to the galaxy far, far away and do an excellent job of bringing this new world to life. Three of them are newcomers to the Star Wars books, but they dive into the material headfirst and deliver tales that mesh well with what’s already been established while opening up exciting new possibilities.
I can’t think of a single complaint in regards to the writing style from any of them. The descriptions are vivid, the characters engaging, and each story has its own themes and elements that make will make them easy to come back to. I won’t delve too deeply into each story presented in the book, but each one highlights a different aspect the casino city.
"Rules of the Game" is the perfect opener for the novel. Presented primarily through the perspective of Kedpin Shoklop who’s won a trip to the casino city and is the ultimate fish out of water tourist. His naivete and awe at the wonders is a great entry point for newcomers (the readers). From his eyes we can see the impressive aspect of nature and follow along as he learns the hard truth about the city.
With that out of the way, we’re thrust straight into a story all about the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing that’s commonplace in the city. "Wine in Dreams" introduces us to a pair of strange alien sisters and a plan to secure some high class wine. It may seems like such an inconsequential item, but that’s the point. Canto Bight is ALL about appearances; especially the appearance of power.
Lexo Sooger’s particular set of skills from his past are put to use for nefarious purposes in “Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing.” A corrupt politician takes his daughter hostage in order to force Lexo into becoming an informant on Canto Bight’s upper echelon. From his perspective we get a deeper dive into the further reaching nature of the city, and some things can have a galactic impact.
John Jackson Miller (a veteran in Star Wars books) wraps things up the story of professional gambler Kaljach Sonmi. He’s trying to gamble his way out of his big debts and seems set to succeed when he comes across the triplets Dodi, Thodi, and Wodi.
All of these stories stand on their own, but mesh together in ways that make them stronger on the whole. While you can certainly enjoy each story by themselves, they work well in sequence. It’s a testament not only to the authors working together and crafting this story, but the editors in charge of the order and ensuring the mesh well.
To be entirely honest, I’ve never been huge on books of short stories. I don’t know why, but even in the days of the Expanded Universe I struggled with them. From a Certain Point of View worked for me because most of those were super short (just a handful of pages), but on the whole, I don’t enjoy them. So imagine my surprise when I found that I simply couldn’t put Canto Bight down.
Between the engaging new characters and the backdrop of the new location, I was fascinated. The writing is excellent throughout, managing to each be unique while complementing the other stories being told. Having read the book just before seeing The Last Jedi, it gave me a new perspective on Finn and Rose’s adventure to the casino city. It provides some interesting background, adding depth to the scenes along with some characters to look out for.
Canto Bight works great on its own, with strong themes and character work that I could easily see myself coming back to later on down the road to enjoy again. More than that, however, it also works as a great companion piece to The Last Jedi. While it may not offer up any deep plot points, it certainly enhances the middle section of the film where Canto Bight plays a significant part.