Star Wars Aftermath: Empire's End (Novel)
For her role in the deadly ambush, Grand Admiral Rae Sloane is the most wanted Imperial war criminal—and one-time rebel pilot Norra Wexley, back in service at Leia’s urgent request, is leading the hunt. But more than just loyalty to the New Republic drives Norra forward: Her husband was turned into a murderous pawn in Sloane’s assassination plot, and now she wants vengeance as much as justice.
But Sloane, too, is on a furious quest: pursuing the treacherous Gallius Rax to the barren planet Jakku. As the true mastermind behind the Empire’s devastating attack, Rax has led the Empire to its defining moment. The cunning strategist has gathered the powerful remnants of the Empire’s war machine, preparing to execute the late Emperor Palpatine’s final plan. As the Imperial fleet orbits Jakku, an armada of Republic fighters closes in to finish what began at Endor. Norra and her crew soar into the heart of an apocalyptic clash that will leave land and sky alike scorched. And the future of the galaxy will finally be decided.
Chuck Wendig returns to conclude the Star Wars: Aftermath trilogy, giving Star Wars fans a glimpse into the events following the end of Return of the Jedi. As the title implies, it’s all coming down to one final showdown, but is the adventure worth it? Come inside to check out my review!
Empire’s End picks up a few months after Life Debt, as Norra Wexley and her ragtag crew (including an ex-Imperial, Bounty Hunter, a murderous droid, and her own son) are trying to pick up the trail for Grand Admiral Rae Sloane.
Sloane’s escape from Republic justice has left Norra with a drive for vengeance and her journey brings the group into the very heart of the amassed Imperial forces over the (seemingly) insignificant world of Jakku. Blinded by her desire for vengeance, Norra rushes to get on the planet (with Jas Emari along to help), leaving her son Temmin, and Sinjir alone to escape back to the New Republic.
Desperate to rescue their friends/family Temmin and Sinjir must find a way to convince the top brass to let them stage a rescue or go to battle to finish the war once and for all. While the destruction of the Empire is something everyone wants, there are some unexpected complications along the way.
Though the premise seems fairly straightforward, it leads into one of the most engaging battles in the new Star Wars canon. Not to mention the fact that it ties up some loose ends that have been teased since the first book’s release. Gallius Rax, the trilogy’s primary villain, brings his ultimate plan to fruition, and while it’s not what I was really expecting (and I doubt others were too), I felt it made a lot of sense.
In the efforts of keeping this review spoiler free (don’t worry, I have a big spoiler break-down coming soon) I think I’ll keep it at that. In terms of the story, it brings about a fairly tidy conclusion to the Aftermath tale, while planting the seeds for future stories.
Wrapping the Trilogy
I know some people have been upset with this book series for various reasons, but I’ve long contended the heart of their issue is that the Aftermath series isn’t what people were expecting. Being the first canonical books set to take place immediately after Return of the Jedi, many were hoping to see a more thorough breakdown of the history between ROTJ and The Force Awakens.
That simply isn’t the case, and the story is far more contained than that. Really, it only takes up about a year (or two) worth of time, so it only chronicles the end of the Empire and shows how the New Republic started getting on its feet.
There are hints and teases about things to come, but those who went into this series looking for answers need to remember there’s still three decades between Empire’s End and The Force Awakens. What we’re getting are the beginning of things that will eventually lead into some of the stuff we’re seeing in the new sequel films.
Coming from that perspective, I think fans will enjoy Empire’s End quite a bit. Except for Aftermath, all of the other new canon Star Wars books have been standalone novels, so for me, I was curious to see how Empire’s End would do in terms of concluding the first novel trilogy we’ve seen since Disney came to town.
I enjoyed the first two novels if for nothing other than the new characters they introduced. Say what you will about the writing style (though Empire’s End felt strong and hardly noticeable in that regard), it’s hard to deny the strength/fun of the new characters. The banter between them feels natural, and the genuine sense of camaraderie between everyone is refreshing.
What makes the story feel so engaging is the fact that it’s so easy to care for the characters involved. Knowing how they all started in the first Aftermath book, it’s neat to see where they end up and how they’ve changed. In this, Empire’s End feels very satisfying, leaving the characters in places they’ve grown into.
It’s definitely the end of their story and it ties in nicely to see what ultimately happens to the remainder of the Empire. From that angle, Empire’s End, manages to wrap things up pretty neatly, giving a definitive conclusion to the battle between the New Republic and Empire and giving us insight to a showdown that’s been teased for a couple years now.
Quick and Engaging
Speaking of the battles, Empire’s End brings some impressive action. The final third of the book is pretty much one gigantic battle, and it’s incredibly well done. I dare say, this is some of the best written Star Wars battles since some of the old Expanded Universe books (i.e. Rogue Squadron). On top of taking place on such a grand scale, the battle is punctuated by smaller character moments, which add a great deal of tension that will keep you flipping the pages.
The book moves along at a quick pace, and despite being the longest of the trilogy it doesn’t feel like it. I mean, when I got my review copy I was dealing with a two-week old baby, and all the lack of sleep/time that comes with it. Even so, I was able to breeze through the novel in just a few days. Granted, sometimes when rocking a fussy baby, reading is all I could do, but it was still engaging enough to keep me reading (and awake).
It’s a fast-paced story with a lot of loose ends to tie-up, but it manages to do so in a very satisfactory way. By the time I flipped the last page there was a sense of finality to it. While there are still stories to be told, obviously, Empire’s End feels like a true ending to this story arc. The story threads left dangling are nice teases for OTHER tales, making you interested in see what’s to come without leaving you unfulfilled.
Empire’s End has a solid story with characters you can’t help but enjoy. They’re quirky, charming, hilarious, and above all...they feel real. There’s a lot to enjoy while reading this book, but I did have some minor issues here and there.
While the book is a quick read, the overall pacing of the story felt a little off. The first half of the book feels like it jumps around quite a bit without doing a whole lot for the bigger story. That’s not to say those parts are boring by any stretch of the imagination, just that they seem superfluous in the bigger picture. The latter half of the novel, by comparison, is a straight shot with all the elements coming together nicely.
Secondly, there were a few character moments that felt at odds with their previous interpretations. I’m not talking about the book’s main characters, but the “legacy” movie characters that appear throughout the book. One of my favorite aspects in the previous novel, Life Debt, was how good a job Wendig did with handling characters like Han and Leia. The “big three” from the films can be hit or miss in their interpretations, but I thought he nailed it beautifully in Life Debt.
As such, I was really surprised with the way Han and Mon Mothma handled certain story points in the book. Specifically, considering what we know of the characters, their reactions in a couple scenes just felt...wrong.
I’ll give an example of one that comes early in the book, and doesn’t have much real impact on the story, so it’s not a true spoiler. In Temmin’s efforts to get back to Jakku to rescue his mother, he tries to call in a favor from Han, essentially guilting him into helping them get back on the planet. Han’s concession is to let them borrow the Millennium Falcon, without him coming along.
Seriously, just letting two people, only one of whom can fly a ship (but is still a kid in training) run off with his pride and joy seems out of character. I mean, that’s his HOME, and a key aspect of his life. After parting ways with Chewie, I can’t see him being so willing to give up his ship while he stays behind.
Aside from a handful of those moments, and some minor pacing issues, I didn’t have many problems with Empire’s End. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and found it easy to look past these quibbles I had. None of them kept me from liking the story and being engaged in the action.