This week’s book report will really feel like high school because Lost Stars is technically a young adult novel. Even though it has the most--um--adult content out of all of the Star Wars novels I’ve read so far. To clarify, it doesn’t cross the border to Star Wars smut, but let’s just say it’s extremely gratifying to have the two characters you want to get together actually physicalize their affections.
I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll give you the basic details of the book and then give you the chance to pick up your own copy of the book. This is in my top three SW novels I’ve read so far, so I seriously encourage you to read it yourself. Don’t be fooled by the length, the “young adult” language makes it an easy read.
Published: 2015 by Egmont Press
Time Period: Spans from 8 years after the birth of the Empire (After Episode III: Revenge of the Sith) to a year after the birth of the New Republic (After Episode VI: Return of the Jedi). A good portion of the novel runs concurrently with the original trilogy.
Setting: All over the galaxy! Notable planets include Jelucan, Coruscant, Alderaan, Yavin, Hoth, and Endor.
Characters You Already Know: Grand Moff Tarkin, Princess Leia, Wedge Antilles, and Darth Vader; Han Solo and Luke Skywalker are mentioned but never seen.
Synopsis: On the eighth anniversary of the Empire taking control of the galaxy, the people of Jelucan gather for Empire Day. Two children who come from different social classes find each other and bond over their desire to become pilots in the Imperial Fleet. Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree begin training together every day despite their families’ hesitation to let them stay friends. Their friendship prevails and the two kids push each other to become incredible pilots and they are accepted into the best Imperial Academy. As they grow as individuals and friends, their lives are forever changed by the destruction of Alderaan. One of them leaves the Imperial service and the other one stays, but their connection tethers them together throughout the war.
That synopsis doesn’t even do it justice. It’s really, really good. Go read it and then come back to read this article.
Art by Lornaka
It’s a tale as old as time. A poor girl who defines herself by her honor meets a rich boy who’s been abused by his family; together they dream of joining a fleet and flying away from their home planet. It’s hard to not fall in love with Thane and Ciena immediately, and any romantic out there is rooting for them to fall in love with each other. (Spoiler alert: your wish comes true.)
Lost Stars is over 500 pages long, and I could go on for days unpacking the content. In fact, as soon as I finished the book I googled “Lost Stars sequel.” The current answer is that it doesn’t exist--yet. The book was published only 6 years ago, which means that the time for a sequel may be upon us. The ending of the book definitely opens up the possibility for more.
The best part of reading this book was the giddiness I felt when the story’s timeline aligned with the Star Wars timeline we already know. In the movies, we concentrate on the action of the big three, and this novel opens up the narrative to include the other fighters in the background. We see the Empire grow through the eyes of two children, and the book humanizes those who grew up with the Empire. Thane and Ciena idealized the Empire because they were indoctrinated into it without knowing any alternative.
Cover art for the Lost Stars Graphic Novel Series
When Thane ultimately joins the Rebellion, he doesn’t do so because he believes in the idea of a New Republic. He joins because of the hatred for bullies he had developed as a kid when his father abused him. Thane gains his first taste of disillusionment while in the Imperial Academy, but the avalanche of emotion caused by the obliteration of Alderaan followed by the realization that the Empire was enslaving entire races made him realize the Empire was the biggest bully of them all.
It takes Ciena much longer to stop justifying the actions of the Republic. Her status in the Empire allowed her to advance beyond her social status, but it goes far beyond that. Ciena’s culture is heavily steeped in honor and oath-keeping, and she takes her oath to serve the Empire very seriously. Although she stops agreeing with the actions taken by the Empire, she rationalizes the war efforts to stop the “terrorists” as necessary casualties of battle. She doesn’t want to abandon the friends she’s made in the Empire, and when it comes down to it she decides she’d rather die than defect.
The characters’ only weakness is each other. This is a book for romantics through and through. Even when fighting against each other, Thane and Ciena risk everything to keep each other safe. Their dedication to each other surpasses their dedication to their fighting causes, and readers will spend most of the book mentally screaming at Ciena to leave the Empire and be with Thane already. I also really appreciate that Gray had their love bloom as they grew up. When they were kids, they were best friends. Gray did an excellent job of taking their relationship to the next level naturally.
Although we already know how terrible the Empire is, it was still just as heartbreaking to go along the journey with two characters who had to make the discovery at their own pace. Readers actually feel bad for Imperials who thought they were making the galaxy a better place. The novel shows that not all of the Imperials were heartless and cruel. The dramatic irony of it all is that we know all along what the Empire truly is.
I give Lost Stars five stars. I really want to read more of Gray’s work, so stay tuned for more reports on her books. If you’ve read Lost Stars, share your favorite moments in the comments because I would LOVE to talk more about it!
Unattributed Sketch of Thane and Ciena