Review – Innocence Lost and Love Found In Zoraida Córdova’s A Crash of Fate
At its best, Star Wars is a love story. Love led to the undoing and salvation of some of the biggest characters in the franchise. More often than not, when you hear fans discuss stories they are most compelled by, the events and movements can be distilled down to love. Love in Star Wars can be the bond of friendship, family, or romance. Characters in the most desolate, desperate circumstances reach for the emotional oasis in their darkest moments and we watch them leap off its foundation to find courage and strength when they need it most. Star Wars is many things to many people but the underlying current of love demonstrated between characters who find themselves tethered to each other is arguably one of the things bringing people back – whether they know it or not. Zoraida Córdova has written a story emblematic of love I’m confident will deeply move any Star Wars fan who finds A Crash of Fate in their hands.
Before I get into the story, I’d first like to tip my hat to Córdova on her excellent descriptions of Black Spire Outpost. I had no intention of attending Galaxy’s Edge in Anaheim for at least a year and maybe more, only due to my apprehension about crowds. After finishing A Crash of Fate I felt like I’d been walking around in Black Spire Outpost for hours. Sights, smells, and people are all given equal attention in the vivid descriptors of this book. I feel like any fan who’s about to hop a plane for either Disney park should get A Crash of Fate in their library before they go. Córdova’s descriptive writing is superb and makes one of the newer planetary additions to the canon feel familiar. The backdrop of this story is as strongly realized as its characters and it allows you not only to immerse yourself in their story but the world in which it unfolds.
A Crash of Fate is the story of Izzy and Jules. The above cropping of the cover by Matt Griffin is the only visual reference I had but it’s very symbolic of the themes of empathy and loyalty woven into the essence of these characters. As I read, I kept turning back to the cover to look at this and so many times it struck me to be a nearly perfect piece of art to represent the uphill journey this story puts them on. This is one of my favorite Star Wars novel covers. Whether Izzy reaches down to help Jules, or the roles are reversed, they continue this endearing safeguarding of one another from childhood to adulthood. We see their relationship fracture in a heartbreaking suddenness but get to watch it naturally repair itself and separate the pull from the push. The sadness this story fills you with in its beginning is washed away by the end of the last page, replaced by the optimism of young love in a very uncertain galaxy.
While I don’t consider this a SPOILER review, I do get into some plot points, so if you do intend to open this book fresh, you may want to skip to the last paragraph and my rating.
Córdova introduces us to Izzy Garsea and Jules Rakab as children, ages five and six, living their lives on Batuu. Immediately you can detect their bond. They are far removed from Black Spire Outpost, but climbing a spire. The chapter primes you for the author’s gift of world building because it’s very well done but comes at you fast. That’s no complaint because Córdava has a lot of story to tell in a small amount of time. After learning Jules dreams of someday buying his own ship and exploring the galaxy, they nearly fall to their deaths, but Izzy saves Jules. In a touching exchange, she affirms she considers him her best friend. They part ways but later in the night Izzy awakens aboard her parents ship. They’ve left Batuu abruptly and Izzy’s devastated she wasn’t able to say goodbye. If your heart aches during this prologue I was right there with you.
The book is structured by character perspective chapters, split between Izzy and Jules. This style helps engage the reader and invest in the relationship between Izzy and Jules. With each chapter I cared more and more about their happiness. They are good people with flaws, but genuine hearts who want to find a path to partnership however the extreme circumstances permit them too. We rejoin Izzy, thirteen years later, and she’s now part of a lawless crew and in a toxic relationship with a man named Damar. Izzy’s self-worth has been chipped away by this scumbag (I really hated Damar) and she’s eventually betrayed by him and the crew when they ditch her and leave her for broke. Izzy inherited her mother’s ship and it’s all she’s left with, but she needs credits badly. Upon accepting a job from a well-connected stranger who claims to know Izzy’s late mother (as well as her mothers mysterious background), she finds herself headed back to Batuu.
Before we get to Jules, it should be noted this takes place after the events of The Last Jedi. The destruction of the New Republic is mentioned but Batuu is still far removed from the conflict. That is slowly starting to change, as we meet present-day Jules and learn the First Order have begun to increase their presence on Batuu, specifically Black Spire Outpost. Residents of Batuu are confused by the First Order’s encroachment of their world but there is no conflict. People on Batuu are primarily concerned with their own day-to-day problems, especially people like Jules whose lives consist of just trying to make it through the day. Jules works on a farm outside of Black Spire Outpost and lives with his sister. He’s kept his eye on the stars, hoping to leave Batuu someday and explore the galaxy, but nervous to take depart his familiar surroundings. When a courier for Dok-Ondar appears requesting Jules’ help with a task it puts him back on the trajectory of reuniting with Izzy.
We learn Jules never stopped thinking about his friend Izzy. While she’s been around the galaxy and living a frenetic life in the criminal underground, he’s been growing up against the backdrop of stability and routine. By no means is Jules content with this but he’s having a hard time figuring out how to breakaway from his home to fill the void of adventure he wants. It’s mentioned Jules considered joining the New Republic before the events of The Force Awakens, but he’s continually resigned himself to the familiar in favor of the unknown. What Jules needs is a catalyst and the bond with Izzy he never gave up serves as such.
Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities serves as the reunion point for Izzy and Jules. The package Izzy has been tasked with is to be delivered to the legendary Ithorian trader. We also learn how much clout Ondar has in the Black Spire. Ondar employs local kids and teens as couriers and we learn Jules used to supplement his farm income with running errands for the antiquities merchant. That work is what reunites Izzy and Jules. At this point, the story starts moving pretty fast, especially considering the rest of the book takes place during a single day.
No, there’s nothing about Tatooine or Luke Skywalker, but my mind often turned to this moment in A New Hope. The frustration, hopefulness and endless possibilities of youth these few frames convey permeate every interaction between Izzy and Jules, thirteen years after their separation. An anxious mix of everything possible and every regret fill Jules and Izzy when they reunite. For Izzy, the recollection of innocence and genuine friendship are much needed replenishers for the pessimism stacked high in her psyche. She’s been out in the galaxy, seen the darkest corners, and lost everyone she loves; but, her reunion with Jules sparks hope she’d mostly forgotten and the possibility of a future of companionship rather than solitude, but even the most optimistic moments are overshadowed by realism and the state of the galaxy. Jule’s perceptions are much more naive and sanguine when it comes to Izzy. The love he felt for her as a child comes roaring back, with the tenants of adulthood not necessarily grounding him, but allowing a malleability of innocence reconciled with a future at his fingertips. Jules is prepared to do anything to help Izzy, while Izzy feels a reluctance to let Jules throw himself into what she feels is the mess that is her life.
Through a series of events, the package Izzy is supposed to deliver ends up in a few different hands, complicating things for her and Jules. I’m avoiding specifics about the second half of the book because I want to keep this relatively spoiler-free. Again, this story takes place over the course of a day and moves incredibly fast. Rest assured, Córdova excels in keeping the plot going while taking plenty of quiet moments to explore the bond – along with all of its conflicts – between Izzy and Jules. As they encounter First Order soldiers and hear whispers of the Resistance possibly hiding nearby, they know a simple life, no matter where their fates take them, is quickly becoming a fleeting possibility for anyone in the galaxy. The refreshment of innocence Izzy found in Jules is quickly pulled out from under her as the story progresses and they are faced with enemies from her past and new obstructions to finish the job which brought her to Batuu. The burdens of the galaxy slowly encroach their way into Izzy’s path, while Jules grapples to hang on to a bond and love he sees as pure and destiny for them both.
There are also people on Batuu who would prefer they stay apart. Jules has many protectors and they know his optimism may have blinded him in his hopes for a future with Izzy. Izzy herself is protective of Jules and is often frustrated by the pedestal he put her on. Izzy feels Jules hasn’t seen the real person she is and though it’s never directly stated I got the sense she wanted Jules to know her past mistakes or misdeeds, to give him the opportunity to reconcile those with the genuine love he feels. Izzy might be pessimistic but she wants the same thing Jules does, but she’s just never had the luxury to dwell on her memories the way Jules has. She’s had to survive and make her way through a troubled galaxy, while Jules could let his love remain while carrying on a more simple life. Izzy knows the sway she has over Jules, which creates a huge inner conflict about whether it’s better to leave Jules in the end or risk breaking his heart when she’s not sure if a relationship with him is something she can commit to. I appreciated Córdova’s addition of this dilemma and it added to the respect and sympathy I felt for Izzy. She’s afraid of herself and like so many people who go through life closed off to protect themselves or those who would offer love. As idyllic as this story can be at times, Córdova firmly grounds her characters in the most relatable and real-world conflicts two individuals face when facing the decision about letting their guard down in the vulnerability game of love.
By the end of the novel, Izzy and Jules have faced numerous tests not only of their bond, but also the delivery of the mysterious package. Keep your eyes peeled for plenty of Easter eggs relating to favorite Clone Wars-era characters right up to what the Resistance may be up to while hiding from the First Order. Again, I’m staying away from spoilers, but the story Izzy and Jules find themselves caught up with has plenty of twists and serves as wonderful vehicle to tell about this day in the life on Batuu. Córdova writes with beautiful descriptions of the environments Izzy and Jules find themselves in. Where the story leaves us gives so many possibilities to the future for both Izzy and Jules, but this day of reunion has changed their trajectories forever.
Fans have already compared this novel to Claudia Gray’s Lost Stars simply from the synopsis. While it does share similar veins of lifelong love and friendship tested, this is a very different story and I’m not complaining about that at all. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Lost Stars, but this story is much more intimate and removed from Star Wars major events, which I’m grateful for. Izzy and Jules story is well-realized enough not to worry about Star Destroyers or lightsabers. The conflict and tension provided in the story revolve almost exclusively around the decisions Izzy and Jules must make with regard to where their relationship will go. These characters have been beautifully crafted and I think their story holds plenty of weight to satisfy most Star Wars fans. Another big difference is we meet them at essentially the beginning of an entirely new friendship, adjusting from their childhood relationship to their new adulthood.
Zoraida Córdova has given fans a classic Star Wars story. Though it’s relatively small in scale when it comes the locale, the emotions and relatable themes of friendship and love are on up there with some of the most epic stories told in the galaxy far, far away. I think I smiled the entire time I read this novel. Izzy and Jules are two characters fans are going to fall in love with. A Crash of Fate serves to remind us about the wonder and hope love stirs inside the greatest of heroes but is an ever delicate emotion those who are fortunate enough to experience should cherish. This story moves very fast, so savor all the quiet moments and I don’t doubt you’ll feel like I did when I reached the last page – satisfied, yet hoping there is much more to come after our introduction to Izzy and Jules. Not only will I be looking out for more stories featuring Izzy and Jules, I’ll be hoping for many more stories by Zoraida Córdova. Her debut Star Wars novel is everything I hope for when I open the cover to a galaxy far, far away. I hope you enjoy A Crash of Fate as much as I did.
A Crash of Fate is available for pre-order from online retailers and available in bookstores August 6th. Special thank you to Disney Lucasfilm Press for the advanced copy used in this review.