Non-Spoiler Review – The Resistance Endures In Delilah S. Dawson’s Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire
Galaxy’s Edge has been no small undertaking. Whether we’re talking about the ambitious addition to bi-coastal Disney Parks, the actors and designers filling them, or the stories being created to give these behemoth attractions a history – the scale is just massive. When Galaxy’s Edge was first announced I was among those surprised Disney would set their premiere Star Wars attraction on a new planet called Batuu, at the literal edge of the known galaxy. What if people want to ride tauntauns on Hoth or pet Ewoks on Endor? It seemed strange to me Disney and Lucasfilm would go all in on an untested planet, which has yet to appear in any live action or animation. Honestly, it made me a little nervous about how this would be handled, but my fears were unfounded. Since the announcement, the Story Group and a select group of authors have poured some wonderful stories into the canon, featuring Batuu and the Black Spire Outpost (BSO) as the setting. As we gear up for December, Delilah S. Dawson finishes off this inaugural round of Galaxy’s Edge titles with her novel Black Spire and it’s a very entertaining Star Wars story. This review will steer clear of major spoilers, so follow me to Batuu!
Up until Black Spire showed up, I wasn’t exactly sure what the chronology of these Galaxy’s Edge tales are. So far I’ve read Pirate’s Price by Lou Anders, A Crash of Fate by Zoraida Córdova, and the Galaxy’s Edge titular comic from Ethan Sacks. None of them have overlapped, save for a few staple residents of Black Spire Outpost popping up in each one. They all take place beyond The Last Jedi, but it’s hard to get a sense of what’s happened on Batuu to bring the First Order there and how the Resistance found itself hiding out on this remote world. Well, my question is answered, as Dawson’s Black Spire takes place before every other GE title and tells us that exact story. The Resistance are on the run after the defeats handed to them in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. General Leia Organa has tasked one of her best officers, Vi Moradi, with finding a waypoint base for the Resistance as far away from any planets the First Order may be trying to take hold of.
Before I get into the star of this novel – clearly Vi Moradi – it should be noted that although Leia Organa is not present during the events in this novel her shadow looms over everything. Sometimes it’s disorienting meeting so many new characters as the canon continues to expand, but Dawson anchors this feeling well while making them relatable in little ways like their common admiration for General Organa. Leia looms over so much in this novel, constantly in the back of Vi’s head when she recalls anecdotal advice from the seasoned general or invoked to strangers on Batuu who associate the name with hope. Everyone knows who the Resistance is, but when Leia’s name is mentioned, you can tell a spark flickers in whichever characters eyes hear it. I thought Dawson handled this very well, making Leia present when she is not a participant in the active story.
Make no mistake – Vi Moradi is the star of Black Spire. We met Vi in Dawson’s previous novel, Phasma, though she was tied to a chair and under interrogation for most the story, no one doubted her strength and determination to overcome the First Order. This time, Vi is very much on the move. Despite the devastating loss of the New Republic and the rise of the First Order, Vi doesn’t miss a beat in what she knows she needs to do. General Organa has tasked her with establishing a base on Batuu and Vi is determined to do her part. One of the most admirable things about Vi is her willingness to do whatever is asked of her by the Resistance. She doesn’t demand to fly an X-wing or be on more adventurous missions. No, Vi knows the First Order needs to be stopped so she focuses on that. She’s a true officer and knows when it’s time to show her more heroic side – as well as when it’s time to put her nose down and work on less glamorous tasks. There certainly are many moments in Black Spire where most officers would toss their blaster and walk. Not Vi, she stays true and her story in Black Spire underscores why she’s such a great addition to Star Wars heroes and should be featured front and center in the park for young people to admire. If you’re a fan of Vi, get excited.
If I were to make a small criticism of Dawson’s approach, there are so many chapters devoted to Vi that some characters seem a bit left out. Aside from Vi’s task of building a Resistance base, she needs to recruit soldiers for the inevitable conflicts the Resistance will face once they regroup. Dawson writes Vi wonderfully but many of these new recruits we meet don’t get to share the light as much and I would’ve loved to have just a little bit more. Some of Vi’s scenes seem redundant, as a great deal of her work on Batuu and in Black Spire Outpost consists of redundant work. I thought those scenes could have been covered in paragraphs rather than pages, with a little more love given to the new recruits. You still leave Black Spire with a great sense of who these new characters are. They have their own stories and agency, so Dawson didn’t by any means shortchange them or the reader. Just left me wanting a bit more.
Captain Cardinal is back, but you can call him Archex which is his first name. That’s right, no more red armor for this trooper and he’s lost his rank. Prepare yourself for a very changed Cardinal, but not necessarily an improved version. The best way to describe Cardinal’s presence in Black Spire without giving too much away is…wounded. This is a person who is trying to turn their life around after having every notion they clung to shattered in a short amount of time. Cardinal made a heroic choice to help Vi escape the First Order in Phasma, but in this story he is paying for that choice. Through his rehabilitation and development, we learn just how insidious and infiltrating the First Order’s doctrine is to the people who serve them – no matter how far up the chain of command you go. Cardinal is doing the best he can in this novel and definitely helps the Resistance, but I will say I was surprised by some moments.
A question I’ve had since picking up my first Galaxy’s Edge related novel: What is the First Order doing on Batuu? Part of me assumed they used it as a waypoint station themselves after Timothy Zahn included it in Thrawn: Alliances, informing us this backwater planet has been on the Empire’s radar for some time. Well, we get the answer to that and it’s probably not what you expect. The First Order is painted as a very misunderstood force in the galaxy by those who sit at the fringes. Many shrug in apathy about its intentions, but Vi is quick to let them know there is nothing gray about them. The First Order is evil and Dawson’s writing only underscores the terror they’ve not only created in the galaxy, but within their own ranks. Vi is desperate to convince the people of Batuu to join her fight against them.
The chief antagonist of Black Spire, Kath, is loyal to the First Order through and through. Though, after finishing this novel, I wonder how many people are simply broken and don’t want to walk back on the road it would take to fix them from the conditioning of the First Order. Kath and a squad of First Order troops put down on Batuu and begin a search for whatever presence the Resistance has on Batuu. Where Cardinal was sympathetic to a point, Kath is beyond redemption. He’s gone all in on the First Order doctrine and is determined not only to stop Vi and her people, but to continue his climb on the First Order hierarchy. Dawson did an excellent job creating a distinctly evil villain who has no conflict whatsoever. Some might find that boring, but Kath serves his purpose well and certainly gives Vi a run for her money. The clash between Vi’s raging optimism and will to do good and Kath’s desire to bring every being in the galaxy under the thumb of the First Order is the biggest strength of Black Spire. No, you won’t find yourself rooting for this villain at all. He’s as despicable as Krennic and as deadly as Tarkin – well, without the wicked genius of the Grand Moff, but the will to do whatever his masters bid him in service to an empire. I have a feeling Kath’s chapters will leave a lot of readers squirming.
And how about those new members of the Resistance? Vi arrives at Batuu with everything she needs to build a base, but things don’t exactly work out the way she planned. As we’ve learned in from previous Galaxy’s Edge novels, if it’s not nailed down, someone is going to try and sell it. Vi loses a most of the tools she’s arrived with and has to go to great lengths to get them back. Whether it’s working at Savi’s workshop or intense negotiations with Orga, the blutopian who knows all dealings at BSO, Vi does what it takes to get her footing on Batuu. The new recruits include a smuggler named Zade, a BSO resident named Kriki, and a local forager from a Batuu isolationist village named Dolin; each of them bring their own unique talents to Vi, but it’s her task to sharpen them and make them weapons against the First Order. As if The Last Jedi wasn’t clear enough, these are dire times for the Resistance. Vi does her best to bring these new recruits together amidst a planet filled with First Order danger and mysteries from ancient times. Yes, Batuu seems to be steeped in mythology all its own and Dawson hints there are many more stories to tell about this planet.
While I enjoyed this story very much, I have to say the biggest element working against it were the countless callouts to Galaxy’s Edge. Admittedly, my Star Wars reading has been focused on Galaxy’s Edge for quite some time so I may be a bit fatigued, but Black Spire was the first novel where names and places listed took me out of the story repeatedly. Again, the story is solid, as are the characters, but I kept getting distracted by the similar litany of names I’ve seen across the canon recently. Dawson is as sincere and talented a writer as they come, often taking time to thread multiple tweets for aspiring writers about navigating the publishing world, so I don’t think the abruptness of these names and park descriptors should be pinned solely on her. I understand what the Story Group, Lucasfilm, and Disney are trying to do here, but I found the insertions to be disruptive of my overall enjoyment. That said, Dawson and other authors had a monumental task of breathing life into a relatively unknown planet and locale while trying to tell a compelling story to please the most discerning and hyper-focused fans. I doubt many writers would be envious of that position Dawson was in and these distractions don’t take away from her abilities to create wonderful characters and let them breathe.
By the end of Black Spire the same question came into my head as I finished the previous Galaxy’s Edge novels: What’s next? If there’s another commonality these Galaxy’s Edge titles share it’s that each one is left open-ended about what may be next for their characters. Black Spire and A Crash of Fate both share not-so-subtle cliffhangers that beg for more stories. As much time as my eyes have spent on these stories about Batuu and BSO, I’m still ready for more. The First Order’s presence only grows, as does the Resistance, and as we edge closer to The Rise of Skywalker and the conclusion of the animated show Resistance it makes me feel like the characters in these novels are being groomed for something on a much bigger scale. Is it Rise of the Resistance? An opening battle after (or before) the crawl of The Rise of Skywalker? Or will we see the live-action roleplaying and storytelling of the Galaxy’s Edge theme park continue to evolve and change over the years, possibly telling of whatever battle these two forces eventually must fight with Batuu serving as the theater. Black Spire and its characters are wonderful contributions to the greater story of Galaxy’s Edge and I definitely encourage you to give your time to this story. Bright suns!
Star Wars – Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire is available from your local bookstore and online retailers. Special thanks to Del Rey for the advanced copy used for this review.