Spoiler Review – Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire by Delilah S. Dawson
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire by author Delilah S. Dawson serves as an introduction of sorts to the various characters and locations that can be found at the Galaxy’s Edge expansion at Disneyland Park (CA) and Walt Disney World Resort (FL), as well as a prequel tie-in to the conflict between the Resistance and the First Order that fans will experience at the parks. Read on for the full review of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire. Spoilers ahead…
By now you’ve probably heard a lot of the details surrounding the recent Star Wars themed expansion to Disney Parks known as Galaxy’s Edge. Some of you may have even had the chance to check the park out for yourself already, and for those of you in this boat, just know that I am extremely jealous. At the park, patrons can roam the streets and key locations on Batuu, a brand new planet created just for the park. The world of Batuu is rich and colorful, and blending in to that world with your family is no doubt a Star Wars experience like no other.
The designers of the park have also worked closely with Lucasfilm to create a unique and exclusive story for park-goers to take part in. Fans can join the Resistance forces at Black Spire Outpost and help bring the fight to the First Order. But as exclusive as the experience is to the park itself, the story is still meant to be an offical chapter in the ongoing Star Wars story. So how exactly did the Resistance and the First Order come to this backwater planet? What’s so important about this little speck of dust on the edges of the known galaxy? The latest novel from author Delilah S. Dawson (Star Wars: Phasma) sets out to answer those questions and more.
Fans of Dawson’s previous adventure in the galaxy far, far away (Star Wars: Phasma) will be excited to read about the ongoing adventures of the Resistance spy, Vi Moradi, and the former First Order Captain and stormtrooper trainer, Captain Cardinal. With Vi and Cardinal (now going by his given name, Archex) as the main characters in the book, Black Spire is just as much a sequel to Phasma as it is a prequel to Galaxy’s Edge. In Phasma, Vi was captured by Cardinal, tortured, and interrogated for information about his rival, Captain Phasma. But even through the torture, Vi could see a spark of something good in the stormtrooper captain, and after Cardinal’s confrontation with Phasma that left him a broken shell of his former glory, Vi rescued him and took him back to the Resistance base.
Now, the Resistance is in shambles, holding on to what little hope they have left and struggling for mere survival. After the decimation of the Republic with the destruction of the Hosnian system, the Resistance is all that is left to stand against the tyrannical First Order. Having only barely escaped Kylo Ren and his forces with a fraction of their people at Crait, finding safe and hidden locations for the Resistance to regroup and rebuild is of the utmost importance. It is for this purpose that General Organa tasks her best spy to head to the seemingly unimportant planet of Batuu with her old enemy and new ally, Archex, to establish a new base of operations away from the eyes of the First Order.
As someone who is a bit of an adventure junkie,Vi is initially disappointed with the assignment to the planet in the middle of nowhere. But when their transport is shot down in a freak accident above the planet, sending them crashing into the forest below, Vi soon realizes that this mission would not be the walk in the park (pun intended) that she was expecting.
Coming to from the crash, Vi finds her partner alive, but everything else had been compromised. All of their supplies had been stolen from the crash site. Even her droid, a PK unit that she calls “Pook” had been stripped for parts, and Vi is forced to continue her mission with nothing to her name but some credits that she’d had on her person and no way to contact the general for help. Vi and Archex were on their own.
Luckily, a local woman stumbles upon their crash and offers them assistance, helping Vi find some inexpensive supplies and even getting her a job sorting through scrap with a junk dealer named Savi. Vi discovers that her stuff had been scavenged by a crew working for the local mob boss, a Blutopian named Oga, and she hopes that her new job will help her to at least buy back some of her stolen items. It’s a slow process, but it was better than doing nothing, and after work, she attempts to find new recruits for the Resistance at Oga’s cantina.
She begins by testing the waters with her co-workers, and although she doesn’t completely turn them away, her efforts to recruit them to her cause are unsuccessful. The people prefer autonomy, and Vi struggles with the fact that the people just don’t see the First Order as a threat. There is nothing of value on Batuu, so they have nothing to fear. Joining the Resistance would be asking for a fight, when they’d rather just live out their happy existence away from all the conflict.
Thankfully, not all of Vi’s aquaintances are so naïve. Vi learns that her co-worker, Ylena, and her boss Savi are sympathetic to the Resistance, though they are reluctanct to become directly involved. The pair of them, though not sensitive to it, are believers in the Force, and they see the importance of the Resistance on Batuu, agreeing with Vi that the eventual arrival of the First Order was inevitable.
Still unable to contact her general, Vi sets out to acquire a long-range comm device, but her efforts are unsuccessful. However, when Oga approaches her with a job offer in exchange for getting some of her goods back, it’s an offer that the spy can’t refuse. The job was simple in concept. She would seek out an old relic in the ancient ruins in the outskirts of Black Spire Outpost. But this wouldn’t be like taking candy from a youngling. The old ruins had been built by a mysterious ancient race on Batuu, and to this day it remained virtually impenetrable, being fraught with booby traps that would keep even the most careful explorers on their toes. When she arrives at the ruins and sees the numerous bodies along the way, Vi discovers that she is far from the first one to attempt to find the artifact.
All is well, at first, as she avoids the traps set for her by the ancients, until the First Order officer named Kath arrives with his stormtroopers to disrupt her adventure. Kath had been tipped off to Vi’s location by Oga herself, as the crime boss saw it as an opportunity to appease the First Order and also double her chances of getting her hands on the relic. Kath had been aboard the Absolution when Vi and Archex had escaped, and he is seeking redemption and a little bit of revenge by trying to capture them both.
Vi narrowly escapes from Kath, though not without being seriously injured. The spy is nursed back to health by a farmboy named Dolin and his grandmother. Later, she heads back to Oga with the relic and gets a good portion of her stuff back. But beyond that, the day had given her exactly the victory that she and Archex needed. Having convinced the young Dolin to join her in the fight against the First Order, they now had their very first recruit.
As time goes on, Vi and company continue to acquire more and more supplies and tech to establish their new base at the ruins, working to clear out the old traps and make the base as safe and formidable as possible while trying to avoid Kath and the First Order stormtroopers. Eventually, two more lost souls join their ranks. A Chadra-Fan woman named Kriki becomes their tech guru and a loud-mouthed, smooth-talking, fancy-dressed human smuggler named Zade becomes their mouth piece at the local cantina after Vi witnesses his ability to rile up the locals against the First Order, a vital piece of the puzzle that she had been unable to place on her own.
After a while of being unable to track down the Resistance spy, Kath turns to brutality tactics, threatening the locals for information about her. When the threats turn violent, Vi steps in and falls into Kath’s trap. Captured and tortured by the First Order yet again, Vi has to rely on her new team to rescue her. After rescuing their “mother hen”, the ragtag crew disables the enemy’s communications and they head back to their base, believing that Kath had been killed in the skirmish. Knowing that the remaining troops with be scrambling without a leader and would eventually head back to the Star Destroyer awaiting them in orbit, they formulate a plan to make sure that they don’t get the chance to tell the First Order about Vi’s little band of rebels on the planet’s surface.
Vi knows that if they just take them out that more would only arrive in their place. They needed to get rid of the First Order troops and somehow convince the First Order that there’s nothing of value on Batuu at the same time. They decide to sneak into the enemy camp and slice into their ship. The plan was to send a fake message to the First Order through the ship’s comms that Vi, or “Starling” as she was known to the First Order, had been killed during interrogation. They would then cause the ship to explode in orbit, making it look like an unfortunate malfunction.
All was going well until they realized that Kath was still alive, protected from Vi’s blaster bolt by the chest plate he was wearing under his uniform. Vi allows herself to be captured in an effort to stall for time as Kriki and Zade attempt to break into the First Order transport. The distraction escalates when Dolin arrives with some of his people, but the First Order firepower was just too much for the locals who were forced to retreat. All hope seemed lost until a familiar red stormtrooper arrives on the scene. It may not have been as regal as the scarlet armor he wore as the First Order captain known as Cardinal, but the painted stormtrooper armor that Archex now wore had the intended affect.
Kath was enraged at the sight of the traitor and jumped at the opportunity to capture his former ally. During the fight, Vi breaks free and Kriki manages to finish her slice into the enemy ship. But their plan had a huge flaw. It hinged on the hope that the First Order troops would leave the planet to contact their superiors, but with Kath still alive and hell-bent on capturing Vi and Archex, the latter knew that the officer would never leave the planet unless he had at least one of them in his possession. Understanding what the decision meant, Archex sacrifices himself, surrendering to Kath. With the traitor now captured, Kath and his troops head to space, and after Kriki sends the fake message reporting Vi’s death to the First Order, the ship explodes in orbit, securing the future of the Resistance on Batuu.
Even though they had found success, a troubling revelation presents itself in the days following Archex’s death. It turns out that Vi has a traitor of her own in the Resistance base that had apparently ratted them out to the First Order. Now with Kylo Ren himself coming to Batuu, the future of the Resistance is once again in jeopardy. Though I enjoyed it to some extent, I wasn’t a huge fan of Dawson’s Phasma, the novel that first introduced us to the heroes of Black Spire. By that point, it was really too little too late with the chrome villain, as The Force Awakens hadn’t done much to make her more than a cash grab for merchandising.
The Last Jedi didn’t do much to alleviate this either later on, and although I appreciated Dawson’s efforts, I just don’t care for the character. She had no redeeming qualities, and didn’t amount to much more than a survivalist who would do anything to come out on top. That being said, I did enjoy the bits with Vi Moradi and Cardinal the most out of that entire novel, and I was looking forward to reading about them again. Honestly, I had no problem with the characters this time around, and I thought the story was entertaining, but I think at this point in the franchise’s history, I’m just ready for something with a little more meat.
I understand full well that the purpose of this book is to tie in with the theme park, and Dawson did a great job bringing the new characters and locations of Batuu to life. She’s a good writer, and the book is decent enough. But honestly, I think I’m getting a little burnt out. My favorite books in the new canon are those that let me get in the heads of my favorite characters, specifically with the big three (Luke, Leia, and Han), and although some of the new characters are fine, I’m just not invested in them. I’m sure after The Rise of Skywalker, we’ll finally get those stories about them during the time gap between the original trilogy and the sequel trilogy that has been largely untapped at this point, but I guess I’m just ready for those stories sooner rather than later.
I also enjoy the new big three as well though, and I think this book would have fared better for me if the main characters had been perhaps Rey and Poe or Finn instead of the largely unknown Vi and Archex. Even the villain was a nobody in the grand scheme of things, and the promise of Kylo Ren (a character that I also enjoy very much) doesn’t come until the last page. Don’t get me wrong, this story and its characters are not abysmal by any means, but I guess I just wanted something more than what I was getting. As important as it is to breathe new life into an old franchise with new and modern characters, my lack of interest in them in light of my superior devotion to the classic characters made it a little harder to find the desire to pick this one back up each time I tried to sit down for a reading session. I didn’t hate it, but it never gripped me either.
I don’t want to sound too harsh, because I know that some will really enjoy Vi and the other new characters. So pardon me for my “back-in-my-day” ramblings about the tried and true Star Wars formula that I know and love. For what it is, this novel works on the levels it was intended to. The narrative has a decent pacing, and the new characters are at least moderately interesting, even though I wasn’t personally invested. Some of the best parts of the novel are when it reveals details about what it’s like being a First Order stormtrooper.
From the brain washing of orphans to the amphetamines that they put in the troopers’ water supply, the whole concept of First Order servitude is pretty shady, and seeing Archex overcome what had been ingrained in him for so long was one of the more interesting aspects of the book. However, compared to Vi, his time on the page is quite minimal, so if you’re not completely sold on her as a character, this one may be more of a struggle for you than it’s worth. It’s a decent prequel that will probably enhance your experience at the park a little bit, but in the end, it’s one that I could have easily skipped and not really missed out on much.
It fulfills its promise of telling the reader how the Resistance and First Order end up on Batuu, but I just think this is something that would be better explained in the opening crawl of some video as you enter into Galaxy’s Edge or something. If you enjoyed Vi Moradi and Cardinal in Phasma or you’re interested in knowing as much as possible about the park’s backstory before planning your own trip to Disney, then this book might be for you. But if you’re more of a casual fan or one that enjoys investing in the stories that have a larger impact on the overall saga, than I think you could skip out on this one.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire is available now digitally or in a book store near you. Happy reading Star Wars fans!
Jordan Pate is Co-Lead Editor and Senior Writer for Star Wars News Net, of which he is also a member of the book and comic review team. He loves all things Star Wars, but when he’s not spending time in the galaxy far far away, he might be found in our own galaxy hanging out in Gotham City or at 1407 Graymalkin Lane, Salem Center, NY.