The New Expanded Universe is an ongoing column where I review each of the contemporary canon Star Wars books for your galactic enjoyment!
Del Ray Books
September 4, 2015
There is something truly special about falling in love with and losing yourself in a fictional world. It’s why we rewatch movies, write fan fiction, and theorize about these properties constantly. It’s rare to find official canon books and lore that engages and expands on the worlds that we love, and for this reason, Claudia Gray’s Lost Stars is a beautiful, intimate love story set in the background of the original Star Wars trilogy. It is utterly unique in how wonderfully it contributes to the original source material, whilst also creating something entirely new that works equally well with readers with no prior knowledge of Star Wars.
Claudia Gray began her career as a celebrated fan fic writer, which probably explains why Lost Stars feels so vibrantly different from the Star Wars books that have come before it. Taking a classic trope and refreshing it for a new generation, Gray introduces us to Ciena Ree and Thane Kyrell, young children from the Outer Rim planet of Jelican, who meet on a fateful summer’s day as the Empire begin their hostile takeover of the planet.
Despite living on the opposite ends of the planet’s class system, both characters are obsessed with flying, and this mutual passion inspires them to sneak into a restricted area in order to get closer to a starship. However, they come across Grand Moff Tarkin in their escapades. Rather than harm the children, Tarkin encourages their interest and allows them to clamber inside the ship. This encounter will shape both of their lives forever, forming a bond that not even the Empire and the Rebellion can tear apart.
Gray dips in and out of Thane and Ciena’s lives, from their childhood friendship on Jelican to their first days in the Empire Academy. The pair rises quickly through the ranks together, and Gray uses a deft hand to paint a world that seems right and pleasant, even though as the reader we know that Thane and Ciena are part of a violently fascist regime. That dramatic irony makes the book occasionally hard to read, especially as the pair grow prouder and prouder of their achievements. It’s startling as a Star Wars fan to get such an intimate look inside the Empire and the Imperial training programmes.
As we journey with our protagonists through their burgeoning military careers, Gray envelops them in an environment clearly devastated by propaganda. The people of this world never question what they’re told by their benevolent leaders, not until the Death Star destroys Alderaan. Only then do Thane and Ciena begin to see the Empire differently.
In Lost Stars, Gray masterfully walks the line between an intimate character study of two brand new additions to Star Wars lore and an expansion of the world we love so much. She is an excellent world builder, and this book features an engrossing landscape that is an utter treat for fans who enjoy luxuriating in the galaxy of Star Wars, outside of the minimal hours that we are offered on screen.
Yet, at the same time, Gray’s joyful vision of Star Wars is an interesting and easily accessible story for people who are just dipping their toes into this universe. Readers really get to enjoy Thane and Ciena’s journey as star-crossed lovers battling against the Empire, the Rebels, and each other. Not only does Lost Stars serve as the perfect entry point into the new Star Wars novels, but it also has created a truly great original YA novel that opens new doors of possibility in a familiar galaxy far, far away.