Here’s the pitch: A Rebel and an Imperial fall in love against the backdrop of the entire Star Wars trilogy. Sounds like a winner, right? It is. It’s the plot of Lost Stars by Claudia Gray, one of the first releases from the new Journey to the Force Awakens series of books.

Though the book is aimed at the YA audience, it tells one of the most incisive and eye-opening Star Wars stories to date, illuminating past events, revealing new ones and introducing us to two key new characters in the Star Wars universe: Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree.

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In the book, Thane and Ciena grow up on opposite sides of the tracks on the outer rim planet of Jelucan. Eventually, the farmer and the aristocrat bond over their love of flying, adventure, and the Empire. They become the best of friends and go to the Imperial Academy together. They develop more feelings for each other—but as the Empire grows stronger and stronger, Thane begins to question their methods, while Ciena does not. It leads to a galaxy-spanning romance that starts before A New Hope, and continues through The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi as well as several major events that take place before The Force Awakens.

What makes Lost Stars so good is the detailed, believable story and characters. Since we follow Thane and Ciena from their childhoods, we develop incredible bonds with them. We know who they are front to back, just like they know each other. Rarely do you get to the core of characters like this, especially in the Star Wars universe.

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Plus, they’re living through the original trilogy from inside the events we’ve seen on screen. You get to see iconic moments not just from the perspective of these characters, but from the Empire and Rebels alike; we see how their friends react, how their enemies react. It’s a truly awesome experience to read an insider perspective of how Imperials are trained, the movements of the Rebels, what the outside galaxy thinks of Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker and others. We find out how people reacted to the destruction of Alderaan, the battle of Yavin, the battle of Hoth, Cloud City, the Battle of Endor, basically anything you loved from the original Star Wars trilogy is here, but with a twist.

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And it’s all set against this passionate, idealistic romance between two very strong characters. Young romance can be so cliché, but tropes like coincidental meetings and melodramatic dialogue feel less stale here.

One gripe I did have with Lost Stars is its length. When you are telling a romance that spans decades, along with the story of the Star Wars universe, that’s obviously a lot of ground to cover, so you understand why Lost Stars feels a little too expansive. Every chapter is just chock full of detail, plot and more that gives the book a very dense feeling. Still, the story is always accessible and Gray’s prose is always simple and pleasing to read.

Eventually though, that massive scope makes the experience that much more satisfying. Lost Stars is a must read for any Star Wars fan looking to get a fix either before The Force Awakens, or after. The book has some awesome connections to the new film, but nothing too spoiler-y. It’s just a nice side dish to the main course of the original trilogy and sequel trilogy too.


Contact the author at germain@io9.com.