Review: LOST STARS by Claudia Gray

Publisher: Disney Lucasfilm Press
Page Count: 551
Release Date: September 4th, 2015
Series: Standalone
Rating: 4/5 Stars – Really Liked It

Thane and Ciena share the same dream: to be accepted to the Imperial Academy and join the elite ranks of fighter pilots that defend the galaxy. After all, the Empire is what has brought order and peace after the years of chaos and warfare caused by the acts of such traitors as the Jedi. As the years pass and their dream becomes a reality, Thane and Ciena find themselves soldiers in the Imperial Armada. But one fateful mission to Alderann forever fractures their united view about the empire, sending Thane and Ciena on different paths and eventually different sides of the erupting galactic war.

LOST STARS is an impressive coming-of-age story, an examination of indoctrination and challenging your own world views, all against the backdrop of famous STAR WARS events. The story covers almost ten years of Thane and Ciena’s lives, from the age of eight (a number of years before A NEW HOPE) to a year after RETURN OF THE JEDI. The author does a great job of situating the audience in the mindset of the two protagonists. The Empire to them is not the evil that audiences immediately associate it with. It is the legal and lawful government that has only brought stability to the galaxy. To serve in the Imperial Fleet is the greatest honor, and to associate with rebels is to support terrorism. You can easily see how Thane and Ciena are blissfully unaware of the Empire’s shortcomings, and why nothing else but loyalty would cross their minds.

As events unfold, however, Thane and Cienna have two wildly different reactions to their experiences. Thane, a cynic, is more ready to question the Empire’s motivations, even if he doesn’t necessarily think the Rebels have the right idea either. Ciena, on the other hand, comes from a culture of honor and loyalty above all. It isn’t her place to question, but to uphold the Empire that she swore her oath to. She increasingly has to contort her logic to justify what the Empire does, and her journey is one of a good person who convinces themselves that doing terrible things is okay under the right circumstances – except the “right circumstances” are happening more and more frequently.

I admit, I had to contain a little bit of eyerolling at the sheer number of famous events our two leads take part in, as well as the number of Named Characters they interact with. From running into a paternalistic-but-condescending Grand Moff Tarkin as kids to being recruited to the Rebellion by Wedge Antilles, LOST STARS is happy to name drop all day long. That said, the author does put some of those events to effective use, particularly when she focuses on how things appear to just an average person going about their day. The best example is the destruction of the Death Star. Both Thane and Cienna are away from the Death Star when it is destroyed, but the ominous moment when communications and signals from that battle station cut out, the stunned incredulity that something as large and terrifying as the Death Star could be wiped away, was honestly chill-inducing. It was the flip side from the jubilant celebration of the Rebels in the movie, and was one of the best moments in the book.

LOST STARS is an excellent read for STAR WARS fans, putting a new spin on familiar events. I really enjoyed the ten year approach to the story, seeing how these two characters change over time and how they process challenges to their worldview. It’s a coming of age story that resonates, and a worthy addition to the roster of STAR WARS books.

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