Each and every story is worth the read (spoiler-free review)
Rise of the Empire is a surprisingly hefty paperback featuring stories in the new line of Star Wars publishing. It repackages A New Dawn and Tarkin–both enjoyable reads in their own right–and delivers top-notch, brand-new short stories to enrich the purchase. This volume serves as a really great introduction to the new characters and stories being written in the new era.
John Jackson Miller’s Rebels tie-in novel, A New Dawn, is wonderfully written and feels authentically like Star Wars. It’s not the best Star Wars book available on shelves, but it’s a great place to start featuring conflicted heroes, fear-inducing villains, and explosive conflicts.
James Luceno’s Tarkin is a journey into the psyche of one of Star Wars’ most memorable villains never to ignite a red lightsaber. It’s dark, dramatic, and intriguing in a character-driven way. The moments that work best are the interactions between its titular character and the man-in-black himself, Darth Vader.
Both books are worth the read, but the three new short stories are why I bought the book. They’re essential reading for those invested in the new canon, tying characters and events together in a very satisfying way. Hera, Tarkin, Vidian, and Sloane really shine in a few short pages.
Do I wish the short stories were released independent of the paperback? Of course. But the book offers a wide variety of content, looks great on the shelf, and is a great book to hand a friend who might be interested in reading great content in a galaxy far, far away.
The Ultimate Collection to Kickstart the New Canon
Rise of the Empire is an interesting bind up of John Jackson Miller’s A New Dawn and James Luceno’s Tarkin. In this 720 page softcover collection, readers get both of those novels in their entirety plus three all new short stories. If you don’t own Tarkin or A New Dawn yet, then the picking up Rise of the Empire is a given. At just $15 (or lower if you shop around) this book gives readers an introduction to Star Wars via the characters of Tarkin, Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, Kanan Jarrus and Hera Syndulla, a mixture of both the dark and light sides of the force. With characters like Rae Sloan Sloane, it leads right into Aftermath and our first steps toward the journey to The Force Awakens. So whether you’re a fan of the films or Star Wars Rebels, this collection will be right up your alley.
But what if you already own A New Dawn or Tarkin or both? For me, that’s the real question, as a lot of Star Wars book lovers will already have both of these. If you only own one of the two, it’s definitely worth your money to pick this one up in order to get the other plus the three new short stories. But if you already own both, then all comes down to just how good those three short stories are.
The first short story in the book is “Mercy Mission” by Melissa Scott. It’s 22 pages long and is set after the events of Paul S. Kemp’s Lords of the Sith but before John Jackson Miller’s A New Dawn. Melissa is new to Star Wars, but she does a good job in “Mercy Mission” of capturing the feel of Star Wars and bringing readers a nice little story that ties into the other books. What I found particularly interesting is how this story ties into Lords of the Sith, which isn’t included in this bind up. If you’ve read Lords of the Sith, it serves as a great transition between it and A New Dawn, as it stars Hera Syndulla and shows what she’s up to in this early period of her rebel career. It provides some sustenance on her experience with rebel teams and what ultimately drives her to lead her own team of rebels. Moff Mors also shows up in the story, a key character from Lords of the Sith, as does Goll who was a brief side character in that story. Hera and the band of rebels she’s signed up with try to smuggle some contraband medicine to Ryloth to help plague victims while avoiding Imperial interdiction. It’s a fun story and a good beginning for Hera.
The second short story is “Bottleneck” by John Jackson Miller. Like “Mercy Mission”, it’s 22 pages long, but this one follows Tarkin as he’s tasked by the Emperor to look into armor shortage issues on the planet Gilvaanen. Quickly Count Vidian comes into play and the two of them must work together to unravel the mystery of production problems on the planet. Through force, fear and spying, they each show their skills off as they go about inspecting the armor manufacturing plants, their Ithorian work force, and the leaders in charge. It’s an interesting team-up story of corruption and sabotage that ties together Tarkin and A New Dawn by utilizing a key character from each book. If you wondered how Tarkin and Vidian would get along, this story answers that question.
The third and final short story in the book is “Levers of Power” by Jason Fry. At just 16 pages, this is my favorite short story in the book. It features Rae Sloane, now an admiral, in the Battle of Endor. From her viewpoint, we get to see the battle as it unfolds, from the Imperial advantage and nigh invincibility, to the point where the odds turn against them and everything falls apart. It answers questions that Aftermath left unanswered. What happened to the Imperials with the loss at Endor? How did they go from an assured victory to absolute defeat? What thoughts were going through the minds of the Imperial commanders as the fortunes of battle changed? It touches on those aspects in a way that make complete sense, as well as doing a great job of introducing the Imperial Security Bureau loyalty officers and showing Sloane’s transition from A New Dawn to Aftermath. Fry does a splendid job of filling in some of the voids left by Aftermath by giving fans key pieces of the puzzle. He shows Sloane in her element, at the helm of a Star Destroyer, in the midst of battle, and tearing across the edge of brilliance with her intuition. It provides the justification for why she is where she is in Aftermath, and why this is a character we should care about. While we’ll be seeing more of Sloane in Wendig’s future novels, I’d love to see Jason Fry write another story about her as he did a great job with the character.
So, are these three short stories enough to justify getting the book if you already own copies of both Tarkin and A New Dawn? You’ll be getting 60 pages of new content. All three short stories do a great job of providing transitions and tie-ins between A New Dawn and Tarkin, as well as the other new books in the canon like Lords of the Sith and Aftermath. If you are looking to get a complete picture between all of the books, you’ll definitely want to read these three new short stories. Heck, I’d argue “Levers of Power” is a must read before going into Aftermath. If you really want to get the most out of the books in the new canon, one way or another, you’re going to have to get these stories. So is it worth it? Yes. Look around, find a price you’re willing to abide with, and dig in for some fun storytelling that helps bind everything together.
I give Rise of the Empire a five out of five. It’s a great buy for new readers, and hopefully we’ll see even more new short stories in the future.