Ciena Ree and Thane Kyrell are used to overcoming the differences that threaten to drive them apart. One is an idealist, the other is a cynic. One grew up in poverty, the other grew up in privilege. One came from a loving family, while the other longs for the connection and acceptance they never received as a child.
Ciena and Thane are united by their love of flying — and the sort of freedom that only soaring through the skies can bring. However, despite their determination to fight for their friendship, the Galactic Civil War does eventually divide them: one is loyal to the Empire, and one joins the Rebellion.
Claudia Gray’s “Lost Stars” was one of the first novels released as part of Disney’s new Star Wars canon, leading up to “The Force Awakens.” Even though I was a big fan of the old Expanded Universe books (now known as “Legends”), “Lost Stars” is actually my all-time favorite Star Wars novel. Gray takes the war between the Empire and the Rebellion and makes it intensely personal, showing how two well-meaning people can end up on opposite sides of a conflict.
A new perspective
I really enjoyed seeing the events of the Star Wars original trilogy through fresh eyes: two ordinary people without the use of the Force or a tie to the bigger players in the conflict (a.k.a. the Skywalker family).
The book covers a wide range of time — pre-“A New Hope” through post-“Return of the Jedi” — but Gray handles it deftly. The time jumps are necessary to show the progression of the characters. Ciena and Thane go through complex character arcs that wouldn’t feel as authentic if they took place over a narrower time period.
While it may feel like a bit of a spoiler to reveal that Ciena is the Imperial officer and Thane is the one who becomes a Rebel pilot, this plot twist is actually mentioned on the back of the book’s cover, so I promise I’m not trying to give away the whole novel!
Gray makes the interesting choice to have the Imperial be the idealist and the cynic be the Rebel, especially since many of the Rebels we see in the original trilogy do come across as idealists. Thane has more in common with Jyn Erso from “Rogue One” than Princess Leia from “A New Hope.”
I don’t want to reveal too many details about the journey that leads Ciena and Thane to their respective sides, but Gray does an excellent job showing their motivations and influences. They’re both believable characters, with plenty of nuance and flaws.
In the Star Wars original trilogy, the conflict is (mostly) painted in black and white. The Empire = bad, the Rebellion = good (although Vader’s character arc blurs this line).
So it’s been interesting to see the new canon explore more of the gray areas of the Star Wars universe. “Rogue One” showed us that sometimes the Rebels also got their hands dirty, and “Lost Stars” shows us that all Imperials aren’t necessarily evil psychopaths, even though the cause they fight for is wrong.
Ciena joins the Empire because she wants to keep the galaxy safe, and on the surface, the Empire seems dedicated to justice and order.
However, that belief is challenged the longer she serves and the more she learns about the true motivations of the Emperor. Ciena is a good person, who highly values honor and loyalty, and the Empire takes advantage of that and asks her to continue making moral compromises, until she reaches a point where she doesn’t recognize herself anymore.
It also takes Thane a while to fully buy into the Rebellion, and his feelings for Ciena are definitely a part of the reason for that.
The book’s ending is bittersweet but fitting. A window is left open for a sequel, but the book doesn’t necessarily need one. In fact, I think it’s good that the book leaves us with a few questions.
“Lost Stars” is a beautiful story, and I fell in love with the characters and also found plenty of deeper themes to chew on that made me think about Star Wars in a new way. There are a few moments in the story that feel a little fanservice-y (such as a Darth Vader cameo), but I didn’t really mind since these were all small moments and the focus is primarily on the new characters.
If you haven’t ever read a Star Wars novel before, “Lost Stars” is a great place to start! I also highly recommend Claudia Gray’s “Bloodline” (about Leia and the Rise of the First Order), and I can’t wait to read her upcoming Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon novel.
If you’ve read “Lost Stars” or are planning to check it out, keep an eye on the Story Geeks blog for Ashley’s spoiler-filled “dig deeper” into this book, coming soon!