This book was my first delve into the new canon released by Disney. So, whereas all the other books I have talked about are non-canon, this book is real (well, real in the fictional Star Wars universe!) which means you can take it that everything in this book actually happened before Rogue One.
Catalyst stretches a decent period of time, running from the end of the Clone Wars right up to the start of Rogue One which is set just before A New Hope. This books takes us through the fall of the Republic and the Rise of the Empire. I read this book right after I saw Rogue One at the cinema last year. I was completely obsessed with the character of
Director Krennic and just wanted to read more about him and his rise to power. This book is mostly from the point of view of Director Krennic, plus Lyro Erso (Jyn’s mother) and a smuggler called Has Obitt. We also sometimes get to see through Galen Erso’s eyes but this is kept to a minimum.
This is a character-driven book, focusing mainly on the early friendship of Krennic / Galen and the former’s slow manipulation of him. Galen is a brilliant scientist, the mind of a generation, and Krennic sees him as an opportunity to further his own ends. He leads the advanced weapons group and needs Galen to construct the Death Star’s massive laser, but as Galen and his wife Lyra are such staunch pacifists, Krennic must ensure Galen doesn’t realise what he is doing, and he must avoid arousing Lyra’s suspicion.
As I’ve mentioned above, this is a character-centric book – so don’t come into this expecting blaster-blazing action. (Not that there isn’t action, Catalyst does have it’s fair share of drama, action and firefights – it’s just a little less prevalent than other Star Wars Novels.) For me, the standout best parts were anything which had Krennic or Lyra in it, which fortunately for me was most of the book! Krennic is such a delicious character to read about. He doesn’t have the brilliant mind of Galen, but he is a high achiever and formidable in his own way. He is cunning and manipulative, and has an innate ability to read people which gives him maximum leverage over them. He is also ruthlessly ambitious and it was a lot of fun to read about his slow climb to power.
I do think Krennic genuinely liked Galen and would have liked nothing more than for Galen to be on board from the start. He seemed to look out for Galen, especially in their younger days when he would end up defending Galen in bar fights! I think it’s just that with Galen reluctant to help, Krennic was forced to use more underhand measures to get Galen ‘with the programme’!
Lyra on the other hand is a fascinating character. She is neither a warrior like Rey, nor a figure of authority like Leia or Padme. But she is neverthleless a many-faceted and strong character. She is Galen’s wife and, although she adores him, she is not afraid to confront him when he is getting too caught up in his work to see what is really going on around him.
She fights her corner well and is utterly devoted to her family. She was a kind of space explorer and I loved seeing different planets through her eyes and experiencing the wonder she feels as she travels to new places. Her joy and wonder for the natural world is infectious!
She sees right through Krennic pretty much from the get-go, but unfortunately for Lyra, Krennic is just better at the game than she is. Her actions in Rogue One, of her finally snapping and refusing to go meekly with Krennic into a life of service to a cause that she despises makes so much more sense after reading this novel.
Luceno also gives us some great insight, not only into the nature and workings of the kyber crystals but also into what the force means to people who aren’t Jedi. Lyra has a wonderful belief in the force and that they are all moving with its will, and it will guide them even if they can’t see it like the Jedi do. This is a trait that we will see is passed on to her daughter Jyn.
The effect of the war and the rise of the Empire on normal people was very palpable in this book. Lyra and Galen are a fairly normal couple (Galen’s brilliant scientific mind aside) and they are just trying to get by but they get swept up in the war nonetheless. They are ordinary people trying to survive in extraordinary circumstances.
I’m grasping a little bit here because I really loved everything about this book when I read it! I suppose if I’m being really picky then I would say that I found the character of Has Obitt to be slightly less appealing than the others. Maybe that’s just because Lyra and Krennic are so strong, but I just felt that his chapters fell a little flat. I can tell that he was an important character, but he felt a tiny bit like a means to an end as opposed to a full and well-rounded character.
Also, some people argue that this book is slightly lacking in the action department. I would disagree as I think a lot happens plus I enjoy a good bit of character development as, for me, that’s the best kind of story out there! However it’s worth bearing in mind if you are all about the snap-hiss or the pew-pew then this book might not be your cup of
Overall: my first delve into a new, Disney canon book certainly did not disappoint! This has reassured me that the novels are good hands and I’m so excited to start reading more of the new canon. I know that I’ve got some Luceno books coming up in Legends too which is very exciting now that I’ve had a taste of his writing.
I loved this book so much, it really was unputdownable and I cannot recommend it highly enough – particularly if you have seen Rogue One I think it is crucial background and is a proper prequel to the film. It was so cleverly done because it introduced us to the characters of Galen/Lyra/Krennic and gave vital background to their relationship, however you then only need to see Rogue One and their story is complete. Luceno leaves no loose threads that aren’t tied up by Rogue One and I think this is great!
Rating – 5 out of 5 Death Stars for Catalyst – Rogue One will never be the same after you’ve read this book!