Hello! What’s this? Finally, my review of Empire’s End! I’m sorry it took me so long to publish this (having finished the book back in June) but it’s one of those books that I really want to do justice! I am so glad I decided to make my own mind up about this trilogy because it has firmly fixed itself alongside the New Jedi Order as some of my all time favourite Star Wars!
In Empire’s End, Wendig is back with his now familiar crisp writing style, snappy dialogue and deeply compelling characters. Wendig is truly a master of his craft and I absolutely adore the way he paints a scene. His books seem to spring to life before your very eyes and they have that “unputdownable” vibe that will have to voraciously flipping pages in the small hours of the night!! The entire trilogy feels like a breath of fresh air in the Star Wars universe and I am so grateful that we got to experience a trilogy like this in the new canon.
The Aftermath books really bring home the very human element of the Rebel Alliance / New Republic. It’s easy to forget sometimes when watching the movies that the Rebels fighting the Empire were real people with very real lives and struggles – whether that’s Norra choosing to join the Alliance at the cost of crucial years with her son that she will never get back, or Jas having to chose between doing the right thing and getting paid (the latter sounds somewhat shallow but when you consider the significant debts Jas owed to some very Bad People, her plight becomes much more desperate!). Wendig’s characters are so very real, relatable and, indeed, memorable. I’m certainly not going to forget the enigmatic Sinjir Rath Velus in a hurry, nor indeed Mister Bones, Jas, Temmin, Jom, Norra and, of course, the indomitable Rae Sloane.
Grand Admiral Rae Sloane was, hands down, my favourite part of of this entire trilogy. It’s rare we get to follow an Imperial Officer so closely, nor indeed get to witness their fall from grace. Since Sloane had so very far to fall, it was fascinating to watch her apply her considerable will and force of personality (it’s no wonder she was able to rise so high in the ranks of Palpatine’s Empire) to what becomes a deeply personal quest of betrayal and vengeance.
Leia famously said in the beginning of A New Hope, that we were in the Rebel Alliance’s “most desperate hour”. If that was the case for the Alliance, then Empire’s End was the most desperate hour, and, indeed, the final hour, for the mighty Empire. The stakes felt extremely high in the build up to this battle, and the tension ramps up to astronomical levels as the battle begins to unfold. I think it must be the present tense these books are written it, but the sense of urgency in this epic showdown was almost palpable. Even though the New Republic seemingly had the upper hand, Wendig masterfully demonstrates how a cornered tiger fights the fiercest. In it’s dying breath, the Empire was able to deal lasting damage not only to our little band of heroes, but to an entire planet, as Star Destroyers began to fall from the sky, scarring the landscape irrevocably.
Empire’s End packs a serious emotional punch and deals with some heavy themes of vengeance, sacrifice and war. The characters’ dedication to their respective causes is tested like never before in this book and each has to do some serious introspection to figure out where they will end up in the pages of history.
Wendig also handles the legacy characters with great restraint – we get just about enough of them to satisfy our need for the familiar faces of Leia, Han, Mon Mothma, Admiral Ackbar etc but at the same time, removing them from the front lines, so to speak, means that the characters who are seriously risking their lives are the ones whose fate is uncertain. The only character we know will walk out of this trilogy is Temmin “Snap” Wexley, but for the rest, my heart was in my mouth every time they walked into battle and, having had two previous books to get to know them all and fall in love with them, the stakes never felt higher!
In one of the concluding chapters, Wendig describes the fall of the Empire as a “death by a thousand cuts. A slow bleed that began perhaps not when the first Death Star was destroyed, but very early, when it killed the Jedi to make way for it’s regime”. He talks about how the Battle of Jakku was the “final wound” in a regime that was doomed to fall because of the Emperor’s own arrogance and shortsightedness. The New Republic’s victory at Jakku feels bittersweet, as Wendig gently reminds us throughout Empire’s End, for from the ashes of the Empire, the First Order will rise.
For me, nothing. This was my favourite book in the Aftermath trilogy and is one of my favourite books from the new canon. In the interests of impartiality, I would say that if you are not a fan of present tense writing then you simply won’t get on with these books. For me personally, it worked really well with the story and I wouldn’t change it for past tense at all. I adore the way Wendig writes but understand that it might not be everyone’s cup of tea and, if the style isn’t for you, then I suggest you swerve the trilogy because I don’t think it will be for you!
Overall: I laughed a lot, I cried a lot, I barely survived the Battle of Jakku but goodness me I enjoyed every single moment!
Rating: 5 out of 5 Death Stars!