Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Lost Stars (2015) is not in want of a good premise. The story takes place over the course of events in A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi. It chronicles the rise and fall of the Galactic Empire and the struggles of two star-crossed individuals as they try to find their place within the changing political environment of the galaxy. The aristocratic Thane Kyrell and lowly labourer Ciena Ree both reside on the Outer Rim of planet Jelucan. Whilst their backgrounds couldn’t be more different, the childhood friends both have one thing in common: they love to fly. As teenagers they are both accepted into the Imperial Academy and train as TIE fighter pilots and are both (unsurprisingly) star flyers. But their friendship is about to be tested, as one of them begins to question their loyalty to the Galactic Empire. With their political ideals tearing them apart, will Ciena and Thane’s friendship (or more?) be strong enough to withstand the forces pitting them against each other?
So far, so good. It’s not like the plot is reinventing the wheel (it’s just Romeo and Juliet in space) but there’s enough cool conflict in there to hook a reader’s interest. So where did it all go wrong?
For Ciena and Thane, things start to go wrong at the Imperial Academy. The Academy pits the young pilots against each other and, as two of the most successful pilots in their year, Ciena and Thane find themselves constantly at odds with one another. A couple of years go by in fierce competition with the pair hardly even talking, but upon graduating they bury their differences after finding out they’ll be posted close by.
But things are about to go pear-shaped. After seeing the Bodachi enslavement on Kerev’Doi, Thane loses faith in the Galactic Empire. He is recruited by the Rebel Alliance, which was always going to put a spanner in the works between him and Ciena, who’s still an avid believer in the Empire.
So there we have it: a gripping premise set against the background of a franchise whose fan base is surely only trumped in size by that of Harry Potter’s. And for this reason, Star Wars fans and YA readers alike will be clamouring for the book. But something just fell a little flat. Whilst well written, the prose felt as formulaic as the tropes Claudia Gray was using. Ciena and Thane had all the makings of characters with depth, but they never quite got there. Reading Lost Stars felt almost like reading a recipe: all the ingredients are there, but it doesn’t exactly make for riveting reading material.
Perhaps there were certain hoops Gray had to jump through in writing a tie-in novel to the Star Wars franchise. After all, the plots of the films dictate a certain level of plot and character development already, and perhaps this sucked some of the creativity out of writing the story. It certainly felt that way upon reading it.
Before incurring the wrath of Star Wars and YA fans alike, it should be pointed out that Lost Stars is deeply tied to the original trilogy, so if it’s nostalgia you’re after, this could be the book for you. The same can be said of the love story: it does do exactly what it says on the tin, if you’re into prescription romance. As long as you’re not after anything ground-breaking or any big surprises, give this a try.