- Author: Claudia Gray
- 550 Pages
- Published in 2017
- Canon (Young Adult)
- Placement in Timeline: 11 BBY to about 4 ABY.
What It’s About
Lost Stars spans the length of the Empire, from about eight years after its inception, all the way through the Battle of Jakku. It tells the story of Ciena Ree and Thane Kyrell from the planet Jelucan who dream of being pilots in the Imperial Navy.
Ciena is a rural villager from the valleys, while Thane is from a privileged family in the mountains. The two groups share a mutual prejudice against each other, but the two kids meet when the Empire finally reaches Jelucan and brings it into the Imperial fold. The kids just want to see the ships, and they manage to fight off some bullies and get to see the inside of an Imperial shuttle with Grand Moff Tarkin himself.
The two become fast friends despite the disapproval of their families. They practice flying together in Thane’s family’s old V-171. Over the years, they fly together, and study hard to get into the Imperial Academy. They both manage to get into the prestigious Royal Academy on Coruscant, and while they endure some ups and downs during their tenure there, they emerge successful and eager to begin their careers. Thane becomes a TIE fighter pilot serving on the first Death Star, while Ciena’s command track puts her on Darth Vader’s flagship. Their lives seem brilliant and promising.
But then Alderaan gets blown up and the Death Star destroyed, and everything seems to go to hell. Thane is shocked and disillusioned with the destruction of Alderaan, and he questions his loyalty to the Empire. Ciena is equally devastated, but uses the destruction of the Death Star–and the death of her friend, Jude, and her comrades, who served on it–to balance out and rationalize the annihilation of an entire planet. Ciena’s people on Jelucan are known for their reverence of loyalty–once your word is given, you are bound to that vow. Ciena’s loyalty to the Empire is iron-clad, and for that to work for her, she must rationalize the Empire’s actions. To her thinking, Alderaan had to be destroyed in order to prevent a war with the rebels. Terrorists who had killed thousands of people on the Death Star, and who had no respect or loyalty to the Empire that governed them. It didn’t work, of course; the war only intensified. Since it didn’t work, the Empire would never dream of using that tactic again. Right?
Anyway, from that point on Ciena and Thane discover how differently they both look at the Empire and its methods. At the same time, they realize they are not only friends, but are in love, and have been for quite some time. Their assignments keep them apart quite a bit, but they hope to see each other again from time to time. However, Thane becomes increasingly disturbed and upset about the Empire, especially after witnessing the suffering of slaves the Empire uses in the mines on a particular planet on one of his missions. He decides he can’t support and serve the Empire anymore; he’s not sure what he’ll do, but he deserts his post. He works for a cargo freighter for awhile, but then is recruited by Wedge Antilles into the Rebellion.
Thane doesn’t join the Rebellion for any lofty ideals; he simply feels the Empire must be stopped. The book then becomes a pattern of he and Ciena meeting in battle, from the Battle of Hoth, to the destruction of the second Death Star, to the Battle of Jakku. They’re both terrified of killing each other in these battles, but they don’t hesitate to do their job. The two are torn apart by their love for each other, and their loyalty to their chosen group.
What will become of these star-crossed lovers on opposite sides of the war?
What I Thought
I’ve heard from many people that Lost Stars is their favorite Star Wars book, and possibly the best Star Wars book ever written. Well, I did enjoy the book. It was a great love story spanning the entire reign of the Galactic Empire, sprinkled with many famous battles. Do I think it’s the best Star Wars book ever? No. Is it in my top ten? You betcha.
Here’s my main problem with Lost Stars: I didn’t like Ciena very much. I understood her character’s position, but I found her staunch loyalty to the Empire blind and stubborn, and her rationalizations of the Empire’s heinous crimes nauseating. And I understand that her character is supposed to exemplify what the Empire did to otherwise good people: the brainwashing, the distorted logic, and in the case of Ciena, using her cultural prioritization of loyalty against her. And in the end, it destroyed her. I pitied her more than anything else.
Even though she eventually did come to see the Empire as evil, she felt trapped by her vow, her loyalty. And she did fear for her parent’s safety, as well as their opinion of her. As a last resort, she felt she needed to stay in the Empire to try to make it better (good luck on that, sweetie). Despite all this, her stubbornness bugged me. I just couldn’t like her.
I liked Thane a lot better, because at least he wasn’t willfully blind to the Empire’s evils. He’s a bit cynical, believing one government isn’t necessarily better than another one, but the Empire has to go. Ironically, Ciena is the one who believes in the Force, while Thane doesn’t buy into all that mystical stuff. But he does come to believe in what he’s fighting for, and the people he’s fighting with.
One of the most interesting characters to me is Nash Windrider. He was one of Thane’s roommates at the Academy, and a native of Alderaan. A genuinely nice guy and fun to be around. Until Alderaan was destroyed. Naturally, he is devastated; it’s a blow to his very soul. But instead of angrily abandoning the Empire and joining the Rebellion–as one would assume he’d do–he stays. Though he’s devastated, he believes that the treason perpetrated by the Organas was shameful, and that the planet needed to be punished. He also blames the Rebels and their treasonous behavior for ultimately leading to Alderaan’s demise. They forced the Empire’s hand, and Alderaan suffered for it. At least, this is what I gather he came to believe. I think it’s the only way he knew how to deal with such a tragedy. Nash eventually becomes a fanatic, his loyalty to the Empire twisted and extreme. He’s another example of what the Empire does to otherwise good people.
The love story was nice, but I found Lost Stars very interesting in that we get to see both sides of the story, and can examine some thorny questions: were the Rebels terrorists? How do otherwise good people come to serve a totalitarian government? How far should loyalty go, and when does it become irresponsible? What are the various psychologies of trauma? Really thick, meaty questions for a young adult romance novel!
I enjoyed pondering all of these questions, but the pace is anything but ponderous; I tore through 550 pages in a few days. Claudia Gray, as always, writes a fantastic story, a really different sort of Star Wars story that should be on every fan’s shelf.
Rating 4 out of 5 Lightsabers