Review: ‘Life Debt’ by Chuck Wendig

life-debt_cover

“It is a dark time for the Empire. . . .”

The Emperor is dead, and the remnants of his former Empire are in retreat. As the New Republic fights to restore a lasting peace to the galaxy, some dare to imagine new beginnings and new destinies. For Han Solo, that means settling his last outstanding debt, by helping Chewbacca liberate the Wookiee s homeworld of Kashyyyk.

Meanwhile, Norra Wexley and her band of Imperial hunters pursue Grand Admiral Rae Sloane and the Empire’s remaining leadership across the galaxy. Even as more and more officers are brought to justice, Sloane continues to elude the New Republic, and Norra fears Sloane may be searching for a means to save the crumbling Empire from oblivion. But the hunt for Sloane is cut short when Norra receives an urgent request from Princess Leia Organa. The attempt to liberate Kashyyyk has carried Han Solo, Chewbacca, and a band of smugglers into an ambush resulting in Chewie s capture and Han s disappearance.

Breaking away from their official mission and racing toward the “Millennium Falcon” s last known location, Norra and her crew prepare for any challenge that stands between them and their missing comrades. But they can t anticipate the true depth of the danger that awaits them or the ruthlessness of the enemy drawing them into his crosshairs.

Life Debt is the second book in the Star Wars: Aftermath series, set between Return of the Jedi and the new movie franchise. I reviewed the first book here.

You don’t have to be a huge Star Wars fan to enjoy these books — it’s been years since I saw any of the original six movies, and I think the only thing I really missed as a result is that I didn’t always have that ingrained knowledge of what a particular alien race looks like. Also, if you’re an audiobook fan, I strongly recommend listening to them as Marc Thompson, the voice actor, did an amazing job!

One of the beefs some people had with Aftermath was that there wasn’t enough of the primary Star Wars characters — we catch a glimpse of Han and Chewie, and that’s about it. Almost all of the story focuses on the events around former rebel pilot Norra and what eventually turns into her crew. Life Debt definitely makes up for the absence of main characters, as the crew from the first book are contracted by Leia to find the missing Han Solo.

Since I loved Norra, ex-Imperial loyalty officer Sinjir and bounty hunter Jas, I was really happy to catch back up with them. I even found Temmin, Norra’s son, less bratty in Life Debt (with one notable exception that he got over fairly fast). Sinjir is so delightfully sarcastic that he’s my stand-out favourite, though Jas is a close second. I’m also a big fan of Rae Sloan, despite her being the bad guy (at least, as far as Norra and co are concerned). Sure, she’s well and truly onboard with the whole “Empire” thing, but I could see the appeal of order over chaos.

There’s some lovely, tantalising foreshadowing of events in The Force Awakens, as well as the promise of backstory — I for one am keen to know Kylo Ren went so badly wrong. (That hair. Seriously?)

The main reason this is four stars for me, rather than five, is that it sometimes felt a bit like I’d dropped into the middle of a TV episode — for example, I felt the resistance effort on Kashyyyk could have sustained a novel all of its own, and I left wondering if I’d missed a bit at one stage. Still, I love Wendig’s frenetic, visceral writing style and will definitely read the third book.

Four stars

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