As the sun rose, burning bright during the day, and setting in the night, there must come a time the new day ends. As such is the final novel in the Aftermath trilogy. What a journey it was! My perspective view of the movies has been reborn by these novels. Familiar places and faces blend together, with the new cast of characters. Below is my review of Empire’s End. Be sure to kindly check out my review of Aftermath (here) and Life Debt (here).
**Spoilers to the first and second Aftermath novels, and potential mild spoilers to Empire’s End.**
Previously on Aftermath Life Debt
Massacre on Chandrila! Prisoners recently rescued from an old Empire prison on Kashyyyk turned against their liberators due to inhibitor chips implanted in their brain. The Chancellor of the New Republic barely surviving must put back the broken eggshells of her new democracy as others cast doubt in her abilities. Meanwhile, fingers point to Rae Sloane and her Empire, but in reality Gallius Rax set her up. Now on a mission of revenge, Sloane and her unexpected companion Brentin Wexley must travel to Jakku to end Rax once and for all. However, hot on her heels is Norra Wexley and her Imperial Hunters to bring Sloane to justice… And to top it all off Leia Organa is due to give birth soon after the successful liberation of the Wookiees on Kashyyyk!
Characters of Interest
Norra Wexley: Pilot during the Rebellion. Imperial Hunter after the events on Akiva. Justice seeker after the massacre on Chandrila, when her recently reunited husband turned coat to murder the Chancellor. Only one word is on her brain as she assumes the master of deception was Rae Sloane, “Revenge.”
Temmin “Snap” Wexley: Son to Norra and Brentin Wexley. Taking after her mother and friend in the New Republic, Wedge Antilles, he has a drive to fly the skies and space. Only he needs much training before he can ever fly an X-Wing.
Mister Bones: A modified B1 battle droid by his master Temmin. His popularity has all but exploded in fandom, with delicate dancing, insane singing, and excessive human dissection.
Wedge Antilles: Leader of Phantom Squadron that led his group of rejected X-Wing pilots to battle during the liberation of Kashyyyk.
Brentin Wexley: Rebel spy that was kidnapped and thought long dead returns! Only the reunion was cut short after the inhibitor chip in his brain caused him to almost kill Mon Mothma. Now he must seek repentance and make things right.
Jas Emari: Bounty Hunter. Imperial Hunter. This Zabrak does not catch a break, when trying to pay off her debts. With a price on her head so high, she is bound to be noticed.
Mercuriel Swift: Bounty Hunter who revels in all things revolving himself. Most recently accepted work, for the former Grand Admiral Rae Sloane after the massacre on Chandrila.
Sinjir Rath Velus: This former Imperial Loyalty Officer is not one to get himself tied down to office work. He is ever vigilant to Norra in her search for Rae Sloane.
Brendol Hux: For as much effort this former Commandant of the Arkanis Imperial Academy put into raising children in the Empire, he is a lousy Father to his illegitimate son Armitage Hux.
Grand Admiral Rae Sloane: You can’t keep a good Imperial down as Rae Sloane bakes a giant cake of revenge, with Gallius Rax’s name carved on top.
Gallius Rax: The one in charge of the Empire after he set up Rae Sloane to fall during the massacre on Chandrila. His true motivations a mystery as he fulfills his destiny that Emperor Palpatine foretold to him…
Advisor Yupe Teshu: Freed from his physical prison on Chandrila, he currently advises Gallius Rax. However, in his spare time he still dabbles to the side of sheer insanity, with his dark side shenanigans.
Chancellor Mon Mothma: Current leader to the New Republic, but for how much longer? She survived the massacre on Chandrila, with the help from Norra Wexley, but all eyes are on her as she attempts to steer the New Republic back on track.
Leia Organa: The one. The only. Leia Organa! Her tenacity and quick wit led to the liberation of the planet Kashyyyk. Can she keep the momentum of justice going all the while expecting to give birth soon to her son?
Han Solo: The time has come for this pirate to put on his big man pants and step up to the plate. To prepare for his responsibility of being a Father, with his wonderful wife Leia Organa at his side. Or rather him at her side, because we all know which one is in charge.
Conder Kyl: The most sophisticated slicer on Chandrila, who occasionally works for Sinjir and Leia.
Senator Tolwar Wartol: After the massacre on Chandrila and the coming election to decide the new Chancellor of the New Republic, this opportunistic Senator jumps into the political ring. How far will he go, for political domination?
Niima the Hutt: On Jakku there is one Hutt you do not want to cross lest you wish to be turned into a disfigured slave! She may be a Hutt, but speed is on her side as she can move with such furious slurry. Watch out!
Commodore Kyrsta Agate: Commodore of the New Republic naval fleet. Even after the Liberation Day massacre, Agate never lost sight of her fierce determination.
Jom Barell: Dominic Santiago with a mustache and eye patch. (Muscle for hire to New Republic security)
The Painting Concludes
The worst part about a Bob Ross painting episode is the ending. Where Ross dabs one last time on the canvas. Where he takes a step back soaking in all the glory to his creation. Where he turns to the camera, with a smirk of satisfaction, and says, “That’s good enough,” to the audience. Then all that’s left is a finished painting as the credits trickle down like the tears on my cheeks, because it is over. No, Bob! It is not “good enough” (it is though)! There is still so much more to paint! Keep going! …but all good things must end.
Empire’s End marks the end to not only the Empire as we knew it, but the end to the Aftermath trilogy. The finished painting Chuck Wendig painted was one heck of a ride. Chuck Wendig is truly the Bob Ross of Star Wars. As I finished the novel I was left satisfied by the journey, and still wanting more! As true to other Star Wars stories there were a lot of new questions and stories introduced through the main plot and interludes that do not get fully resolved. However, it unlocks so many potential opportunities, for other authors to explore!
“I am the brightest beam of light.” – Sinjir Rath Velus
One does not simply go to Jakku. Many surprises unfolded after the massacre on Liberation Day and the liberation of Wookiees on Kashyyyk from Life Debt. The bulk of Empire’s End is setting up the pieces on the game board to the inevitable showdown on Jakku. A battle that had only been covered briefly in the novel Lost Stars by Claudia Gray, or the aftermath visibly seen during the movie The Force Awakens. Side note, this review was written before “Blade Squadron Jakku” short story by David J. Williams and Mark S. Williams was released.
What caught my attention of this story is it felt like an echo from Rogue One. By echo I mean it could include elements from that movie into this story. Similar to how Life Debt was an echo to The Force Awakens. Everything blended together smoothly into one giant shatterpoint, where the past, present, and future melding into one.
The audiobook production of Empire’s End did not disappoint. Random House Audio and Marc Thompson get a standing ovation to their craft of transforming this story into a one man show radio drama. I haven’t mentioned this before in the other reviews, but Mister Bones’ voice reminds me of a character from the TV show Invader Zim. It is not to any particular character on the show. Just the vibe I got from listening to his voice. Overall, all the character voices felt right or had the right essence. I know it would be impossible to mimic perfectly all the characters, but Thompson beautifully captured the tone. There were moments I was so fully absorbed into the audiobook that I forgot I could not see the story, because the images in my head were so vivid.
First is Sinjir Rath Velus. His arc from Aftermath (lost in the sea of the living force) to Life Debt (a man without a star) to Empire’s End (his destiny becoming clear) was a wonderful transformation! Out of the main cast he had the most growth, and his sass was on full tilt. Since this is a review I try not to spoil the outcome, so I will leave things off here..
Second is Rae Sloane. My how the mighty have fallen, when betrayal is afoot. At the end of Life Debt she came to realize what she thought was her Empire was nothing but a corrupt shell of what used to be. I did enjoy her overall character growth. I won’t go into specifics, but Sloane fans might be divided. I felt she stayed true to character. For those wanting more of Rae Sloane, my favorite short story of her is “The Levers of Power” by Jason Fry, which can be found in the paperback or eBook bundled release called The Rise of the Empire. The special bundle includes two novels and three exclusive short stories.
How to Best Experience the Novel
It is recommended to read the first two novels in the Aftermath novels and the other stories from New Republic Year One (guide found here). Each book builds on the next. In addition, it helps to have read these three stories beforehand.
First is the Lando 5 issue comic written by Charles Soule, penciled by Alex Maleev, and colored by Paul Mounts. I was surprised by how much this comic influenced story elements in Empire’s End. Plus, it is a stellar story!
Second is Weapon of a Jedi by Jason Fry. By reading this junior novel beforehand I went into a certain interlude from Empire’s End, with a different set of expectations. My ears perked up so high at the location name that I am almost a certified elf!
Third is Battlefront: Twilight Company by Alexander Freed. If you were reading the Blade Squadron short stories they make a nice bridge of Freed’s story to Wendig’s story. How Freed’s novel factors into Empire’s End was a fun connection.
A new dawn. A New Republic. A new Empire! Taking the leap into the Aftermath trilogy was an unmistakably Star Wars ride that did not disappoint! So many stories bridged together from the past, present, and future in this trilogy. I see the movies in a whole new light. I cannot wait to see what is in store next on the timeline of the New Republic era!