A moment frozen in time. Two porcelain dancers mid embrace inside a rotating music box. Slowly spinning as a lullaby plays. Eyes locked on each other. Reflections on the glass enclosure flicker memories leading to the climactic moment. This is my review of the enchanted novel Lost Stars by Claudia Gray.

Setting the Stage

Set eight years after the end of the Clone War, the story begins on the newly annexed planet of Jelucan. There two souls Ciena Ree and Thane Kyrell are set on a journey that would shape their lives as they are interwoven into the events of the original trilogy and beyond. Many surprises await as the reader is introduced to faces new and old in an enchanted tale of love, honor, and duty. This is a novel about compassion and selfishness. The story is not about the Jedi versus the Sith or the light versus dark. This novel is about two lost souls finding the right purpose in life as everything falls apart around them.

Before We Begin

When this novel was released on Force Friday in 2015 I was hesitant to read it. There was something about the novel I couldn’t place my finger on at the time, so I put it towards the end of the Journey to The Force Awakens wave of books. I just felt it would be right to hold off. Yet it kept calling out to me to read it. When I finally sat down to read it, the writing style felt warm, approachable, and relatable. I was naturally sucked into the story, and before I knew it I couldn’t put it down! The twists and turns were like a rollercoaster of emotion. The use of the legacy characters felt right. I knew I was in for a treat in the prologue, because of how Claudia Gray handed the first legacy character Wilhuff Tarkin. I think the reason I held off reading it originally was because I could feel the book’s importance. This novel reshaped so many moments in original trilogy, for the better! It also introduced new story possibilities that I hope get continued. Some already have in the Aftermath trilogy by Chuck Wendig and new movies.

“Look through my eyes.” – Ciena Ree

The End is the Beginning

The curious thing about Lost Stars is when to read it. You only really need the original 6 movies as a reference to begin diving in; however, there is so much more to extrapolate if you have the other canon material swirling in the back of your mind. The reason is the amount of knowledge or misinformation Ciena and Thane are told throughout the novel is limited. Their stories may intertwine, with the movie characters, but it is more about how they deal with the mess Han, Luke, and Leia leave in their wake. I enjoyed this approach, because it is not simply a retelling of the movies, with new characters thrown in. It is a story about Ciena and Thane, and their journey inside the Imperial service.

In addition, the events of Rogue One were not something that Ciena and Thane would be privy about; however there is a brief mention in the novel that is more a reference to A New Hope’s opening crawl. It reminded me of how in A New Hope the Death Star plans may have been lost forever if Luke didn’t pick R2D2. Luke had no way of knowing the battle over Scarif or even an ounce of how important R2D2’s secret mission was. As a moviegoer we know the importance, and that is something that extra knowledge enhances our viewing experience.

Speaking of which, this is not a “one and done” type of story. Claudia Gray wove a most beautiful rhythm in the story beats that both foreshadows the end and tugs at the heartstrings. The first time I read this novel I was so absorbed in the story, and it’s thrilling conclusion. The second time I was torn apart by all those little moments and knowing the ending made me get all teary eyed. I won’t say what happens other than it was something I did not expect. This is one reason I keep coming back to the Star Wars stories. They build off each other, and my perspective changes each time.

“It’s all right if you still love someone on the other side of this war—as long as you love what you’re fighting for even more.” – Mon Mothma

Voices of Ciena and Thane

The narration switch between Ciena and Thane was wonderful. Getting into their minds, when they would be so similar yet so different. It was like the hands of a pianist. One hand being Thane, and the other Ciena. When they were in sync it was such beautiful sweet melody. When they were at odds, it was piercingly brutal. How two people can be so close yet so far apart. I just wanted to root, for them to find a way to make it work. A way to that would leave them both happy. Where neither side had to throw away their morals, principals, or honor. I want to believe there is a way.

Ciena Ree in TIE Fighter uniform. All rights reserved to Lucasfilm and Fantasy Flight

The Romeo and Juliet Comparison

I hear the Romeo and Juliet comparison thrown around a lot, when people are describing Lost Stars. I do not fault anyone, for doing so, because it something taught in the Unites States school system. There is a reason Romeo and Juliet continues to be studied; however, it is a different type of love story than Lost Stars. I hope one day Lost Stars could be used inside the school system. It not only touches upon love, but also honor, duty, and an awareness that what you are taught may not be ring true. Claudia Gray’s way of storytelling molded Ciena and Thane into a believable couple stuck at odds, and yet could not be apart. There is so much to chew on, when diving into the deeper issues of this novel.

“…this isn’t about whether or not we’ve kept faith with the Empire. It’s about whether the Empire has kept faith with us.” – Thane Kyrell

Getting the Most Out of this Novel

Going in without any pre existing knowledge to the new canon stories before Lost Stars is possible. The novel is designed to stand on it’s own. Though, I strongly suggest first reading the other stories in my New Republic Year One guide (found here). The reason is how the other stories reveal information and events that Ciena and Thane would not have any knowledge. In addition, Lost Stars makes a wonderful crescendo to the end of the first year of New Republic.

As for unrelated material to enhance the reading experience of Lost Stars I suggest a movie and documentary that the author herself referenced in interviews. First, is the movie Belle (2013). Actors Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sam Reid were her fancast of Ciena Ree and Thane Kyrell. Second, the documentary Crazy Love (2007). The documentary helped explain the rationale of Nash Windrider after his homeworld of Alderaan was destroyed.

Conclusion

There is a reason this novel keeps popping up on top favorite lists. Claudia Gray wrote a tale that will put your emotions in Corellian overdrive! I highly recommend this novel to any Star Wars fan, and what an amazing cover! A word of caution: much flailing will be had enjoying this novel.