After completing the first two books in the Star Wars Aftermath Trilogy, I couldn’t wait to read the final book, Empire’s End. The action and plot twists in the series thus far have been incredibly entertaining and I couldn’t wait to see how Chuck Wendig would end things.
When we last left our heroes, the remnants of the Empire dealt a heavy blow to the New Republic. What was supposed to be the end to a lengthy war with the Empire – a treaty of peace between Mon Mothma and Grand Admiral Sloane – during the Liberation Day Celebration on Chandrila turned into a nightmare. Unbeknownst to Sloane, Gallius Rax had chips implanted into the heads of recently freed Imperial captives being honored at the celebration. Those chips turned these former heroes into assassins.
Norra Wexley and her crew are especially affected by this incident. Norra’s husband was one of the manipulated assassins and he disappeared shortly after Liberation Day. So did Sloane, much to Norra’s chagrin as she believes Sloane responsible for the deaths of a number of high ranking New Republic officials at the hands of the converted assassins. Now the hunt is on to find Sloane and now, thanks to a run-in with bounty hunter Mercurial Swift, Norra believes she will finally have her revenge. Sloane is on Jakku.
But when the crew heads out to Jakku to find Norra, they find a whole lot more – the entire Imperial fleet, much more advanced and expanded than they ever imagined. Now, it’s up to Norra’s team to get back to Chandrila and warn them about what they’ve found before it’s too late. But they’ll have to do it without Norra or Jas. Norra’s desire for vengeance is too great and Jas has found that she can’t let Norra put herself in danger alone. Even scarier than leaving Norra and Jas in a hostile environment surrounded by the enemy is the fact that the leadership of the New Republic may be unwilling to commit resources to taking the war to the Empire.
Well, this installment of Aftermath was definitely an adventure. There’s a lot going on. First of all, Mon Mothma is down in the ratings election-wise thanks to what took place during Liberation Day. She is still recovering from those events, having been severely wounded by one of the programmed assassins. So, when she hears of the Imperial fleet amassed at Jakku, she must tread lightly in order to confirm the information she has received and, even then, she is having a hard time getting the motion passed to commit resources to finally ending this war. But Han, Leia, Temmin and Sinjir believe that something is going on behind the scenes, some kind of political corruption preventing anything Mon Mothma sets forth from being passed.
Meanwhile, when Norra finally finds Sloane, she discovers her husband is working with her and that there is something greater at stake. Gallius Rax has long-standing orders from Emperor Palpatine about the direction he wants his Empire to go in after he is gone. If Rax follows through with his plans, the Empire as Sloane knows it will be long gone. Norra finds herself working together with Sloane to defeat Rax, but loses something precious to her in the midst of the battle. And it is here where we discover why this trilogy was written in the first place. For Rax has created the First Order and we are now seeing it in its original incarnation. We see Armitage Hux in his early years, long before The Force Awakens and we understand a little about what drives him. We also learn why Jakku is riddled with ruins of starships – this is where a battle to end all battles was fought. Little did the New Republic know that a remnant of the Empire escaped to become something more vicious than it ever was before.
I enjoyed the storyline immensely, but am annoyed at the reconstruction of the Star Wars Universe as I always knew it. I understand the need to explain how the First Order came to be, but it’s just not the Star Wars saga I knew – the one revived by Timothy Zahn all those years ago with The Thrawn Trilogy. For those who might not remember, this was about an Imperial remnant who had been hiding in the Unknown Regions that reappears just in time to harass our heroes. Leia was also pregnant in that tale – with twins. You may notice that, though the creators of the new trilogy of films swear they are not following the books that came before, they sure are “borrowing” quite a few ideas from them. It just annoys me, but this is not a rant, this is a review, so I’ll get back to the reason for this article.
Chuck Wendig is an excellent writer, creating characters that we find ourselves caring about. We are totally invested in their welfare and feel the pain of loss when they do, as well as the trill of victory. We even gain a tad of respect for Rae Sloane in all of this and actually begin to root for her survival. The interludes interspersed throughout the novel are terrific, bringing us to places outside of the storyline like Tatooine, Kashyyyk (where we witness how Chewie finally finds his son), Christophsis, Devaron and more. These places have been visited all through the trilogy and Empire’s End gives us a sense of closure for the characters we have met in these places.
There is a ton of action and intrigue in Star Wars: Aftermath: Empire’s End. Action fans will love it whether they are fans of dogfights or hand to hand combat. If you are a fan of the new trilogy or someone who has only known the new trilogy storyline, the Aftermath Trilogy will offer up a great backstory for all of that. Fans of the original trilogy and the books that followed will be a tad annoyed, but true Star Wars fans will have fun with the story anyway. It was definitely a fun read.