Lost Stars by Claudia Gray
On paper, the concept of a young adult Star Wars book seems like a great idea. Following young people in the middle of the war between the Empire and Rebellion has great potential, sadly when this story was actually put on paper it does not work out as well as one would hope. This is due to the tissue thin characters, a sluggish plot, and an utter lack of relatable emotional moments.
The story follows two kids (Thane and Ciena) as they go from living on a planet in the outer rim to becoming imperial cadets and eventually fighting on different sides of the Empire/Rebellion war. The first act of the book focuses on the kids becoming close as they train to go to the academy. This part develops their homeworld, Jelucan, and gives the basic structure of their ‘personalities’. Thane dislikes authority and control while Ciena believes in honor. The second act has them both attending the same prestigious academy where we get introduced to what passes for side characters in this book. At the academy they start to have feelings for each other, but get in a fight and don’t make up until they graduate (at the top of their class no less) because that’s what happens when you get in a fight with a good friend. The third act has them acting as background characters in A New Hope and Thane leaving to join the rebellion, but they do have sex before Thane quits because cliché demands it. Act four has them continuing to have no real impact in the galaxy during Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The final act explains how the star destroyer crashed on the planet of Jakku and provides a very unsatisfying ending that will liekly leave every reader disappointed.
The story is filled with tired clichés and is incredibly predictable, but that would be fine if the characters were worth following. Thane comes from a somewhat privileged background, but has an abusive family which is only there to make him hate authority and strong arm tactics. He is the top of his class and becomes an ace pilot. He spends most of his time moping about how he doesn’t like the Empire, but his girlfriend does. He has no character development and shows little emotion about the deaths of his friends. He only shows some emotion when it comes to Ciena, but his relationship with her is incredibly shallow. Thane isn’t relatable and not very likeable he is just another Mary Sue young adult novel character. Ciena, sadly, is just as bad. She grew up poor, but with a strong sense of honor and loyalty. She’s the best at everything and gets promoted very quickly even becoming a Captain of a ship before the age of 25 because that happens all the time. She spends most of her time moping about Thane and justifying her loyalty to the Empire. She does feel bad when her friend dies and shows some disgust toward the Empire as the story goes on. While she does have some growth, most of her behavior is due to her feelings for Thane rather than coming from her experiences. Both of these characters are very shallow and fall into the Mary Sue category, which makes them unrealistic and very annoying for anyone hoping for strong and entertaining lead characters.
Lost Stars doesn’t have side characters as much as it has a pile of stock cardboard standees that function as a reminder to the reader that the main duo is awesome. The first ‘real’ side characters come at the academy and don’t really need names since they are: energetic girl, nerdy girl, laid back guy, and jerk guy. These are the kind of stock characters you would see in just about any teen drama or horror movie, but nothing is done with them to make them memorable or interesting. When Thane joins the rebels he gets some squadron mates, but they just exist for him to have someone to talk to during his chapters. The worst part of this are the few movie characters that show up just to stroke the egos of the two leads. Granted it isn’t any of the main three, but it is still unrealistic that an Admiral or Rebel Leader would waste time with a lower ranking soldier whose name they don’t even know.
The biggest tragedy in this ‘tragic love story’ is that the love story is even more empty and cliché than the characters. Thane and Ciena begin as friends, but start to recognize that they are attractive once they hit their teen years. They have the physical attraction down, but all other forms of attraction are weak. The only thing they have in common is that they are the best at everything and love to fly. There isn’t a real build up to them wanting to be with each other, it’s more like one day they realize ‘we’re hot, we should totally bang’ and they do, twice. For two characters who claim to fully understand each other they often get into fights where they decide to not speak with each other for years at a time. More than that, they have a physical altercation later in the book as the result of yet another argument. These aren’t signs of a healthy relationship nor one that is interesting to follow. The only good part to this aspect of the story is that it doesn’t fall into any love triangle tropes mainly because that would have added drama and made things more interesting. The most pathetic part of this is that the love story could have been completely removed or replaced with a sibling relationship and it would have had no major impact on anything.
Every chance to have drama in the story is wasted and it makes this a very dry book. As mentioned before, the love story could easily be pulled out because it does nothing to build drama other than Thane’s squadron getting a little annoyed with him for dating an Imperial officer before quickly forgiving him. There is no real character body count so you can’t build pathos due to the tragic loss of good people. This is a war and yet any characters who do die are forgettable and unimportant to the story of Thane and Ciena. There are no real romantic rivals or other relationships to build tension either. It’s just having two characters pine over each other for years, which is massively boring. The only drama that does happen are the occasional arguments over political views, which even the characters get sick of by the end of the book. This book has a war, romance, and clashing views yet there isn’t a single drop of worthwhile drama just some very bad melodrama where it isn’t needed and ‘difficult choices’ with no real consequence.
Bad Star Wars books are not a new thing, but Lost Stars is one of the worst books I’ve read in a long time (and I have read ‘Children of the Jedi’). It was a huge waste of time that I will never get back and it makes me long for the fun but empty ‘Heir to the Jedi’ and aggravating but engaging ‘Aftermath’. This book is easily the worst of the new continuity and has set a new low bar for bad Star Wars books. Thankfully, this book adds nothing to the overall continuity (other than the origin of the crashed Jakku ship) so it can be skipped. The bottom line is that you can have a much better time reading entertaining new canon titles like ‘A New Dawn’, ‘Lords of the Sith’, and the surprisingly enjoyable junior reader novels. Let Lost Stars remain lost and read a book that isn’t filled with boring Mary Sue heroes and cookie cutter clichés.