Andor teaser trailer

I have no words…

Okay, so I have some words. I’m in love. The fact that Kenobi is out today doesn’t really matter to me. I’m all about seeing just what this is going to be about. We get early-years Rebellion stuff, Mon Mothma at cocktail parties and Cassian Andor at the thin end of the wedge. I am beside myself with joy.

That’s right, beside myself!

It’s not even 2 minutes of footage, but I’m already so glad to know that we’re getting a second season!!

August 31 cannot come too quickly!!

Star Wars: The Fallen Star (a review)

The final book in the first phase of The High Republic, The Fallen Star picks up with Marchion Ro’s plan to completely wipe out the Jedi, and undermine the Republic throughout the Outer Rim. Synchronous raids across seemingly insignificant planets drive a host of injured refugees to Starlight Beacon, which is currently in orbit at Eiram assisting with a relief project there. A further Nihil attack against a remote Jedi temple is seen as proof of the uncoordinated death throes of the Nihil organisation, which was believed destroyed following the Republic Fair.

However, Marchion Ro has secretly dispatched a team of saboteurs to Starlight Beacon, and soon the full extent of the Nihil is shown as the space station is blasted in two, with catastrophic results. While Avar Kriss had pursued the Nihil and believed herself to have found The Eye, Lourna Dee, Stellan Gios took over the mantle of Marshal of Starlight Beacon. However, he is almost entirely unprepared for the catastrophe that befalls them all, even when Elzar Mann returns from his exile to help with the relief effort.

As if the physical damage to the station wasn’t enough, the Nihil have also released at least one of the leveler creatures aboard, which causes significant problems for the Jedi as they find themselves unable to concentrate and growing in fear. The creature kills three Jedi Knights, and the disaster continues to take its toll on our heroes, with Stellan paying the ultimate price when the Beacon crashes on the surface.


I have been enjoying the High Republic series so far, but I did feel as though this book fell a bit flat. It is almost exclusively set on Starlight Beacon, which feels less like the plush advert for Republic splendour that it seemed to be in Light of the Jedi, and instead more like the Death Star, only somehow less exciting. The disaster-movie atmosphere, though, was great –just when we think our heroes are going to pull through, something else goes horribly wrong and stuff. I’m not a sadist, but I did like the fact that it really came across like a huge disaster, much more so than the Hyperspace Disaster that kicked off the series, actually.

Of course, this hyper-focus on the Beacon really felt like it worked to the novel’s detriment, as it felt quite claustrophobic, and I did feel the same as those trapped aboard in the cargo bay, trying to get off. Stellan, the man of action from the second book, is now struck down with the weight of responsibility and, when he does encounter the leveler briefly, it sends him catatonic for a portion of the book. I was surprised by that decision, although it did give Elzar the nudge he needed to take on some responsibility. That all being said, however, I did find myself wishing that Avar was back – she headlined the first book, and then seemed to just disappear in the subsequent instalments. Maybe she has been featured in other books, as I haven’t yet taken the time to discover those, but I thought it a bit strange that she wasn’t more heavily featured, as I really liked her character.

There’s a navigator called Geode, who is basically a rock. Weird, but it’s a huge and weird galaxy, so fair enough. I was surprised at how far this was taken, though, given that it seems everybody except Elzar accepts him as being a sentient being, who gives “a stony expression” or whose “silence said it all” and stuff. It was bordering on silly, though I guess on the whole it was kinda funny. Among those pilots trapped in the cargo bay, there’s a petty and venal guy who tries to rile his fellows up against the Jedi, intending to blast their way through the cargo bay doors etc. I hated him, and it took me a while to realise that actually, I hated him because the situation was written so well – of course, there’s always that one guy who thinks they know what’s best and ends up getting the group in trouble. It’s classic disaster movie stuff.

However, we get very little else besides the goings on on board the space station, and it does get a bit boring after a while. I read half of this book in one day when I was on the train to London and back, but then took a week to finish it as it just felt like a bit of a chore. I think we could have done with getting a bit more variety, even if it was from following some of the people in the top half of the station with Avar. It all just seems to get a bit boring after a while, for all that it’s a disaster book and should be exciting as we root for the heroes to pull through.

I also wasn’t a fan of the ending. We only followed three saboteurs aboard the Beacon, yet Marchion Ro sent seven? And the final pages that feature his address to the galaxy… I’m struggling to keep up, but I just don’t understand why he wants to eliminate the Jedi. I don’t get it, as the Nihil are a raiding force – is he trying to keep the Republic out of the Rim to ensure free raiding forever? He seems to want to rule the galaxy, but that seemed to come out of nowhere. I don’t understand him, he seems to be doing all this for the sake of being the antagonist – we haven’t yet got the twirl of the moustache with an evil sneer, but it’s not far off.

Now, I seem to be falling into something of a hater on Claudia Gray, which I’m not actively trying to do, but I’ve not really been a big fan of a lot of her books now. I mean, Bloodline is still one of my all-time favourite Star Wars books, and so whenever I read a book by her, I’m always that little bit disappointed that it doesn’t match up. I think it might be in part due to the hype she gets in the Facebook group that I’m in, though I think I have seen more general disinterest in this book, to be fair.

I think a lot of my complaints aren’t necessarily to be aimed at Claudia though, as it strikes me this is how LFL wants to tell stories right now – minimal exposition, maximum action. Who cares why anybody does anything, so long as what they are doing is exciting to watch/read?! Marchion Ro might be a cardboard villain because he isn’t allowed to be developed this early, given that we’ve been told of two more phases of the High Republic still to come.

I went into this one expecting it to be the conclusion to the trilogy, but it ended up more like the start of something. If we’d had maybe a hundred more pages of exposition at the start, then kicked off the series with this, it might have landed better. It’s not terrible, it’s just a bit unsatisfying.

Okay, so maybe I’m getting a bit too harsh here… I know that I’ve only read the three main novels in this series so far, and there are still the three YA novels, and three middle-grade novels, before we even start on the comic books. Maybe I’m missing out on something that would actually link things together… we shall see, I guess!!

The Book of Boba Fett (episodes 1-3)

Hey everybody,
We’re about halfway through The Book of Boba Fett, the new Star Wars TV series on Disney+, so I thought I’d take the time today to get a few thoughts down about the first three episodes, much like I’ve done previously for The Mandalorian while that is streaming. Incidentally, how good is it that Disney don’t just drop these shows on us in one hit? I love the anti-Netflix way of slowly building a story rather than dropping a six hour movie on us in one go.

Anyway!

After the end of the second season of The Mandalorian, we learnt that Boba Fett has survived his trip into the sarlacc pit and has returned as, well, not quite a bounty hunter, but he’s once more wearing the Mandalorian armour. He’s also teamed up with Fennec Shand, who we met but briefly in the first season of Mando, and together they killed Bib Fortuna, taking over Jabba’s criminal empire. The series is written by Jon Favreau, and is exploring Boba Fett’s past while also showing his current activities in the criminal underworld of Tatooine.

The first episode shows how he escaped the sarlacc and was left for dead by Jawas, who took his armour. A tribe of Tuskens saved him, though kept him and a rodian prisoner. When Fett was forced to dig for black melons in the sand, a monster killed the rodian but Fett killed it, saving the life of a Tusken child. This begins to form a bond between Fett and the Tuskens, which is further explored through flashbacks in subsequent episodes.

We see Fett earning the Tuskens’ respect when he leads them against the Pyke Syndicate, whose spice train cut across Tusken ancestral lands. Fett extracts a toll from the Pykes, though they were already paying protection to a Nikto speeder bike gang, who later murder the Tusken tribe in Fett’s absence.

In the present day, Fett and Shand receive tribute from local Mos Espa businessbeings, but the mayor refuses to acknowledge Fett’s authority. When Fett and Shand are attacked by assassins, one of whom claims to have been sent by the mayor, Fett learns that a pair of Hutts known as “the Twins” have come to Tatooine to claim Jabba’s territory, and have arrived with the Wookiee Black Krrrsantan. When Krrrsantan tries to kill Fett, he is overpowered by a group of cyborg-youths Fett has employed as enforcers, and imprisoned. The Twins come to apologise, and inform Fett that the mayor has promised Jabba’s territory to another, so leave the planet, gifting Fett a rancor as they do so. Fett and the cyborg-youths chase down the mayor’s major-domo, who reveals that the mayor is in business with the Pyke Syndicate.


This has definitely been a slow burn for me, so far, I have to say. Unlike The Mandalorian, which pretty much had me hooked from the get-go, I have found myself, not bored exactly, but feeling a bit like I just want it to get somewhere, if that makes sense? I must say, after organising my thoughts for this blog today, I’ve found myself a little more interested in the whole thing…

I’ve never really been a big Fett fanboy, though that is probably more due to the fact that a lot of the literature about him while I was growing up made him out to be the supercool guy while kinda glossing over the fact he could never bring in Han Solo, despite being the best of the best. Anyway, the series is working to show a bit more of a human side to him, I think, and I find it interesting that he is shown to not be the very best, being overpowered by the group of assassins and rushed back to his bacta tank every five minutes. I guess that’s an after-effect of the sarlacc/exposure in the desert?


I am hugely into the criminal underworld and the galactic fringe, though, and so I love these aspects of the “present day” stuff that is going on. I find it very exciting that the Pyke Syndicate is playing such a big part of this so far – as we know, the control the spice mines of Kessel, and there are potential links to the Crimson Dawn that might make this series a spin-off from the Solo movie as much as it has spun off from The Mandalorian. It’s very exciting to me to see where this might be leading. If we don’t get Qi-ra and Maul in a movie sequel to Solo, then at least let’s explore this side of things with the TV shows!

The flashback sequences have been a little boring to me, I have to say – mainly because I find it quite dull that yes, Fett survived, and I don’t much care for going over every moment of that. But it is important development for the character, after all, showing him move from being a loner after the death of his father, to being accepted as part of the clan, to now (seemingly) assembling his own family around him. Though the less said about the cyborg street gang and their shiny hover Vespas, the better…


It’s still early days, of course, and I do think we could be in for some very exciting stuff down the line, as the stage seems to be set for war. There’s not much left from the trailer now that we haven’t already seen, but with four more episodes there’s still a lot of room in which to work. I assume there aren’t many flashbacks left – perhaps showing his rescue of Shand from the desert – so hopefully we can concentrate more on the conflict with the Pykes (and the Crimson Dawn?) and whatever else we have to go on! I wonder if we will actually leave Tatooine, as I feel like the Twins might have more to say, and maybe a trip to Kessel would be due? Who knows.

It’s not The Mandalorian, which has made me a little sad, but writing this has made me realise it’s not actually as bad as I had been thinking it was. I might just go back and rewatch the series so far, in advance of next Wednesday’s episode…

The Book of Boba Fett – trailer #1

Wow. I wasn’t sure if I should be excited. I mean, I’m not a huge Boba Fett fan, but after his outing in season two of The Mandalorian, I thought it could be interesting.

Then we got this trailer yesterday, and I’m definitely excited! Should make for a good January, I must say! Looks like the show is going to explore more of the underworld than Mando got to see, maybe we’ll get some more insight into the galaxy post-Empire that way? Fingers crossed!!

Star Wars: The Rising Storm (a review)

The second novel* in The High Republic series, The Rising Storm picks up pretty much straight after the first book, as we follow the preparations for The Republic Fair on Valo, in the Outer Rim. Another of Chancellor Lina Soh’s “Great Works”, the Fair is intended to showcase the very best of the Republic, acting as something of an expo I guess, with the added benefit of bringing the Togruta species into the Republic fold.

The early part of the novel has a lot of shuffling-of-pieces, as we see the Nihil leadership move forward and posture among themselves, Marchion Ro in particular taking further steps for a grand plan to attack the Republic. We also see the Cyclor Shipyards, and the research vessel Innovator is going through various tests prior to the Fair when a rogue tempest of the Nihil attack, to be fought off by the Jedi.

For the most part of the book, we then get an extended view of preparations for the Fair, including the arrival of the Togruta monarch and so on. Everything is rather wonderful, and we get to really delve into some of the returning characters from the first book, such as Elzar Mann and Stellan Gios, before suddenly the Nihil attack! It is quite dramatic as well, and the manner of the attack, with an orbital element and reaver-like ground assault (including smoke clouds and sonic disruptions) feels like an utterly ferocious strike at the Republic and the Jedi.

While the Nihil are eventually repelled, they still claim a victory and rogue elements decide to press the advantage by planning another attack, but fall prey to a disinformation campaign and are routed. The Jedi learn that the Nihil are basing themselves on Grizal, and mount their own attack, at which point the Nihil organisation seems to be tearing itself apart. In order to escape, Marchion Ro releases a beast known as “the Leveler” which can turn people into husks, and flees on his ship.


I really enjoyed this book – perhaps not as much as I enjoyed the first one, for sure, but nevertheless it felt like a really great second act. So many trilogies seem to go a bit dead in the middle, but I think here we’ve broadened out just enough to allow more character to appear from the established cast, while maintaining the momentum in the Republic vs Nihil war. Actually, the whole war is an interesting one, because it often seems like nothing more than marauders and pirates testing the fringes, and not a really large-scale military threat. That’s why the attack on the Fair worked, because it wasn’t a case of the Nihil going up against a Republic fleet or somesuch. The scale is different to, say, the Clone Wars, and I really like it.

The Jedi are developed a lot in this book, and I like how different they feel to their counterparts in the Prequels. They don’t quite seem to be the cloistered monks, but rather the type of official mediators and security services of the Republic, and have a much more public face. You definitely get the impression that the Jedi are off-limits when the time of the Prequels comes about. It’ll be interesting to see how, if at all, that change comes about. There are perhaps glimpses here, as Elzar Mann uses Dark Side power to stop the Nihil attack at one point – maybe they decide to retreat to avoid any kind of fall?

Some of the criticisms of this book that I’ve seen online (mainly on the SW book club Facebook group) come leveled at the fact that nothing seems to happen in the book, that it is boring, etc. I think, on the contrary, so much happens that it’s difficult to provide a satisfying synopsis of it without going on for days! We get a lot of minutiae when it comes to the Fair, which I think works quite well because after a number of chapters where the action moves around a bit, we’re almost lulled into a sense of security before BOOM – the Nihil attack and all hell breaks loose! The subsequent attack takes place over several chapters, though purportedly only takes place over the course of maybe an afternoon. So much is going on, that it’s difficult to cover it all quickly, but the pacing is really quite good and no single aspect of the attack feels like it has been short-changed. I was then surprised that the end was still a long way off, because a lot more action then follows!

Bell Zettifar has his reunion with Loden Greatstorm, who has been testing his bonds in the Nihil prison, and manages to escape, only for their reunion to be short-lived as he falls victim to the Leveler. That was a genuinely emotional moment for me, and I felt almost like I’d been punched. That’s some good storytelling, right there – it really got me!

We’re getting what now appears to be the Disney trope of adding in more gay characters to the books, with a fairly significant plot thread involving the Chancellor’s son, and a more throwaway element involving the former Jedi padawan Ty Yorrick and the daughter of her client, who ends up as a bit of a catalyst for the final confrontation on Grizal. As far as Kitrep Soh’s awkward relationship with Jom Lariin goes, I thought it seemed a bit rushed at first, but turned out to be very satisfying and worked really well within the wider story without feeling shoehorned in. It’s great to have these kinds of plot threads, where two guys can be attracted to each other and have an arc which forms a strong part of the actual story, rather than it being a case of LOOK EVERYBODY, THIS GUY’S GAY! as it often felt in the Aftermath books. Ty Yorrick is a much more complicated character, who didn’t really get much airtime to properly see develop. Maybe she’ll form a large part of the third novel, coming out in January? There’s a suggestion of something there, which feels much more how we’re used to seeing this kind of stuff in years gone by. We’re definitely getting there, which is the main thing!

Of all the new canon books that I’ve read so far, I think this is up there with the small clutch of novels that I think would benefit from a second reading. Indeed, I think I would enjoy a second reading, though I think I’d probably do so as part of a general High Republic re-read. Very good development, but I definitely want to go wider with this time frame, and see more of the galaxy.

The third book, The Fallen Star, is written by Claudia Gray, who I’ve definitely had some ups and downs with! Let’s hope we get something along the lines of Bloodline, and less Lost Stars! It’s coming out in January, and I hope to pick it up pretty much as soon as possible and get reading.


* I know there are a bunch of other YA novels etc, but this is the second in what I’m thinking of as the main storyline, based on purely the adult novels. Not “adult” in that sense, though…

Star Wars: Master & Apprentice (a review)

Hey everybody,
It’s time to catch up with some book reviews! It’s been a few weeks now since I finished reading Claudia Gray’s prequel-era novel, Master & Apprentice, so let’s take a look between the covers and see what it’s all about!

The book is set roughly eight years prior to The Phantom Menace, based on Obi-Wan’s age of 17 when the novel begins. The book is very much an Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon adventure, borne out of Claudia Gray’s wish to write about the Jedi Master, although we do get quite a few flashbacks into Qui-Gon’s youth at the Jedi Temple, and so we also get to see Dooku in his Jedi prime!

It all starts on Teth, where Qui-Gon is investigating some criminal activity involving the Hutts. Along the way, we see that he has a fairly difficult relationship with his padawan, Obi-Wan. Upon returning to Coruscant, Qui-Gon is offered a post on the Jedi Council, and decides to take some time to deliberate upon it. Meanwhile, he is dispatched to Pijal at the express request of another of Dooku’s former padawans, Rael Averross.

Averross has been acting as regent of Pijal while the crown princess comes of age, and with the announcement of a new hyperspace corridor running through the system that would increase trade, things on the planet are becoming heated. The Czerka Corporation has a significant presence there, also, meaning that corporate greed is playing a healthy part in the political situation. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan investigate some terrorist activity that is threatening the upcoming coronation of Princess Fanry, during which time Qui-Gon receives troubling visions of a possible future. At the coronation, Fanry is expected to sign over much of her sovereign power to Czerka, in a treaty that was partly negotiated by Averross in an effort to bring Pijal into the wider galactic community. Fanry, it turns out, has other ideas, and leads something of a revolution against Czerka’s authority. She is only brought to justice when her confidance later rebel against her, too, allowing the Jedi to bring the conflict to a somewhat peaceful conclusion.

Qui-Gon turns down the offer to join the Council, choosing instead to continue his tutelage of Obi-Wan.


Where to begin.

I really wanted to enjoy this book. Disney hasn’t really spent a lot of time or effort on the prequel era, so I thought it was interesting to get a book featuring such a prominent character as Qui-Gon. I had also seen some comment on the SW facebook group I’m in that mentioned how the book delves into the whole issue of Jedi prophecy. So I was excited!

We do get to learn something of Qui-Gon’s history with the prophecies, which goes some way to explaining his belief in Anakin in Episode I. I wouldn’t say that it felt shoe-horned into the book, but it didn’t seem to feel quite in the right place, unfortunately – seeing so much of the book in flashback felt a bit jarring, to me, and I found myself wishing that it had been handled a little differently.

Something else that I wish has been handled differently was the relationship between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. Some of it seems to be put down to the fact that Dooku was a little stand-offish as a Master, and I thought it was an interesting point that Jedi apprentices have something like regular school, and come “home” to their Masters. I suppose I just thought the Master/Apprentice relationship was firmly exclusive once a padawan was placed. But no!

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan seem to have the kind of relationship that a father has with a child whom he does not properly understand. Qui-Gon was forever worrying that he wasn’t doing right by Obi-Wan, while Obi-Wan was forever worrying that Qui-Gon meant to abandon him and felt like he had been held back in some aspects of his training. It all felt a little bit too much – like, this wasn’t the relationship that I wanted to see them have! So that was a bit sad. I did understand where a lot of those emotions were coming from, and it was well-written in that I could really imagine this would be how two humans in this situation would react. It all seemed to stem from Qui-Gon’s offer of a place on the Council, and I was a bit flummoxed as to why that would even come to pass. Was it meant solely to pay service to Obi-Wan’s line in Episode I? Hm.

At least there are eight more years’ worth of stories that can be told with the two of them improving their relationship and working more on the same team.

I thought it was weird that the sort of major plot point was all about opening up a hyperspace corridor, like the galaxy is still being explored. I mean, Light of the Jedi is only about 200 years before this book, and that novel seemed to show the galaxy as a big fumble in the dark. But by the time of TPM, people are merrily jetting about like it’s no big deal? Odd.

Rael Averross is depicted as a Jedi Knight who has gone native, and is depicted as a fairly interesting opposite to Qui-Gon. The fact that he sleeps around and takes drugs aside, I did find him irritating after a while – if he weren’t meant to be a Jedi, I think I’d be fine with him. But he is, and has been wallowing in self-pity after blaming himself for getting his padawan killed. His assignment to Pijal is seen as something of a remedy for that self-pity, in that he is given Fanry to replace Nim Pianna. That whole situation seemed to contrived and far too weird, but the fact that it served as a significant plot hook did begin to grate after a while.

Oh yeah, and Dooku has already left the Order? I thought it was canon that he had left when Qui-Gon was killed, but maybe I’m getting confused.

The book is definitely interesting, and definitely worth a read. I think I found it far too disappointing that Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were constantly either treading on eggshells or else being passive-aggressive to each other, and Rael Averross was far too irritating and unsympathetic as a character – two points that eventually pulled my enjoyment of the book down. A somewhat minor point, but it also read a bit more like the sort of YA fiction along the lines of Lost Stars, rather than the more regular adult fiction such as Bloodline. Which is a shame, though I suppose I could be taking this far too seriously!

It’s okay, I guess, but it’s not brilliant. I think it possibly suffers quite a bit from being the next book that I read after Light of the Jedi, though. That book was really good…

Star Wars: Light of the Jedi (a review)

Hey everybody,
Happy Star Wars day! Yes, we’re just about still on May 4th here in the UK, so what better way to celebrate than with a look at the first novel in the High Republic series, Light of the Jedi? What better way, indeed.

The High Republic era is a new departure for Star Wars storytelling, taking place in the centuries prior to The Phantom Menace. Crucially, this time period is now the oldest canon storytelling there is – forget about Knights of the Old Republic, forget about Tales of the Jedi, forget about the Darth Bane trilogy. None of that happened. The oldest we go now is here, 232 years before the Battle of Yavin. It’s a point that I need to reiterate, as it’s something that I constantly had to remind myself of while reading it.

The story is basically quite straightforward, following a group of marauders from the Outer Rim, the Nihil, who are able to travel through hyperspace using random “paths” as opposed to the established hyperlanes. It turns out that these paths are divined by an elderly member of the San Tekka clan, who is somehow able to see her way through hyperspace from one destination to another. She is kept alive for the express purpose of furthering the reaving of the Nihil, and her efforts are put to such devious uses by Marchion Ro, the so-called Eye of the Nihil.

During a raid, one of the Nihil ships gets in the way of the freighter Legacy Run, and the two collide; the Legacy Run, already an old vessel, breaks apart, and random parts of the ship come out of hyperspace, mostly over the agri-world of Hetzal Prime. A group of Jedi are nearby, seeing to the final preparations for the opening of the Starlight Beacon, an effort by Supreme Chancellor Lina Soh to reach out to the Outer Rim Territories and provide aid and cultural support. The Jedi begin a rescue operation to make sure the people of Hetzal Prime are safe, and launch an investigation into what happened.

The basic plot plays out much as you’d expect, with political infighting among the Nihil as Marchion Ro consolidates his power, and the Jedi managing to save the day with getting to the bottom of what happened, helping to defeat a portion of the Nihil fleet (though everyone involved thinks the Nihil were wiped out in their entirety). In some respects, it’s quite a “safe” plotline – there’s a disaster, but the Jedi help to save they day, although the big baddie hasn’t been completely vanquished so that we have fodder for more in the series. It’s a tried-and-tested formula for Star Wars (and others) to use.

I think what impressed me most about this book was the feel of it, though. It was a constant gripe for me about the Darth Bane novels taking place 1000 years before A New Hope, and yet they felt no different in time to the prequel trilogy. Light of the Jedi feels like it is a story that is set decades before The Phantom Menace, maybe even the centuries that it actually purports to be. The Outer Rim is an unknown, frontier section of the galaxy, and there are still people going out there as prospectors, to escape the drudgery of the Core and strike out on their own. The Starlight Beacon is an attempt to make the Territories feel a part of the Republic, something that – even though Shmi basically says as much in Episode I – I’d never thought would be needed.

The importance of hyperspace, and the idea of finding new routes to connect worlds, is a big part of the story, and I was a little bit overjoyed when it turned out that the San Tekkas are involved here. Lor San Tekka is, of course, quite an enigmatic figure in the lore, considering such a brief appearance at the start of Episode VII, and clearly his family has something of a celebrity standing in the galaxy, based on their history of hyperspace prospecting. The scions of the dynasty here are Marlowe and Vellis, a gay couple that doesn’t entirely feel forced into the narrative – I mean, why wouldn’t they be? They live on Naboo, in the Lake Country, so there are tantalizing glimpses here of a link to Padmé, and thus Leia – something so small, for sure, but I really hope that we can explore this link in greater depth as the canon is fleshed out further.

The Jedi are sort of informally led by Avar Kriss, the blonde front-and-centre on the cover. She’s an intriguing character, said to experience the Force as a song. Her friend Elzar Mann sees it as a bottomless ocean. The way that the Jedi are said to feel, and use, the Force throughout the book does put that sort of distance between this and the movies, as it feels like an age of experimentation and so on. The Jedi Council is a thing, and the Temple on Coruscant is there, but it just feels older, somehow. Elzar Mann is renowned among the Jedi for his unorthodox uses of the Force, as he attempts to discover new ways and techniques. It’s a bit vague, though he is credited with coming up with the Jedi Mind Trick (referred to as the Mind Touch in the book). It’s intriguing, as it seems like the Jedi are still learning the depths of their powers.

However, it’s not all new though. Yarael Poof has a fairly big role as a diplomat in the book, and both Oppo Rancisis and Yoda have speaking parts. Of course, Yoda would be a sprightly 600 year old here, and he’s currently on a sabbatical from the Temple, so I guess things are wide open on what we can expect to see here as the series continues!


As the first book in the multi-platform High Republic series, I thought this was a truly great introduction to the era. There is a lot going on, and it’s very interesting to see how things are different, and yet not that far away from the Star Wars that we know. We do have some establishment of what’s going on in the galaxy, but I think this has a lot of potential to be grown as time goes on. There are novels across the adult, young adult and younger readers branches, as well as an ongoing comics series that I’m aware of so far, and they apparently all intersect with one another to varying degrees. The YA novel Into the Dark features the padawan Raeth Silas, who is mentioned in passing by his master Jora Malli in this book. The Jedi “prodigy” Vernestra Rwoh shows up for the Starlight Beacon dedication ceremony, fresh from her adventures in A Test of Courage, the middle grade novel. All of these books came out in January, and it seems to be the case that July is the next major cavalcade of novels is due, including the sequel to this, The Rising Storm.

I cannot wait!

The Mandalorian: Season Two (part three)

Hey everybody,
Welcome to my final round-up on the current season of The Mandalorian, following on from last time when we pushed the story on a great deal with Ahsoka Tano and learning more about the Child.


Chapter Fourteen takes us, predictably perhaps, to Tython and the Jedi temple there, where Grogu attempts to tap into the Force and call out to another Jedi, as Ahsoka suggested in the last episode. Unfortunately, they are first accosted by Boba Fett and Fennec Shand, Fett demanding the return of his beskar armour, and then the Imperials show up under Moff Gideon, and eventually capture the Child. Mando teams up with Fett and Shand, as well as Cara Dune and a former Imperial sharpshooter in order to rescue Grogu.

It was definitely an action-packed instalment, and there is a lot to enjoy as we see Fett in action once more. So many questions as regards what happened between Return of the Jedi and now, though at least we know for sure it was Fett we saw in the Jundland wastes back in season one. And Fennec Shand was too good a character to let go, so I’m glad we have more of her!


The next episode is another one of these infiltration stories, where Mando and the sharpshooter sneak into an Imperial mineral refinery in order to steal information on the location of Moff Gideon’s ship. Of course, while they’re there, the sharpshooter’s former commanding officer is there, and after a tense exchange their cover is blown. It all feels very episodic, and indeed, very evocative of the old adventure serials where they have an adventure of the week. I guess that’s the point? Maybe? It actually reminds me of an RPG adventure, where you have to go on a quest to get more information to further your main quest, if that makes sense? There’s a certain inevitability about it, for sure, but I somehow like the fact that Star Wars isn’t trying to innovate particularly, but instead to crystallise these kind of tropes into something really good. That’s explained quite badly, but anyway!


Season Two ends with The Rescue, which unsurprisingly sees Mando rescue Grogu from the clutches of Moff Gideon. Mando assembles a team that includes Bo Katan and Fett, who both clash over their Mandalorian heritage. They all arrive at the cruiser and Mando finds Gideon guarding the Child, they duel and Mando is able to overpower him and so claims the darksaber. They all reconvene at the bridge, where Gideon tries to goad Bo Katan over the darksaber’s owner, then tries to shoot Grogu and himself. When a lone X-Wing docks with the cruiser, however, a Jedi appears and defeats all of Gideon’s Dark Trooper guards, fighting his way to the bridge. Luke Skywalker has heard Grogu’s call, and has come to complete the young one’s training.


It was quite an emotional finale, I’m not gonna lie! I was not expecting Luke, even when the green saber erupts into action – I fully expected Ahsoka to reappear. Digitally de-aging Luke didn’t seem as uncanny valley as the experiments in Rogue One, but it still seemed a tiny bit jarring somehow. I find it weird, to some degree, how Star Wars seems like some kind of sacred cow and we can’t possibly re-cast any of the main players. Solo seems to have been the one major attempt in this sense, and it still seems to divide people too much. But I think it’s time we did see the major players re-cast and the big stories being told between episodes 6 and 7, as it still bugs me that all of the background to the movie is being told through novels and comics, and not live action stuff.

The show’s epilogue sees Boba Fett and Fennec Shand kill Bib Fortuna and, seemingly, taking over Jabba’s criminal empire, with the promise of The Book of Boba Fett being the next live-action Disney series. Whether that will become Mando season three, I’m not sure – indeed, what the series is supposed to be, I’m not sure about. I suppose it could be Fett working through a ledger of revenge? Who knows. I’m glad he seems to be setting up with Fennec Shand though, maybe we’ll get some of her back story as well, she’s definitely one of the more interesting characters to come from the show, and I think we need more!

Post 999!

Hey everybody!
It’s my 999th post on this blog! What an incredible milestone! I honestly didn’t give things much thought back when I started this endeavour back in 2014, but I suppose as time has gone on, I suppose it’s been quite exciting to see the blog growing – even if it is with my inane babble! As we gear up for post number 1000, which is already written and scheduled to go live tomorrow, I thought I’d have a bit of a catch-up blog with you all, and dip into some of the stuff that has been going on in recent weeks!

Curtain Call

Recently, I’ve been playing a lot of Arkham Horror LCG, and enjoying myself immensely. Back when I first played the game upon release, I definitely knew that I enjoyed the game, but always seemed to struggle to get round to actually playing it. It wasn’t until last year, almost three years after the initial release, that I got round to actually trying out a full campaign.

Now, however, I’m firmly entrenched in the whole thing, having really revitalized my enjoyment of the game and throwing myself in whole-heartedly! I’ve made my way through two full campaigns now, and I’m poised to start on a third over the festive season, tackling The Circle Undone with Diana Stanley and Joe Diamond. Having sleeved the cards for this cycle, it’s been exciting to see that this one focuses more on the classic trope of regular cultists trying to bring about the end of the world, rather than fantastical creatures and the like. I’ve been recording my games here on the blog, and I’ve set up a page specifically to collect these posts together. I’m sure I’ll be trying out some campaigns multiple times, too, but I want to try out all the game has to offer me, and make up for lost time!

Interestingly, all of this Arkham Horror LCG has got me thinking about trying my other great card-game love, Lord of the Rings LCG. It’s been a long time since I have last played this game, I think I tried my hand in one of the early scenarios in the summer-time, but playing this game has really dropped off my radar in recent years. It’s interesting, of course, because I still really love it, and I still call it my all-time favourite card game. I suppose part of the reason for me having stepped back a bit from it resides in the fact there is just so much of it now. The game wound up a few months ago, after the last cycle took an absolute age to actually see all six packs released – in total, we have nine full cycles, eight deluxe Saga expansions, and about a dozen standalone scenarios. It’s quite mind-boggling, really, and the player cards have become quite the beast to wrangle!

Earlier this week, as it happens, I spent a sleepless night looking through my collection once more, and reliving some past memories as well as tinkering a little with my favourite Rohan deck. The whole thing was brought about because I wanted to re-sleeve some of the cards, requiring the transparent sleeves for Arkham Horror as it happens, but it really took me on that journey down memory lane, to the time when I would excitedly play each pack in the Mirkwood cycle as it was released – spending yet another sleepless night back in, what, 2011, playing The Dead Marshes. Ah, memories!

I’ve currently got four decks built up and ready for the game – the Rohan deck, a Dwarf deck, an Elf deck, and more of a generic/mix that uses a number of Dúnedain and Outlands cards. Going over these (and re-sleeving them), and sorting out a lot of the later packs from Harad, Rhovanion and Mordor, has got me thinking how I’ve never really ventured very far into this game, always returning to Mirkwood and the Dwarrowdelf, without really exploring any of the cycles from Ringmaker onwards, really! Looking back, I got as far as The Dunland Trap from that cycle (the game’s fourth, just fyi!) while playing what I would call regularly, back in 2015, and have pretty much given up, since! Sporadic plays of a scenario from Angmar and Harad notwithstanding, I’ve pretty much let the bulk of this game pass me by, whilst still compulsively collecting it!

Well, hopefully that will change soon!

Lord of the Rings LCG

I’ve got my eye on playing some of the newer quests, potentially with that Dúnedain deck, or else with the re-tuned Rohan deck, over the festive period (although probably more like the new year weekend). I’ve even been considering building up an entirely new deck, using the newer player cards to build around the Dale theme. I’ve got my eye on trying maybe The Lost Realm, or else Vengeance of Mordor as that has struck me as a very intriguing cycle. I’ve heard so many good things about the Ered Mithrin cycle, though, so that is also a strong contender. Of course, I playtested on the Angmar Awakened cycle, but I think I came into the game after the playtesting for the deluxe expansion had finished. I have lots of bad memories of never being able to escape from the dungeons, but it’ll be nice to actually play the game in its finished form, with artwork and not the badly-formatted black-and-white printouts that were sleeved on top of other cards!

So that’ll be something good to look forward to!

What else has been going on?

Well, I’m quite excited to say that I’ve pretty much finished my first major terrain piece! I mean, I’ve painted up some ammo crates before, but I’m quite excited for this one! The Sector Mechanicus stuff is really nice, and I have rather a lot of it after all, but I think after the game of Necromunda the other week has got me thinking more about terrain and whatnot, so I think it’ll be nice to have some done. I’ve been working on a Galvanic Magnavent lately, building it up to reflect the back of the box rather than the “standard” build from the front (I’m pretty sure I did that with another piece, too…) so I think when I have these big pieces painted up they’ll look really good out on the table!

Let’s talk about Necromunda though, as it’s something I’m hoping to try out again over the festive break (first Lord of the Rings, more Arkham Horror, and now this?! Where will I find the time…) I’ve been reading up the rules for scenery from the Book of Peril, and I’m quite excited by just how interactive the battlefield can get! So it should be really interesting to see how all of that works (although it might not be something that I get to straight away, as there are a lot of moving parts in this game, after all!)

It’s not all about the scenery though, as I’ve also been building up some more Van Saar folks as the excitement around House of Artifice increases! My current leader comes in at a whopping 310 credits – I know Van Saar are expensive, but that’s a third of the starting gang, so I needed to slim them down a bit. This chap, above, is a much more respectable 245, which means I can actually fit in another body, between trimming down the leader and champion options. I think that game I linked to earlier definitely showed just how much the advantage of numbers can go in your favour – and expensive gangers are of no use to anybody if they’re Prone and Pinned!

Finally…

We need to talk about this. I don’t think I’ve properly recovered yet, of course! But 10 new Star Wars series’ is just phenomenal! The Mandalorian is showing that Star Wars can absolutely have a future on the small screen, and I am so excited to see what they’re going to do with it all. I probably need to confine my thoughts on this to a separate piece, but suffice it to say, I’m really happy with what’s going on there right now!

So, folks, that’s almost a thousand posts finished! Come back tomorrow to celebrate my birthday with Post 1000 itself – I think it’ll be a good one!

The Mandalorian: Season Two (part two)

Hey everybody,
After the first three chapters in the second series of The Mandalorian, we’ve got a pair of really wonderful episodes that I need to talk about today. I’m constantly a bit late to the party on this one, of course, but we’re catching up of course!

Chapter Twelve again feels a little bit like a filler episode, although there’s a gang’s all here feel to the show as we return to Nevarro for the Razor Crest to get further repairs before the trip to Corvus. Greef Karga has taken over political responsibility for the settlement, with Cara Dune acting as enforcer for him. However, there remains an Imperial base on-world that incorporates the lab of Dr Pershing, the associate of the Client from season one. The Mandalorian agrees to help them destroy the base while his ship is being repaired, and we get the standard sort of infiltration mission that feels a bit similar to the prison break episode from last season. However, it’s still very enjoyable, and we get to learn a bit about what Pershing was up to, conducting experiments on transfusing the Child’s blood into test subjects, presumably to produce Force-sensitives?

The episode ends with the revelation that one of the mechanics working on the Razor Crest has planted a tracking beacon for Moff Gideon…

Now then. Chapter Thirteen is probably one of the most anticipated of the series, as we were promised live-action Ahsoka Tano for a long time. On Corvus, Ahsoka is prosecuting a war against the Imperial Magistrate Morgan Elsbeth, whose master she is keen to track down. When Mando arrives, he meets with the magistrate, who offers him a beskar spear in return for killing the Jedi. Mando finds Ahsoka and explains why he has come to Corvus, whereupon she and the Child communicate directly through the Force. Interestingly, we discover that his name is Grogu, and following Order 66 he has been suppressing his Force powers in order to survive. In exchange for training Grogu, Mando agrees to help Ahsoka with her battle against Elsbeth.

The planet is liberated, and Ahsoka forces Elsbeth to tell her where her master Grand Admiral Thrawn is. However, she refuses to train Grogu, explaining that he and Mando have formed too strong a bond. She suggests they travel to the temple of Tython, where Grogu may be able to access the Force and call out to another Jedi.

First of all, live-action Ahsoka is not as annoying as cartoon Ahsoka, which is something of a relief! The cartoon version would quite easily have defeated every Imperial on the planet, I’m sure. It’s interesting that she’s looking for Thrawn – I’m not entirely sure, but I believe it has something to do with her trying to locate Ezra, from her time during the Rebels cartoon series – that’s something that I’ll have to try and cover here on the blog at some point, as well…

The Jedi Temple on Tython is something that goes back to The Old Republic, and that MMO from 2011 – so that’s a deep call back to the old expanded universe! The episode is directed by Dave Filoni, however, and as much as I disliked the Clone Wars cartoon series, you have to hand it to the man that he just gets Star Wars and is able to take these references and build them into his own material, usually with very good results. When Filoni does Star Wars, he usually does it well – as the protege of George Lucas, it’s to be expected. There are just one or two things that irk me about his efforts, and it’s unfortunate that those one or two things override all of the good stuff, really!

These two episodes feel quite important to me, as we have a nice pit-stop back into the first season, and catch up with what Moff Gideon is up to with some more teasing of what his role could become in chapter twelve, then The Jedi blows almost everything out of the water by including such a high profile character – and a fairly huge name-drop, as well! – but manages to do it in such a low-key episode. I mean, the feel of Corvus is quite simple-oriental, and while I would have liked to have known more about the conflict there, it does feel like the show is sticking to its quiet and understated mood that the first series had, despite taking on such big storytelling.

I’ve read a sentence that has got me really hungry for chapter fourteen, which premiered yesterday, so I need to move on to that one fairly soon!