Audiobook Review: Star Wars: Aftermath: Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Media Tie-In
Series: Book 3 of Star Wars: Aftermath
Publisher: Random House Audio (February 21, 2017)
Length: 15 hrs and 57 mins
Narrator: Marc Thompson
The Aftermath trilogy may have gotten off to a shaky start, but the good news is that things have been steadily turning around ever since Life Debt improved on many of the problems that plagued the first novel. I’m happy to report that Empire’s End continues this trend by further developing the story and characters, giving them the depth that they lacked early on.
Looking back my review of Aftermath, my feelings about this series now can’t be any more different. To be honest, I thought the first book was very forgettable. The plot was fun but fluffy, lacking any real weight. None of the new characters were all that compelling or memorable, except maybe the droid. It wasn’t a bad read, but overall it was still a very mediocre addition to the new Star Wars canon, doubly disappointing because of how hugely it was hyped.
Now, fast forward to Empire’s End. We’ve definitely come a long way since the first book. The inclusion of original trilogy characters and connections to other events and stories in the Star Wars universe have helped this trilogy immensely, increasing its relevance and making the second and third books a lot more enjoyable to read. We also know that the title refers to the Empire’s last stand at the Battle of Jakku, so the anticipation for this monumentally important event also helped.
Empire’s End continues the adventures of Norra Wexley and her band of mercenaries as they continue to hunt down the remnants of the Imperial leadership—except now, it’s personal. The events that took place at Chandrila at the end of Life Debt have made Grand Admiral Rae Sloane the primary target of Norra’s revenge. Unbeknownst to our rebels though, Sloane has lost all her power, struck down by the diabolical Gallius Rax, the former protégé of Emperor Palpatine and self-proclaimed Counselor of the Empire.
The hunt to bring Sloane to justice ultimately leads Norra to Jakku, where her team discovers the presence of a large Imperial force attempting to regather their strength. This intelligence is relayed back to the New Republic, where the Galactic Senate now must decide whether or not to bring the fight to the Empire. Meanwhile, Leia Organa and Han Solo are soon expecting their first child and have taken a step back from the limelight. Understanding the need to see the enemy put down once and for all, however, they team up with Chancellor Mon Mothma to convince others in the senate that the vote to bring the fleet to Jakku must pass.
Politics, action, and thrills come together in this final installment of the Aftermath trilogy, and if you’ve been enjoying the ride so far, then you’ll likely be pleased with the results. Empire’s End is much better than the first book, possibly even better than Life Debt; in fact, I think it’s one of the stronger new canon novels to date. Maybe I’m just getting used to the writing, or maybe opting to go with the audiobook format could have improved the experience, but I found Wendig’s style and his use of the present tense much less distracting this time around. And even though I still find them somewhat distracting, I’ve also come to grudgingly tolerate those pesky interludes. Dare I say, a couple of them were actually quite interesting, like that brief glimpse we got into what Jar Jar Binks has been up to since the prequels.
This novel’s greatest achievement though, is character development. Norra, Temmin, Jas, Sinjir, and Jom went from a jumble of names I could barely remember to the heroes that I enthusiastically cheered for in this final showdown between the New Republic and the Empire. And of course we mustn’t forget about Mr. Bones, who has been a favorite since the beginning. Over the course of the trilogy, this crew of ragtag rebels has become a real family. Empire’s End places them all in situations where you can truly sense their loyalty to each other, or understand their growing emotional ties and friendships. In addition, this book did amazing things for Grand Admiral Rae Sloane. Though she was already a fantastic character even going back to her first appearance in A New Dawn, much of her growth has been seen in the Aftermath trilogy. She may be on the wrong side of history, but she has such a strong, interesting backstory and personality that you can’t help but love her too.
If the later books had remained mediocre like Aftermath, I would have said skip this trilogy. Fortunately though, this was not the case. Things have really picked up since the first book, and the number of significant events and ties to other stories and characters in the Star Wars universe have pretty much made this one a must-read. Overall, I’m pretty pleased with how the series has turned out. I have some caveats of course, which you can find in my reviews of the previous books, but on the whole I would encourage Star Wars fans both new and old to check out this trilogy if you think you might enjoy it.
Audiobook Comments: Marc Thompson is a god, that is all.
Okay, fine, I’ll elaborate. More and more, I’m finding myself shifting away from reading Star Wars fiction to listening to them, simply because they always have the best talent narrating these books. Thompson is a perpetual favorite because of his ability to do all these great voices. Some of the ones he does for specific characters are spot on. I loved his voices for Han Solo, Sinjir, and Mr. Bones. He even did a pretty good Lando. And one of my friends who read the hardcover version of book actually asked me if Thompson did the Jar Jar Binks voice for the aforementioned interlude, and I was like, are you kidding me, of course he did! And it was amazing! Star Wars audiobooks are always a treat, and Thompson is a narrator whose reading can really enhance a story even when there’s not a lot happening on a page.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Star Wars: Aftermath (Book 1)
Review of Star Wars: Aftermath: Life Debt (Book 2)