Star Wars Rebel Rising

In Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, we were introduced to Jyn Erso, the daughter of scientist Galen Erso, the creator of the Death Star. We see what happens to cause Jyn to be separated from her parents and the events after her rescue from Wobani to the subsequent acquisition of the Death Star plans. What Rogue One doesn’t tell us is what happens in the years in between. Rebel Rising fills in those gaps.

After her rescue from Lah’mu by Saw, Jyn is taken to Wrea. There, for a time, she is relatively safe from the Empire while in Saw’s care. Gradually, he teaches her how to defend herself using blasters and truncheons. Jyn is slowly introduced to what Saw actually does as he fights the Empire and the people that help him to do so. As time goes on, Jyn becomes proficient at forging Imperial documents, making her a valuable asset to Saw and his team.

Despite her talents, Saw refuses to put Jyn on a mission, but slowly that begins to change. Each mission becomes a little more complex, a little more dangerous than the last as Jyn’s involvement increases. But then an unexpected betrayal causes Jyn to be separated from Saw and on her own. For a time she lives in peace and almost forgets that the Empire exists. Before she knows it, tragedy strikes again and Jyn is pulled back into the conflict between the Empire and the rest of the galaxy.

I have been a Star Wars fan for over half of my life. I have seen all of the films and loved most of them. I never really got into all the various books in the universe because there are just so many. I never could pick a favorite character; one day it would be Luke, another day Han, another time Rey. But after seeing Rogue One, Jyn instantly became my favorite (in case anyone is wondering, Finn is my second favorite but Luke will always hold a special place being the first Star Wars character I ever saw on screen).

Jyn isn’t a Jedi, nor is she a princess, senator, or anyone else high ranking in the Rebellion or Empire. She is important seeing as she is the daughter of the creator of the Death Star, but she’s also an ordinary person who – through sheer will and determination – has survived and fought. She isn’t perfect, and she isn’t morally clean, but she owns her mistakes and her shortcomings. She is well aware that missions can fail and expects them to, but still does what she can to make sure they succeed.

When I heard that there was going to be a story devoted to the years between Lah’mu and Wobani, I wanted to read it. And Beth Revis didn’t disappoint. The story isn’t overly complex, but I still enjoyed it. It took me a while to read (due to a reading slump) but it was enjoyable and filled in the gaps. I wish there would be more Jyn-centric stories, but seeing how Rogue One ended that isn’t likely.

My rating: 4/5


The Crown’s Game

Although magic is nearly non-existent in the world, it still exist. A handful of individuals have the ability to manipulate it as they will, and they are known as enchanters. These magicians are rare and often hide their abilities from others. Every now and then, a secret competition is held between enchanters to determine who will become THE enchanter to the tzar of Russia. This competition is known as the Crown’s Game.

Vika is an enchanter who has been raised by her father in the country. She has the ability to manipulate the elements to do as she wills. She can not only control the flow of water, but fire and lighting as well.

Raised by a benefactor, Nikolai is an enchanter who can manipulate objects – fabrics, scissors, paints, metals, etc. – to create wondrous sculptures and creations. He has also, most reluctantly, been taught to kill to survive by his less than loving benefactor.

Both Vika and Nikolai, as the only two living enchanters, have been chosen by the Crown’s Game. Whoever wins will become the tzar’s enchanter; whoever loses, dies. But the game becomes more complicated when the royal prince and Nikolai’s best friend, Pasha, becomes interested in the existence of enchanters and as Vika and Nikolai develop romantic feelings for each other. They both want to win…but at the expense of the other’s life, is it worth it?

I’m always fascinated by stories that employ magic, especially those that set a limit to the magic and employ different systems. The Crown’s Game is a fascinating story that tends to focus more on the relationships between characters than the magic itself. I did find bits of it slow paced, but I think that might be attributed to the first novel in a series syndrome.

I found Nikolai to be a well rounded character, possibly due to his life experiences, while Pasha and Vika, who lead more sheltered lives, are less so. This fact made me often dislike Vika and Pasha’s choice of action in certain scenes because of their inability to see or grasp their surroundings; it often made them seem narrow minded. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing about the story as it distinguishes them as their characters, but I often found myself sympathizing and gravitating towards Nikolai more.

The Crown’s Fate, the second in this story, has just been released so I might have to get that soon and see how everyone’s fate plays out.

My rating: 4/5

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly is the biographical story of the women who made up the West Area Computers in NASA’s early days.

As World War II intensifies, Langley requires human computers to help develop new advances in aviation. These computers come in the form of skilled mathematicians; with many men off to the front lines, this leaves the women to fill those spots. Since the mathematicians are so highly prized, Langley consents to hiring black women, many of them teachers with extensive mathematics backgrounds. These women become known as the West End Computers, separate from their white East End Computers but no less talented.

Despite their talents, the West End Computers still experience various forms of segregation, which they each battle in their own way with varyif degrees of success. From separate tablesnin the communal lunch room to separate bathrooms, though they may work together the West End Computers are still regarded as separate.

As the war ends and the space age begins, the East End Computers are slowly phased out. The West End Computers take over the work, but quite a number of ladies also leave to return to their families – but not all of them. Some, like Mary Winston and Katherine Goble, are moved to engineering groups to work on specific projects. Others, like Dorothy Vaughn, reinvent themselves as Langley begins to install computers to do most of the mathematical work.

And slowly, segregation begins to end.

Hidden Figures is an inspiring story of the women who made the early days of NASA possible while fighting segregation and discrimination on the way. They are the silent ones who worked diligently and quietly behind the scenes. This is their story, and the story of those who helped them along the way.

Like many, I became inspired to read this book shortly after learning of the movie based on it. I don’t ever read non-fiction, but I founf this book to be insightful and inspiring to everyone. There were times I missed dialogue – because there is very little in this narrative – but all the same I really enjoyed this hidden history lesson into Langley’s past

My rating: 4/5

Shades of Magic series: A Conjuring of Light

And here we finally are, at the end of all things. It is very difficult to summarize this book without giving so much away but I’ll do my best to try.

A Conjuring of Light picks up right where A Gathering of Shadows left off. Kell is captured, held prisoner while his magic is bleed out of him. Holland has been overtaken by Osaron and is making his way to Red London. Lila, in an attempt to rescue Kell, journeys alone to White London, unsure if she will make it but determined to try. And Rhy is on his death bed – again.

As if all of that weren’t enough for everyone to contend with, Osaron has now been let loose on Red London. Citizens are either succumbing to his influence and becoming his puppets, dying as they attempt to fend him off but become consumed by his magic, or – in the case of the nobility – trapped in the castle with the royal family, warded by Tieren, his priests, and their spells. Osaron wants to rule Red London just as he did Black London, but without a body his plans are thwarted – and the only bodies he wants or can use are the Antari.

Kell, Holland, Lila, and Alucard must set off to find something – anything – that can trap Osaron and free Red London from his control. Meanwhile, Rhy must do what he can to protect his people while his parents become occupied with their own agendas. It will take all of them to defeat Osaron…but is it even possible?

It was agonizingly painful to read A Conjuring of Light. Not because it wasn’t a good read – faaaar from it. V.E. Schwab keeps the action going from page one. There are reprieves, but they only last a breath before the characters must dive into the next issue to tackle. No, this was painful to read because I didn’t want it to end. It took me two weeks to read this book because every page brought me closer to the end of this series. At the same time, I wanted so desperately to know what happened. It became a struggled to read while enjoyable at the same time.

I loved all of the characters in this book. Kell remains my favorite by far, but I was completely enthralled by every single one of them. Even Ned, who makes occasionally appearances and allows us glimpses into how the changes in Red London are bleeding in (almost literally) into Grey London.

I won’t spoil it, but the ending isn’t exactly a “happily ever after” affair, but it is an ending fitting to this series. I wish we could have one more adventure post-ending, a truly happy one. But I fear if we receive one, I’ll just want more. Best to use my imagination and wait to see what Schwab dreams up next – whatever it is, I’m ready and waiting.

My rating: 5/5