Wednesday, March 22, 2023

‘Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars’ Review: A Surprisingly Romantic and Consistently Hope-Filled Entry into ‘Star Wars’ Canon

BOOKSBOOK REVIEWS'Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars' Review: A Surprisingly Romantic and Consistently Hope-Filled...

Since the introduction of Cal Kestis in 2019’s game release Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, fans have been chomping at the bit to see where the former Jedi padawan’s story will lead him and his crew. The latest entry into Star Wars canon, Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars, does exactly that. 

Taking place in the five years between Fallen Order and the upcoming game sequel release — Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, the novel should take precedence for anyone planning to play the sequel when it releases April 28 so you know exactly what circumstances Cal has found himself in. 

Warning: this article contains light spoilers for Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars.

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Author Sam Maggs added an unexpected level of depth to the franchise by creating a romantic, passionate, and gripping tale to bridge the gap between games. The plot is overall straightforward — Cal and the Mantis crew carrying out a mission they would consider standard under their newfound calling as rebels. It’s clear that Maggs is a fan of Fallen Order because, despite the fact that these are words on a page with no visuals like with a video game, Battle Scars still feels like the game, invoking all of the same feelings and giving the characters a consistent voice.

While everyone is just as lovable as they were in the games — Cal and BD-1 continue to be an adorable duo, Cere continues to work through her own trauma and build a beacon of hope at the center of the galaxy for people to look toward, and Greez — who Maggs continues to make just as snarky and borderline downtrodden as we’d expect as the crew continues to outrun the Empire. 

Stepping into the spotlight, however, is the Nightsister, that joined the crew toward the end of Fallen Order — Merrin. Struggling with her own use of the Force in manifesting Dathomiri magic, Merrin quickly finds herself as part of a pond with an Imperial deflector — Fret. Fret desperately needs the help of the crew to retrieve a weapon before the Empire can get their hands on it, which will put Cal and crew directly back in the path of the Inquisitors — this time, the Fifth Brother.

Without branching too far into spoilers, as this is certainly a book that should be read and experienced with as little information beforehand as possible, the chemistry and bond that unfolds between Merrin and Fret is a pleasure to read. Watching the two women navigate their newfound feelings and figure out how to explore their connection was a vital piece in why I was flipping through page after page, consistently hopeful and eager to see how the story brings these two together fully.

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A favorite aspect of mine for the book is that it bounces between character POVs, giving audiences time to further understand and appreciate each character that comprises this sometimes messy found family. We get to see in more depth that Cal, with all his trauma and struggles, is certainly not the only person in the galaxy or this crew that has skeletons in their closet they’d prefer to hide. This is a rare opportunity for readers to understand the character’s opinions as an individual and gain some insight into what decisions they’re going to make going forward. 

I found that with each new scenario presented to the crew, after getting through the first third of the book, I was starting to ponder how each character was thinking and feeling toward the situations they found themselves in. This is a nice advantage that the book format offers over the video game — in Fallen Order, you connect with Cal as an individual since you experience the story through his eyes, in Battle Scars, you will connect with a family.

The story has a brisk pace, and the climax of the story brings about an explosion of emotion — anger, remorse, sadness — after taking readers through an epic, action-filled tale with plenty of twists and turns to keep readers interested and just as immersed as they would feel playing a game. Anyone feeling anxious they won’t get as much out of a novel experience versus a video game should absolutely give Battle Scars a chance still, as this is a story that found its perfect format.

Overall, the book is an impressive debut Star Wars novel for Maggs, who managed to successfully give four protagonists a true-to-character voice that will further connect audiences and make them feel they’re a part of this found family.

Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars is available now. 

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