This thrilling Young Adult novel gives readers a macro view of some of the most important events in the Star Wars universe, from the rise of the Rebellion to the fall of the Empire. Written for Young Adults, this book actually appeals to all ages and offers some of the most complex characters in the current Star Wars Canon. If you’ve wanted to know more about daily life under the rule of the Empire, or how citizens are recruited and trained in the Empire, this is the book for you. You also see the role of the Rebels and the toll the war takes on both sides.
Readers will also experience major moments through the eyes of two childhood friends–Ciena Ree and Thane Kyrell–who have grown up to become an Imperial officer and a Rebel pilot. Now on opposite sides of the war, will these two star-crossed lovers reunite, or will duty tear them–and the galaxy–apart? There’s a lot of familiar events here, but seen from a totally different perspective. A solid edition to the canon, and a must read for all Star Wars fans.
The story begins on the Outer Rim planet of Jelucan. It has recently been annexed by the Galactic Empire and many of the planet’s inhabitants are making their way to the capitol for an Imperial ceremony celebrating this event. Two children, Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree, are traveling to the ceremony with their families. Ciena’s family lives out in the valleys with a group known as the Valley Kindred who are a simple, hardworking people who are descended from the original colonists of the planet. They have a very strong code of honor and use very little in the way of technology. Thane’s family is part of the second wave of colonists who tend to be more affluent and live in the cities. Second Wavers and Valley Kindred tend to be at odds with each other and don’t get along well.
Despite their different backgrounds, both children are fascinated with ships and flying. They both notice the same Lambda-class shuttle flying toward the ceremony grounds. It turns out this shuttle is carrying Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, who officiates the ceremony. While the people of Jelucan look on, both Thane and Ciena sneak away to check out ships. They separately come upon the shuttle behind a security cordon. They are not alone; a group of older second wave boys see Ciena and begin berating her for being from the valley. Thane, despite being a second waver himself, defends Ciena, engaging the older boys in a fight. Ciena joins him. Before things get out of hand, the fight is interrupted by Tarkin and his entourage.
The boys take off but Thane and Ciena remain behind. Instead of punishing them, Tarkin questions them. Finding out they were merely interested in the ship, he quizzes them and comes to realize the children are bright. he invites them into the shuttle where they continue to impress by identifying the controls. Tarkin gives them a speech about the glory of serving the Empire and the possibility that one day they themselves could pilot a shuttle or even command a Star Destroyer for the Empire. This sets the two children on a new life’s mission: to attend an Imperial Academy and become officers in the Imperial Navy.
Five years later, Thane and Ciena have become good friends and flight partners despite their families disliking each other. They train on Thane’s brother’s ship, which sits unused since he went off to the academy himself. Over the next few years, the two train together whenever they can, helping one another and continuing to become an inseparable team. When Thane hits his physical limits, Ciena is there to encourage him. When Ciena struggles in her studies, Thane works with her. All this work pays off and the two of them are assigned to the most prestigious school: the Imperial Academy on Coruscant
They arrive together but are soon separated during indoc. They are assigned rooms and quickly make friends with their new roommates. They soon reunite at a reception for new cadets. Along with their new friends, Thane and Ciena excel at the Academy, often competing for first in their classes. As time passes, they continue to be close friends. However, they also begin to notice their feelings for each other are developing into more. Thane notices the grubby valley girl he grew up with has become a very attractive young woman. Ciena has her own feelings for Thane but is confused and conflicted by them.
They continue to lead their cohort in performance until a few years into their academy careers. The group is partaking in an exercise where they build laser cannons from spare parts. Ciena’s works well but Thane’s fails to power on. The instructor soon discovers it has been sabotaged. Inexplicably, the evidence points to Ciena as the culprit. Ciena’s roommate Jude does her own independent investigation and concludes that Thane sabotaged his own cannon. With insufficient evidence either way, no one is expelled but both of them fail the assignment. This drops them from their top spots in the class.
They both approach Jude to continue her investigation into who sabotaged Thane’s cannon. She concludes it was the Academy itself. Politics and corruption in the ranks are to blame. Thane and Ciena get into a huge fight about whether or not they should do anything about it. Thane insists they do, but Ciena’s sense of honor and loyalty gets in the way. Thane storms off.
Two and a half years pass and the two continue competing, climbing the ranks again to the top of the cohort. However their competition is no longer friendly. They no longer interact socially and drift apart in many ways. Thane begins to become somewhat disenfranchised with the Empire while Ciena becomes even more loyal. They are assigned to different specializations as they approach the end of their time at the Academy, Thane to Elite Flight and Ciena to Command. This causes them to see each other even less. Despite the distance though, they can’t shake the lifelong connection they have.
As graduation approaches, the top students are invited to attend a ball at the Imperial Palace. Naturally, Thane and Ciena are selected. They reconnect at the ball and begin to reconcile. With their friendship re-established, Thane sees an opportunity to take things further. He holds back, though, not wanting to risk their fragile relationship. They are simply glad to be friends again.
After graduation, Ciena is assigned to the Star Destroyer Devastator while Thane is assigned to a classified battle station as a TIE fighter pilot. They go their separate ways but promise to see each other as soon as possible. They part with a kiss on the cheek. A few weeks later, Ciena take part in the capture of the Tantive IV. She observes an empty escape pod launch from the ship toward the desert planet below. The Devastator’s next stop is the Death Star. When Ciena learns this she contacts Thane who is now stationed there. They are excited to see each other.
Before they can meet, Alderaan is destroyed. They both watch it happen. Thane’s TIE squadron is sent to Dantooine to investigate the Rebel Alliance base that is reportedly there. Upon seeing the abandoned base, he finally realizes the Rebel Alliance is not a disorganized rabble as he’s been told. They are organized and well equipped. His faith in the Empire continues to falter. On the Devastator, Ciena sees the data feeds from the Death Star go dark. While her superiors deny it, she knows the station and all her academy friends aboard it are likely dead. This was confirmed when she was ordered to escort Lord Vader from his TIE fighter back to the Devastator, as well as to scout out the wreckage of the Death Star to confirm whether or not it was truly gone, the ensuing wreckage and mangled metal was the only view she could see for miles around. She had confirmation that her friend Jude was dead, this fear was intensified by the aura of Darth Vader and the wheezing noise of his respirator apparatus, her fear was so great that she had been frozen stiff in her place. Berisse Sai had tried to ease her fear by joking that, “He’s a bit tense in person the first time meeting him.” Her pain and woe of the loss of her friend Jude was eased by her new found friend, Berisse, the faltering loyalty to the Empire was added onto when the Imperial news had reported that the Death Star had “been damaged by Rebel forces.”
Thane’s squadron returns to the fleet from Dantooine where he meets Ciena. She thought he had died on the Death Star. They share their first kiss only to have Thane ship out to a garrison on a spice world. It is here that Thane has enough. He witnesses the worst of the Empire and realizes he needs to get out. He calls Ciena and they have a serious talk. They cannnot say what they really think due to monitoring by the Imperial Security Bureau, but they both leave the conversation knowing what they need to do. Thane believes they both agree to desert at the first opportunity whereas Ciena believe that they agree to stick to their oaths and serve, trying to fix the Empire from the inside.
Thane deserts and returns to Jelucan. Ciana volunteers to go find him. In the wake of the Death Star, the Empire will welcome him back without punishment. She finds him and their misunderstanding comes to light. Ciena pleads with him to return and he refuses. She realizes this is likely the last time she will see him and they finally make love. After the act, they finally profess their love for each other and realize they need to part ways. Ciena tells Thane to get off the planet as she will report him as AWOL after a week. Despite this threat, she ends up returning to the Devastator and reporting Thane dead.
Eighteen months after the destruction of the Death Star, Thane meets with Rebel pilot Wedge Antilles on a supply run. After a long night of drinking and talking, Thane is convinced the Rebellion is his best way to fight the tyranny of the Empire. While he does not believe in their high-minded ideals, it seems like the best course of action. At the same time, Ciena is transferred to the Super Star Destroyer Executor when Darth Vader transfers his flag to the new ship. She is aboard when the probe droid locates the Rebel base on Hoth. Thane, now a Rebel, is stationed there. He flies a snowspeeder and, after the Battle of Hoth, escapes to the rendezvous point in his X-wing. As he leaves Hoth, he sees the Imperial fleet and realizes that one day he might encounter Ciena in battle and unknowingly kill her.
After being ordered to coordinate the TIEs chasing the Millennium Falcon through the asteroid field, Ciena goes off duty and studies the battle tapes from Hoth. Here she recognizes Thane’s flying and realizes that he has joined the Rebellion. As the Empire chases the Falcon to Cloud City on Bespin, Ciena is charged with leading a team to sabotage the ship’s hyperdrive. She does so, but it is later repaired and the Falcon escapes. Ciena is convinced she will be killed for her failure, but Vader simply walks off.
Back on Jelucan, Ciena’s mother is accused of embezzling money from the mine at which she is a supervisor. Ciena knows this is impossible and requests leave to stand with her mother in the tradition of her people. She arrives to find no one standing in support of her mother except Thane. From his perspective, he returns to support her, but also in an effort to get over her. He feels meeting her again will prove to him the Empire has destroyed the good person she was. This turns out not to be the case, though their reunion is strained. Thane convinces Ciena to go flying with her like they used to. They do and realize nothing has changed between them, except they are on opposite sides of a war. They return to the fortress, their secret childhood hangout near Thane’s parents hangar. There they have a heated exchange and then have sex a second time.
Thane tries to recruit her into the Rebellion and fails. Ciena believes that if all the good people leave the Empire then they will be worse off. Thane leaves Jelucan while he can. Ciena’s mother is found guilty and sentenced to hard labour. Ciena returns to the fleet after realizing that she could not defend her mother without giving up her career in the Imperial Navy.
Some time later, the Executor arrives at the second Death Star. Ciena has very mixed feelings about the fact they created another one. Meanwhile, Thane prepares for the impending Battle of Endor. Two days later, Ciena participates in what she thinks is a practice TIE scramble. It turns out it is the Battle of Endor. Ciena is caught in the blast wave from the station and her TIE is destroyed. Thane celebrates the Rebellion’s victory over the Empire on Endor.
It turns out Ciena survives, but was impaled by debris. She is forced onto medical leave. Over this time, the New Republic establishes a provisional council and the galaxy begins to change. Ciena is soon cleared for duty, is promoted to captain and given command of her own Star Destroyer, the Inflictor, at the young age of 25.
As she takes command, she is ordered to partake in what will be a major battle between the Empire and the New Republic above the desert world of Jakku. Meanwhile, Thane and Corona Squadron are given orders to board and attempt to capture Imperial ships as the Republic needs to bolster its fleet. Thane and his team end up on the Inflictor. The Empire is losing the Battle of Jakku and the Inflictor is taking heavy damage. Ciena realizes her ship is being boarded and sets the self destruct. It turns out it has been disabled by the Rebel boarders. She locks herself on the bridge and sets the ship on a collision course with Jakku.
After her announcement, Thane realizes her plan, breaks onto the bridge and tries to convince her to save her own life by coming with him. She refuses and an epic fight ensues. Thane is finally able to stun her as the ship falls deeper into the atmosphere. They make it to an escape pod and launch much too low. After a rough landing, they are met by a New Republic team. Ciena is arrested as an Imperial War criminal. She awaits trial, but Thane is convinced she will be released as he now believes in the goodness and fairness of the Republic, vowing to wait for her as long as it takes so they can be together.
Meanwhile, in the Queluhan Nebula, the Imperial fleet rearms and restaffs with conscripts. Nash is a TIE squadron commander and vows revenge on the rebels for Ciena’s presumed death.