“Many of them still have rebel hearts beating in their chests—it’s in them to question orders, to fight back when something doesn’t seem right. Even if it’s coming from someone you trust. People trusted Palpatine, once.”
-Chuck Wendig, Aftermath: Empire’s End
I want to be totally clear about one thing before I start this review: the Aftermath trilogy is my Thrawn trilogy. I haven’t been reading Star Wars books for a terribly long time. When I first began obsessively collecting and reading Star Wars novels, the Legends/new-canon announcement was just months away. Honor Among Thieves by James S. A. Corey was the first new Star Wars book I bought when it was released, and it’s also the final book to be released before the switch to the new canon. So I’m a newb. To that end, I (gasp) don’t hold the Thrawn trilogy in the same regard as the folks who have been reading these books for decades. I enjoyed the hell out of the books, and I have a ton of respect for Timothy Zahn, but that trilogy could never mean the same thing to me as it does to the fans who were there when it was a new and vital piece of the Star Wars universe.
But I’ll never forget buying Aftermath on Force Friday, and starting it that night. My excitement levels (and my son’s) over The Force Awakens were THROUGH THE ROOF, and I was so eager to jump into the book! I also got very emotionally involved in all the hateful online backlash over Wendig’s inclusion of some gay characters, and that only bolstered my opinions of Chuck Wendig, and made me want to support him and this trilogy even more. And after all that…I fucking loved the first book. His writing style (third-person, present-tense) is apparently not for everyone. Or at least it wasn’t for a lot of the Bring Back Legends crowd. And that’s OK. But I’m sure a fan of it!
Having finished the trilogy, I’d say with a lot of confidence that book two, Life Debt, is my personal favorite. I loved every single page of that book, and would likely consider it my all-time favorite Star Wars book.
Empire’s End is a fitting end to the trilogy. It ties up a bunch of loose ends, while unraveling a few fresh ones. The Interludes continue to be some of the most interesting & effective looks at what a post-Palpatine galaxy looks like. My absolute favorite one, played out across all three books, is a Star Wars western! I think the bones for a GREAT standalone story about Sheriff Cobb Vance are there, and I would love to see that become a reality!
There is a bit of a lull through the middle of the book, and I really struggled with it. I wanted this to be the BEST THING EVER, but I just feel like the middle dragged a bit, and affected the overall pace of the book. That said, it picks up steam towards the end, and Wendig’s vision of this fractured version of the Empire returns to the truly nightmarish heights we saw in Life Debt. There are some brutal and shocking moments, for sure.
I think Chuck Wendig did an admirable job with the Aftermath trilogy, and it will always hold a special place in my heart. He took some risks with beloved characters, introduced some truly memorable ones, and did some really interesting and audacious things with his time playing in the Star Wars sandbox. And I really, really hope he gets invited back to play again.