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Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge: Black Spire is a fun primer for your Disney trip

Spoiler-free book review: Delilah S. Dawson's book is a straightforward adventure in a beautifully realized location.

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Vi Moradi dodges the First Order on Batuu in Galaxy's Edge: Black Spire.

Penguin Random House

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge: Black Spire could easily be dismissed as a commercial disguised as a book. That's because it takes place on a planet called Batuu, which doubles as the setting for Disney's new Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge land. Luckily, the book is such an enjoyable adventure that it skirts the issue entirely. 

Black Spire is author Delilah S. Dawson's sequel to her 2017 Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Phasma in which Resistance spy Vi Moradi escapes First Order captivity with a defecting Captain Cardinal.

The new book is set in the aftermath of The Last Jedi movie. General Leia Organa sends Vi and Cardinal -- who drops his First Order moniker for the friendlier-sounding Archex -- to set up a Resistance base and recruit allies on Batuu following the rebel group's near-destruction.

After crash-landing on the Outer Rim world, Vi is forced to explore Black Spire Outpost, the location of the Disney Galaxy's Edge attraction. She's a charming protagonist, and the relationships she forms with the Black Spire locals becomes the heart of the novel. Her interactions with junk dealer Savi (who has a fascinating spiritual side) and local crime boss Oga Garra (who sends Vi on a fun Indiana Jones-style adventure) give us an excellent sense of the outpost's history and culture.   

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Through this backstory, we get hints about the Galaxy's Edge theme land's activities and learn local greetings like "Bright suns" and "May the spires keep you." All Star Wars novels take the time to describe the planets they visit, but this one goes a step further in its vivid descriptions of the foods and fashions -- clearly pushing us to experience them for ourselves. Thankfully, these elements are peppered through the narrative sparingly enough that they don't feel like cynical marketing.

This is pretty much the gist of the first chunk of the book: settling into its location and getting to know its people without much narrative thrust. It's to Dawson's credit that it makes for fun reading and smoothly sets up the real drama, which kicks in when villainous First Order Lieutenant Wulfgar Kath and his goons arrive on Batuu. They give the narrative momentum, with Kath proving to be a suitably loathsome and terrifying villain as he hunts our heroes relentlessly.

By this point, Vi has gathered a likable but largely forgettable team of Resistance sympathizers. Archex is easily the most intriguing of the group as a former member of the First Order, but he spends much of the novel sidelined due to injuries he sustained during the events of the Phasma novel and we don't get into his head nearly enough.

What we do get is a decent sense of how ordinary people feel about the conflict between the Resistance and the First Order, as the residents of Black Spire react to the war arriving on their doorstep. Dawson's early groundwork in developing the locals pays off here; their reactions are varied, believable and relatable.

Galaxy's Edge: Black Spire feels like essential reading if you're excited about Disney's Star Wars land. The backstory will make you feel like you're in the know as soon as you arrive, as do other recent Star Wars novels. Even if you're just looking for a book that explores a galaxy far, far away, this is a breezy, fun adventure that fills some of the time between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, which is set for release on Dec. 20.

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge: Black Spire, from Del Rey, hits shelves Aug. 27.