SYNOPSIS: Cienna Ree and Thane Kyrell are from different social classes, but bond over their mutual love of piloting and desire to leave their home planet of Jelucan. Together they make it into the Imperial Academy and are on the fast track to making something of themselves, but as the Empire becomes worse and worse Thane makes the decision to leave while Cienna holds fast to her faith and sense of duty to keep going. When Thane joins the Rebel Alliance there relationship grows more tense, but some bonds are stronger than faction alliances.
Of all the Star Wars books I have read so far this is without a doubt my all-time favorite. Gray writes action scenes that are so intense, detailed, and fast paced that it feels like you are actually watching one of the films. I also loved that Gray shows all sorts of people that work for the Empire. Some of the characters are sympathetic, they just do their jobs and truly believe that the Empire is good because they don’t know what is going on elsewhere in the galaxy. Other characters aren’t as sympathetic because they either blind themselves to the horrors or embrace the horrors whole-heartedly. One of the my favorite secondary characters was Nash from the planet Alderaan. This books spans the original trilogy and leads up to The Force Awakens, so Nash witnesses the destruction of his homeworld and rather than turning to the Rebel Alliance he stays with the Imperial Army which was a fascinating choice and it was a perfect foil to Thane and his decision to desert when he realized what was going on. Thane and Cienna’s relationship was beautiful to watch grow because although they are constantly brought together and then pulled apart they never waver in the love and friendship that they feel for each other. This story easily could’ve become a melodramatic Romeo and Juliet in space story and Gray never took it to that place. I also liked that the characters we know and love from the original trilogy took a backseat for these new characters that we grow to love because I think if Leia, Luke, or Han had anything more than a cameo I would’ve wanted more and the story would’ve become their story rather than Thane and Cienna’s. Gray also did a great job with alternating their stories and both of their voices were distinct and engaging. I could understand why Cienna would stay with the Empire even though I wanted so badly for her to leave and I understood why Thane would leave and not want to join the Rebel Alliance at first even though I wanted him to be with Cienna. I also love how Gray explains how the First Order started to form and how all the Star Destroyers and other ships ended up on Jakku for Rey to scavenge as she waits for her family. I honestly don’t feel that my review is doing this book any justice, but if you love Star Wars move this book to the top of your TBR!