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Book Review: From a Certain Point of View: Return of the Jedi

In case you didn't already know, I'm a huge fan of the From a Certain Point of View books. Each of them always gives me a fuller appreciation for the film they're set during, and helps to cement the Star Wars galaxy as a full, living, breathing galaxy. Each story is able to invest you in the character they're without and care about what's happening- whether it's a character we already know well or one just now given a name. I'd recommend all of the books to any fan of the original trilogy.

Spoilers ahead for From a Certain Point of View: Return of the Jedi by 40 different authors!

The first story, "Any Work Worth Doing" by Amar El-Mohtar, was an interesting exploration of Moff Jerjerrod. I loved this story for providing us some really fascinating insight about the fear faced by the officers who work most closely with Vader. We've gotten looks at the rumors that go around about Vader amongst the more lower-ranking, but getting to see the mix of fear and respect that Jerjerrod feels was really cool.

"Fancy Man" by Phil Szostak was the story we've all been waiting for... the Max Rebo story! I totally adored this story, I loved learning about little Max and his silly, cartoonish adventure as he tried to make sure he wasn't late getting on the band's ship. This story was so cute, and made me laugh multiple times. A must-read for anyone who likes a little silliness in their Star Wars.

"The Key to Remembering" by Olivia Chadha was a very fascinating story about EV-9D9. Anytime that I can get into the mind of a droid I'm all in, and EV-9D9 as a torture droid was particularly interesting. The story raises a lot of good questions about droids feeling pain, memory wipes, restraining bolts, and what it even means to be free or sentient. I guessed that we'd get an EV-9D9 story, but this isn't a story I thought I'd get terribly invested in- thankfully, I was wrong.

"Fortuna Favors the Bold" by Kwame Mbalia was a pretty fun story about Bib Fortuna. His miserable attitude bleeds into the 3rd person narration, but seeing the events of Return of the Jedi through his eyes was very interesting. We actually learn that he was planning to kill Jabba himself and take over his operations... only Leia beat him to it. Thankfully, she didn't stick around to take the Hutt's place, leaving the throne open for Bib to take. But we know how that went...

"Dune Sea Songs of Salt and Moonlight" by Thea Guanzon was one of my favorite stories from the book. It's about a girl named Jess who is forced to be one of the servants singing in Jabba's palace. I loved the relationships between women in this story and how important they are- the women in Jabba's palace provide an important support system for each other, as they all understand the precarious position that they're in better than anyone else. It also makes what happens to Oola in the movie even more heartwrenching, but it also highlights how bold and brave her act of defiance was. When Leia is imprisoned, they support her too- though she's much more hopeful than they are about a soon rescue. Jess' story of achieving freedom, reuniting with her boyfriend and setting out to explore the galaxy was incredibly moving, and even though we only know her through this short story, I like to think that she's out having the most wonderful adventures. Of all the stories in this book, this is probably the one that continues to cross my mind the most.

"The Plan" by Saladin Ahmed was a story I knew we would get, though I didn't anticipate it playing out this way. This story is about Malakili, the rancor keeper. Rather than the story taking us through the iconic moment that Malakili is known for, it goes just up to the lead up of Luke falling through that trapdoor. We learn about Malakili's neglectful upbringing, but especially about how he grows an affinity for creatures- and he specifically, believes that they can take power from what they eat. Malakili loves Pateesa, and believes that if he can feed her a Jedi, that she will become powerful enough to be free. Of course we know how that goes, but man, kinda makes you want her to eat Luke. No? Just me?

"Reputation" by Tara Sim is about Boba Fett himself. This was such an interesting look into Boba's head, especially with how much disdain he had for Jabba and his showboating. I think it lays some good groundwork for the way we see Boba run things in The Book of Boba Fett. What really struck me in this story was how differently Boba was written here compared to his story in the first From a Certain Point of View book. The Boba in this book is much more thoughtful, a bit more resigned and empathetic. Part of that is definitely the difference between authors and the fact that The Book of Boba Fett came out between the release of those books, but it does create a very interesting look into his development that makes him the character we see in his show.

"Kickback" by K Arsenault Rivera is about two of the hired hands on Jabba's skiff. It's a very humanizing look at characters who mainly just exist to get Force-kicked around, exactly what I'm looking for in this book. Nothing makes you think twice about these guys who get casually shot or tossed to the sarlaac like hearing them have such a normal conversation about saving up to get their kids new goggles. This story felt so regular, like you could overhear these things from anywhere on our own planet. In a way, I think that this story really embodied one of the things that I love most about Star Wars- everyone has a story worth telling, even if they're not a Jedi or a war hero.

"Everyone's a Critic" by Sarah Glenn Marsh was a really, really fun story. We all know Salacious Crumb's iconic laugh, so getting to learn his history was so amazing. Hearing the story of how he ended up in Jabba's palace was interesting, but what I really enjoyed was getting inside the mind of Salacious Crumb and getting his perspective on what happens throughout the early scenes of Return of the Jedi was really funny.

"Satisfaction" by Kristin Baver was a story about the legendary Sy Snootles. It was such an interesting deep dive into a character who was really fleshed out in The Clone Wars- and this story ties her story all together. Her wishes for stardom, her greediness and her daydreaming tendencies all really shine in this story, and I think it's a must-read for anyone who was intrigued by her in The Clone Wars.

"My Mouth Never Closes" by Charlie Jane Anders is a story about the sarlacc. I really enjoy these unexpected perspectives from the big monsters- I loved the dianoga story in the first From a Certain Point of View story. This one is very different in tone, with the sarlacc being much more funny and fed up with people who keep trying to throw other people in its mouth. I did really like the conversation that the sarlacc had with C-3PO, though. It was nice to see someone whos C-3PO some kindness and understanding. Plus, the story ends with a reference to Boba's return to the sarlacc pit in The Book of Boba Fett. I hope that goes well for the sarlacc!

"Kernels and Husks" by Jason Fry provides a really fascinating backstory for one of the Emporer's advisors. The advisors are hardly in the movie, but this story really delves into the disturbing mind of one named Sim Aloo- his backstory of betrayal and killing, and his disdain for so many of those around him. It was really interesting to be in the mind of such a dark character, and especially to see how consistently self-important he is.

"The Light That Falls" by Akemi Dawn Bowman was about Yoda's death- but not from the perspective of Yoda himself, or any particular character who we could expect to react to his death. Rather, it was from the perspective of Dagobah wildlife. I think this story was such a beautiful tribute to the whole idea of the Force- Yoda's bright presence touched all of the life around him on Dagobah, and when he becomes one with the Force it causes a ripple through all of it. A creature describes the music of life in the swamp becoming chaos, and I think it's so interesting. We know Dagobah is a planet with a connection to the Dark Side of the Force, and seeing how Yoda's mere presence as a Jedi was able to hold that back is something that I think is really wonderful.

"From a Certain Point of View" by Alex Jennings is a story I think we've all been waiting for, as we finally get to the moment that gave this series its name. This story is from the perspective of Force Ghost Obi-Wan as he has that key conversation with Luke. It was interesting to hear this conversation while inside of Obi-Wan's head, as we get many of his memories, his regrets and his hopes all at once. I also really appreciated how this story referenced the events of the Obi-Wan Kenobi series, and we learn that Obi-Wan went on to follow Leia's political career as much as he could from a distance. I think that this reference, along with The Book of Boba Fett references in other stories, really made me reflect on how much Star Wars has expanded and changed in the past few years. When the first From a Certain Point of View story was released, we didn't have those chapters of the story yet, and these stories are really enriched from them in a way that the authors of the first book couldn't take advantage of yet.

"No Contingency" by Fran Wilde is a Mon Mothma story. I always enjoy spending time with Mon Mothma because I think she's character with so much more depth to her than you can always see immediately. I loved seeing Mon Mothma be more in the action than usual, as she has to fly and fight physically when her mission goes South. I loved seeing this new side of her in this story, and hopefully it's something we'll get to see a bit of in Andor Season 2.

"The Burden of Leadership" by Danny Lore is about the man himself, Lando Calrissian. What I loved in this story was seeing Lando using his personable skills as a leader in the Rebellion. We know Lando is a smooth-talker, but seeing him use his abilities as a leader to help calm his squad before battle and settle their differences. He plays sabacc with his squadrons, and I really enjoyed his clear compassion for his squadron before going into such a scary battle.

"Gone to the Winner's Circle" by Patricia A. Jackson is the story of one of the biker scounts that chased Luke and Leia through the Endor forest. It was really fun to see the backstory of this character as a wannabe racer before they met their tragic end in the movie. The way that the movie's chase was written in the book was also really exciting to read, and perfectly captured the scene in my opinion.

"One Normal Day" by Mary Kenney is an adorable story from the perspective of Wicket himself. It really reminded me of the Ewoks cartoon in the best way. It was filled with the classic young Ewok spirit and adventure, while also feeling a bit more grounded and serious than the cartoon often was. It was also really cool to get Wicket's firsthand perspective on the Empire moving into Endor, and I thought it was an especially cool detail that the Ewoks describe stormtroopers and biker scouts as "bug people." I definitely never would have thought of that comparison myself, but I definitely see it.

"Divine (?) Intervention" by Paul Crilley is from the perspective of Logray, the Ewok shaman. And I LOVED this story! The story is mostly about the Ewoks believing C-3PO to be a god, or the Golden One. This story gives us a bit more insight into those beliefs, but the key part of it all is that Logray does not buy it, not really. When he first sees the golden glint of C-3PO and gets excited, but upon a closer look quickly realizes that he is just a droid. He's disappointed, but realizes that just because C-3PO isn't the Golden One, doesn't mean he can't be a sign sent from the Golden One. I really enjoyed this story a lot- it adds a very interesting layer to an already interesting part of Return of the Jedi, and gives us more amazing Ewok content.

"The Buy-In" by Suzanne Walker was a great story featuring the Aftermath trilogy's Norra Wexley. I love Norra, and getting to see her before we first met her in those books was really special. She flies a little, but most of this story is a fun sabacc game with other pilots, including sabacc expert himself Lando Calrissian. I really enjoyed Lando's role in this story, especially how he uses sabacc as a metaphor for leadership and battle. But what I enjoyed most in this story was the joyful camaraderie amongst the pilots. We really got a sense of their relationships just in this one short scene, and seeing their teasing and reassuring of each other even with the stress of facing such a big battle was really great.

"The Man Who Captured Luke Skywalker" by Max Gladstone explores the story of the Imperial commander that, you guessed it, captured Luke Skywalker. It was cool to see a scene that didn't explicitly play out in the movie, which is Luke turning himself in to the Empire. What struck me most in this story wasn't about our point of view character, though, it was a stormtrooper. After having arrested Luke, they find the body of another trooper, one presumably that the stormtrooper with them knew, because upon finding the body the stormtrooper rages at Luke and begins to hit him. Luke, though, just takes it. It only stops when the officer orders the trooper to stop. It was a strange, very Luke moment, and it really settled in my mind for a while after reading it.

"Ackbar" by Jarrett J. Krosoczka is a short comic about Ackbar in the lead up to his iconic line that I don't even need to say here. I always love the comic stories in these books, they break up the regular short stories and always have very good art. I really liked the art in this story especially, it was cute and really expressive. The final, full page panel really gives the famous line the full energy it deserves. Beyond that, though, I really appreciated Ackbar's inner thoughts in the comic ruminating on the weight of what they're about to do, and the lives of the people doing it.

"The Impossible Flight of Ash Angels" by Marieke Nijkamp is about an A-Wing pilot and his story from reluctant flight coach to full-blown rebel. I really liked this story- basically every character was independent to this story (and background appearances in Return of the Jedi), yet I felt myself really feeling connected to them. The character work in this story is really, really good. I enjoyed the jumps through time and how our main character, Arvel, progresses through it all. He has a good, classic rebel story that represents so much of what inspires us in the Rebellion.

"Ending Protocol" by Hannah Whitten tells the story of a stormtrooper on Endor. But specifically a stormtrooper who isn't entirely convinced of her loyalty to the Empire. She actually saves Leia's life- that blaster shot she took to the arm in the movie was in fact aimed in a much deadlier spot, but this stormtrooper, named Riz, kicked the stormtrooper firing the fateful shot. Later, Riz survives the battle, and seeks out the rebels to surrender and atone for her history in the Empire. Leia sees her personally, and though we don't know what become of Riz, the gentle kindness that Leia shows her is really striking, and I wish her well.

"The Last Flight" by Ali Hazelwood tells the story of Sila Kott, rebel pilot. In this story we learn a lot about her past, and her extreme jealousy (and what turns out to be some affection) for another girl, Lante, on her home planet. Honestly, the story was really, really giving "lacey" by Olivia Rodrigo. We learn a lot about Sila's childhood- her father and brothers, her rivalry/friendship with Lante... and then the death of her family, and Lante going on on to work for the Empire while Sila becomes a rebel. Classic star-crossed lovers. I really fell in love with Sila over the course of this story, and actually cried at the end of it. Reading through the entire life of character we barely see on screen in the movie was really touching, and exactly what these books are about.

"Twenty and Out" by Lamar Giles tells us the story of a gunner on the Death Star II. It's fairly fun, lighthearted story with a massive cloud of dread hanging over it. We learn about this gunner and how he is mere days away from retirement, and tells his cohort about his big plans, with his genius idea on creating a business that sells railings and safety equipment to the Empire- something they're severely lacking. It's a funny bit of meta commentary, but you can't help but feel bad knowing that his retirement plans are about to be a little bit interrupted.

"The Ballad of Nanta" by Sarah Kuhn is the story I was both looking forward to and dreading ever since the concept of the From a Certain Point of View books was announced. Remember those two ewoks in a quick shot of Return of the Jedi, where the one dies and the other one holds their body? Yeah, it's that story. I loved this story as much as it emotionally devastated me- so, a lot. The main ewok we meet here, Nanta, is not a very good warrior- rather, he is a storyteller. Logray gives Nanta the task of story-keeper, the one who must gather their stories so that they last for generations to come. Nanta becomes friends with another ewok, Romba, who is a warrior and refugee from another village that was destroyed by the Empire. The two get swept up into the Battle of Endor, and as much as you hope the whole time while reading that this won't be that story, please don't be that story... it is. And it is devastating. Nanta is tragically killed, and Romba decides to take on the role of story keeper in his honor. It's a beautiful ending, but ouch.

"Then Fall, Sidious" by Olivie Blake is the inner monologue of Palpatine leading up and through his scenes in the movie. It was really fascinating, and I think that Palpatine is captured really well- there is not a moment of doubt that these are the inner thoughts of Palpatine. I loved following his dark logic and seeing the clear arrogance in every word was really cool.

"Impact" by Sean Williams tells us about the childhood and early life of an Imperial officer on the deck of the star destroyer that takes a ship directly to it during the Battle of Endor, as seen in the movie. It's one of many stories like it that make me really appreciate these books, and how Star Wars enables this kind of storytelling. In the movie, these characters don't have names and really just exist to die for the purposes of the battle. But someone took the time to walk us through this man's entire life, his motivations and history right up to his final thoughts before death. It's really what Star Wars is all about, and I'm so grateful for that.

"Trooper Trouble" by Laura Pohl is the story of a stormtrooper stationed on the Death Star, told through the lens of his log entries. We learn all about how boring being a stormtrooper on the Death Star was. Lots of standing around, they're running out of caf. But what I found really interesting was the conversations troopers would have- discussing how poor the conditions are, how little freedoms and rest they get. Some of the troopers even discuss what would essentially be a stormtrooper union. This story was some really cool bits of worldbuilding showing us the nitty gritty of stormtrooper life, and I really enjoyed it.

"To the Last" by Dana Schwartz is a story about Admiral Piett. He isn't a character I tend to think much about, but I really loved this story. We get to learn quite a bit about his backstory, and his inner thoughts during the movie. Getting inside of his head was really cool, specifically with how he's been affected by Vader's choke-happy way of disciplines and his fears and doubts.

"The Emperor's Red Guards" by Gloria Chao tells the story of, if you weren't sure from the title, the Imperial Guards. This was one of the most memorable stories for me. Though the two guards were new characters, I was instantly hooked on them. I loved learning about what it takes to become a red guard, how the different characters felt about their role and the Empire, and their relationships with each other. I also really loved the brief appearance of Luke in this story. It was very Luke, trying to warn others to save their lives even when he was. in danger. All around, just an amazing story that I'm glad was included.

"Wolf Trap" by Alyssa Wong was a really, really fascinating story about a stormtrooper that is captured by ewoks. We see him sitting, tied up, as his fellow stormtroopers die or are taken one by one. It really puts a much darker twist on the cute, cuddly ewoks, doesn't it? While it isn't necessarily new information about them, reading from the perspective of one of the stormtroopers does really hammer it home and makes you think again about it. The story also delves into the past of the particular trooper we are within the mind of, and his story and feelings are very interesting. You really feel for him by the end of the story, and I think the way his past memories and his present start to blend over time was really well done.

"The Extra Five Percent" by M. K. England is about a rebel pilot and her best friend who fly together in the battle of Endor. They have a really sweet, believable friendship and I loved seeing their banter and clear care for each other in this story. I was really engaged with the way that the space battle here was written too, and really felt the tension and was metaphorically on the edge of my seat the entire time. The ending was also really sweet, and all I can say is that I hope Karie and Lanna had fun at the Endor party.

"When Fire Marked the Sky" by Emma Mieko Candon is about none other than the famous Wedge Antilles. I really liked seeing this very subdued look at Wedge when the action is over and we get to see him talk more about his feelings about everything that is going on. It was really fun to read about him here, and I'm always down for some more Wedge!

"The Chronicler" by Danielle Paige was a story that really stood out to me as I finished the book. It tells the story of Dora Mar, a chronicler for the Rebellion. She isn't a soldier or a pilot, but her role in the Rebellion is still important, as she's tasked with keeping records of what they do for history's sake. Dora herself is a really interesting and lovable character, but what's most interesting in this story is that she's assigned to interview Han, Lando, Luke and Leia. Each of the interviews show so much of the character's personality, and I really loved reading them. If you're looking for how the heroes of the Rebellion would handle being interviewed about it, this is definitely the story for you.

"The Veteran" by Adam Lance Garcia is a story I never would have expected to be included in this book, but one that I adored all the same. This story is about Dexter Jettster, and gives us a closer look at how Coruscant handled the death of the Emporer. Sure, there was a lot of celebration, but the strong Imperial presence on the planet clashed with that and lead to a lot of violence. Seeing Dex particularly do the right thing, inspired by his memories of the Jedi (specifically his friend Obi-Wan) was really special to see, especially because of how much the early parts of the story paint a picture of how down on his luck he's been since the Empire took over. He has a really sweet series of interactions with a young girl that really made this story so good, and I definitely recommend it to everyone. I don't know when we'll get to check in on Dex again, but I'd like to think he'll be able to re-open his diner in the age of the New Republic, and maybe some of our friends from the Resistance will get to visit and hear his stories about Obi-Wan Kenobi.

"Brotherhood" by Mike Chen was a really, really emotional story and I recommend being mentally prepared before reading it. It is a beautiful story about the inner world of Anakin Skywalker as he becomes one with the Force, and embraces the peace of it all. It's written wonderfully and I really don't think I can do it justice from just talking about it. It also puts a lot of emphasis on the relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan, which I loved and was fitting since Mike Chen wrote a book on the two of them with the same name.

"The Steadfast Soldier" by Adam Christopher is about The Rise of Skywalker's Enric Pryde. This was a really interesting story, as we learn that Enric Pryde not only narrowly escaped rebel capture on the Endor moon with one of his stormtroopers (there were two, but one didn't make it), but that he witnessed Luke's private funeral for Anakin. This story was a reminder that though a chapter of peace begins following Return of the Jedi, the plans are already in motion for the First Order to rise, and a great little piece of set-up for the sequel trilogy to be included here.

"Return of the Whills" by Tom Angleberger is the closing story of this book, just as the Whills close off the first two. Like the other Whills stories, it's funny, meta, and reflects on the Star Wars stories that we hold so dear. There's a joke as the Whills debate to name the story "Revenge of the Jedi" or "Return of the Jedi," whether or not to cut that sandstorm bit, and about if they should go back 30 years to talk about trade routes. It's all ribbing in good fun that provides some good levity, and I love that this is how they choose to end each of these books.

I know we're a little ways away from the 40th anniversary of any of the prequels (and let alone the sequels), but I hope when that day comes we get versions of these books for those movies too as a time-honored tradition and way to reflect on the movies we love.

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