After waiting way too long, I finally read Black Spire. And I loved it! I adore Vi Moradi, the story was fun, never too slow and kept me absolutely enthralled the whole time, and the new cast of characters all brought something new to the table. I liked the dynamics and relationships that the characters developed, and the way they grew themselves. Most of all, I loved how much Delilah S. Dawson really draws you into the Black Spire Outpost setting, and it made me really, really miss Batuu and reminded me of how much I love Galaxy's Edge. It's a great book that I'd highly recommend, and I wish I would've listened to Lizzy and read it much sooner.
Spoilers ahead for Galaxy's Edge: Black Spire by Delilah S. Dawson!
First things first, I have to talk about Vi or I will absolutely explode! I already wrote my little ode to her a few days ago, and she is amazing in this book. My appreciation for her character (which was already quite strong) has multiplied a million times thanks to this book. Seeing Vi be her awesome self was just great- she's witty, funny, smart, strong and all kinds of amazing. But what I really loved was seeing how she grew. Vi grows a lot over the course of the book, and she already starts off as an extremely cool and competent spy. But in her new role as the founder of a new Resistance base and leader of the small band of Resistance fighters she slowly cobbles together, she has to learn whole new sets of skills. Rather than quietly gathering information undercover as a spy, Vi has to learn how to give speeches to rally the people of Black Spire Outpost to her cause, learn how to work with others, and learn how to lead and take care of them- all while she also has to learn to process her own trauma throughout the story. Though she stumbles a little, by the end Vi is just great at it, and earns the respect of everybody- as she deserves!
I loved Vi's role in this story as she first stumbled the mission while arriving on Batuu in a crash and losing their supplies thanks to some of Oga's opportunistic scavengers, but how she gets back up on her feet and manages to get a job in town, build connections with the residents of the outpost, recruit for her Resistance team, and even hold up to First Order capture until said team can rescue her and they can later attack the First Order once again and get them off-planet. Vi is a very strong and admirable character, and this book certainly allowed her to shine and show off those qualities that make her so great.
I also want to talk about Archex, because he was also great! Better known as Cardinal, he was the First Order captain that captured and tortured Vi in Phasma. However, after turning (and being nearly killed by Phasma), Vi rescued him and brought him back to the Resistance, where he's spent a while in a meditation camp to be rehabilitated. This mission with Vi to Batuu is the first time the Resistance is working him, and he's dedicated to proving himself. You can tell that Archex deeply cares about the fight against the First Order, no matter how many times he insists he's not a real member of the Resistance yet. But he works hard, does a lot of the dirty grunt work of setting up the base and is always ready to do more, though Vi frequently limits him because he's not fully healed from the injuries that Captain Phasma gave him, still limping and dealing with a lot of pain. That doesn't stop Archex though- when Vi needs him after being captured and tortured by his former colleague, Archex comes to her rescue personally. Then later, on a daring mission to destroy the First Order shuttle that had landed on Batuu, Archex comes to help even when ordered to stay behind... and sacrifices himself to complete the mission and save the others. It's devastating for Vi and it was for me too. Their relationship grew a lot as Vi learned to fully trust him and believe in him, and as Archex worked to gain that trust. It's definitely the saddest and most emotional part of the book, and just cements the bravery and dedication that Archex has.
There were plenty of other lovable characters in Black Spire. There was Pook, the hilarious, attitude-laden droid that provided medical care and building assistance as they put together their Resistance base, as well as a farmboy named Dolin who is rallied to the cause by Vi. Dolin leaves his community, an insular and low-technology one, to help the Resistance because he believes in the cause. Though he lacks life experience, he has some skills that help grow their base and he becomes a brave, valuable asset to the Resistance, especially when he later rallies the farmers from his community to help them get the First Order away from Batuu. There's also Zade Kalliday, a drunken loudmouth smuggler that's trapped on Batuu by Oga Garra, who has his ship impounded because of his debts. Zade has enough hatred of the First Order, charisma, and public speaking skills to also become a valuable member of Vi's team, as he helps gather support in the outpost for the cause by giving passionate speeches in the cantina.
But finally, my favorite member of Vi's little team (besides Vi herself of course) is Kriki. Kriki is a Chadra-Fan, which are a small and adorable species already (think Orka from Star Wars Resistance). Kriki is super sweet, though she was abused and taken advantage of by her former employer. Vi stands up for her when she sees it in the outpost, giving Kriki the courage to leave. Kriki decides to join the Resistance, and her tech skills become absolutely indisposable to the Resistance, both in putting their base together as well as on the missions they run against the First Order.
Another part of this book that I loved was learning about Black Spire Outpost and the people there. I hadn't yet read this book when I went to Galaxy's Edge, so now I'm extra excited to get the chance to go back equipped with all of this new knowledge. I really got the feel for what it's like, what the story of this place is, and Dawson definitely communicated all of this really well. I thought her descriptions of Batuu and the character that she gave it in the book really enhanced how much I loved the story, and how much I'll appreciate Galaxy's Edge when I go back.
My copy of the book also had a short story in the back called "Return to a Shattered Planet." This story takes place a little bit after the end of the main book, and we're closer to the point of where the Galaxy's Edge theme park takes place. Hondo has control of the Falcon, and Chewie is here, who Vi has befriended and got him to teach her some Shyriiwook. Vi is going back to Parnassos, to fulfill a promise she made to a young woman and her daughter from the Phasma book to rescue her from that dreadful planet and give her freedom. They get to the compound where Vi left them, only to discover a strange, cult-like group has taken it over and imprisoned the woman and her daughter, Vi, Chewie, Pook and Kriki manage to rescue them from the cult and take them back to Batuu. It was a really intense story with some fun and sweet moments, and also one that wrapped up a loose thread that I had been curious about from Phasma.