I really, really love Lost Stars, and was so happy to give it a reread. I think it's just a beautiful story, it gives us new, interesting angles on some of the most iconic Star Wars moments, and has really amazing and compelling characters that develop really nicely over the course of the story. It's probably among my favorite Star Wars book (though if I actually tried to narrow down a list of favorites I'm sure I'd struggle, there's a lot of very good ones) and this one is definitely so, so worth the read.
I'm not going to write a fully fleshed out summary, because way too much happens in this book and I really think it's in everyone's best interest to read it for themselves, but I'll give you the details that you need to know.
Spoilers ahead for Lost Stars by Claudia Gray!
Lost Stars it the love story between two close childhood friends from very different backgrounds, Ciena Ree and Thane Kyrell. They grow up flying together despite their class and cultural differences on the planet they live on and become inseparable friends, up to getting into the Imperial Academy together. It's here an incident divides them, until years later when they reunite in their service to the Empire and really fall in love. After Alderaan and the Death Star are destroyed, however, is when things get rough. They split, with Ciena horrified but trying to justify it to herself and determined to honor her oath the Empire, while Thane can't take it anymore and deserts, eventually joining the Rebellion. They meet several times on opposing sides, but it all comes to a head at the Battle of Jakku when Thane infiltrates the Star Destroyer that Ciena commands (which, fun fact, is the one that Rey drives past in The Force Awakens), and while she's trying to destroy it (and herself) by crashing it into the ground to keep it from falling into enemy hands, they fight and Thane has to drag her into an escape pod, where her rescue by the New Republic leads to her imprisonment because of her high rank in the Empire. They meet in her cell where Ciena admits the New Republic has been very kind to her and they aren't what they thought she were, but her principles make her loyal to a fault and she refuses to break her oath to the Empire, even though they failed her. Meanwhile, one of Ciena's peers from the Empire believes her dead and swears to lead a resurgence of the Empire in her name.
I think that honestly, the best part of this book is the characters and the way that they change throughout the novel, and how it all just makes sense with the histories we know for them. None of the changes we see the characters go through seem out of left field or just for the same of the plot, it really feels like a natural progression as these characters grow up. For Thane and Ciena especially, we follow them from childhood into adulthood, and you really feel the way that they grow throughout the novel. Thane turned to the Rebellion so easy because he never had a real respect for authority figures because of his abusive father, Ciena never gave up on the Empire even after she found herself disgusted by them because her community keeping your word above all else. I could go on and on, but nearly every trait of these characters can be linked back to some part of their stories, which was so, so cool and really shows how amazing Claudia Gray is at writing characters.
But it's more than just your main characters. All of the side characters were well-rounded, and the ones that survived long enough had really good growth- like Kendy Idele, Ciena's roommate from the Imperial Academy that later was in the same rebel squadron as Thane. One particular side character that was interesting to watch was Nash Windrider. He was a young, fun idealist from Alderaan while they were in the Academy together, but is hollowed by the destruction of his homeworld and murder of his family by the Empire he loves so much. But instead of becoming disillusioned with the Empire like Thane because of this, it just turns him into a violent fanatic as he justifies the destruction as necessary to end the Rebellion, and believing a Rebellion victory would make the "sacrifice" redundant. It was such a fascinating progression to watch, and even though he was a side character his arc was still so, so compelling.
Of course, there's a lot of other amazing things about this book. There's the beautiful, heartwrenching romance between Ciena and Thane, as well as how we get the perspective of "background" Imperial and rebel characters on various events from the original trilogy, how the galaxy is feeling about these things and how and why people choose their sides. It really grounds the galaxy far, far away in this way, as we get to know some of the people who make it all run while the heroes and villains duke it out. It's a really, really cool book, and I think it's worth the read from everybody. It's not just a good Star Wars story, it's a good story period. And that's what I think I really, really love about it.