As I am still catching up with my Star Wars reading, I just read Pirate's Price by Lou Anders. Spoiler-free review: I really enjoyed it. Hondo Ohnaka is always a delight no matter what Star Wars he pops up in, so getting a book almost entirely narrated by him was so much fun. In addition, we get to see some other faves from the movies, as well as a couple of new, interesting characters to spend time with and places to explore. Pirate's Price had me smiling while I read it, and definitely more than lived up to being a fun, Star Wars adventure. If you'd like to, read on while I give some more detail about this awesome book.
Spoilers ahead for Pirate's Price!
The book actually follows a couple of different storylines- there's the one in the prologue, epilogue and interludes, about Bazine Netal. Bazine is the woman in Maz's Castle in The Force Awakens that informed the First Order about our heroes' arrival there. We know she's searching for the Falcon because of her appearance in the prologue and epilogue of Lando's Luck, and she's still searching for it here. She asks Hondo about it, because she knows that it's in his possession- but it's Hondo, so he isn't simply going to let her buy it off of him. So he launches into the three different stories that we follow in the book.
The first story that Hondo tells is of his first time on the Falcon, where he stows away but dramatically reveals himself when Han and Chewie get into an argument with the woman that hired them to take her somewhere, since she reveals her intent to get them to help her on a heist. Hondo convinces everyone (though Han is far from happy about it) to go along with the plan, and they do- until the woman double-crosses them all. It turns out that the riches they were supposedly stealing aren't riches at all, but this is all a part of her plan to destroy a dangerous plant that's going to be sold by her old employer to an equally dangerous gang. Hondo, Han and Chewie do help her, but she sacrificed herself in the process to complete the job. The second story that Hondo tells is of a time years later, when he and Maz go to rescue Han and Chewie and destroy an illegal operation that is stealing and breaking down the ships that land at Maz's palace. They're successful... but only because Hondo was secretly a buyer of these ships, so while they're thankful for his help with the rescue, none of them are pleased with Hondo. The third story is a really cute one about when Chewie first lets Hondo borrow the Falcon, and on his way to Batuu with it Hondo gets boarded by some pirates (ironic). However, with the help of some of the stowaway porgs (especially a fat one that Hondo names Puffy) from Ahch-To, Hondo is able to escape and take the ship home to Batuu.
After Hondo finishes his stories, he takes Bazine to the Falcon and sells it to her for an exorbitant price, which she reluctantly pays. She flies the ship to her rendezvous point with her buyer, who gives her less than Bazine pays and leaves her behind without a ride. The buyer then promptly comes back and gives the ship to Hondo- because Bazine didn't actually meet her buyer at all, the woman from the first story that Hondo told intercepted the transmission and met with Bazine first. So Hondo gets his riches, and the ship that still doesn't technically belong to him. The book ends with Hondo setting out the ad that you can see if you go Batuu to fly the Falcon yourself.
I definitely really enjoyed this book. There's a lot to it that I can't even begin to cover it all, but I'll talk about my own personal highlights.
First is Hondo's narration. If you've seen Hondo in The Clone Wars or Rebels, you know that he has a very particular voice. His inflection, word choice, and tendency to go on little tangents are part of why he's so charismatic and likable to us- and that particular voice caries through the narration of the book so well, even if you're reading it rather than hearing it. While other Star Wars books tell their stories under the guise of another character retelling them (like C-3PO telling the story in The Weapon of a Jedi), none of them that I've read actually have that character telling the story to us, as the reader. But in Pirate's Price, Hondo is the one telling us what happened in his own Hondo way- word choice, commentary and tangents all included. It makes the book so entertaining to read, because Hondo is an entertaining character and storyteller.
Second, a character I really found to be so interesting was the woman from the first story and in the epilogue. Her name is Mahjo Reelo, and though Mahjo seems to be a pretty run of the mill, unassuming character when we first meet her, we soon learn that that's far from the truth. Mahjo is a clone created by a rogue Kaminoan scientist who sells his dangerous technology to the highest bidder. Mahjo used to work for him, but escaped. However, she feels that she has to atone for what she contributed to while under his thumb, and works to make the galaxy a better place- something Hondo doesn't claim to understand, though I get the feeling he does more than he realizes. Mahjo has to get into a fight with another clone working for the Kaminoan (we don't actually know if she has her own name or number, but Hondo calls her "Evil Mahjo"), and she cleverly defeats the enemy and then pretends to be the loyal clone to sneak aboard the Kaminoan's ship to destroy both him and the dangerous plant. She actually buys a black market defoliator bomb (which Clone Wars fans will remember from the Lurmen episodes is a bomb invented by the Separatists that destroys all organic matter, but leaves droids and other inanimate objects untouched) and uses that to destroy her former boss. Mahjo was such a fascinating character to read about, especially as we see her struggle with her past, the duty she feels that she has to the galaxy, and as she struggles with trying to gain the identity of a "scoundrel" while still having a strong moral code.
Third was Hondo's connection with Chewbacca. This was not the bond I expected to be reading about in the book, but it was still a really welcome one. Hondo reveals that he's able to speak Shyriiwook, and that he knows some Wookiee proverbs. He uses these proverbs several times to gain Chewie's trust, and Chewie in turn uses them a few times to urge Hondo to do the right thing. We know from the original trilogy that Chewie often acts as a moral compass for Han, urging him towards doing the right thing when Han is always reluctant, and Chewie does the same for Hondo several times throughout this story. One particular scene between the two that I liked is when Hondo tries to haul an unconscious Han and Chewie off of the Millennium Falcon so that he can steal it. Chewie wakes up in the process, but doesn't really get mad at Hondo. Instead, he simply gives Hondo the chance to do the right thing when Han wakes up- which Hondo actually takes, and is grateful for. It was a really sweet moment that I liked a lot.
There's other things too. I really liked how Lou Anders wrote Han Solo in this story. The first story takes place in the less than a year long gap between the end of Rebels and A New Hope (judging by the fact that Hondo mentions the Liberation of Lothal and that Han isn't a part of the Rebellion yet), so we're running very, very close to the Han we meet in A New Hope rather than Solo edition of him. Something I try to do when reading Star Wars books with movie characters is try to imagine their lines through the voices of the actors. Sometimes that's easier than other times, but I have to say that I had no problem hearing Harrison Ford in this book. Plus, this book is a really great character study of Hondo, as we get to learn a little bit more about his thoughts and feelings personally than we normally get to in screen media.
Another part I really liked was one of the moons that we visit in that first story- Dhandu 3. It was just a really interesting place. Dhandu 3 was very low gravity, so people have to wear weighted anklets to keep them from flying up in the sky when they try to walk (something Han discovers when he first refuses to wear them). The anklets have a control that decides how heavy they are, which is later used when Hondo's pickpocketing scheme goes wrong and they're caught by the guards on the planet, who lock down their bracelets- though of course, Hondo gets to ingeniously get away and help the others. But that's not the only interesting thing about the planet. The planet itself doesn't actually have any cities- well, not on the ground. Giant creatures walk around the planet, leaving any structures built down there susceptible to being crushed. So instead, the poeple of Dhandu 3 built their cities on the large shells on the backs of these creatures, so they're always moving around. The creatures travel in herds, and the cities are built across the backs of multiple creatures. Therefore, the location of different places in the city can change as the creatures move amongst themselves. Makes it seem like a very annoying city to live in- imagine your commute changing by miles arbitrarily on different days- but still a very cool concept, and it was fun to read about.
There's plenty more I could go on about in this book, but I think that I'll leave it be for now. I'd recommend reading this book for yourself if it sounds interesting to you, I promise that it's well worth the time.