Updated: Feb 26, 2021
I'll just start right away with the spoiler-free review.
I LOVED THIS BOOK! Loved it loved it loved it. I love Chewbacca a lot (he's probably a main reason for intense affection for Solo), so going in I already kinda knew that I was going to like this book. Also, the fact that it's written by Tom Angleberger definitely didn't hurt, since I was really into the Origami Yoda series as a kid (and am still always up for a round of the Star Wars flick-pencil game from those books).
Suffice it to say, I was looking forward to reading this one and had fairly high expectations- and it did not disappoint. I'd highly recommend it to not only Chewbacca fans, but to fans of Star Wars in general. At its heart, The Mighty Chewbacca in the Forest of Fear is a true Star Wars adventure, with plenty of humor and heart-touching moments to go around.
My thoughts ahead will be significantly less spoiler-free, and I definitely want to stress that this book is really good. I read it in one sitting, and didn't even get distracted by my phone once. It's a fairly light read (don't let the 261 page count scare you, the pages are small, the text is pretty large and there's some pictures), and I'd highly recommend going through it yourself before being spoiled. If you don't mind spoilers, or have already read the book and want to know my thoughts, then read on!
One of the things that first caught me about this book was the narration style. The story is told by an omniscient narrator, who knows and is able to tell us what each character is thinking, and what their history is, even when those characters aren't revealing that to other characters. But that's not the only unique thing about the narration- the narrator very blatantly acknowledges the reader many times. What it reminded me of was the last story from From a Certain Point of View (the A New Hope version), which was called "Whills," featuring two unidentified characters arguing over how the history of the galaxy should be told- these characters, while maybe not omniscient, seem extremely knowledgable about the galaxy and the stories we know and love. And if you guessed that "Whills" was also written by Tom Angleberger, you'd be correct! His writing style permeates this book in the best way possible, making it even more fun to read the story that's within.
The plot is elaborate enough that I don't think I could do it justice rehashing it- again, this is a book you should absolutely read yourself. However, I'll go over the basic beats to keep you from getting lost through the rest of my review. Chewie, a girl named Mayv, and a "cargo droid" that is actually K-2SO undercover (yes, from Rogue One- I told you this book was awesome), have a mission to retrieve an ancient book from an old hidden secret temple under the guise of transporting a large amount of tookas, which I was happy about as a tooka lover myself. Neither Chewie or Mayv want to do the mission (especially because their hirer took their weapons), but the person who "hired" them (the daughter of an advisor of Palpatine- Alinka Aloo) is holding Han and a book important to Mayv's culture hostage, so they have no choice. The planet is very dangerous, with giant, hungry creatures everywhere trying to snap our heroes up. However, they're able to stay (mostly) away from them by navigating up high in the tall mushroom trees, until they find a large, creature that tries to eat everything. However, our heroes find the nearby temple, where they take the book, and try to escape-but in another twist (to Chewie and Mayv, anyway) K-2SO meets up with Cassian, and they take the book, leaving Chewie and Mayv without it. While this is a good thing, since now the Emperor won't get his hands on it, this leaves Chewie and Mayv without their bargaining tool to get Han and the book back- so they hatch another plan. They get back to Coruscant, and rescue Han and Mayv's book by releasing some of the fearsome creatures that stowed away on the ship onto Alinka Aloo and her bodyguards. The book ends with Chewie getting Han to agree to take Mayv back to her homeworld.
I think it should be obvious that Chewbacca really shines in this book. We see Chewie showing off some of his best qualities that make us love him so much- he's brave in the face of danger, kind, empathetic and helpful. Even thought Mayv and K-2SO are unable to understand him, Chewie does his best to communicate anyway. He also listens to Mayv tell her life story, and when she talks about how the Empire took over her world and enslaved her people, he really feels her pain because of his similar experience. He's really protective of Mayv, and when she gets hurt because of him- even though it wasn't really his fault, he holds her and does it best to dote on her, and is extremely apologetic (even though she can't understand him). Chewie also turns out to be a big magnet for the tooka cats. They all snuggle him as much as possible (can't say I blame them, Chewie looks super cuddly), and when Chewie is attacked by one the large vicious beasts that roam the planet, the small tooka cats rush to his defense and save the day. All in all, this is a great book for Chewie fans. There's also a line where Chewie compares an evil ancient enchantress (we'll get to her later) where Chewie "compares her to Han's last girlfriend," which I thought was really funny. I'm not sure if Chewie means Qi'ra or another woman that caught Han's eye in the time since Solo, but I still liked Chewie's sense of humor there. Also, in the beginning of the book, Chewie has some fried nerf nuggets- maybe someday, he and Grogu can bond over their love of chickie- er, nerf nuggies. They can in my dreams, at least.
Speaking of Han, I should mention his role in the book. It's... not very big. I mentioned in my review of the Choose Your Destiny series that the smart thing to do is just whatever Chewie says, and while Han may have taken that advice in that book, he definitely didn't here... which led to Han being captured and held at gunpoint while Chewie is thrown into this dangerous adventure all because Han wanted to flirt with the daughter of one of Palpatine's advisors. Yeah, Han. Listen to Chewie next time.
The most important original character in the story is Mayvlin Trillick, who goes by Mayv. I really loved Mayv in this story. I was already pretty intrigued by her appearance on the cover, and as a character she definitely didn't disappoint. Mayv is a librarian from the planet Oktaro, a planet that has been totally taken over by the Empire, its people enslaved. The Empire stole important documents and art that belongs to the Oktaro people, and Mayv is on a quest to take them back and bring them home. The reason she's stuck on this mission in the first place is because Alinka Aloo has the most important book to the Oktarians, and Mayvlin agreed to the job in order to get it. I really enjoyed her character- she's smart, crafty and capable, but pretty open with her fears (such as her fear of heights). She doesn't have any weapons, but she does find an exo-glove (a special glove that can be used for stronger grips, longer reaches, and of course punching) and makes use of that- including punching a much larger creature to try and save Chewie. Her bond with Chewie was a really special thing that I enjoyed, especially in the touching scene where they bond over their homeworld's mistreatment by the Empire. Another interesting thing about Mayv (and Oktarian culture) is her triangles. Through several points in the book, Mayv removes and repaints gold triangles on her face. The shape the triangles are arranged in mean different things- some are to provide grace or wisdom, or another to symbolize gratitude. It was an interesting detail about her that I really liked, it served to make her character a lot more fun to read about. She was tough- though not in the typical way that Star Wars characters are through being good at fighting, she had an inspiring amount of courage and perseverance, along with her dedication to restoring her culture and helping her people made her a very remarkable character. She was also very kind- she had affection for the tooka cats, keeping K-2SO from letting them be hurt and worrying about them when they escaped into the forest, and her love for Chewie showed this too. Mayv is definitely a character I fell in love with, and I definitely hope that she gets some kind of revisit in a future comic or novel.
K-2SO... well, I mean everyone loves that droid, right? His deadpan sarcasm definitely does not miss in this book, and his attempts at acting "stupid" like a cargo droid, as much as he hates it, are very funny. I was really excited when it turned out that K-2SB was actually just K-2SO in disguise, because I loved him in Rogue One. I mean, he definitely has some of the most quotable lines from that movie. However, another thing I loved about K-2SO in Rogue One was his reluctant love for others, even if he doesn't admit it- and that shows up here too. Despite the fact that he does a lot of internal complaining about Chewie and Mayv, he does make a point to protect them from Cassian, saying he finds it likely that they'll be working for the Rebellion in the future. He even steps in the way of Cassian's blaster to protect Chewie from getting shot! K-2SO was an unexpected surprise for me in this book, but one that I really loved the whole way through.
One really cool thing about the book was the planet they were on, called Ushruu. It's covered with tall mushroom trees, and there is a city that has been abandoned for generations. Not only that, but it has some very dangerous ands scary-looking fauna. There's the dog-like snarlers that have tentacles (think the Corellian hounds from the prologue of Solo), and the snifflers, described as "worms with hook arms"by K-2SO that actually turn out to be the long tongues of a giant, ancient creature known as the Vathyr, sniffing out any kind of prey that they can find to bring back to the big creature. The big creature, the Vathyr, lives in a chasm filled with green mist, has way too many mouths and draws in any kind of prey it can find- nearly eating Mayv at one point, and then Chewie when he rushes to rescue her!
What was nice about this planet though, was its clear strong connection to the Force. Just putting a hand on the tall mushroom trees helps bring peace to our heroes (well, except K-2SO, being a droid and all). While neither Chewie and Mayv (or Goldie, the tooka that rubs up on the tree) are force-sensitive like a Jedi or other force-user is, it's a nice reminder that all living beings have a connection to the Force, and that it can bring comfort to everyone.
However, there's also a dark side to the Force very strong on Ushruu. Vathyr, the ancient creature, is a dark entity, living in a big chasm surrounded by green mist. Near the chasm is a statue of the creature that acts as an entrance to a temple, built by its dark worshippers before Vathyr ate them. The most significant of these worshippers was The Enchantress, a woman who learned dark powers and, as the narrators says, was essentially a Sith without knowing what the Sith was, and she grew so powerful that Vathyr became aware of her- and ate her. She decided to take an apprentice, but never found one that suited her before her death. One thing I can't help but wonder is if Vathyr and the Enchantress were tapping into not only the dark side of the Force, but the type of magic that the Nightsister's use as well. My only evidence for this really is the fact that there's green mist through the chasm and dark temple, but it's an interesting idea. The Enchantress actually appears as a spirit to Mayv and Chewie (but not K-2SO, leaving the poor droid pretty confused) when they find the book. They tell her that they're taking the book to Emperor Palpatine, who the Enchantress says will be a good apprentice. However, because of the dark magic, the book is unable to be touched by Mayv and Chewie- though K-2SO doesn't mind carrying it at all.
Overall, this book was a really good read. Compelling, featuring already lovable characters with a new interesting one added in, it's a fun adventure where our mostly unarmed heroes need to be creative to solve their problems. It also features cool Force stuff, both light side and dark side, and was overall a really fun and interesting story. If you want to read it for yourself (which you should), I absolutely encourage you to do so! Thank you for reading!