As I continue on my quest to read all canon Star Wars books, both old and new, I found myself going all the way back to The Rise of the Empire. If you didn't know, The Rise of the Empire is a massive book including the Tarkin novel, A New Dawn, and 3 short stories. I'm taking this opportunity to re-read and review both Tarkin and A New Dawn, but first I had to read those short stories and share some of my thoughts on them!
Spoilers ahead for Mercy Mission by Melissa Scott, Bottleneck by John Jackson Miller, and The Levers of Power by Jason Fry.
Mercy Mission was my favorite, mostly because of Hera! It's a story about young Hera, pre-A New Dawn. She's still on Ryloth at this point, we see a fun and interesting adventure from early in her life. She works with a small crew (without her father's permission) to smuggle medical supplies to a village in need. We see her inspired to create her own crew, and begin to dream of a wider rebellion. It really supports what we know about her as a character being aspirational and motivated towards a goal to topple the Empire. And while this story was written years ago, I feel like it flows perfectly from the Hera episodes of The Bad Batch, almost like it was written based off of them (though obviously it wasn't). The characterization is very consistent and this version of her feels like a very natural progression for where she'd be between The Bad Batch and A New Dawn.
The next story was Bottleneck. This one was mostly focused on the Imperial economy- specifically armor production. Armor production is down, and they need to increase it drastically- to the expense of the workers, who unsuccessfully try to strike. Many of them meet a fateful end because of it. The protagonist of this story was Tarkin, and Count Vidian from A New Dawn played a considerable role in it as well. My favorite character, though was Thetis Quelton. She's an eccentric character with a collection of old armors and artifacts. She owns one of the factories that the Empire is trying to wring more armor out of, and though she acts like she supports the Empire's efforts, it's found that she secretly worked in support of the strike of her workers and tried to sabotage the Empire by hiding spores inside the filters of stormtrooper helmets, which would infect Imperial troops with a debilitating respiratory disease. Her plot is discovered, but when it is she is wearing an ancient set of armor, worn by a people who breathe gas poisonous to humans when Tarkin confronts her. Before she can be arrested, she activates a mechanism in her suit that creates a seal with this gas, killing her. It was fascinating to read about her character and her bold, early support of the rebellion before the rebellion even existed- and she did it all on her own!
The final short story of the book is The Levers of Power. It gives us the perspective of Admiral Sloane during the Battle of Endor, which was very interesting because she's such a cool character featured prominently in a variety of books. You can really feel the tension building throughout this story as the Rebellion gains the upper hand in a pivotal battle that the Empire thought they had in the bag. Admiral Sloane spends a great deal of time in this story trying to convince both herself and the crew of her Star Destroyer that she is composed and calm, but you can see that begin to break as the Rebellion makes more and more advances- especially when she shoots a loyalty officer dead for speaking out of turn. It's so cool to see Sloane and read her thoughts at such an important fulcrum point for not only her as a character, but the Star Wars galaxy as a whole. Plus, it just makes me super excited for when From a Certain Point of View: Return of the Jedi comes out in 2023!