Review of Razor’s Edge by Martha Wells
A not so long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the Expanded Universe was created in the form of Splinter of the Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster, and an extremely popular (if sometimes polarizing) genre was created. Since the time of the publication of this novel in 1978, the “Big Three” of the Original Trilogy (Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo, for the uninitiated) have appeared in countless novels, comics, video games, and fan fiction stories, with varying degrees of quality and success.
Minor Spoilers Below:
The myriad history of the big three gets another chapter in its burgeoning legacy with the new trilogy of books from Del Rey entitled Empire and Rebellion, with the first book, Razor’s Edge, by Martha Wells. In the novel, Leia and Han encounter some space pirates along the way that cause Leia to face some very personal demons that have not really been addressed until recently in fiction: the destruction of Alderaan. Brian K. Wood’s current Star Wars series has addressed this as well, and it’s fascinating to think about what would go through the mind of someone who has seen such unimaginable loss, but maintains dignity, decorum, and perseverance throughout.
This is primarily why we love Leia: her strength and her character are on full display here in Razor’s Edge. As mentioned in my review of Kenobi, my main source of contention with a lot of post-Return of the Jedi novels is that the characters we know and love are frequently and inaccurately portrayed as stereotypes or one-dimensional caricatures, and Razor’s Edge is largely free of this.
Leia is presented as a multifaceted, flawed character with demons not many fictional characters have had to face (unless you are Kryptonian, of course). It is hard to imagine that losing an entire planet has not been touched upon more heavily, so this was an intriguing angle to her character that I had never really thought about until Wells’ novel. Her inner monologue, heroic decisions in battle, and mental chess she engages in with other characters in the novel (as well as with herself) are excellent examples of sharp, poignant characterization that make this book worth reading, particularly if you are a Leia fan.
As with Miller’s Kenobi, Martha Wells is firmly on the pulse of a major Star Wars character. We are a passionate, knowledgeable fan-base who are not easy to please, and expectations for Star Wars literature over the past year makes Wells’ writing even more impressive. It is difficult to accurately capture such a beloved, scrutinized fan-favorite, and I could not be more pleased with the portrayal of Leia in Razor’s Edge.
In a similar vein, Han Solo is nicely portrayed with a unique aspects of his personality revealed that make it seem more likely that Leia will fall for him in The Empire Strikes Back. Perhaps even more difficult is the fact that the sexual tension between our “Star-Crossed Lovers” (thank you, Shakespeare) is properly distributed with authenticity, while not over-reaching the inevitable climax of the aforementioned Episode V. The real trick to showing the drama between these two in a novel that takes between Episodes IV and V is not presenting too much before it's time, and the dialogue between the two, as well as the thoughts we are privy to, are a welcome respite from authors who use too much meta to let the audience know we are all in on the drama. It’s the right balance of a growing admiration and respect the two characters begrudgingly experience that we know leads to much more.
However, there are some instances that were not as strong as the tone and feel of Leia’s character. The characterization of Luke is nowhere near as solid, even if he is a very minor character in the book. He seems much less capable, particularly towards the end, but perhaps he will be more like his screen persona once the series plays out. There are also some moments of dialogue throughout that I’ll label as anachronistic, as there is some modern slang used, particularly in some of the exchanges between Han and Leia, which I found distracting. In addition, a majority of the side characters were too similar and bland, and it became difficult to keep them apart, much less care about them.
Overall, if you are a fan of Princess Leia, you will find this novel engaging and enlightening, as Martha Wells fleshes out her character beautifully (and which raises my review a tad). Razor’s Edge will undoubtedly find a following among her fans, while those who want a more relevant story to the overall saga may gravitate elsewhere.
3 out of 5
Note: A big thank you to Del Rey and Net Galley for providing an advance copy to review.
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