Star Wars Book Review: ‘Phasma’ by Delilah S. Dawson

Star Wars Book Review: ‘Phasma’ by Delilah S. Dawson

This review of Star Wars: Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson contains minor spoilers.

For those who may have been disappointed by the apparent underuse of Captain Phasma in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is definitely the book for you. In Phasma, author Delilah S. Dawson gives us an origin story that is unexpected but feels right. I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, but coming out it all made sense.

Phasma — and that is her given name — is a warrior from the planet Parnassos and is a member of a clan called the Scyre. Parnassos used to be a civilized world, with rich land and technology, home to a large mining corporation, but by the time of the events of Phasma, it’s a broken and dying world populated by ruthless and desperate people.

In this harsh world, Phasma is molded into a brave warrior, and eventually leader alongside her brother Keldo. The Scyre are in constant conflict with another clan known as the Claws. They fight over territory and the meager means each clan needs to survive. The Scyre and the Claws only know the lands they inhabit — the sharp, jutting rocks and the violent ocean waters of the Scyre, and the plateau occupied by the Claws.

The origin story of Captain Phasma is related to a rival in the First Order known as Captain Cardinal. Cardinal (due to his red armor) was the Golden Boy of General Brendol Hux (father of General Armitage Hux from The Force Awakens). That is, until Brendol Hux came across the mighty Phasma after his ship crashed on Parnassos. When she was eventually brought to the First Order, many of Cardinal’s duties were handed over to Phasma. She rapidly became the face of the First Order, with her chrome-armored portrayal on posters seemingly everywhere he looked. Cardinal became second fiddle, and that was not where he wanted to be.

Cardinal believed there was more to Phasma. He didn’t buy into her persona, and suspected she wasn’t above using nefarious means to get to where she now stood. Determined to find proof, Cardinal captures Vi Moradi, a Resistance spy. He has intel on Vi, and he knows she’s been looking into Phasma as well. He’s determined to find out what she knows, anything that can bring Phasma down. Where he was always loyal to the First Order and the ideals he believed they stood for, Cardinal felt Phasma’s loyalties were questionable.

Under interrogation, Vi recounts what she knows of Phasma’s origins on Parnassos — origins told to her by Siv, a fellow member of the Scyre and one who knew Phasma well. As well as one can know Phasma.

We spend some time getting to know Vi and Cardinal at intervals in the book when there are breaks in Vi’s narrative. Vi is hoping to make it out of her situation alive, and Cardinal is desperate for the proof he seeks. In Cardinal, Vi sees someone who could possibly be turned. Even though Phasma is the focus of the book, proper care is shown with each character.

To my mind, Phasma is a combination of Mad Max and Xena: Warrior Princess. Both resonated with me throughout the book, and to great effect. Mad Max due the nature of the hostile and desolate world that Parnassos has become and the people who inhabit that land. Xena because Phasma is a towering female warrior who calls to mind the fury and determination of Xena before she began her path to redemption. When Xena was bad, she was very bad. Phasma is the same — but perhaps with a more steely demeanor than Xena. With Xena, you could see glimpses of heart. Phasma isn’t big on glimpses and sentiment is not part of her makeup.

Delilah S. Dawson writes Phasma well. She gives this faceless character from TFA a real face, one where you can easily picture Gwendoline Christie’s characterization and hear her voice. She is perfectly consistent with the Captain Phasma we met in The Force Awakens. With The Last Jedi looming, it will be interesting to see how Phasma is used and developed, keeping in mind that we now know where she came from. Some might think that removes the mystery of Phasma, but even with all we learn, she remains an enigma. Dawson struck a successful balance between the two.

Thank you to Penguin Random House for providing a copy of Star Wars: Phasma for review purposes.

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