Star Wars: Most Wanted Review

If you’ve listened to the five or so most recent episodes of the main show, you have heard Fitz talk about reading this a few times.
You listened as my interest grew while he spoke about his downs and ups with it.
So the question is where do I stand?
Do I agree with ol Fitty or am I my own man?
Gather round and let’s find out, gang.

As always, this is your official ***SPOILER ALERT***

Just to start, this book is curious.
Obviously, if I’m reviewing it, I liked it well enough (more on this later, trust me!) to tell you about it.
But for the first two sevenths of it, shit was looking really damn gloomy on the “ooo, this is gonna rock!” front.
That first hundred pages or so is just bland and uninteresting, it’s just a hell of a slog that feels completely uninspired.
Right around page 100, that all changes and this quickly becomes one of the most enthralling, engaging, and entertaining Star Wars books I’ve read in my decade of reading them.

Set just before the opening segment of Solo, we meet Han and Qi’ra as two kids with hopes of getting to be the leader of the White Worms pack.
With a near contempt for each other, Lady Proxima sends them, unwittingly to each other, on separate sides of the same mission, a high dollar auction for a new piece of cutting edge tech.
When the deal goes sideways, Han & Qi’ra are forced to work together and trust each other with their deepest secrets to survive.

Coming hot on the heels of possibly the most controversial movie of the franchise (The Last Jedi) and battling against poor promotion and a very public firing and replacement of the original directors, Solo was an unfairly maligned movie that had the true heart and soul of George Lucas’s Original three movies infused in its DNA.
It’s definitely the most fun of the new movies, desperately in need of a sequel or follow up of some kind (#MakeSolo2Happen!).
To say I want more of this era, these characters, and their world is a MASSIVE understatement.

In this book, we get to travel to at least four different distinct areas/districts of Corellia: the sewers, the posh upper crusty area, an industrial nightmare, and a grave yard for star ships.
Once Rae Carson hits her stride, she doesn’t fuckin’ stop, man.
What’s truly astounding is that this novel dropped before the movie, because it feels like Carson studied this movie for months to get that feeling of fun, adventure, and wonder locked down.
She captured it all, particularly in the scene where Han breaks atmo for the first time and gets his very first taste of space and flying.
His sheer glee at finding the thing that he desperately wants most in life is awe inspiring and wonderful.
I’ve never read a damn thing Rae has written before, but I’ll be watching more closely for her name from now on.

One thing I liked and have to mention is an observation Qi’ra makes about Han.
While watching his interactions with other folks of all stripes, different species, robots, filthy rich, or dirt poor, she notices that Han treats them all with the same level of dignity.
While this sounds like it may come off heavy handed, obtrusive, and forced, I can assure you it most definitely is not.
It’s handled incredibly well and doesn’t at all feel like you’re being beaten over the head with “a message”, it’s almost off-handedly mentioned.
It’s a good message to subtly send in this day and age of constant division, especially given the target audience of this novel.

The bottomline is this, gang, it has a more than rocky start, but if you stick with it it is wonderfully satisfying.
Carson has an uncanny grasp on this world, and these characters in particular.
I know she’s gone on to bigger assignments in the Star Wars galaxy, but I’d definitely love to see her return to Han’s roots and show us what she can do with this set of toys now that we’ve all seen the movie.
If you can, hunt this book down and give it a shot.
Like Jason Fry and E.K. Johnston before her, Rae Carson proves that the Young Adult arm of that galaxy far far away is producing some of the best stories it has to offer.
And yes, it’s incredibly eerie how much Fitz and I have ended up agreeing about this one…SEND HELP!!!

Let us what you think of this review in the comments below or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her continued editorial assistance.

Batman: Arkham Knight – The Riddler’s Gambit Review

This is squarely within the wheel house of the types of novels I have always loved the most, direct prequels/tie-ins to franchises I love, and not just franchises I love, but specific versions or installments of the franchises I dig the most.
The Arkham game series might actually be my second favorite version of Batman, the main Rocksteady games (I, sadly, never played Origins) were groundbreaking and breathtakingly perfect games, the Arkham City prequel comic was fun as hell!

So a prequel novel to the 3rd game!?
How could I pass that up?
But I’m not going to pretend every single prequel novel I’ve read has been great.
Where does this stack up?
I’m gonna slip in to Detective mode and attempt to figure that out, gang!

As always, this is your mondo mega ***SPOILER ALERT*** so act accordingly.

The Joker is dead and in the months since his cremation a quiet has settled in on this toxic town and a power vacuum has emerged.
One man decides to step up and try to fill that void in the only way he knows how, through a test of problem solving abilities and the most circuitous route that man or beast could possibly dream up.
Batman is called in when an envelope comes through the GCPD mail room allegedly from The Joker containing a flash drive which kicks off a deadly game that sees some of Gotham’s most sinister villians teaming up with a maniacal menace to take on the Bat Family.
In short, Andy McElfresh’s favorite bat villain, The Riddler, tries to fill those green and twisted dress shoes.

Alex Irvine wrote the Iron Man 2 novelization, as well as original Iron Man & Ultimates novels and a Batman novel titled Inferno, all of which I’ve read and loved.
So, going into this, I wasn’t worried at all about his ability to handle these characters and this world.
But having said that, goddamn it!
He fuckin’ nailed this one seven ways to Sunday.
The relationships are spot on, I’d say most especially Batman & Commissioner Gordon’s semi-antagonistic, yet mutually beneficial partnership.
Gordon knows that the Bat is definitely the best at what he does, but running against that is the fact that Batsy is an outlaw vigilante.
Watching Gordon struggle with saving lives, but getting the best results for the citizens of Gotham is perfect, and that’s all due to Irvine’s expert handling.

A good portion of the villains you want to see are involved, one way or another, in Riddler’s intricately plotted game, showing once again why Batman has one of the top two greatest rogues galleries in all of fiction.
From Harley Quinn, to Mr. Freeze & Killer Croc, The Mad Hatter, Deadshot, and even Ra’s Al Ghul has a small part to play.
They’re all layered in well and nobody feels like they are jammed in just to have another recognizable name.

As much as I love all of the Bat Family action, my absolute favorite part of this book is that it is interspersed with news reports and articles that help fill in and move the scope of the plot forward in a satisfying and easy to read way.
And having some of the most well known names in reporting from the Bat-verse adds just that perfect extra layer of in universe detail to make it feel like a lived in universe.
Particularly, Vicki Vale getting sucked in to Riddler’s game helps sell the danger to the citizens of Gotham.

The bottom line is this, gang, this novel does set up Arkham Knight pretty damn well.
Getting inside of Batman’s head, post Arkham City, sets up his spiraling mental state in that game in small but impactful ways that startle and unsettle The Dark Knight.
Seeing him have, process, and battle certain inherited tendencies and impulses (if you know the game, you know what that means) is interesting and puts his mastery of his own mind on full display.
All of his relationships are detailed and explained well enough for even the most casual of fans to understand and feel the weight of, his worries and fears get explored deeply enough to make you realize the burden this character carries through every decision and move he makes.

If you love this character no matter what iteration it is, you’re sure to dig this.
But if you are a mega fan of the Arkham games, but you weren’t sure about this tie-in, you definitely should dive in.
It’s a great bridge story that makes for a nice revisit to this particularly demented and grimy continuity.

Let us what you think of this review in the comments below or share this post on Twitter with the Hashtag #TNBBookReview.

Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her continued editorial assistance.