The Saga Continues is a post series which explores the Star Wars new canon book universe. Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson explores the origins of its titular character. It is a book that adds untold layers to a figure who has so far remained inscrutable during her limited movie presence but which could have used a firmer edit in order to improve its flow. Phasma is set in two separate time periods and locations. The book begins and is narrated from the Star Destroyer Absolution a few years prior to The Force Awakens. The second time period is approximately 10 years earlier on a planet called Parnassos which makes its first canon appearance here.
On the Absolution, a resistance pilot named Vi Moradi is brought aboard and taken into a holding cell in the bowels of the ship. Here she is questioned and tortured by Cardinal, a First Order captain who, Moradi quickly realizes, isn’t playing by the rules. Cardinal is holding Moradi on the ship without the knowledge of his superiors as he believes she has information about Phasma, information he wants to use in order to bring the other captain down for almost entirely personal reasons. Moradi tells Captain Phasma’s life story as she knows it, starting with her beginnings as a teenager on Parnassos, and this is where we spend the majority of the book.
During Phasma’s years on Parnassos where she was known as a fierce warrior within her tribe called The Scyre, a First Order ship carrying Brendol Hux—the father of General Armitage Hux—crashed on the planet and the escape pod landed near Scyre territory. Phasma immediately recognized the potential from this encounter and befriended Hux by offering to lead him and his surviving troopers back to their ship along with some members of the Scyre, in exchange for better weapons, technology, and more. The vast majority of the novel is concerned with this epic voyage across a hostile planet which makes it somewhat unusual for a Star Wars novel due to the almost total lack of technology. Blasters and occasional wheeled vehicles are the closest we come to modern technology for much of the book.
It is in this harsh terrain that we begin to understand more about Phasma herself. It’s difficult to talk too much about the revelations that occur without giving away spoilers, but however fierce, determined, and mercenary you might consider Phasma before reading, it is nothing to how you will see her once you are done. It is soon apparent that Phasma will do whatever it takes to survive no matter the consequences, and it is interesting to watch the characters around her react as they learn this for themselves and have to decide how to approach her. I found that my beliefs about Phasma’s loyalties were challenged and the way I viewed her character in the films altered as a result.
There are many new characters introduced to the Star Wars universe within Phasma, but two particularly stand out. Cardinal is a First Order captain who, like Phasma, has a distinctive set of armor and it is he who questions Moradi in order to draw out the story of Phasma’s early life. Cardinal is more than just a cookie cutter First Order villain. He has depth and motivation which make him rather likable despite his affiliations and methods. His background is also explored to a lesser extent, and after learning about his childhood it’s easy to see why he has become the man he is. Another new character, Sif, is one of the Scyre warriors, and it is from her point of view that we learn Phasma’s story as she recounted it to Moradi. She is an interesting figure and one I hope we get to meet again within the new canon, along with Cardinal. One thing Phasma does exceptionally well is to fill its pages with a variety of female characters. Naturally, Phasma herself stands at the head of this pack but there are many others from within her tribe and all are unique with their own hopes, dreams, and fears—not just the carbon copies of Strong Female Tribal Women they could so easily have become.
I have two major problems with Phasma, one of which is actually a compliment to the book! The first is that the middle section drags on somewhat interminably. This is the section that sees Phasma and the Scyre warriors leading Brendol Hux and his crew across the desert for page after page, after page, after page. This section is occasionally broken up by dramatic events, but I found it became somewhat dull and repetitive—especially when listening to the (otherwise amazingly narrated) audiobook edition. I just wanted them to get where they were going!
My second problem was that the book built up the character of Phasma so well and made her so compelling, interesting, and downright scary, that it was an enormous letdown to think how little she has been utilized during the films. Considering this book formed part of the Journey to The Last Jedi series, I had hoped to see some of its revelations come into play during the latest film. Instead, Phasma was once again relegated to barely more than a bit part and seemingly killed off by the end. It’s a deeply disappointing situation for a character with such amazing potential.
Disregarding its slow middle, Phasma has been one of my favorite Star Wars new canon novels to date. It brings to life a rich new world in Parnassos complete with multiple cultures and new characters, evokes Mad Max vibes with its desert-dwelling warrior tribes, and adds unexpected depth, heart, and understanding to the First Order. And as for its lead character, the book succeeds in giving her the complexity and depth she has deserved since her first under-utilization in The Force Awakens. This one is a must-read for all Star Wars fans.
GeekMom received this book for review purposes.