Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire by Delilah S. Dawson is a new Star Wars novel that takes readers on a trip to Batuu, a small, insignificant planet on the edge of Wild Space which may be the birthplace of hope for the ailing Resistance.
Please note that this review contains some spoilers for the 2017 novel Phasma as well as affiliate links.
The overall premise of Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire is a simple one. Four months after the Hosnian cataclysm and following the Battle of Crait, the Resistance is in ruins. General Organa issues an order to all her spies telling them to hide and to gather allies and resources. Resistance spy Vi Moradi heads to Batuu with her former enemy Captain Cardinal (now known as Archex) with the intention of setting up a Resistance base, but their ship crashes and their supplies are stolen by local gangsters. Left with nothing, it’s up to Vi and Archex to figure out what to do next, and when the First Order arrives following a tip-off, their lives become even more difficult and dangerous.
In many ways, Black Spire is a sequel to Dawson’s previous Star Wars novel, Phasma, with both main characters, Resistance spy Vi Moradi and the First Order’s Captain Cardinal, returning. In Phasma, Cardinal – now Archex – tortured Vi for information he believed she had discovered about Captain Phasma, whom he considered a rival, but Vi eventually saved his life and brought him to the Resistance during her escape after she saw good in him. In Black Spire, we get to see the pair working together uncomfortably and their relationship is given time and space in which to grow.
What I really love about this setup is that the repercussions of their previous interactions are never glossed over. Vi is clearly suffering from PTSD, largely due to what she went through at Archex’s hands, and yet she is being forced to work with her former torturer in close quarters. Archex is also struggling with his own mental health, having lost everything after deserting the First Order. He has spent the previous few months being deprogrammed by the Resistance in an attempt to remove the First Order’s brainwashing, but this has left him broken and unsure of his place in the galaxy. Both he and Vi are also suffering from physical as well as mental health complaints – Archex’s now chronic pain is enough that Vi worries about stim pack addiction becoming a problem – which adds to their burdens. The two are forced to forge some kind of friendship in order to survive but this is no Hallmark movie with trite moments of forgiveness; the relationship is difficult, believable, and the real heart of this book.
Away from the two main protagonists, Black Spire also introduces a small complement of new characters – all of them Batuu residents and locals to Black Spire Outpost. Many of these names will be immediately familiar to those who have visited the Galaxy’s Edge land in a Disney theme park: Oga Garra who runs the cantina and controls the black market, Savi the scrap merchant who knows a remarkable amount about the Force, and Dok-Ondar the antiquities dealer are among them. However, there are several other new characters worth mentioning too. My favorite by far was Kriki, a Chadra-Fan with an aptitude for mechanics and technology who is one of Vi’s first recruits. Kriki loves that Vi sees her as a real person, rather than just a cute “pet” and I loved that her journey built her up in confidence whilst also acknowledging that her anxiety can not be “fixed” with just a few empowering words. Local farmboy Dolan and his pet truffleboar Waba were also a great pair of new characters who added to many of the more lighthearted moments in the book, but they too had their own meaningful journey that prevented them from remaining nothing more than comedic relief. On a related note, I now want a pet truffleboar…
One thing Black Spire did really well, perhaps unsurprisingly, was to make me want to visit Galaxy’s Edge at a Disney theme park – for those still unaware, Black Spire Outpost is the official in-universe name for the Galaxy’s Edge land at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. While the land is no doubt amazing for all visitors to look around, having the insider knowledge from reading this book (and, most likely, the other Galaxy’s Edge novel A Crash of Fate by Cordova Zoraida which I’m yet to pick up a copy of) feels like it will make everything that extra bit special. I’m curious to know if you can discuss elements of the plot with the actresses playing Vi Moradi, I want to visit the locations I’ve read about (because how often can you do that with a Star Wars novel), and I’m even more keen to finally taste a Ronto Wrap after having read about them in Black Spire.
Naturally, for a book that is a direct tie-in to a theme park, there is a significant amount of exposition about the place itself. Upon arrival on Batuu, Vi spends several chapters exploring the small town of Black Spire Outpost by visiting shops and restaurants and by noting the local architecture and other features. It’s hard not to see these sections as advertising for the theme parks – let’s be honest, that’s exactly what they are – but at the same time, it doesn’t feel overly gratuitous. It’s entirely natural that someone just arriving on a new planet would start out by taking a look around and familiarizing themselves with the place and by starting the Batuu parts of the novel out with a crash and the loss of all her equipment, it gives Vi a good excuse to be touring the shops as well as setting up the key premise of the rest of the novel.
Despite some reservations, I ended up really enjoying Black Spire. The story does a great job of digging into the feeling of hopelessness faced by the Resistance and its allies following the Battle of Crait, but amid this are moments when you can begin to see how the Resistance can grow again. Vi’s biggest challenge in Black Spire Outpost isn’t recovering her stolen supplies or building her base, it’s getting through to the locals of Batuu – who represent every small, neglected community across the galaxy – that they cannot simply stand by and pretend that nothing bad is happening in the wider world in order to protect themselves. No matter how small and unimportant they consider themselves and their community, the ongoing conflict between the First Order and the Resistance will come to impact them one day, no matter how much they try to ignore it in the hopes that it will simply pass them by. It’s a surprisingly pertinent message to come from a theme park tie-in book and one that many of us should take to heart.
Black Spire is a challenging read at times. Some of the torture scenes later in the book had me feeling a little nauseous and I’d advise you check those moments out in advance before letting younger readers dive into this one, but despite that, I loved this book. I listened to the book courtesy of Audible and found the narration excellent, although I already knew it would be given that it was recorded by my favorite Star Wars audiobook narrator January LaVoy.
Fans of Phasma will almost certainly enjoy this sort-of follow-up and I highly recommend it to anyone planning to visit Galaxy’s Edge, but even if (like me) you can’t visit Batuu for yourself just yet, Black Spire will do a fantastic job of bringing this part of the galaxy far, far, away a little closer to home.
GeekMom received a copy of this book for review purposes.