Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Thrawn: A New Threat for Star Wars Rebels

Returning for a third season this month, Star Wars Rebels introduces a dangerous “new” Imperial character named Grand Admiral Thrawn.

But Thrawn isn’t new at all!

Many long-time fans (mostly adults) are excited in anticipation to see this character return to Star Wars. For some, “excited” is a big understatement! But why? Who is Thrawn?

A little history: after the popular appeal of 1983’s blockbuster Return of the Jedi started to die down the widespread appeal of all things Star Wars also started to cool off. Toys, games, clothing, books and more became more and more scarce. As difficult as it is to imagine now, by 1986 it was increasingly rare to find much of ANYTHING Star Wars.

With no new movies on the horizon, no new toys and no new books or comics, the late 80’s are often referred by fans as “the dark times”. Star Wars almost seemed like it was finished forever, at least to the general public. 

Then in 1991, the novel Heir to the Empire was released and became a surprise bestseller! Author Timothy Zahn told his version of what happened to Luke, Han, Leia and the Empire after Return of the Jedi. Heir to the Empire (and two follow-up novels often called The Thrawn Trilogy) ushered in a new era of renewed popular interest in Star Wars. More novels came soon after, along with new comics, toys and by 1999 Episode 1 was released! Star Wars was back!

So for thousands of fans, Heir to the Empire and its sequels were the beginning of a renewed excitement for all things Star Wars.  It’s possible there would be no Episode 1, 2 or 3, let alone The Force Awakens or Rogue One, without the popular appeal of that book and the snowball of fan excitement it created in the early 1990’s. 

Ok, thanks for the history lesson but who is Thrawn? 

Grand Admiral Thrawn is the main villain of that landmark book Heir to the Empire, and several books that followed. He’s a remarkably clever military leader who uses intellect over brute force and almost always wins. He’s a cunning analytical thinker on par with Sherlock Holmes. He’s a villain that for many fans is as important to the Star Wars saga as Darth Vader and the Emperor!

In short: he is incredibly dangerous to the Rebels!

New novel coming in 2017
Even if you’d never heard of Thrawn before there are a lot of reasons to look forward to him appearing in Star Wars Rebels.

First, Rebels features Darth Vader sparingly and so far only glimpses of the Emperor, so a really dangerous and powerful villain would be a welcome addition to the show. 

Second, Thrawn is a very different kind of threat to the Rebels crew and should make for big challenges if they are all to survive to Season 4!

Finally, Thrawn is not human (he’s a blue-skinned Chiss) and in the Empire, humans tend to run everything. Having a very powerful alien within the Empire could cause some interesting conflict within the Empire too!

How long Thrawn lasts and what kind of danger he can pose for the Rebels remains to be seen but what is clear is he will not go down easily! Tune in to Season 3 of Star Wars Rebels to see it unfold!
Scary times ahead for the Ghost crew!
For more information and details about Thrawn see this article on and Thrawn’s Wookiepedia page.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Jedi Academy: A New Class and a New Beginning

The fourth book in the Jedi Academy series is full of “new” stuff indeed.

After three books by Jeffrey Brown focused on a young Jedi named Roan Novachez, A New Class starts fresh with author/illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Lunch Lady, Platypus Police Squad, Punk Farm) taking over this Scholastic series.

Krosoczka’s art and writing styles are different than Brown’s but he does keep the look somewhat consistent with the earlier books. He is clearly a very talented visual storyteller and it will be nice to see him make this series even more his own if he continues with it.

Jarrett J. Krosoczka (right)

A New Class focuses on a brand new main character so it really is a new start to the series.     
For those who are unfamiliar with the Jedi Academy series the books are middle-grade, thoroughly-illustrated novels “told” by a young Jedi student. Imagine a Diary of a Wimpy Kid–type book in Star Wars.
This series is an alternate take on Star Wars where the Jedi are not a serious, monk-like order of Masters and Apprentices. Instead, this is a North American middle-school set in space with a lot of Star Wars puns and jokes throughout. One example, in the movies the Jedi are forbidden to have personal attachments to other people (a crucial story point made over and over) but in the Jedi Academy world, the students have mixed-gender dances, have dates, crushes and even fly home frequently to see their families! So basically you need to disregard everything you know about the Jedi Order or George Lucas’ vision of Star Wars to enjoy these books. 

A New Class begins the tale of Victor Starspeeder, a likeable young Jedi student transferring from another school to the Jedi Academy on Coruscant. In his first year there he meets a few new friends, discovers he has some talent that helps the drama club and has to learn a few lessons along the way with the help of his big sister, a fellow Jedi student. The bigger issues for Victor though are his romantic feelings for a classmate and his unfortunate choice of friendships. Everything builds towards – nope, not a lightsaber battle – nope, not a space battle – the big school play at the end of the year! The drama here is literally about drama!

Along the way are field trips to Endor (the Ewoks’ home moon), food fights, lightsaber training and more. Long-time Star Wars fans will appreciate the dangerous encounter with a Gorax, a creature that debuted in the Ewoks TV movie Caravan of Courage back in 1984! There’s also comic strips throughout parodying Garfield, Peanuts and Family CircusWhile only a small portion of the book, there also is a very positive depiction of step-parenting in A New Class, with the character of Russell.

Jeffrey Brown’s three Jedi Academy books were filled with gags on the theme of putting modern Earth things into Star Wars for a laugh. Jarrett Krosoczka uses far less of that type of humour but it’s still there for readers who enjoy that. For the rest there’s a fast-paced story of a young boy trying to fit in.

Since A New Class begins a brand new storyline in the school, readers could easily start here. It’s not vital to have read the first three books in this series before enjoying this one but books 1 – 3 should be read in that order. 

(Publisher’s recommendation: ages 8 – 12)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Catch up with Star Wars Rebels!

If you are new to Star Wars Rebels, or just hungry for more Rebels while waiting for Season 3, check out a few terrific books you may have missed when they first appeared.

Obviously watching the season 1 and 2 episodes is top priority for getting caught up. Season one has been available for some time and season 2 will be released on DVD & Bluray on August 30 (N. America). 

Over the past two years many entertaining books were also released to expand the experience, particularly for younger fans. Here’s just a few recommendations:

Ezra’s Gamble is a middle-grade novel by Ryder Windham that introduces the main character Ezra before he meets any of the Ghost crew. What was his life like before Ezra met Kanaan and Hera? Find out in this book. Highly recommended! Our review here. 

Star Wars Rebels: The Visual Guide & Star Wars Rebels Visual Guide: Epic Battles  If you want to dive deeper into the details of Rebels, these books are your best bet! Loaded with full-colour pictures from the episodes and all kids of information from author Adam Bray you may not catch watching the show. 

Ezra’s Journal & Sabine: My Rebel Sketchbook are two books “written by” Ezra and Sabine themselves! Ok, not really (cartoons don’t usually write real-world books) but that’s the idea here and the reader can get inside the mind of the characters in a whole different way with these middle-grade books. Review of both here.

Draw Star Wars Rebels from Klutz Books is a great place to start if the show inspires you to create your own Rebels adventures. Step-by-step instructions and even comes with art supplies! Our review here.

Rise of the Rebels is a chapter-book retelling by Michael Kogge of the short videos released before the Rebels show premiered. You can see these shorts online and on the DVD or Bluray or enjoy them expanded upon in this book.

For younger readers Ezra’s Wookiee Rescue Book & CD is a shortened version of the debut special Spark of Rebellion, this storybook comes with a CD reading of the book along with music, sound effects and actors from the show. Very entertaining!

The Servants of the Empire series – In the first season of Rebels viewers met Zare Leonis, a young Imperial cadet with a secret agenda, who befriends Ezra in the episode “Breaking Ranks”. Zare hasn’t appeared much in the show since, but is the main character of the Servants of the Empire series of middle-grade novels written by Jason Fry.

Do you have a favourite Star Wars Rebels book, toy or game? Did we miss something awesome? Post a comment below!

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