Sunday, August 11, 2019

Read, You Must: Star Wars Myths & Fables

Incredible cover art by Grant Griffin
"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..."

That introduction to the first Star Wars movie in 1977 (and each one since) was always meant to sound a lot like the classic fairy tale beginning "Once, upon a time..."

Star Wars always has been more like a fairy tale in space than pure science fiction. A new middle grade book from Disney/Lucasfilm Press takes that idea even further. 

Feels like one of these!
Imagine you're a kid in the Star Wars galaxy - what would your bedtime stories be like? What kind of stories did Luke Skywalker grow up with? Or after the Empire collapsed, what stories do those fathier stable kids in The Last Jedi hear, read and share?

Star Wars: Myths & Fables presents a 172 page collection of short stories of daring adventures and lessons learned. Packaged very much like an old-fashioned edition of children's stories, Myths & Fables presents nine exciting inspirational and cautionary tales in an entertaining and age-appropriate way for young readers.

Unlike most Star Wars books, this is written and presented as "In-Universe", as though it's actually a book of folklore you could buy on Coruscant or Naboo for a child. The stories are set in the Star Wars galaxy we know, but talk about it as though it's far in the past. They feel very much like they've been told many times, passed down to younger generations, and author George Mann has just finally written them down. Details are sketchy and descriptions are exaggerated, but readers will enjoy separating the likely facts from the creative embellishments.

One character, known only as the "Dark Wraith", haunts people with his flashing red arm and horrible rasping breath. We know this is probably about Darth Vader & his red lightsaber, but the teller of the tale doesn't know that name or even what a lightsaber is.

While some of the stories are perfect for "bedtime stories", others may be a little bit scary at times. Such is the nature of fairy tales, and author Mann does not shy away from this. In fact some of the stories like "The Witch & the Wookiee" feel like they come straight out of Grimm's Fairy Tales, just adapted into the Star Wars galaxy. Even the language Mann uses feels quite old-fashioned at times with many vocabulary-building words that may be a good challenge younger readers (or their parents!).

Like many early 20th century books for kids, the illustrations are sparse but beautiful. Each story has one incredible painting by Grant Griffin. Some of them are stunning and every one of them could be a framed poster in any Star Wars fan's room.

The title is a little odd as there really aren't any fables here (stories that typically have animals as the main characters) and a more appropriate title would've been Myths & Legends, or even "Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away" but that title has already been used for a different collection of short stories.

While a few of the stories are connected to each other really they could be read in any order. At least two of the stories take place on Batuu, which connect them to the events and locations of Disney Parks' new Galaxy's Edge Star Wars attractions. Visitors to the parks can come already knowing a bit about Black Spire Outpost and some of the spots within the locale.

This is a new kind of Star Wars book, and hopefully we'll see more in the future. In fact that may be the only disappointment in this book - it leaves the reader wanting more stories and more of the fantastic paintings. Highly recommended!

(Publisher's Recommendation: Ages 8+)

While not exactly the same thing, readers who enjoy Myths & Fables will probably also like The Legends of Luke Skywalker by Ken Liu, and also the aforementioned collection of short stories Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens vol 1 by Landry Q Walker.

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