Book Review | Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars
“I REALLY felt like I was reading a classic Star Wars adventure and awarded Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars a solid A,” says Max Nocerino
It’s time to explore Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars in preparation for Jedi: Survivor. But can Sam Maggs deliver the story we’re all hoping for? Let’s find out.
With all the positive reviews for the 2019 video game, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and the high anticipation for its sequel, it seemed ripe to breach the gap with a little literature. Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars is that book. And it is refreshing to see Star Wars books outside of The High Republic initiative. Because the book-verse was the only new material for the franchise until Disney bought it in 2012.
Battle Scars is written by Sam Maggs, a talented Canadian writer. And while it isn’t that long in length – it certainly makes up for it in substance. However, the book did start me off on the wrong foot because I felt the plot moved too quickly. And after their botched mission on an asteroid base, a Stormtrooper tries to get their attention because they want to get out of the Empire. And they heard about the crew of the Mantis.
The Mantis crew contained the Jedi padawan survivor Cal Kestis (from the game and the main character), his makeshift Jedi Master Cere Junda, the mysterious Nightsister witch Merrin, the pugnacious and sarcastic Latero pilot Dreez Dritus. And finally the adorable little exploration droid BD-1 (who is almost always perched on Cal’s back.) The rogue Stormtrooper is a Keshiri female, Frett. Yes, I said Keshiri. That did make me raise an eyebrow as the Keshiri were a species of lavender humanoids who shared the planet Kesh with the (mostly) human Lost Tribe of the Sith from the Legends continuity.
The new canon often recycles and reiterates Legends elements. But it is a bit of a wild card to retcon in such an obscure race of aliens. I think Sam may be a fan of the Fate of the Jedi series and chose to reintegrate it into her Star Wars vision. What initially turned me off to the book was how quickly Fret joined the team. I also quickly got sick of Mags talking about how much the crew loved each other and were a family. And there was a sequence where we read Dreez’s inner thoughts and I happen to find this character (at first) to be stale and annoying.
I also thought Merrin, the Nightsister was a little poorly written and felt her Nightsister magic powers were a little too powerful for plot-related purposes. The crew scoops up Merrin and she automatically leads them to a contact on Hosnian Prime, who has a job for them. From my point of view, I felt the story just catapulted them into action faster than I could process. And it wasn’t until later in the book that the characters and story began to ferment and become something I highly enjoyed.
Like EVERY other book in the new canon, this book explored LGBTQ+ relationships in the form of the quick romance between Merrin and Frett. Sometimes the “pseudo-sex” scenes were a little overwhelming and raw. But as the story progressed I did see a spark in that relationship. I also slowly got to like Cal. He cracks bad jokes in Peter Parker-esque style. But I like how he often knew his limitations in battle and cared deeply for everyone on the team. What the team did was take potshots at the Empire and barely leave a dent in them. They had no direction or greater purpose and each member of the team had their own vision of what they should do next.
The job they accepted from the rich and dubious Omwati individual Qeris was probably the most important thing they have ever done in the fight against the Empire. But I will not spoil the plot for those who haven’t read the book yet. However, the team is very unorganized and literally cannot stay in one place for too long as they have a rap sheet of enemies a parsec wide.
THE FIFTH BROTHER
The book got off to a bad start but by the time it was almost over, I could almost say I loved it. Because he’s on the cover, I think it’s safe to conclude that the main nemesis of this story was the Fifth Brother Inquisitor. For those who may be unfamiliar, the Fifth Brother appeared heavily as the antagonist in the 2nd season of Star Wars Rebels. And leaped live-action in the Obi-Wan Kenobi series. The Fifth Brother harbors deep resentment toward the Republic due to the razing of his homeworld and is unflinching and unmovable in his quest to eradicate the Jedi. He is extremely formidable, and I very much enjoyed how Maggs wrote the fight scenes between him and Cal. It felt exhausting, just reading it. And Maggs introduced an unusual formula in the sequence of how they fought the bad guys.
FIGHT THE EMPIRE
I also LOVED the brief interlude in between the action where the crew takes time to clear their heads and decide on how they should proceed as a team. It’s very realistic to be friends with people who have different viewpoints. And even more realistic to walk away from something that your heart may not quite be into. Cal wants to take the fight to the Empire, hurting them wherever he can. Cere wants to preserve the knowledge of the Jedi for future generations. Merrin wants to avenge her fallen sisters. And Dreez and Frett just want to survive to see their next birthday.
With so many different desires, it makes sense that they don’t 100% know what they want to do next. If I had to pick a character I relate to the most is the Nightsister Merrin. Merrin feels hurt by the galaxy and the tragic slaughter of her people and has difficulty letting others in. Her magic is fueled from the core of Dathomir and is like a different frequency of the Force. But more closely aligned with the dark side. She has lost the spark to ignite her fiery magic as the years go on and must find a way to rekindle it.
I can feel the same way about writing as I often have trouble lighting up the spark due to my own conflicted emotions and troubles. Merrin is just plain angry and her love for her friends and Frett is really what allows her to get back into the game. Merrin’s magic is also one-part awesome and one part terrifying. And she truly is a witch in the literal sense of the word. She has a close bond with Cal (despite drawing on the dark side) and loves him as much as you can love someone without being romantic. I like how this relationship works.
Lastly, I would be amiss at the wise lesson Maggs teaches us at the conclusion of her novel. When bombarded by so many different things at once, the best strategy is to take one step at a time. Piece by piece. I REALLY felt like I was reading a classic Star Wars adventure and award this book a solid A. Sorry I ever doubted you, Sam Maggs. You are a gem of a storyteller!
Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars is published by Del Rey and is available to buy now.
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Max Nocerino is a regular Staff Writer for The Future of the Force. He is a passionate Star Wars fan and loves the literature of the galaxy far, far away. Follow him on Twitter where he shares his love of the Force frequently!