I don’t care what anyone else says but I love the Han Solo Trilogy and always have since I first read these when I was 9 or so. I’ve said before that they’re my guilty pleasure books and that’s just fine with me. It has, however, been reeeeeally long time since I’ve read these books and wow was it weird to keep reading about a ‘Bria’. I don’t know you folks with more commonly used names do it when you read books. But let’s set my personal issues with that aside for now and get on with the reviews!
The Paradise Snare
Oh street rat Han. You try, kiddo, you try. Okay sure his background may be a little cliché but did we really expect Han to come from anything else? Plus, it’s a nice set up for everyone to realize that Thracken Sal-Solo is indeed a-word-that-I-cannot-use-in-this-review.
The book serves as a nice set up for both the trilogy and Han as a character. For starters, both his relationship with Dewlanna and his experience with Ylesia make it a no brainer for him to save Chewie later on. You get to see where he came from and how he made the natural progression to the person he is when he first meets Luke and Obi-Wan on Tatooine. It’s also fun to see how Han seems to attract sidekicks no matter what although the idea of Han teaching Muuurgh proper Basic grammar is somewhat entertaining. As far as Ylesia goes though? Wow does Han have some bad luck when it comes to ending up on crappy mining planets.
Obviously, I really do love the character of Bria Tharen. Sure she’s in a pretty crappy place (mentally and physically) when we first meet her but her evolution as a character through the series is great. I think her interest in archaeology is a neat touch. While yes, she has fallen victim to this fake religion, I really like that Crispin makes it clear that this happens to both the weak and the strong-minded. Similarly, while she does need Han’s help to initially break away from it, I absolutely do not think that makes her a weak character but more on that later probably.
I do love all the subtle little cameos such as the one by Bornan and Aryn Thul on Alderaan. It’s a cute little tie-in to the YJK books. I also appreciate the flyby mention of Hal Horn in connection to the ‘Jenos Idanian’ identity. Say what you will about the Bantam era books but I really love how the authors really did try to make things tie together and fit to the best of their abilities.
The only thing that had me really rolling my eyes with this book was Han’s abuse of endearments. Come on, Han. I know you were a street rat but really? On the other hand, I can wave it off because this is a book about a very young Han Solo and he hasn’t figured out how to be suave and charming yet scruffy yet.
The Hutt Gambit
Now we’re getting to the Han we all know and love: Han Solo the Smuggler. In a way, I sort of like that we skipped ahead in time but on the other hand, I would like to see some short stories about Han’s time in the Imperial Academy. I’d also like a story about how he won his bloodstripes. (Yes, I am in fact compiling a wish list for Del Ray.) Regardless, it’s fun to see his and Chewie’s early days as partners. Good thing Han already spoke Shyriiwook.
It’s fun getting to see Han make the Kessel Run for the first time, seeing him encounter Lando and the Falcon for the first time, and basically just a whole bunch of other firsts for things we take for granted about Han’s character. (PS: No wonder he hates Boba Fett.) I also like the character of Mako, a fellow former Imperial cadet. It would be nice to see more of him except for, y’know, what happens to him in the next book.
I also like how we just get to see snippets of Bria throughout the book. I have a lot of respect for her as a person because as much as it sucked for Han, she did need to leave him and learn how to beat her addiction on her own and just learn how to become her own person again. On top of that, she made the choice to not return to her rich family but instead make a life for herself and find a cause in the Rebellion. I just love it.
The climax of the book is great with the smugglers having to defend Nar Shadddaa because no one else will. Not only is it completely in character but it makes his future generalship seem even more reasonable. The man has a talent for leading his fellow misfits. And while the smugglers do have the Imperial battle plans ahead of time, their victory is still a definite win and a bit of a tactical coup against a superior force. (Using the illusion? Brilliant!) Plus, it’s nice to see the second leg of the trilogy end on a high note since that tends to be a spot more often used for a CLIFF HANGER OF DOOM.
Time for the big finale! Things must go down! Space ships must be won! Chewie needs to get married! Han must tick lots of people off!
The book certainly doesn’t mess around with one of those and starts off with Han winning the Falcon in that infamous game of sabacc. Strangely though, that’s not the bit in the start of the book that really catches my attention because page 30 finds Bria Tharen and Winter chatting and WOW is that just confusing for my brain. If that didn’t make sense, allow me to offer you the context that I often costume as Winter at conventions. I think this is what an identity crisis in a book must be like. Alternatively, I just have some very unique issues. My mental identity crisis aside, I actually really enjoyed getting to see a young Winter and these little snippets of the pre-Yavin Rebellion.
I’ve never read that Han Solo Adventures so I can but assume that the three interludes are from those tales and it’s a neat way to work them in without retreading that ground. Aside from that, Crispin brings together all of the plotlines and plotpoints she’s worked in throughout the series such as Boba Fett’s chase after both Han and Bria, the evolution of the Rebellion, and even Jabba’s rise to leader of his clan. While a lot of the book is tying up these plots, it never feels like “Oops, better run around and deal with these;” they just happen naturally. The biggest flashing plotpoint signs are probably the winning of the Falcon and the forced cargo dumping at the very end but then again, those are things that had to happen this book. Oh and a lot of familiar faces do show up during the final battle but that’s more nostalgic than irritatingly convenient.
If I remember my fandom correctly, I believe the end of the book is why most people apparently hate Bria Tharen and throw some rude words towards her. If you haven’t read the books, Bria convinces her superiors in the Rebellion to let her lead an attack to shut down the slavery ring on Ylesia, a clearly personal mission for her but also one that would bring the Rebellion some badly needed funding and even some potential recruits. She asks Han to help her recruit some of the smugglers to aid in the attack as privateers, promising them a pretty hefty fee. Partway through the mission, she receives the order from her superior that the deal is off because the Rebellion needs the credits too badly so she follows her orders and has to screw over Han and his fellow smugglers. Does it suck? Clearly. Is Han wrong to be upset with her? No. Could she have given Han some of the profits regardless? Probably. Does that fact that she didn’t make her a horrible person? NO. I simply think that it shows how dedicated she is to her cause and that she really does think she had no other choice. Another aspect of her characterization that I seem to remember ticking people off is how she gives no quarter to slavers which, along with how she left Han, clearly showed how heartless she was. Yeah. Clearly. Because someone who was a slave and therefore who has no mercy for slavers is clearly a horrible person. Honestly, I love Bria Tharen, flaws and all. I think her flaws are a part of what makes her a good character because she’s not a perfect person but she is certainly a woman with strong convictions who does what she thinks is right and I find that part of her to be admirable. Clearly she and Han were not meant to be but that is just fine with me. Haters to the left.
This was my favorite book of the trilogy but only by a narrow margin over The Hutt Gambit and it was probably the additional Bria Tharen page time and the fact that we finally get to see Han and Bria interact again that pushed it over the edge. Obviously, I enjoyed the trilogy and would recommend that you read them if you’re a Han Solo fan and have previously skipped them. Actually, I’d like to retract my former statement that these are guilty pleasure books. I just plain like them.
Whew! That was a fun ride. Next up, I’ll be racing through the last four books before Scoundrels arrives both in the timeline and in stores. Four books, five days? I can totally do this, right? As always, if you’d like to keep a real time eye on my progress, you can follow me on Twitter @chaosbria or the hashtag #WaruExpress.