It’s been one hell of a ride since we first got the first Aftermath book almost a year and a half ago and wow does Chuck Wendig bring us to an explosive yet satisfying finale with Aftermath: Empire’s End.
Warning: This book will almost definitely take you on a face journey so beware reading in public. Learn from my experiences. But on to the book!
The Battle of Jakku. That’s it. That’s the entire book. (Okay not really but mostly.)
Empire’s End emphasizes that it’s not the overarching end result that matters most but rather how the individual characters get there. While readers already know that Jakku is the Empire’s last stand, they only know part of the battle and they certainly don’t know the fates of the characters they’ve grown to know so well over the last year and a half. Good news: it’s one hell of a ride. All of the hallmarks of the trilogy remain present: Mister Bones is hilarious and homicidal, Norra Wexley is one of the most focused and driven individuals in the galaxy, the interludes take us to surprising places, and Gallius Rax and Brendol Hux are the worst while Rae Sloane is the best. (Okay maybe that last one’s just reviewer bias slipping in…) All of that to say: if you’ve enjoyed the roller coaster thus far, you’re going to get a huge kick out this last fast drop and loop-de-loop.
It’s also worth noting that while Empire End may rank slightly behind Life Debt amongst my personal rankings, this is definitely Wendig’s technically strongest writing. As with the previous Aftermath books, a combination of present tense and the varied sentence structure help add a sense of urgency to the story where necessary but that’s far from the only trick in his writing arsenal. There are some truly beautiful passages in this novel including one towards the latter third that pairs well with the Rogue One soundtrack during the Battle of Scarif.
Where Empire’s End really soars though is with its characters. Frankly, I’m mad that I’m so emotionally invested in a dancing, homicidal B-1 battle droid. Wendig follows up on his excellent work with both Han and Leia in Life Debt and even adds good ol’ Lando into the mix. (I can’t prove it but I’m fairly sure he was listening to “Dear Theodosia” while writing one of the Han and Leia scenes in particular.) The crown jewels in the character crown are, without a doubt, Sinjir and Sloane. While a big deal has been made of Sinjir being gay, his story line has never been about his orientation but rather about a former Imperial trying to figure out just how he fits into this new galaxy. The friendship between him and Jas Emari is touching and feels so damn real as does his relationship with Conder. On the opposite side of the battle lines is Grand Admiral Rae Sloane. Did anyone see this coming when we first met her in A New Dawn? At this point, we’ve lived with her for so long that anything short of the ending that Wendig gives her in this book would have felt cheap. There’s a reason why fans have latched on to the Grand Admiral and in Empire’s End, she reminds us all why we usually write her name in all capital letters. Sloane is just that good.
If I must sum up Empire’s End in one word, it’s not a difficult choice: Satisfied. Go out. Pick yourself up a copy. You won’t regret it.
Thank you to Del Rey for sending us an early copy of the book for review purposes