Review: Canto Bight

Canto Bight… where everyone goes with their shiny dreams of making their fortune and perhaps finding a little excitement along the way… and where so few actually find what they’re hoping for. Canto Bight offers four novellas by three new-to-Star Wars authors and one fan favorite, which explore the lives of those within the city from various walks of life, bringing a little depth to the backdrop we’ve seen in the behind the scenes videos of The Last Jedi.

Each story offers a different angle although all four have little connections to each other and take place on the same night. Saladin Ahmed tells the story of a naïve salesman who’s won a trip to the fabled city and who also gets himself into a spot of trouble that make the trip the opposite of a dream vacation. Mira Grant’s novella is about a sommelier whose quest for a unique bottle of wine becomes difficult when another buyer forces her way into the mix. Rae Carson’s tale is one of a father who gets unwillingly pulled into the politics of the city when it’s the only way he can save his daughter. John Jackson Miller anchors the compilation with the story of a down-on-his-luck gambler who has to come up with an absurd amount of money in one evening thanks to three brothers whose luck just doesn’t make sense.

Just like with Del Rey’s other recent story collection, there’s something here for everyone. My favorite by far was Mira Grant’s “The Wine in Dreams.” Derla, a sommelier, arrives at Canto Bight in search of the Grammus sisters who claim to be from another dimension. Stories have spread about a bottle of wine they have that varies in taste depending on who drinks it. It would fetch an incredible price to say the least. Or at least it will if Derla can win the negotiations and stop Ubialla, a Canto Bight club owner, from securing the bottle for herself. Grant’s prose is absolutely fantastic throughout the story. It pulls you in and keeps you turning each page excitedly. There’s something about this story that just clicked for me. I found myself fascinated by the characters and the story and kept wanting to know more about everyone involved.

It’s also worth noting that all five of the major characters in “The Wine of Dreams” are women: something that’s still rare in Star Wars. Actually, the entire book does hold the distinction of featuring mostly alien characters. It’s something that’s appropriate given what little we know of the cantina. In a galaxy far, far way, it doesn’t make sense for human to be the default. While I did spend a lot of the book wanting visual reference for what the alien characters looked like, it was still a welcome change.

Canto Bight is a nice way to pass this last week of waiting for The Last Jedi but it doesn’t feel like mandatory reading before the movie like Catalyst did for Rogue One. Perhaps I’m feeling a little fatigued by the story collection format this fall but this hasn’t caught me quite as much as the previous two. Is Canto Bight worth reading? Absolutely but it’s just not something you need to rush to read before the movie. Who knows? Maybe it’ll be something that’s even better read after you’ve seen the movie and make all of the visual connections.

Thank you to Del Rey for providing a copy of the book for review purposes.

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