I don’t want it to end.
That’s the thought that kept running through my mind while finishing the last few chapters of The Secret Academy, Jason Fry’s awesome conclusion to the Servants of the Empire series. I’ve talked enough about how great the series is, and how Fry is absolutely incredible at portraying serious concepts like rebellion and totalitarianism for young readers without dumbing them down. After his stellar entries to the Journey to the Force Awakens line, I knew Fry wouldn’t disappoint with the finale to the series. But I still wasn’t happy to see Zare and Merei go.
Right off the bat, let’s talk about how Fry organized this book. In contrast to previous installments, he divides the book into chapters as well as larger sections, with Part 1 devoted to Zare on Arkanis and Part 2 devoted to Merei on Lothal. (There’s also a Part 3, but I won’t get into that because spoilers.) It was a great way to tell this story, because Fry is able play with techniques such as showing events from different perspectives, and building tension by giving one character certain information before the other. It was also a nice way to highlight Zare and Merei’s literal and figurative separation, and show how they’re both missing each other.
When we last left Zare in Imperial Justice, he was off to officer’s academy on Arkanis, hoping to find his sister. Merei avoided capture by the Imperials, but she’s still in hot water for all her snooping work to help Zare. Without getting too spoilery, let’s just say that Zare and Merei both reach rock bottom throughout this book. Fry is not afraid to pull the rug out from underneath his characters, but he’s also not afraid to give them moments of triumph. That’s one of the things I like most about Fry’s writing: it’s not all grimdark, and it’s not all “heroes save the day!” It’s a good mashup of both, which is essential for compelling fiction.
Is the ending a satisfying conclusion? Definitely. My only complaint is that it ended a little too abruptly; I wouldn’t have minded another denouement chapter. Although really, let’s be honest, what I really want is more books with these characters. (Hear that, Disney Press and Lucasfilm?)
Now, let’s get into the spoilery bits, because I have to talk about the spoilery bits.
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED
ALSO TYING INTO THE FORCE AWAKENS
Okay. Here be spoilers. I’m not kidding!
When he first arrives on Arkanis, Zare meets a fellow cadet who seems nice enough. Zare tries to sit with him the following day at lunch, only to find out that cadet is part of the Commandant’s special group of cadets, and you can get in that group by invitation only. (It reminded me of a more sinister version of the Slug Club from Harry Potter.) A few chapters into the book, we finally meet the commandant of the Arkanis academy: Commandant Hux, who’s described as “a stocky man with red hair gone gray at the temples and bright blue eyes”.
I will remind you what General Hux from The Force Awakens looks like.
Yeah. That name isn’t a coincidence.
But it’s not just a throwaway reference to make you go “oh, look, Hux’s dad was serving the Empire way back when.” Oh no, the book goes way deeper than that. You see, Commandant Hux believes the clones, who were trained from birth, are more effective and loyal soldiers than stormtroopers. He wants to create a new legion of stormtroopers, trained from birth like Jedi and clones, that has all their strengths but none of their weaknesses–“stormtroopers utterly loyal to the Empire who see it as their family.” And, in doing so, he will ensure the Empire lives forever.
I’ll let that sink in for a moment.
OMGWTFBBQ. This is the freaking origin of the First Order right here–happening way before Endor ever happened. Way before Yavin ever happened. This is huge, and makes me think that this book needed a “Journey to The Force Awakens” label as well.
We don’t know what happens to Commandant Hux, or how General Hux (who I’m assuming is his son) took control of Starkiller Base. Or even if the elder Hux is still around during TFA. But that’s okay, because with new information comes new speculation, and I love informed speculation. It’s the best.
I’M DONE NOW
YOU CAN KEEP READING
Even disregarding the spoilery bits, this installment, along with the series as a whole, is an absolute winner. The characters are great, the adults don’t suffer from being stupid, nor do the villains, and Fry excels at showing the cost of defying an empire. Servants of the Empire a wonderful tie-in series to Rebels, and a great addition to Star Wars lore as a whole, and The Secret Academy is the best possible finale.