eturn of the Jedi signaled a massive turning point for the Star Wars franchise. With the ending of the Original Trilogy, George Lucas cemented his legacy as the maestro of one of the greatest fantasy epics of a generation, and although the future Prequel Trilogy was already being created in his mind, Episode VI gave a sense of finality to the saga – albeit a temporary one.
The Empire was defeated.
The Jedi were reborn.
The smuggler got the girl.
Naturally, like all of Star Wars media, Jedi was not without its harsh detractors. The inclusion of the ridiculously adorable yet surprisingly vicious Ewoks divided fans as harshly as the appearance of the first Gungan, and the appearance of another Death Star was thought of as lazy by those who failed to adhere to Lucas’s more poetical intent.
In the 40 years since the film’s release, hundreds of thousands of opinions have been spouted about the film’s merits and downfalls, but one key element has emerged as a way to unite the perilous discourse:
Everyone has a favorite character. Even if they’re only in the background.
From a Certain Point of View: Return of the Jedi continues the grand tradition established by Star Wars publishing back in 2017 by bringing together 40 authors of different backgrounds and styles to celebrate 40 characters of various renown by giving them a chance to shine in their own short stories. Some of the authors that grace the gorgeous cover of this book may be familiar to longtime Star Wars publishing fans, but even more will be completely new, and that’s where this initiative truly shines.
As opposed to our classic Star Wars book reviews which delve into the various strengths and weaknesses of a book in regards to a specified list of categories, this review will instead be centered on a rather odd piece of advice:
You don’t have to read everything.
While this notion may initially seem blasphemous to the wonderful completionists who are among our ranks, the best quality about FACPOV: Return of the Jedi is undoubtedly the vast array of styles of storytelling that are present throughout the 40 novellas. However, that same point of pride can also act as a slight deterrent.
Because each author dedicates their story to their own personal voice, most readers will run into a healthy number of stories that don’t click with them for one reason or another. When this happens, the best path forward we can recommend is to simply skip ahead to the next story and see if you can discover a better experience. Due to the prior knowledge about the film that’s assumed by the very nature of this book, skipping a few stories here and there will not strip away understanding of the overall narrative as is the case with your classic novel.
Once this new level of freedom is established, this anthology has the freedom to soar, and there are a few stories that best exemplify the qualities that we value most highly on the Youtini Review Team.
Creating new plots within an existing story that has been solidified is no small feat. Most of the stories within this anthology don’t try to reinvent the wheel by putting together entirely new stories, but a few authors tackle this challenge brilliantly, and the result is some of the best complete short stories we’ve seen in years.
A prime example of this lies in the very first entry of the collection, Any Work Worth Doing by Amal El-Mohtar which chronicles the struggles of Moff Tiaan Jerjerrod as he pulls the curtain back on the actual processes required to build the second Death Star. El-Mohtar also fleshes out Jerjerrod and Vader’s relationship, which gives an entirely new perspective on the opening moments of the film.
Dune Sea Songs of Salt and Moonlight by Thea Guanzon takes a completely opposite approach by creating almost an entire life story for Jess, one of the background dancers seen for brief seconds in the shadows of Jabba’s palace. Jess’s tale receives a full beginning, middle, and end that somehow fits perfectly within the confines of Jedi’s broad scope. In a nod to Tales from Jabba’s Palace back in Legends, this book spends a bit too much time in the darkened halls of the crime lord, but stories like Guanzon’s are well worth the price of admission.
Finally, The Emperor’s Red Guards by Gloria Chao gives a voice to the faceless warriors that harken back to the glory days of Crimson Empire. While the first-person narrative style may not be as accessible for all readers, Chao’s dedication to the mysterious intensity of these guards make for a truly thrilling tale.
Because this series is focused so intently on character, it can be hard to choose which heroes and villains come out on top of such an expansive roster, but a few favorites definitely emerge by the end of this novel.
The Buy-In by Suzanne Walker brings Norra Wexley back into the spotlight after her phenomenal introduction in the Aftermath trilogy. Walker taps into the spirit of the old X-Wing novels to showcase Norra’s moments with her squad before the pivotal battle above the forest moon, and the result is a story that helps her already sterling reputation shine all the brighter.
Norra’s other half (a bit further down the line) also soars within the pages of FACPOV in Emma Mieko Candon’s When Fire Marked the Sky. Candon’s first foray into Star Wars with last year’s Ronin was remarkable with its distinctive style, but their more traditional side comes out as Wedge wrestles not only with the fire of incoming TIE fighters, but also the psychological realities of warfare.
And it may be no surprise that a recent fan favorite rises once more to literary prominence as Mon Mothma takes center stage in Fran Wilde’s No Contingency. By entrenching Mothma within a time-sensitive solo mission, Wilde channels the trademark tension of Andor to such an extent that you can practically hear Genevieve O’Reilly’s voice in the dialogue.
Not only has the From a Certain Point of View series elevated new characters in the eyes of the Star Wars community, but it has also revealed brilliant new authors that sometimes go on to be formative pillars in Star Wars publishing for years to come.
Olivie Blake’s Then Fall, Sidious is possibly the most wonderfully written story in the entire collection. She employs a fascinating countdown concept that takes us through a monologue given by the Emperor himself as he approaches his final moments, and the result is something that has the potential to drop your jaw from the first moment all the way through to the final period.
Alex Jennings perfectly lives up to the challenge of handling the titular title, From a Certain Point of View. After so many books, comics, and even a full TV show, Jennings shows that there are still some surprises left within old Ben Kenobi, and the deft touch employed to describe his tender moments with Luke on the surface of Dagobah are positively gut wrenching.
And despite how much we enjoyed the full length novel of the same name, Mike Chen’s Brotherhood eclipses his previous Star Wars work by presenting the final story of Anakin Skywalker. Never before in these anthology books have the voices of Anakin and Obi-Wan been expressed so perfectly, and don’t expect to make it through without tears flooding into your eyes.
When it comes to the entertainment opportunities present in From a Certain Point of View: Return of the Jedi, stories seem to mainly fall within two camps. There are some stories that steer toward the more cinematic, emotional flair of the original film, and others that fully embrace the comic nature of the movie as well as some jokes that are shared amongst lifelong fans of the franchise.
Comedy will always be subjective amongst readers and viewers alike, but when most of the stories attempted to put the comedy ahead of the more realistic stakes, the jokes didn’t quite land enough to offset that balance. However, in addition the the numerous stories mentioned above, a few more entries managed to replicate that all star sense of pure Star Wars joy that Return of the Jedi captures so well.
The Veteran by Adam Lance Garcia brings Dexter Jettster face to face with the harsh realities of his involvement in the fall of the Republic. Garcia’s clear love for the Prequel Trilogy shines through Dex’s eyes as the old diner owner bemoans the fate of an old friend and looks to help as best he can through the chaos of revolution.
The Last Flight by Ali Hazelwood acts as a spiritual successor to Claudia Gray’s Lost Stars by crafting a somewhat tortured love story in the midst of galactic conquest. If this story were to be expanded into a full length novel in the coming years, there would be zero arguments to be made against doing so.
The Light That Falls by Akemi Dawn Bowman shows that an entertaining story doesn’t always need to be loud. Instead, we focus on the dragonsnake from Dagobah’s surface as she observes the planet’s preparation for the loss of its patron. While viewing the death of Yoda through the eyes of the planet itself may not have been the most obvious pitch for an entry in this anthology, it becomes clear that there is no better send off for a Jedi who was so in tune with every living thing around him.
When cobbling together a collection of 40 stories about a movie that came out 40 years ago, there will be highs and lows. Many of the stories in From a Certain Point of View: Return of the Jedi achieve the highest marks that any of the stories in the series have ever seen, and some others drift a bit too close to the sarlacc pit. As long as you give yourself permission to find out which stories work for you, you’ll likely discover a new favorite author, a new favorite character, and a newfound love for one of the best films the saga has to offer.
From a Certain Point of View: Return of the Jedi is available now wherever books are sold, as well as on Audible where it is read by a star-studded cast of narrators.