Star Wars: Phasma – Book Review

‘One of the most cunning and merciless officers of the First Order, Captain Phasma commands the favour of her superiors, the respect of her peers, and the terror of her enemies. But for all her renown, Phasma remains as virtually unknown as the impassive expression of her gleaming chrome helmet. Now, an adversary is bent on unearthing her mysterious origins – and exposing a secret she guards as zealously and ruthlessly as she serves her masters.

‘Deep inside the Battlecruiser Absolution, a captured Resistance spy endures brutal interrogation at the hands of the crimson armoured  stormtrooper Cardinal. But the information he desires has nothing to do with the Resistance or its covert operations against the First Order. What the mysterious stormtrooper wants is Phasma’s past – and with it whatever long buried scandal, treachery, or private demons he can wield against the hated rival who threatens his own power and privilege in the ranks of the First Order.’

Captain Phasma, the mysterious chrome plated leader of the First Order stormtroopers, was one of the most enduring mysteries of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, though not one of the central mysteries of the film. With so much of the film, and the upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi being dedicated to Rey, Luke, Kylo, and Snoke, there’s little room to explore a character like Phasma in any real satisfying way on the big screen.

Thankfully, the new novel Star Wars: Phasma not only gives us a lot of answers about who Phasma is and where she comes from, but gives us an intriguing look into the inner workings of the villainous First Order.

Despite being a story about Phasma, she’s not a main character within the book. Most of what actually happens surrounds a Resistance spy, Vi Morai, who is captured by the First Order mid mission. Being taken captive by a Captain within the First Order, a crimson armour wearing stormtrooper called Cardinal, she’s forced to tell him the information she’s learnt about Phasma’s past. Because of this, the story we hear about Phasma comes as a third hand account, one that may be filled with exaggerations and embellishments.

Whilst it’s possible that the story Vi tells Cardinal could be fake, it does feel very real, and fits with the kind of personality we’ve seen from the character even from her brief onscreen appearances. Telling a tale of her youth, growing up on a barren and desolate world, and her eventual meeting with Brendol Hux, the then leader of the First Order, Vi is able to shed a lot of light on the character. Where in the past such revelations of characters mysterious pasts can often make a character lose some of their mystique, seeing some of the things that Phasma has done as a young woman make her all the more terrifying.

With a story that feel as much Mad Max as it does Star Wars (and it’s no surprise to learn that the soundtracks the author listened to when writing the book consisted of two Star Wars soundtracks and Mad Max: Fury Road) we see a side of the Star Wars universe that we often miss. A primitive and brutal story, a civilisation barely surviving and fighting amongst itself for any resource, it feels less of a Star Wars story and more of a post apocalypse tale.

This framing narrative also allows the story to introduce one of the more interesting new characters I’ve encountered in the new novels, Cardinal. The same level as Phasma in rank, though not as favoured by the current General Hux, Cardinal was in charge of training all of the First Order stormtroopers before Phasma arrived. Having seen her martial prowess first hand, the previous General Hux split Cardinal’s duties, putting Phasma in command of the older recruits and Cardinal of the children.

Thanks to this Cardinal has had a vendetta against Phasma for years, and hopes to use the information that Vi gives him to bring her down. Without going into too much detail as to why this doesn’t come to pass, we see the internal struggle of Cardinal throughout the book, and by the end I’d come to care for the character a great deal; which surprised me greatly due to him essentially being a villain. Hopefully, Cardinal will appear in more Star Wars media to come.

Star Wars: Phasma delves deep into the backstory of one of the new trilogy’s most intriguing and visually striking characters, whilst also explaining a lot about the inner workings of the First Order military. Whilst the story does drag a little in the middle, it contains enough action, mystery, and characterisation to keep you wanting to learn more right up until the last pages.

Star Wars: Phasma is now on release from Del Rey.

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