Chuck Wendig's Aftermath trilogy comes to a close with the fittingly titled Empire's End, drawing together the various story threads he's been building on for the last couple years.
The trilogy, set a short while after Return of the Jedi's Battle of Endor, draws us a bit closer to Episode VII, The Force Awakens, filling in the gap between movies, if only slightly. With Leia pregnant and Luke Skywalker MIA, there's certainly plenty of more story between the close of Aftermath and the first movie in the new trilogy, but it's pretty neat to see some of the groundwork being laid out for those films.
Empire's End concerns itself with the ultimate defeat of the galactic Empire in the wake of Emperor Palpatine's demise aboard the second Death Star, and the growing pains experienced by the burgeoning New Republic. Recovering from the attack on Chandrila months prior, Mon Mothma faces political threats hampering the New Republic's war effort following the discovery that the remainder of the Empire's fleet has gathered around Jakku. Grand Admiral Rae Sloane continues to seek a return to her former glory following the machinations by Gallius Rax, who has stripped the Empire from her control, and aided by Norra Wexley's husband. Wexley and her team of Imperial Hunters have tracked Sloane down, intent on bringing the ex-Imperial Officer to justice by any means necessary.
Wendig's goes all-out for his grand finale, and his depictions of war on Jakku, and in the stars above, are plenty exciting. While the political maneuverings are grand, it's the war front where this book really shines as Alliance forces face a resurgent and brutal Empire that has been twisted into something even more nefarious under Rax's leadership. Viewers of The Force Awakens curious as to how a Star Destroyer ended up crashed into the planet's surface will get their answers here, and it's a dynamite scene. And no sand planet would be complete without a Hutt. Wendig introduces us to Niima, a surprisingly twisted successor to Jabba who gets in on the action in a fun manner.
Narrating all this is Marc Thompson, who has done a splendid job here. This is my second listen of his work, after Aftermath: Life Debt, and he's convinced me to go the audiobook route for all-things Star Wars from here on out. His reading of the material is fantastic, giving each character their own voice and personalities, and really brings the book to life. Helping to fully realize this novel is an accompany soundtrack of sound effects and John Williams' musical score, so expect plenty of blaster fire alongside some familiar notes. All this brings the book to life in fantastic fashion, giving Aftermath the air of a richly produced audiodrama.
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