Do you like Star Wars? Stupid question, I know. Who doesn’t, right? Let me rephrase. Is what you love about Star Wars the exotic locales, weird aliens, and snarky characters who have nothing to lose? Do you want to see what might happen if Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy had a love child?
Of course you do. And boy do I have good news for you.
Michael Moreci’s Black Star Renegades is so clearly an homage to our favorite galaxy far, far away that it wouldn’t surprise me if it started out as fanfic (or if Moreci wrote the book to prove he has the chops to write Star Wars canon – which he does).
Fans of what’s now called Star Wars Legends will find a LOT to like here. Change a few details of the plot, and Black Star Renegades could easily have been an Expanded Universe story prior to 2014.
I mean, the main character is named Cade, for cryin’ out loud. And if you’ve ever read Dark Horse’s Star Wars Legacy comics (set almost 150 years after the events of A New Hope), you know that Cade Skywalker was descended from Luke and had given up the Jedi ways in favor of being a bounty hunter.
Moreci’s Cade Sura fits in that mold perfectly. Imagine if Han Solo were secretly pretending to be a Jedi Knight throughout the original Star Wars trilogy. That’s Black Star Renegades.
Cade is a Rai (Jedi) who comes from the Fringe (Outer Rim) but grew up in the Well (Jedi Order). As the book opens, he and his brother Tristan are on a mission to recover an ultimate weapon that can only be wielded and controlled by the Paragon (a once-in-a-generation “chosen one” who is the galaxy’s only hope).
Turns out more than they are looking for the weapon. Cade is forced to break out and use the Rai’s traditional weapon: a Shido (lightsaber). A battle with some Fatebreakers (Sith) ensues and in the process, Cade loses his brother and his hand (sound familiar?).
The Fatebreakers are agents of Praxis (the Empire), which is bent on galactic domination. At the top of the Praxis food chain is Ga Helle, the disfigured ruler who is forced to live encased within a body suit (Darth Vader).
This isn’t meant as criticism. Moreci’s writing is quite good, and the story is super fun. It treads a lot of familiar ground, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Moreci spins a compelling and unexpected story out of these familiar elements, and – in the end – it’s one heck of a ride.
Conviction was the tree with poisoned roots that ran through all of Praxis, granting its followers license to be so certain of their own beliefs that they no longer had to even consider anyone else’s point of view.
Without spoiling too much, Cade is forced to carry the weight of the Rokura – the Paragon’s ultimate weapon – even though he’s technically not the chosen one. The fate of the galaxy has been unexpectedly dropped on his head, and he’s neither ready nor willing to be its savior. He’s a screw-up, and quite honestly, he’d rather everyone just left him alone so his inevitable screw-ups don’t cause a galactic incident.
But he doesn’t have a choice. As he struggles to figure out his new place in the much-bigger-than-him story unfolding in every nook and cranny across the galaxy, Cade forms a misfit band of scoundrelly teammates and hops between planets as he decides to fight the odds, take on Praxis, and become the savior everyone expects him to be.
Except he’s literally making it up as he goes. And he has to take on Praxis’s War Hammer, a ship capable of draining a star for its energy (Starkiller Base). Not good odds, those.
As with Star Wars – or any good sci-fi story – Moreci uses his characters, situations, and events to comment on the world around us today. Star Wars was always a story about the dangers of unchecked power and tyranny. Black Star Renegades is no different, and parts of it are chillingly relevant to 2018.
There was a window in which the Well, the Galactic Alliance, and every responsible planet could have taken measures to halt Praxis’s transition from an irksome star system to a totalitarian kingdom. But they all blew it. They either failed to take the Praxis threat seriously – despite the crystal-clear writing on the wall – or they poor-mouthed their available resources and ability to fight a war, or, like the Well, they couldn’t agree on a course of action and did nothing, secretly hoping that the problem would just go away.
Black Star Renegades is Moreci’s debut novel (though he’s a seasoned comic book writer) and the first installment of a planned trilogy. Now that the groundwork has been laid for the characters and this world, I’m incredibly interested to see where the story will go from here.
(Disclosure: St. Martin’s Press provided me with a review copy of this book. All opinions remain my own.)