Book Review: Honor Among Thieves

Honor Among Thieves by James S.A. Corey, Empire and Rebellion #2 

When the Empire threatens the galaxy’s new hope, will Han, Luke, and Leia become its last chance?

When the mission is to extract a high-level rebel spy from the very heart of the Empire, Leia Organa knows the best man for the job is Han Solo—something the princess and the smuggler can finally agree on. After all, for a guy who broke into an Imperial cell block and helped destroy the Death Star, the assignment sounds simple enough.

But when Han locates the brash rebel agent, Scarlet Hark, she’s determined to stay behind enemy lines. A pirate plans to sell a cache of stolen secrets that the Empire would destroy entire worlds to protect—including the planet where Leia is currently meeting with rebel sympathizers. Scarlet wants to track down the thief and steal the bounty herself, and Han has no choice but to go along if he’s to keep everyone involved from getting themselves killed. From teeming city streets to a lethal jungle to a trap-filled alien temple, Han, Chewbacca, Leia, and their daring new comrade confront one ambush, double cross, and firestorm after another as they try to keep crucial intel out of Imperial hands.

But even with the crack support of Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing squadron, the Alliance heroes may be hopelessly outgunned in their final battle for the highest of stakes: the power to liberate the galaxy from tyranny or ensure the Empire’s reign of darkness forever.

Last year Martha Wells kicked off a new Star Wars series called Empire and Rebellion with the book Razor's Edge. The Empire and Rebellion series takes place just after the events of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, where the Death Start got destroyed. Martha Wells did an excellent job with writing the first book in the series showing a very strong Princess Leia Organa and of course not to forget some other memorable characters like Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. Martha Wells gave the reins over to James S.A. Corey (the writing name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), I have only written a few books of Daniel Abraham but do now that their Expanse series have garnered a lot of positive news. And yes, James S.A. Corey produces an excellent Star Wars book as well, they may write a couple more!

The story of Honor Among Thieves picks up after the Battle of Yarvin and you see the rebels discussing for a new planet and base of operations with some funny references towards the cold and frigid places of Hoth. However while Leia and her followers are discussing said business they receive a important message from one of their spies, Scarlet Hark, who was operating in Empire territory. Scarlet needs immediate extraction. Leia knows just the right man for the job: Han Solo, our rogueish, thieving, charming ladies man. Just as with the mission that was set in the first book Razor's Edge it might sound like a done deal, but as soon as Han locates Scarlet, the plot readily starts to take a turn to the more complicated means. Scarlet has set her mind to achieve one final task. During her spying, Scarlet learned about a pirate having crucial information regarding the Empire, if his information would leak out, it could turn much much worse for everyone in the galaxy. The Empire will do everything to retrieve it... even going so far as to destroy whole planets to keep it quite... So now Han, Chewbacca and others of the Rebel Alliance find themselves in an intricate plot once again, where staying alive, fighting against the Empire will proof to be a challenging task. 

James S.A. Corey, for a first timer, did an excellent job in writing the story of Honor Among Thieves. Though it features as the second book in a series, it can essentially be read as a stand alone. Like it's predecessor Razor's Edge it features a short mission to be completed by the main characters of the book, this is one aspect of the book that makes it readily accessible for a larger audience. You can even read this book with the pre-knowledge of the Star Wars universe to be honest, but I think you will appreciate it much more when you have. What makes the story of Honor Among Thieves even more remarkable is that James S.A. Corey produced a very strong story in only 250ish pages, it is probably owed to the fact that the Star Wars universe is so established but wow, the way that they wrote the book really puts you right there next to Han and Chewbacca on the Millennium Falcon. 

As for the characters the Empire and Rebellion series focuses on three of the biggest characters of the Star Wars Universe: Leia Organa, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. Razor's Edge showed a great emphasis on Leia Organa and now in Honor Among Thieves it is time for Han Solo to take to the center stage. If you have seen the original movies you have, just like me, a certain picture of Han in the back of your mind. He is a charming man, a real womanizer and rogue and thief as well. In many books and the movies he is always brought into relation with Leia, at least his charming attitude, there is always a certain romancing bit going on between them, flirtatious at that. Well in Honor Among Thieves this certainly isn't missing, and James S.A. Corey writes Han's character just spot on. Leia does take a lesser role in this book but remains just the resolute person we have gotten to know in Razor's Edge, for Luke it counts most the same, yes he has featured in Razor's Edge and does feature in Honor Among Thieves but no real main scenes though. Besides the "big three", James S.A. Corey introduces a new character as well: Scarlet Hark, her name didn't ring any bells so I quickly searched for her and she only has featured in a short story written for the Star Wars Insider issue 148, Silver and Scarlet. That aside, Scarlet makes up for a terrific introduction in the series. She is best seen as a sort of female Han Solo. Scarlet is quick witted, smart and doesn't mind to wrap people around her fingers and let them think they run their own ideas but instead make them work for her. Scarlet's character had a great interplay with Han, as I said they both have more or less the same attitude, but one does seem to be able to outwit the other and it isn't Han! This led up to some very funny an humorous scenes, one of the many things that I have come to enjoy about Han's character. 

One thing that mustn't be missed in a Star Wars book is action. As I mentioned in the the Razor's Edge review there wasn't any lightsaber action. The same does count for Honor Among Thieves BUT there is loads of other action going down. From cornered gun fights featuring Han Solo to races with the Millennium Falcon and when Luke drops over with his X-Wing squadron it's precisely what you want to see. There is not only physical action, next to the fights there is also some nice backstabbing sort of in the style of politics and a dangerous powerplay going on especially when Jabba takes to the center stage, you can expect enough crosses and double-crosses to keep you glued to the pages. 

In the Star Wars books that I have read most have a theme about the Empire having a new weapon that the Rebels must stop. A weapon of tremendous power, always have to do with destroying entire worlds. James S.A. Corey do step away from introducing a big ship or gigantic laser that destroys everything. The secret plans of the Empire gives a nice a refreshing take on just how deadly something can be that doesn't directly involve one button push planet destroying weapons. Great to see this inventive step!

Honor Among Thieves is an outstanding Star Wars book and by far one of the best that I have read. I haven't read the Expanse series so I was new to the writings of both Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck but they have nailed down all the voices to the established Star Wars characters such as Han Solo, Leia Organa, Luke Skywalker and lets not forget Chewbacca. They act and react just as what you have come to understand about them. Their own "creation" with Scarlet Hark added a lot of flavour to the story of Honor Among Thieves and she is a great addition to the established cast. The storyline itself might seem simple in the beginning but wait until you are a few pages in, then it nicely expands a lot and provided a just the right Star Wars thrill. And one other thing that isn't lacking in Honor Among Thieves are the witty remarks of Han and his charm, also the interplay with Scarlet makes up for a lot of humorous scenes. Honor Among Thieves is not to be missed for any Star Wars fan. The third book, Heir to the Jedi, in the Empire and Rebellion series will be written by Kevin Hearn (The Iron Druid Chronicles) and will be published early 2015.


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