On the ice planet of Hoth, the rebels prepare for evacuation of their base as Empire forces, lead by Darth Vader, invade. Among the pilots fighting off the AT-ATs that have arrived with the assault team is Thane Kyrell. While distinguished as one of the Rebellion’s best pilots, Thane is also prominent for another reason: He is formerly of the Empire, where he just several years prior graduated from the Imperial Academy. But also graduating from the same class is another top student and quickly rising talent, Ciena Ree, a former friend of Thane’s from the outer rim planet of Jelucan. Once the best of friends, crossing class divisions that run deep on their planet, Ciena and Thane are now at odds amidst the great war waging across the galaxy.
Adapted from the beloved young adult book by Claudia Gray, Star Wars: Lost Stars brings the epic series to manga format. Originally released in Japan, Yen Press has released the three-volume series in North American with English translation. This is genuine manga, the real deal, and it’s one that fans of this medium and beloved series will be excited to read.
Set in the years before and during the Galactic Civil War, Lost Stars introduces us Thane and Ciena, two driven and skilled young people who enter the service of the Empire. However, volume one quickly shows us that the two, who developed a strong friendship from childhood due in part to Thane standing up for Ciena, who is part of a lower caste on their home planet, have become separated by job, mindset, and allegiance. Thane seeks to bring redemption and salvation to his friend; Ciena, however, wants to destroy him.
Volume one is brimming with fan service for those who adore Episodes IV through XI (and even Rogue One). In particular, Grand Moff Tarkin plays a critical role for the two young leads, and Princess Leia in instrumental in the story as well. But Lost Stars does not rest on the laurels of the classic movies. It’s developing its own tale, one tinged with young adult themes and experiences. The Academy portion of volume one, where Ciena and Thane cut their teeth while learning more about the Empire and making friends, carries a Hogwarts-esque tone (an evil, evil Hogwarts). The story also never devolves into a “let’s just drop Star Wars into manga format” project—it truly carries a manga feel, and with it the conventions and art of that medium (which is fantastic by the way). By the end of the volume, readers will be entranced in the story of Thane and Ciena, even if they started by just curiously testing the waters of another Star Wars property.
It’s unfortunate that there’s so many years and so much ground to cover in this tale. There’s appeal in every age range covered in volume one, from elementary-aged to the present, but there’s particularly not enough time spent in the Academy setting. It’s a testament to the story writers and artist that the relationships between the roommates and other characters feel authentic, but more time spent examining the Empire from within the Academy and further establishing relationships would have been great fun; returning to the Harry Potter comparison, think of the story condensing books one through three into half of one volume so that it can get quickly to the Voldemort stuff, losing the camaraderie that is really the backbone of that series.
Thankfully, Lost Stars Volume One reminds with its closing chapter that the greatness of the franchise has perhaps already given this series all the backbone it needs, while the new characters, and particularly the leads, are strong enough on their own to command our attention as manga readers and fans of Star Wars, leading into a series that seems like it will be well worth the read, and potentially heart-breaking if “Lost Stars” is meant to bring “star-crossed” to mind—as it very possibly could.
BENEATH THE TANGLES RECOMMENDS STAR WARS: LOST STARS VOLUME ONE