Publisher: Del Ray
Released: September 1st 2017
I’ve always enjoyed Star Wars and its willingness to focus on the antagonists of the series. It’s something they’ve never shied away from, and I respect that. It seems to me like the antagonist of a series can make or break it, so taking the time to establish interesting and threatening characters is vital, especially for a world as expansive as Star Wars.
The reason I say all of this is I feel like Phasma started out as an interesting character in Force Awakens, but was ultimately underutilized (a crime if you ask me, considering they got Gwendoline Christie to play the part). Delilah Dawson’s novel goes a long way to correcting that wrong, and I can’t even begin to express my gratitude for that fact. I’m really hoping the time spent on Phasma’s character in this novel means that she will be getting more airtime during The Last Jedi.
Right away I knew I was going to like the way Phasma’s story was told. Dawson could have gone in any given direction, but instead she chose to tell us the tale through a secondary character. A rebel spy named Vi tells the story. She’s stuck in an interrogation room and aiming to gain her freedom with this intel. It’s actually a fascinating and brilliant way of presenting the story, when you think about it. Phasma is a cold and calculating character, so there’s not much for us to latch onto, emotionally speaking. By having Vi tell us the story, we have an emotional reason to care again – we’re simultaneously hoping that Vi will be set free, and that Cardinal will somehow find a way to take down Phasma with this information.
Having Vi tell us the story gives us the hope mentioned above, but it also does something else. It connects the past to the present. Phasma is still very much a real threat for these people, and she clearly resents people looking into her past (based on what we’ve been told she has done).
This novel explains all the questions I had about Phasma, and even gives answers to some I hadn’t even thought of yet. We now know her origin story, how she got the rank she did, and even where her unique armor came from. I also have a better understanding of her enemies within the Empire. It’s all fascinating, really.
I won’t pretend that Phasma didn’t have a hard life – she very clearly did. From a very young age she was forced to take charge and make hard decisions for her family. This in turn made her a hard woman, willing to sacrifice anything but her own life to get ahead. Even if you don’t agree with her decisions (I certainly don’t) it’s hard not to respect how far she’s climbed.
There were little tidbits throughout that I just really enjoyed Such as the sudden realization on Cardinal’s part for why Phasma remembers all the stormtrooper’s names she’s in command of. It isn’t pride, or concern for their wellbeing. It’s so she can make note of the troublesome ones, the ones she may someday have to get rid of. It adds a new level of context to her remembering Fin’s name/number.
By the time I was near the end of the novel, I found myself wanting more, and only partially because I had a few unanswered questions still (that came up while reading the book). What happened to Siv? Did Vi and Cardinal make it to her? If so, what happens next? Will they appear in the next movie? Perhaps that’s why their stories were left unfinished. I’d be ok with that.
Dawson’s writing truly brought Phasma to life. She went from being a quick appearance in a movie (that ultimately was less remarkable than an unnamed storm trooper with a unique fighting style) to a fully fleshed out human being. Admittedly she isn’t the greatest of human beings, but she’s still fascinating. I can’t wait to see how this portrayal of her affects the movie version.