After devastating losses at the hands of the First Order, General Leia Organa has dispatched her agents across the galaxy in search of allies, sanctuary, and firepower—and her top spy, Vi Moradi, may have just found all three, on a secluded world at the galaxy’s edge.
A planet of lush forests, precarious mountains, and towering, petrified trees, Batuu is on the furthest possible frontier of the galactic map, the last settled world before the mysterious expanse of Wild Space. The rogues, smugglers, and adventurers who eke out a living on the largest settlement on the planet, Black Spire Outpost, are here to avoid prying eyes and unnecessary complications. Vi, a Resistance spy on the run from the First Order, is hardly a welcome guest. And when a shuttle full of stormtroopers lands in her wake, determined to root her out, she has no idea where to find help.
To survive, Vi will have to seek out the good-hearted heroes hiding in a world that redefines scum and villainy. With the help of a traitorous trooper and her acerbic droid, she begins to gather a colourful band of outcasts and misfits, and embarks on a mission to spark the fire of resistance on Batuu—before the First Order snuffs it out entirely.
Review by Plo Kool:
‘Black Spire’ by Delilah S. Dawson is set sometime after the events of both ‘The Force Awakens’ and ‘The Last Jedi’ and serves as an indirect sequel to the novel ‘Phasma’ which was also written by Dawson.
To start, I personally would recommend you read ‘Phasma’ before diving into ‘Black Spire’ but if you would rather not, you could still easily follow along just without the added context one would have if they have read ‘Phasma’.
When Phasma came out back in 2017 I could not wait to learn more about Phasma and it did not disappoint. But, one thing about the book took me by surprise. While I went into the book chomping at the bit to know more about Phasma, I left clamouring for more stories concerning Vi Moradi and Captain Cardinal or now “Archex”, his birth name, in ‘Black Spire’. I really grew to love those characters in ‘Phasma’, especially Cardinal.
Cardinal is such an interesting case to me. Born on Jakku and raised within the First Order ranks thanks to being “rescued” by the evil regime when he was just a child on the desolate planet. He had First Order propaganda inserted into his impressionable brain when he was just a child and grew up to be the finest Stormtrooper in the First Order ranks. Cardinal firmly believed the First Order was the answer to the Galaxy’s problems and what they were doing was just.
In ‘Phasma’ we saw his beliefs challenged and he ultimately decided to leave the First Order behind him. After losing to Phasma in a gruesome duel he was rescued by none other than Vi Moradi and that’s where ‘Phasma’ left us hanging back in 2017. Cardinal’s enlightenment in ‘Phasma’ was so fascinating to me and perfectly developed; Vi was able to slowly steer him towards the ugly truth about the First Order and because of his ultimate urge to do what is right he could no longer blindly tolerate their evil while sitting idly by.
‘Phasma’ made clear how the First Order brainwashes its soldiers; not tolerating any independent or creative thinking, essentially having no more emotion than a Droid. Even before Cardinal had a change of heart you could tell there was something different about him. Unlike the rest of First Order Troopers, he had emotion, heart, and empathy for his soldiers. In ‘Black Spire’ we see Archex grappling with life outside of the First Order. His once routine and orderly life no more. While he did leave the First Order he did not sign up with the Resistance afterward. The side effects of his life long brainwashing still existent and his hesitancy to join yet another organisation evident. Archex recuperates from his injuries while undergoing reconditioning on the planet Cerea before being assigned a mission with none other than Vi Moradi.
Vi Moradi, the main protagonist of ‘Black Spire’, is the Resistance’s top spy. In ‘Phasma’, Vi was captured by Cardinal while returning from a mission gathering information about Phasma on her homeworld Parnassos. Cardinal tortured Vi for information about Phasma and, in turn, Vi slowly got under Cardinal’s skin and used his urge to what is right for her own advantage. Vi saw the good in Cardinal and thought he could be a valuable asset for the Resistance, not only because of his inside knowledge of the First Order and his overall skill as a soldier but because ultimately he is a good man. But, even though Vi saw qualities in Cardinal it did not change the fact that his torture caused a great deal of trauma for Vi. Both of these characters have experienced trauma all of their lives; Vi’s father was viciously murdered by the Empire when she was a child and then tortured by Cardinal, and Cardinal was programmed into a complacent pawn of the First Order without even realizing it. When Cardinal finally realized what the First Order had done to him, he was broken and helpless.
The book starts right before the destruction of the Hosnian System. Leia assigns Vi Moradi on a mission to establish a base in a remote location, that location being none other than Batuu due to its strategic insignificance for the First Order. Archex is assigned to accompany Vi and serve as her second hand man along with a droid that goes by the name of “Pook”. Vi is taken by surprise by Leia’s decision as she now, once again, has to face the man who brought upon so much trauma. She understands that Archex has changed but that doesn’t make it any easier for her, the memory of torture still freshly carved into her very extistance. Archex is none too pleased either as he isn’t a member of the Resistance and he is ashamed of the role he played in the First Order and how he treated Vi. Both are forced to confront these issues right in the face if they are to successfully carry out the mission. The dynamic between the two is full of tension but also understanding. Vi doesn’t make Cardinal feel bad for what he did, in fact, she is always there to encourage him to keep going and move forward. Vi’s endless motivation to do what is right is admirable and inspiring; just when you think she’s finally reached her breaking point she finds a way to stay resilient and strong.
Vi and Archex are two very real characters dealing with very real issues. ‘Black Spire’ puts trauma in the forefront and how every individual handles their pain differently. Dawson delicately handles the subject of trauma in the book and it feels very personal and genuine. ‘Black Spire’ does not shy away from the uncomfortable and real vulnerabilities these characters have. I really enjoyed the story of this book but the characters are what make it a standout to me.
But, speaking of the story, let me get into that a little more. Vi’s and Cardinal’s journey to Batuu is delayed when the Hosnian System is destroyed and we finally see the two, along with snarky the Pook, make their way to the edge of the galaxy sometime after the events of ‘The Last Jedi’.. Vi’s initial expectations of making this an easy mission are met with one unfortunate occurrence after another. Their transport is shot down in a crossfire between two other ships who weren’t even actively attacking Vi’s ship. Then, an unconscious Vi wakes up to find that her crashed ship was robbed; meaning all the equipment she needed to set up a Resistance outpost was no longer at her disposal. Vi then has to find other ways to set up an establishment for the Resistance on ‘Black Spire’ outpost.
I’ll be honest in saying that this book started off a little slow for me. Once Vi and Archex get stranded on Batuu we get a good amount of exploring the outpost and learning little tidbits here and there about the culture and environment of Black Spire Outpost. I wasn’t very invested in learning more about the outpost because the book ‘A Crash of Fate’ already did that for me. In the excellent ‘A Crash of Fate’, we learn a lot about the outpost: the food, the people, the environment, etc. The first little bit of ‘Black Spire’ is more of the same. Vi gets to know some of the people, tries the food, visits the cantina and so on. None of it is bad or anything but I found myself wanting to get through all of that and get to the meaty part of the story. If I had not already read ‘A Crash of Fate’ I would not have been so anxious to get through all of the material about the outpost itself but alas. That being said, we still get new information about Batuu in ‘Black Spire’ I still enjoyed learning. I haven’t even been to Galaxy’s Edge at either Disneyworld or Disneyland but a part of me feels like I’ve already been there thanks to ‘Pirate’s Price’, ‘A Crash of Fate’, and now ‘Black Spire’. For those of us who can’t attend Galaxy’s Edge at the moment, these books offer compensation to hold us over, and for that I’m grateful.
After the book progresses past Vi familiarizing herself with the outpost is when the story really starts to pick up. The First Order tracks her to the outpost and Vi is met with many challenges that she must overcome. One of my favorite sequences of the entire book features Vi navigating her way through the ancient, booby-trapped ruins of Batuu. This sequence is full of Indiana Jones vibes and I loved it. ‘Black Spire’ also features excellent humor that had me audibly laughing multiple times. Dawson herself compared the humor to the show ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ and I couldn’t agree more.
‘Black Spire’ does a great job of blending adventure, humour, and emotion. I know a lot of people probably look at a book like this and think it is a glorified advertisement for Galaxy’s Edge but I’m here to tell you that couldn’t be more wrong. This book is full of heart. Not only does Dawson do a great job of making you empathize with Vi and Archex but she also introduces new characters that join the ranks of the Resistance who are also driven by trauma of their own to do what is right. ‘Black Spire’ makes it clear that doing the right thing isn’t always going to be easy, but in the end it’s worth it.
I had very high hopes for ‘Black Spire’ and it somehow still managed to exceed them. Once again, Dawson has delivered a great addition to the Star Wars canon and I eagerly await to see what else she’ll bring to the Star Wars universe down the road.