Star Wars: The Last Jedi has arrived in theaters with as much fanfare and fireworks as anyone could expect. Episode 8 in (arguably) the most recognizable franchise in science fiction history, TLJ continues the story of heroes Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron. It also continues the story of villains like Kylo Ren, General Hux, and Captain Phasma.
Leading up to the film, Del Rey books released a series of novels to provide insight into the gaps between the films. Inferno Squad by Christie Golden follows Episode IV: A New Hope. Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy connects Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, with Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Delilah S. Dawson’s masterful book, Phasma, takes place during this same time frame.
Phasma centers around a conversation between rebel resistance fighter Vi Morandi who is ordered to do a routine check-in on a little planet called Parnassos. It’s a place away from everything and of no consequence, until Vi arrives at the same time as the First Order star destroyer, the Absolution. She is greeted by a group of imposing stormtroopers, led by the man in the signature red armor, Captain Cardinal. It turns out that he has an adversary in the First Order. That adversary is Captain Phasma, the chrome-armored trainer and leader of the First Order stormtroopers.
Dawson writes layer upon layer of the story, providing backstory on both Vi and Cardinal, while keeping each of them (and the readers) locked in on how Phasma rose to power. The storytelling is powerful, even when the characters themselves can’t engage in physically compelling scenarios. (Think Act 2 of Casino Royale. The tension is amazing and viewers learn a ton about who has the power and the leverage, even though most of the story takes place around a poker table.)
Phasma was a wildly underused character in The Force Awakens, overshadowed by Kylo Ren and his important ties to the rebel alliance. Fortunately, the writers didn’t go full Darth Maul and kill a menacing, signature character before revealing all that makes that character a true badass. Phasma, like Maul, has a great look, but it’s the actions that she takes that makes her truly terrifying.
As Vi explains Phasma’s backstory, Dawson expands Parnassos into a sequence of beautiful and terrifying environments. The characters, who have led a sheltered life until this point, face new discoveries with delight and terror alike. Each reveal is a challenge, and some of them are up to the task. Those who aren’t become lessons for the survivors.
One of the most inspiring character trajectories is that of Phasma herself. Her actions at first seem admirable. Her motivations are intent on preserving her family and her clan. As the story progresses, Phasma’s true nature comes to light. Once readers are exposed to her true nature, everything comes together in a story that is both tightly written and well-developed.
While the prequel movies were disappointing, the novelization of Episode II: Attack of the Clones by R.A. Salvatore was a great read. It provided depth to the relationship between Jango and Boba Fett, and gave readers some insight into the potential drinking, outside of the lines actions and relationships that a young Ben Kenobi may have fostered. Dawson’s Phasma gives a similar look into just how merciless the titular character truly is.
Here’s hoping we get plenty of spin-off materials centering around Vi, whose snark, wit, and quick thinking would be an asset to any resistance. And, here’s hoping Dawson gets the chance to write and create more of the Star Wars universe. Her storytelling is amazing and engaging.