In Review: Star Wars: Moving Target

Gives readers everything wanted in a Leia adventure, tying in nicely to the original trilogy, as well as teasing the upcoming movie.

Star Wars: Moving Target by Cecil Castellucci and Jason Fry

Published by Disney/Lucasfilm Press, September 4, 2015. Hardcover of 232 pages. at $12.99. Intended for ages 8 – 12.

The cover: Phil Noto is the illustrator of this image, featuring Leia looking pretty tough, holding a pistol close to her chest. Next to her is Nein Nunb. Behind them is a Rebel logo, with a small ship flying above it; this is undoubtedly the Mellcrawler, the ship that Nunb pilots for Leia on her mission. The image is done in grays, blacks, and reds. It’s a very strong image, though I admit I would have loved to have seen this more in color. At the very top is the “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” banner used to hype all things for the new film. Noto is a sensational artist and I admit to picking this Young Adult book up because of his cover work and his interiors. Overall grade: A-

The premise: From the inside cover, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….Reeling from their disastrous defeat on Hoth, the heroic freedom fighters of the REBEL ALLIANCE have scattered throughout space, pursued by the agents of the sinister GALACTIC EMPIRE. One rebel task force protects PRINCESS LEIA, bearing her in secrecy from star to star. As the last survivor of Alderaan’s House of Organa, Leia is a symbol of freedom, hunted by the Empire she has opposed for so long. The struggle against Imperial tyranny has claimed many rebel lives. As the Empire closes in, Leia resolves to make a sacrifice of her own, lest the cause of freedom be extinguished from the galaxy….” I don’t care if this is for Young Adults; this looks to give me the type of story I wanted from Aftermath: what the leads are doing! I’m in! Overall grade: A

The characters: This is set between the events of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Leia is not in the best of places because she’s concerned about Han, she’s not really sure about trusting Lando, and Luke’s too busy doing rebel stuff to speak with her. It’s at this time that this mission falls before her. She’s strong, confident, and assured that she can get the mission done. As the book progresses she learns a thing or two about herself, which starts with a few words from Mon Mothma. This is the Leia that the fans love. Her mission crew consists of four characters, with three being new. The first is Nein Nunb. He’s a hotshot pilot who can fly anything and with a few maneuvers that even Leia has to admit would make a Corellian jealous. Nunb is written as the gruff “been there, done that” experienced pilot, and doesn’t have too much depth; better are the three original characters. Kidi Aleri is a female Cerean communications operator. She’s the novice rebel in the group, and she’s the one who has a lot of growing up to do. She speaks for the reader, asking questions the reader might have and reacting in horror to things that don’t go according to plan or don’t seem honorable. Antrot is an Abednedo and the tinkerer of the group. If something needs to be built in a hurry, he goes full-on MacGyver. His race is new to the film franchise and just got revealed in a photo over the weekend as being the “new X-wing pilot.” There’s an illustration of him on the back of the jacket cover. He’s a very interesting sort of character; one you would expect to be used by the rebellion, but not seen in other books that I can recall. The final member is Lokmarcha, a Dressellian. He’s a commando assigned by the rebel leaders to ensure Leia’s safety. He’s old, old school, and will finish the job, even if it means burning bridges with other characters on the team. This is an odd collection of characters (would it be any other way?), but they work well as a team when it’s go-time. The villains of the novel are the Imperials out to catch Leia. They function as well as stormtroopers tend to do, but their abilities seem to improve as the book goes on. I liked the heroes of this tale and it was nice to see the Imperials getting smarter. Overall grade: A

The settings: The book goes to three worlds where the conflicts get more difficult for the heroes. None of the them were familiar to me, yet they fall under the traditional Star Wars world modes: a mountain world with little vegetation, a water world, and a farming world. They’re the simple, expected environments that are used by this franchise and they’re described fine. They don’t contain any unexpected surprises for long term fans, but young readers might have a decent jump at the conflicts that occur on each world. Overall grade: B+

The action: This had some excellent payoff. I wanted Leia and her team in different scrapes, to see strange new alien animals that cause trouble, and last minute escapes with Imperial entanglements. This is delivered very well by Castellucci and Fry. The action is sure to please first generation fans who remember the simple escapism of the first film, while new fans will delight in the harrowing escapes. I was also surprised that some individuals won’t be back for sequels! Very impressive. Overall grade: A+

The conclusion: This wrapped up very nicely, with Leia and the team learning some lessons that do not come off as preachy, and there are also some teases to events to come in Return of the Jedi. Additionally, the Epilogue has Leia making reference to a planet and an X-wing pilot from The Force Awakens. It’s not even two full pages, but it got my fanboy engine revving! Overall grade: A

The illustrations: The back cover of the jacket contains images of the other three members of Leia’s team, and within the book are five double-page spreads that introduce key moments from each of the book’s parts. All the characters and some of the antagonists are shown. Phil Noto is a fantastic illustrator and my favorite is the one that introduces Part Three on Pages 164 and 165. Done in the same three colors used for the color art, it’s dramatic and spurred me on to read to get to the scene that Noto had captured. Overall grade: A+

The final line: A fun read for any Star Wars fan. It gave me everything I wanted in a Leia adventure, tying in nicely to the original trilogy, as well as teasing the upcoming movie. Recommended. Overall grade: A

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
One Comment
  • Tony Stevanovich
    16 September 2015 at 1:44 pm -

    Great review Patrick. Grades were a little high to me, but this was book was a very good transition between Episodes 5 and 6. I listened to the audio book, and it was narrated pretty well by January LaVoy. I didn’t get to see the back cover of the book as you mentioned in your review so I’m very curious what an Abednedo looks like?

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