Book Review: Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Warfare
If the hundreds of novels, comics, video games, movies, and TV episodes are the rice krispies, the Essential Guides are the melted marshmallow that holds it all together. They fill in the spaces you wondered about and even some you never thought about. If you are a fan of the Star Wars expanded universe then the Essential Guides are… well, essential.
Today, the next great Essential Guide is released and it does not disappoint. Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Warfare is a 246-page book written by Jason Fry filled with everything you could want to know about the history of military and warfare in the galaxy far, far away. Filled with beautiful illustrations, this is a book that once you pick it up you will not want to put it down.
The Star Wars Essential Guides have really come a long way. I have been reading them since the beginning with 1995’s Essential Guide to Characters. The layout of the book was like an encyclopedia with individual entries for the different characters. This same format continued with the next four guides covering things like vehicles, weapons, planets, and droids. Then in April of 2000 (Has it been 12 years?!) Star Wars: The Essential Chronology was released. I loved this book. This was the first one to switch up the format. Instead of having individual entries, this one read more like an in-universe history book. If there were a Star Wars history class at the time, this would have been the textbook. A New Essential Chronology was released in 2005 with the same look and feel.
I think the Essential Guides work best in this format although I understand why some subjects work better in the encyclopedic format (Guide to Characters for example). The last few guides have really embraced the textbook layout with the Essential Guide to the Force being almost all textbook and the Essential Atlas being a bit of a hybrid. In some ways the Essential Guide to Warfare can be seen as the newest version of the Essential Chronology. It covers the entire history of the galaxy from the Celestials and Rakata to Cade Skywalker and Darth Krayt, just with the focus being more on the military side of things.
I was much more interested in the historical side of things rather than details of weaponry and ships. I found myself skimming over the “Armory and Sensory Profiles” where things like ship classification were covered. I instead was engrossed in the character stories. The book contains a number of “War Portraits” which tell war stories of specific characters. If it was Rohlan of Khaal fighting off Sith pirates or Ahsoka Tano’s letter to her friend, I was eating it all up. Some other characters given war portraits are: Boonta the Hutt, Juno Eclipse, Wullf Yularen, Baron Fel, Admiral Trench, General Grievous, and many others. The prologue featuring an account from the war prisoner Grand Admiral Osvald Teshik is not to be skipped.
The beauty of these guides is they can really get into the nitty gritty of the stories and tie everything together. They are also the best vehicles for retcons. For example the history of the Mandalorians is touched on and some of the discrepancies that exist have been “smoothed out”. Of course a book with this much text can also create its own continuity errors. There is one fact revealed that has me scratching my head and could possibly start some interesting discussions.
If for nothing else you should buy this book for the amazing illustrations. Star Wars Books has already given many preview images but that just scratches the surface of what is in this book. There are illustrations on at least every other page. Some are simple illustrations of ships or weapons but many are full page paintings. They have come a long way from the black and white illustrations in the original Essential Guides. The very detailed galaxy maps that were used in the Essential Atlas can also be found in this book showing things like the placement of sector armies and the paths of specific war campaigns.
I cannot recommend this book enough. If you are a die-hard Expanded Universe fan like me or just like to look at great artwork, you will enjoy this book. If you have never picked up a Star Wars Essential Guide this would be a great one to start with.
Highlights and Random Thoughts
I’m not sure you can spoil a book like this but if you are worried about spoilers you may not want to read the random thoughts below.
Xim the Despot was no match for the Hutts. (page 6)
Arden Lynn (of Masters of Teras Kasi fame) and her lover Xendor get a cool story. (page 17)
Xendor met the Ones? Did he go to Mortis? (page 18)
Prince-Admiral Jonash e Solo. Relative of Han Solo? (page 24)
Contispex and the Pius Dea Crusades were interesting to read about. (page 25)
Valenthyne Farfalla was half Bothan? What was the other half? Why does he have hooves? (page 44)
We get a name for Lord Hoth, Rohlan of Kaal. (page 44)
First official image (I think) of the bounty hunter D’harhan who has a laser cannon for a head. (page 61)
The 14th Army during the Clone Wars was called Red Tails (page 101)
Letter from Ahsoka to her friend. She was kind of crushing on Anakin :/ (page 102)
A recap of Palpatine taking power and Order 66 from the perspective of Kol Skywalker (page 105)
Fighter pilot slang. (page 141)
Lumiya with her lightwhip. (page 187)
Image of Abeloth fighting Jedi and Sith. (page 234)
What? No image of Ben Skywalker? In the whole book?