Review: Ezra’s Gamble by Ryder Windham

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Review: Ezra’s Gamble by Ryder Windham (or, The Bossk Show feat. Ezra Bridger)

Ezra’s Gamble by Ryder Windham sees the very first appearance of one of our new characters, Ezra Bridger, from Star Wars: Rebels. As such, I went into the reading of this book thinking it would be a sort of coming-of-age story. One where we see a young(er, for this book takes place just before the video short Property of Ezra Bridger. We even get to see that clip in the book) Ezra get his first taste of danger, which sets him on the path to wanting to be a rebel. Instead, we don’t get that in this book. Which makes sense, I realized much later (I’m a little slow on the uptake, you may gather), because that’s what the TV show is for. With all that in mind, it makes for an odd introduction, so it’s best to not think of it as that. It is, at its heart, an adventure story. Also it has Bossk, the famed bounty hunter from The Empire Strikes Back. So there’s that.

star-wars-rebels-ezras-gamble-by-ryder-windham

Needless to say, there will be minor spoilers from here on out.

Daenerys dies at the end.

Whoops! Sorry, wrong book (and I won’t tell you if that’s a true spoiler or not; I’m tricky that way). Anyhoo.

In the subtitle, I call it ‘The Bossk Show featuring Ezra’, which pretty accurately sums up the story. It’s about Bossk. It’s very much his story. So here’s a brief, slightly spoilery, summary: Bossk is tasked with the capture of a shifty-looking fellow by the name of Gronson Takkaro, AKA Shifty (see what I did there?), whose current whereabouts is somewhere on Lothal. Rather handily, upon arrival he’s given the exact whereabouts of this shady Shifty by the Imperials. Upon landing, Bossk runs into a runt of a human, who’s selling tickets, in the spaceport, to a Big Underground Gladitorial Fight that’s due to take place a short time hence. Bossk employs this runt as a guide and aide. You will never guess who the runt is! His name is … Ezra – wait for it:

Dary! Wait, I might be getting my pop culture references mixed up.

Did you guess correctly? You did? Oh, okay. That’s cool.

Ezra at once takes Bossk to Shifty’s location. Once there, however, everything goes markedly downhill. It is, in the immortal words of Admiral Ackbar, a trap. And so, through their circumstances, the two are thrust together for the duration of the book. Here I must comment: occasionally in such situations, be it book, film or TV show, the enjoining of two characters who otherwise wouldn’t hang out sometimes feels quite unnatural, due to poor writing and poor planning. In this case, I’m inclined to give it a pass. The reason: money on one end and need for knowledge of the local landscape on the other, is at once simple, base and wholly reasonable that it doesn’t feel all that forced. Okay, as the story goes on it does feel a little stretched, but when you recall that Ezra is a lone street urchin, struggling to survive, the promise of untold bounty can be a strong driving force. But back to the synopsis: From there on out, we follow Bossk as he attempts to decipher who wants him dead, and why. And, if he’s being a little bit honest with himself, he wants revenge.

Quelle Surprise
Quelle Surprise

It is … a light book. There are no grand character developments, no significant growth for either Bossk or Ezra, or any alteration of situation brought on, often cheesily in my opinion, through Ezra and Bossk’s interactions. It’s just a straight-forward action adventure. And you know what? I actually quite liked that about the book. That’s not to say the book doesn’t have a few issues. The writing is occasionally clunky, and we don’t get a good handle on Ezra as a character, nor of his situation pre-Rebels. Which I sort of understand, because it came out before the show had even started, and I don’t know how closely Windham worked with the crew from the TV show. With that in mind, I’m inclined to give the writer some leeway. But as such I think this is perhaps not a good book to give to someone who’s never seen the show. Further, not that I didn’t mind or find it particularly gory, and had no problem reading such passages to The Kids, there were a few gruesome moments in a very light PG-rated sort of way. The book is for the 6+ age range, so it’s up to you if you feel it’s acceptable or not.

But, on the whole, I liked it. The characters were fun and fairly relate-able and likeable, and their choices and actions were realistic. The story was simple, and easy to read and follow. The Bad Guy – whose name I shall omit – was a lot of fun, though I do feel he could have been better fleshed out. And indeed his underground operation, even with its requisite twists and turns, was easy to grasp, even for The Kids (who, as much as I love them, aren’t the sharpest tools in the box). The plot wasn’t needlessly showy, complex or clever-for-the-sake-of-being-clever. (Steven Moffat, as much as I love/hate you for the Doctor Who series finale Death In Heaven, you should take note.)

There is, however, one last thing that I’d like to mention. There are only three main characters: Bossk, Ezra and Bad Guy, all of whom are men. As far as I could tell, there were only two women in the entire book: Moreena, a (girl) friend of Ezra’s and who is seen once at the beginning before flying off to live on Alderaan (cruel! Cruel Windham!) and an unnamed Pa’lowick woman at the end. Given that it’s taken five episodes for a Hera/Sabine centric episode on the show (Not Windham’s fault at all, I know, but still), I was a little miffed at this. Especially after having read John Jackson Miller’s A New Dawn, which had women coming out the wazzoo (I do apologise for this imagery), I was somewhat let down by this exclusion.

In conclusion: a short, fun read that fans of Bossk, and of Rebels, can enjoy. Though if your main desire is to read more about Ezra, while this will, de facto, fulfil that, I don’t think you will be wholly satisfied. But if you’re interested in a short story about Bossk coming to Lothal for a bounty and things, of course, not quite going to plan, then I think you’d enjoy this book.

Michael Dare

Ezra’s Gamble by Ryder Windham, published by Egmont, is out now in UK bookstores. Thank you to Egmont Publishing for sending a copy for review purposes.

 

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  • Ryder Windham

    Dear Michael Dare,

    I’m glad you enjoyed Ezra’s Gamble. Because you expressed some interest in how the story originated, and noted the lack of female characters, you may find this interview enlightening:
    http://fangirlblog.com/2014/09/linda-interviews-ryder-windham/

    Best regards,
    -Ryder Windham

    • Michael Dare

      Dear Mr Windham,

      I’m so glad that you read my review, and took the time to comment. And thank you for the link. It was certainly very interesting, particularly the comments that offer a glimpse of what happened behind the scenes – this is like catnip to me!

      And as I was reading your book, I certainly did get the sense that the dynamic between Ezra and Bossk was the focus, and it was done well. And I do agree that Moreena is one of the few truly sympathetic characters.

      However, I’m sorry to say that I must still stand by my objection with regards to female characters. I agree with you up to a point, that the changing of a few pronouns would not change the story. However, it would enhance both the narrative and the universe. Think of all the people you work with. Are they all men? Just in the small matter of writing reviews on this site, I’ve been in contact with several women, and that’s why it’s more than a little odd that the story had a notable absence. There’s no reason Ezra wouldn’t work with women, especially in a fictional universe.

      I’d like to provide a link here, which goes into more detail on this subject: http://tosche-station.net/diversity-in-star-wars/

      – Michael Dare

  • Zarm

    Seriously, dude? Let me guess- you also fail all Doctor Who companions on the Beschdale test because they tend to converse about the Doctor (who is male- and also the protagonist, title character, responsible for saving the universe, and possesses both transport and knowledge unique to him required to save the universe?) 😉 This is the kinda thing that sets back gender equality representation’s cause because it makes the advocates look impossible to satisfy, or nitpickily unreasonable int heir demands.

    Let’s review: a 3-protagonist story, 2 of which are established characters (having not yet read it, I don’t know if the villain could easily have been female). Minor supporting characters- to wit, I’ve seen 4 mentioned, 2 female, and 2 (mentioned in the link interview) male… neither of whom, from the author’s POV (or in-universe consistency, in the case of the Imperial) make a lot of sense or have any good reason to be female. (The very definition of ‘token minority’ characters, which seems to be what you’re requesting?) I see no failure here, nor any reasonable grounds for complaint or request for revision. Several characters were pre-determined, others were assigned to their story-logical roles by the author as best he believed served the story. This is absolutely a writer’s JOB… to make the decisions that best serve the story. That has been done, and based on the characters- a loner without any contacts and a stranger- the noncontrived opportunity (or need) for the insertion of additional characters doesn’t seem to be present.

    All in all, an approach pretty much beyond reproach. So quit reproaching. I’d like to see more Barabels in rebels… but I don’t critique or judge a story based on what I want a story to include- only on what the author chose to put there. It sounds as if the author chose wisely, and logically.. especially based on the story and character constraints and dynamics he had to work with.

    • MikeDare

      Yes, seriously.

      I’m pretty sure that not including women – or people of colour – in a story, or, if they are included, can be easily replaced by, say, a teapot, actually sets back gender equality. Not pointing out said gender inequalities.

      Let me assure you that the villain could easily have been female. Because having a penis is not a prerequisite to being a villain.

      By the way, you mention in universe consistency. I’m presuming you mean the Empire being populated predominantly by men. In the TV series, the governor for Lothal is a woman. And you should probably read A New Dawn. As I’ve said, there are a lot of women in the Empire’s ranks.

      Please provide one good reason – just one – why, in an entirely fictional universe, a character absolutely must be male. Also please provide one – again just one – reason why these characters being male serve the story.

      One character was predetermined: Ezra. No one else was. Not even Bossk. (Though I understand Windham’s reason for including him.) It could just have easily been Aurra Sing.

      I am not requesting ‘token characters’. I’m requesting well written characters, who happen to be women.

      Please describe story and character constraints and dynamics that mean there can be no women in this book.

      It’s curious that you mention aliens. Barabels, in this case. If a story, any story, like Rebels, has a majority of humans in its cast, when there is an entire galaxy filled with hundreds of different species, then you absolutely should call out a human majority in a cast. And if you want more Barabels, then of course you should ask for more Barabels.

      – Michael Dare

      • The Star Wars Report

        Hey guys!

        I guess I’m kinda split on this discussion, mainly because I agree with Michael’s call for more female characters (not token characters, but well written, necessary characters who also happen to be female), but also understand the constraints that Mr. Windham was probably working with, including, as “Guest” pointed out, predetermined characters, and a short story and set of main characters to deal with. I think this makes it harder from a creative perspective to write in characters of your choice and your preferred diversity. Either way, I think it’s cool we get to enjoy Mr. Windham’s work, and discuss it! ~ Bethany Blanton