Beware the Power of the Dark Side! (spoiler-free book review)

Tom Angleberger is no stranger to the Star Wars universe.  He’s been dabbling in that pool for quite a while now with his hit series Origami Yoda. Tom has intrigued and delighted both the young and the young at heart with his tales of middle school troubles and triumphs mixed in with Star Wars and actual origami!  But the Origami Yoda books, while being about Star Wars peripherally are mostly about middle-schooler Tommy and his friends.  How would Tom write a book completely set in and about the Star Wars universe? Pretty well.

Tom is the author of Beware the Power of the Dark Side! which is a retelling of Episode VI in the Star Wars pantheon of movies, Return of the Jedi.  But of course, told in an uniquely “Tom” way.  Told in a “Winnie-the-Pooh” kind of way, a narrator guides you through the book, speaking to you directly as the tale of the heroes of the Rebel Alliance unfold in their final (up until now) battle against the evil Galactic Empire.

Moff Jerjerrod speaks to Lord Vader hoping not to feel the Dark Lord's wrath
Moff Jerjerrod speaks to Lord Vader hoping not to feel the Dark Lord’s wrath

What I love most about Tom’s style is how he adds new dimensions to the Star Wars story.  He spends a whole chapter (and I should clarify that the chapter is only three pages long) on the topic of “In Which A Switch Is Flipped.” And it is a really subtle commentary about how seemingly innocuous actions can lead us down a path of wrongdoing.  He does this also with Jerjerrod, a commander in the Imperial Navy, who he depicts as a normal guy who doesn’t really agree with what the Empire is doing but is too afraid to say anything about it.  Jerjerrod convinces himself that the tasks he does are not contributing to the evil around him, but in fact it does.  And Tom shows this through the narrative perspective he uses in this book (and the extensive use of footnotes which you could pass by if you wanted to – but then you’d miss out on some great little tidbits of info and wit).

Ewoks worship C3PO and are about to cook a feast in his honor - composed of Han, Luke, and Chewie!
Ewoks worship C3PO and are about to cook a feast in his honor – composed of Han, Luke, and Chewie!

One shocking revelation to me was the ferocity of the Ewoks.  Like most people, I’ve pretty much thought of them as lovable little teddy bears.  Not anymore.  Tom has convinced me that they can be fierce warriors and pretty ruthless when it all comes down to it.  And remember, they were going to roast Han, Luke, and Chewie for a feast in C3PO’s honor.  Says something right there.  He also shares that Yoda passing away was purposeful.  That Yoda had been holding on for some time to pass along a few final bits of knowledge to Luke before he could let go.  Tom talks about the effort it takes for Obi Wan to transcend from the Force back to our universe to help Luke out.  And he gives us some depth into the character of Mon Mothma, leader of the Rebel Alliance as she passes along some wisdom to Leia.

Cover for the new Star Wars book written by Tom Angleberger, a retelling of the Return of the Jedi story
Cover for the new Star Wars book written by Tom Angleberger, a retelling of the Return of the Jedi story

Title: Beware the Power of the Dark Side!
Author: Tom Angleberger
Cost: $17.99
Age: 8-12 (it’s recommended for this age group but every Star Wars fan will love this book)
Publisher: Disney Lucasfilm Press
Genre: Star Wars, fiction

All in all, if you are a Star Wars fan, whether young or old, you’ll enjoy this book.  It’s an easy read even at 400 plus pages.  And certainly the style and text is friendly to middle schoolers everywhere.  But I think even this book will have a strong appeal to fans of the original books and movies as well and comes highly recommended.

Beware the Power of The Dark Side! is being released on September 22nd along with Alexandra Bracken’s The Princess, The Scoundrel, and The Farm Boy. 

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