Book Review: ‘Race to Crashpoint Tower’ by Daniel José Older

July 2, 2021 at 5:30 am | Posted in Books, Disney Lucasfilm Publishing, Reviews, Star Wars, Star Wars Books | Leave a comment
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Race to Crashpoint Tower by Daniel José Older is the second middle grade novel in The High Republic series, released by the Disney-Lucasfilm Press in June 2021. 

If you’ve read my review of A Test of Courage, you know that I don’t particularly love middle grade novels, especially in Star Wars. The whole purpose of tie-in novels is to connect the universe together, and to tell a story that children will understand and appreciate. Most of the Star Wars middle grade books are able to tell stories for kids, but they rarely add much to the greater understanding of the universe. However, Race to Crashpoint Tower is much different from its counterparts because it tells a great story while tying in well with The Rising Storm, which is the adult novel from Del Rey which occurs at the same time. 

This story focuses on two main characters: Ram Jomaram and Lula Talisola. Older is able to tell a fairly complex story for middle grade by having the two stories be completely separate, and then weave together towards the end. This sets it apart from books like A Test of Courage which had basically one thread that occasionally branched but mostly stayed together.

Ram’s story is the primary story, and I found it to be quite fun. Ram is a Jedi Padawan who prefers the company of machines to humans. He reminded me in a lot of ways of Jaina Solo from the old Legends line of books. Early in the story (in the first chapter and on the back- of-the-book blurb, so not a spoiler), Ram realizes that the Nihil intend to attack the Republic Fair. As a result, Ram tries to warn everyone at the fair. Unfortunately, Ram is still just a kid and no one will listen to him…until it’s too late. This is a trope common in kids books, but it is totally believable here.  Ram is able to appeal to both young readers in the intended age group, as well as adults who read the book.

The other storyline follows Lula Talisola, a Jedi Padawan who is struggling with the concepts of attachment to friends and what it means to be a Jedi. Her arc has a bit of backstory in the High Republic Adventures comics (also written by Daniel José Older). If you haven’t read these comics, don’t worry, because as all tie-in books should do, Older relays all of the relevant information without it being too expository. I thought this plotline, particularly the first portion was ok, but not amazing or surprising. I found myself wanting to get back to the Ram plotline.

As I said earlier, there are many connections to the greater universe of The High Republic. This book includes characters and references to A Test of Courage and villains from Into the Dark, but mostly crosses over with The Rising Storm. I read these books right after each other, and feel that that is exactly how they should be read. There are even scenes that occur in both books, albeit from different perspectives. What this does is allow the whole universe to feel connected, but also to allow the writers to appeal to all audiences, from children to older adults. This didn’t work out as well as it should have in wave one, but is working much better here in wave two. 

Older is known for his infusion of humor into his stories, and that is no different here. In this book, characters such as V-18 and the Bonbraks had me chuckling throughout. Even the villains in the book were funny at times (in a good way). Sometimes Older’s humor edges towards the absurd, but he never fully embraces it, keeping one foot in the Star Wars reality. I’d equate his humor a little to how Taika Waititi utilized it in his character in The Mandalorian

The book does have some great themes. Older expands on the themes of attachment, on purpose, and on vision and clarity. These are a little boiled down for children, but are nonetheless great themes.

The book does suffer from being really short, not even cracking 200 pages. This means that the book is good for children’s attention span, but may not be worth the price point of $15.00. While the illustrations by Petur Antonsson are really nice, I feel like they simply add more expense to the book’s cost. 

The book just doesn’t leave the reader with the emotional payoffs that The Rising Storm and other Del Rey adult novels do. I read this book in one (long) sitting, and it was fun…but that was it. I don’t feel excited after reading this or pumped to read the next one. I just feel “it was alright”. That is mostly just the nature of middle grade novels, but it still is a problem that they have.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, but didn’t love it. It does several things better than its predecessor, so it gets a slightly higher score. However, The High Republic middle grade line has yet to wow me. Race to Crashpoint Tower gets a 3.5 out of 5. Good job Older!

Reviewed By: Jonathan Koan for Roqoo Depot.

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