Review: Merrin gets the spotlight in romantic and electrifying Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars
Author Sam Maggs has managed to turn a tie-in novel that bridges the gap between two video games into one of the most romantic and riveting Star Wars books of all time. Jedi: Battle Scars blows every expectation out of the water for a thrilling and intimate tale of messy found family and finding your fire and purpose in the galaxy.
As a tie-in novel, Battle Scars’ purpose is to bridge the gap between Jedi: Fallen Order and the upcoming Jedi: Survivor (out April 28). The book has a straightforward mission-based plot that’s fairly standard for the crew of the Mantis.
The story is set several years after the events of Fallen Order and roughly a year or two before Survivor. Jedi Cal Kestis and the rest of the Mantis crew — Merrin, Cere, Greez, and BD-1 — have been operating as unaffiliated rebels trying to dismantle the Empire no matter how small the hits are.
Cal and BD-1 are the same as always — a perpetually optimistic dork and his adorable droid. Cere, a former Jedi Master with a lot of emotional baggage, continues to unpack that trauma and grow her hope for the future of the Jedi Order. Greez is also Greez — snarky, hilarious, and a bit tired of being on the literal edge of his ship’s seat at all times as the crew outruns the Empire.
Then there’s Merrin, possibly the last Nightsister of Dathomir and everyone’s favorite space witch. She joined the Mantis crew toward the end of Fallen Order, but lately, she’s been struggling with accessing the full breadth of her green fire magick.
Into this (mostly) happy household comes a charming Imperial deserter dressed as a stormtrooper who catches Merrin’s eye. Her name is Fret, and she says she’s been following the Mantis’ exploits via Imperial channels and desperately needs their help in retrieving a mysterious weapon before the Empire can get ahold of it.
Unfortunately, the weapon is something the Imperials are equally as interested in, and they send the Inquisitor Fifth Brother to find it.
Battle Scars scores points right from the start with its straightforward, steady-paced plot. The mission to retrieve the weapon drives the story and action forward, but the core of the 304-page novel is the messy, complicated, and baggage-heavy crew of the Mantis.
The book bounces between character POVs, giving us much-needed time inside the heads of the other Mantis crew beyond Cal. Every character is struggling in their own way, and the climax of the novel includes an eruption of anger, resentment, and fiery passion that forces everyone to take a couple of days off — and spend time away from each other.
Battle Scars gets dark and violent, but it also marks a turning point for the Mantis crew. They’ve been operating the same way for years in almost perfect synchronicity in every mission. But doubts begin to bloom about their purpose and the ability to actually hit the Empire where hurts.
While Cere and Greez — two people mostly set in their ways — undergo a bit of personal and relationship growth, it’s Merrin and Cal who have the biggest and most charged story arcs in Battle Scars.
If you finished Fallen Order wishing there was more Merrin, Battle Scars delivers tenfold. The last Nightsister of Dathomir has let her anger and want for revenge fuel her ever since she left her home planet. Along the way she became part of a family that she cares deeply about, even when she doesn’t know how to say it.
And the appearance of the charming and attractive Fret ignites something in Merrin she long thought was dormant, sparking her literal green fire magick again. It’s with these two that we finally get some steamy moments in a Star Wars book — as much as is probably allowed. It was a juicy and welcome surprise.
Somewhat in the middle of all these flames is Cal, who has to come to terms with not everyone being on the same page about, well, anything. He also gets angry, too, after realizing he may be the only one happy about the Mantis crew’s current trajectory.
Still, the conclusion of the novel is a happy, satisfying tear-jerker that gives these characters and their fans exactly what we’ve needed.
Battle Scars excels on several fronts. It’s an excellent video game tie-in novel that sets up each character for the next adventure. It also shines when it expands the stories and personalities of established characters in a way that makes them more accessible to all fans beyond gamers.
And as a book based on a video game, it feels like reading one. Probably become author Maggs has written for games and campaigns as well as action- and dialogue-heavy comics. Gamers will love the little Easter egg-style moments like Cal’s use of stims from BD-1 and flashbacks that feel like cut scenes. Non-gamers will just love how detail-forward Battle Scars is.
For a short, self-contained story whose purpose is to set up for the next game, Battle Scars breaks out of its own mold to be one of the most charming and exciting Star Wars books out there.
Star Wars Jedi: Battle Scars by Sam Maggs releases on March 7 from Random House Worlds.