Lucasfilm’s newest release Solo: A Star Wars Story is about to bring the early days of Han Solo to the screen, and Star Wars fans should no doubt love the detail about the life of the rogue smuggler. However, this is not the first time Star Wars fans have had a chance to see the early days of Han Solo. Published in 1997 in the old Extended Universe, now part of the Legends Universe is Star Wars: The Paradise Snare the beginning of a trilogy of books by Ann Crispin about young Han Solo.
Hidden in a relic of a faded battleship from the Clone Wars above Corellia, readers see a scared and frightened Han, with a crew of criminals and thieves led by an evil man named Garris Shrike.
Han Solo, who has been a member of this group since Shrike found him on the streets of Corellia when he was a boy, has plotted his escape, and though it costs the life of his friend Dewlanna, the Wookie cook of the ship, and his substitute mom, Solo escapes to a new life of his own making.
Landing on the planet of Ylesia, Han Solo is hired as the pilot for the High Priests who administer the colony on behalf of a clan of Hutt’s. This planet is filled with colonists who are actually religious pilgrims that serve the High Priests. While the pilgrims receive a blessing each night which brings them euphoric joy, they toil during the day working tirelessly in the factories that process spice, which the priests and their Hutt overlords sell.
Han spends a great deal of time just minding his own business, and making money so that he can achieve his dream of applying to the Imperial Navy. Ylesia offers Han the chance to practice at being a pilot. His lack of care changes when he meets a pilgrim named Bria from his home planet. The relationship that develops between the two, and the fact that Han cannot sit by and watch as Bria and other pilgrims are shipped out to be slaves, leads to an escape from Ylesia and a lot of hard feelings between the High Priest and Solo.
Once off world, life doesn’t improve for Han, even though he and Bria are together. Plans to start a new life for the two fall through, and ultimately Han Solo is left alone to figure out who he is. Solo carries on and passes his admission exams for the Imperial Navy. His future seems clear.
Writer Ann Crispin has started her trilogy of Han Solo stories with a book about taking chances. Han takes a chance by fighting to escape from Garris Shrike. Han takes a chance by going to Ylesia and hoping for a job. Han takes a chance on Bria Tharen by trusting her with the truth, and most importantly, he takes a chance on his bodyguard Muururgh, a giant being called a Togorian. Star Wars: The Paradise Snare is the foundational block that builds the character of Han Solo that Star Wars fans know so well. It was exciting to see where Han developed so many of his traits from.
This book is filled with your standard tropes of character development. Young man escapes to freedom, finds love, friendship, then ultimately loses these, but achieves his goals in the end. Crispin has taken a combination of ideas from Les Miserables and Oliver to flesh out some of the ideas she has about where Han Solo came from.
The best part of the book is the relationship Han develops with Muuurgh, his Togorian bodyguard. Since landing on Ylesia, Han gets assigned this ‘friend’ mostly because the High Priest doesn’t trust Han, and Muuurgh is honor bound to keep Han in line. The power of Han’s friendship changes Muuurgh, and ultimately will lead to Han’s escape from Ylesia, and reuniting Muuurgh with his lost love.
While Crispin has started to paint the portrait of a checkered past for Han Solo filled with bad deeds, we know Han Solo is not a bad guy. The dynamics of Muuurgh and Han lets us know how Han could develop such a close relationship with Chewbacca when he meets him, and it’s clear to readers that the friendship that Han develops for Muuurgh is genuine and not an act.
For the most part, the theme of escape plays throughout the book, and no matter how far we run, demons can always find us. While Han escapes from Garris Shrike at the beginning, readers know there has to be a final confrontation. The end of the book contains a bloody rooftop fight in Coruscant, which sounds painful and almost animalistic in the struggle between Han and Shrike. The level of danger that Crispin paints into the scene and how she makes readers feel like Han is not only battling the sadistic Shrike to live, but fighting to bury his past with Shrike keeps readers on the edge of their seat.
Typically in Star Wars battles, people are blown up in space, shot by a blaster, or killed by a lightsaber. In this climactic scene readers are going to be taken aback by the level of violence in this fight. It was harsh, but it also made the life that Han Solo lived seem more real and genuine then what we might typically think of.
The idea that Han Solo would end this book by becoming a cadet in the Imperial Navy is interesting, but I don’t suspect a man like Han Solo could support the ideas that the Empire held. I’m very interested to see where Ann Crispin will take Han in the rest of the series.