“Phasma” book review

One of the most prominent yet underutilized characters in The Force Awakens was Captain Phasma, built up as a dangerous leader and warrior of the First Order yet whose biggest contribution was helping the Resistance lower the shields of Starkiller Base.

In the lead-up to The Last Jedi, Phasma is receiving a lot more attention, as she apparently will have a bigger role in the film and is getting a novel and comic diving more in-depth into the character.  The novel, fittingly titled “Phasma” and written by Delilah S. Dawson, was released on Force Friday as part of the Journey to The Last Jedi, and it delves into Phasma’s backstory to provide an interesting and gripping account of the warrior from Parnassos.

*Spoilers obviously lie ahead, so if you haven’t read the book and plan to then don’t read any further.*

The narrative of the book is framed around a Resistance spy, Vi Moraldi, telling the secrets of Phasma’s backstory to Captain Cardinal, a leader in the First Order who is very loyal to his cause and wants to take Phasma down.  Cardinal – who wears red armor and wears a cape – was hand-picked by Brendol Hux to oversee the training of Stormtroopers, yet he lost a lot of his authority and responsibility to the mysterious Phasma, especially with Brendol dead.  Moraldi was captured by the First Order but Cardinal privately and secretly interrogated her for dirt on Phasma’s history.

The stories Moraldi has heard about Phasma were told to her by Siv, who grew up as one of Phasma’s warriors and closest friends.  We read about how Phasma routinely went to extremes to ensure survival.  She stabbed her own brother in the leg and orchestrated the murder of her parents and people so that she and her brother, Keldo, could live with the Scyre and survive.  Life on Parnassos was rough, however, and Phasma developed a reputation as the planet’s greatest warrior.  When Brendol Hux crash-lands on the planet, however, Phasma abandons Keldo and the Scyre and sets out with her group of warriors to journey to Brendol’s ship and find a better lifestyle with the First Order.  The journey is long and rough, and there are many trials and oppositions and sicknesses and deaths along the way.  At one point, for example, the group was captured by Arratu and forced to fight in an arena, but Phasma eventually beheaded the leader of the people.  Later, when Keldo and the Scyre caught up with Phasma and Brendol’s group, her people were wiped out and Keldo murdered by his sister.  And, upon arriving at Hux’s ship, they were able to call for help from the First Order.  Brendol’s son Armitage soon arrived with help, and Phasma went with them along with a young girl, Frey.  But Siv?  Phasma left her behind, because Siv had previously not murdered a warrior Phasma had commanded her too.

A couple of things really stand out from Phasma’s backstory on Parnassos and her journey with Brendol Hux to his ship: firstly, that she is an incredibly skilled and dangerous warrior who is not to be messed with; and secondly, that she will do whatever it takes to survive.  As Moraldi tells Cardinal, “you can’t win against Phasma.  Not you.  Not anyone.  No one will go as far as she will to survive.”

That proved true in the First Order, too, as Phasma orchestrated the murder of Brendol Hux.  A year after leaving Parnassos with the First Order, Phasma returned to the site of the crash scene and used pieces from the crashed Naboo yacht that once belonged to Emperor Palpatine to construct her chrome armor.  She also captured one of the planet’s incredibly deadly beetles, and eventually secretly unleashed it on Brendol.  He grew sick and none of the medical droids knew why, but the symptoms were exactly those that the beetles caused.  Phasma murdered Brendol Hux, and Armitage knew about it (he and his father certainly didn’t get along).  She became a captain in the First Order and oversaw the continued development and training of the best troopers.

After Moraldi told these things to Cardinal, he attempted to report the findings to Amitage – particularly regarding Brendol’s death – but in doing so found out that Brendol knew about it.  Cardinal, ever loyal to the First Order’s ideals and Brendol Hux, decides to ultimately take things into his own hands and confronts Phasma, but she defeats him.  Vi shows up at the end to save Cardinal and escape with him, so their fates remain unknown, but it seems that Cardinal’s time in the First Order is most definitely over.

So, when we encounter Phasma in The Force Awakens, she is one of the leaders along with Kylo Ren and General Armitage Hux, reporting to Supreme Leader Snoke.  Not much is learned about Ren or Snoke in the book, though both are mentioned.  But we do learn a ton about Captain Phasma, the First Order’s dangerous warrior captain who oversees the training of their troopers.

The book also sheds light on what happened during the assault on Starkiller Base in 34 ABY, as Phasma betrayed the First Order by lowering the shields.  But knowing what we do about her character now, that makes a lot of sense: because she has always done whatever it takes to survive!  She would rather lower the shields to survive than die, and the comic series explains that Phasma erased and changed records of what happened and scapegoated another officer in order to protect herself.  She is all about survival, and she’ll do whatever it takes.  So does that mean there will be a time coming up when she will again betray the First Order?  Possibly, because from what we know about Phasma, she’s a skilled warrior determined to survive by any means necessary.

Overall, it was an entertaining and engaging read about a character that certainly needed more backstory, and it gives better understanding to the events of The Force Awakens while adding more intrigue as to what we’ll see from the First Order Captain in The Last Jedi.

My grade: 8.5/10

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