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Audiobook Reviews: Retellings of the Original Star Wars Trilogy

Audiobook Reviews: Retellings of the Original Star Wars Trilogy

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The Original Trilogy is getting a second look from a new angle through the eyes of readers who may not necessarily be familiar with the stories of Luke, Leia, Darth Vader, Han, Lando, Chewbacca and the droid​s R2-D2 and C-3PO.

Published by Disney Lucasfilm Press and Listening Library, the three volumes ape the original trilogy stories, but ease readers — and, in our case, audiobook listeners — into the story with sparkling writing, attentive detail that is not microscopic and vibrant storytelling.

The aim is to bring the classic trilogy store, and all it entails, to a young reader, while making it relevant to them in contemporary times. Coffee With Kenobi has listened to all three volumes and these are our reviews.

Star Wars: A New Hope — The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy, written by Alexandra Bracken, read by Marc Thompson and Rebecca Soler

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Star Wars: A New Hope The Princess, the Scoundrel, & the Farm Boy, does something revolutionary for fans of Star Wars; it brings new insights and layers to one of the most popular films of all time. Written by Alexandra Bracken, this book takes the iconic film, and retells it from the third-person limited perspective of the trinity of the Original Trilogy, Princess Leia Organa, Luke Skywalker, & Han Solo. When you add the dulcet tones of Marc Thompson and Rebecca Soler, you get 5 hours of auditory brilliance that will have you looking at the three beloved characters in a whole new way.

Of particular intrigue is the opening scene. The Tantive IV is boarded by a hoard of Stormtroopers … you know the rest, of course. However, what you did not know is Princess Leia’s history with Emperor Palpatine, or her disdain for being treated like a beautiful star. Leia is a diplomat, yes, but she’s also a passionate, articulate patriot, who is not afraid to get her hands dirty. She even struggles with her temper, which is not altogether ironic, considering her paternal lineage. In just the beginning of the novel, it is possible we learn more about Leia than we have in almost 40 years. The reality that this is canonical makes it all the more powerful.

Although written for grades 3-7, the audiobook has enough going for it to entertain fans of any age. Naturally, there are plenty of sound effects, as well as snippets of John Williams’ score. Astute fans will notice that some of the musical cues do no come from A New Hope, but they do fit in with the theme reflected in the narrative. There is no doubt in my mind that Star Wars: A New Hope The Princess, the Scoundrel, & the Farm Boy will change the way to view Star Wars, and the saga as a whole. This is a must have for Star Wars fans.

— Dan Z

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back — So You Want to be a Jedi?, written by Adam Gidwitz, read by Marc Thompson

41CmUXsH7jLIn the retelling of the Original Trilogy’s classic second film, author Adam Gidwitz has taken liberal doses of the original story, environs and curt quips that have made the film a true classic.

That’s a good thing, because it helps to offset some of the naked ambition about being a young-reader focused novel, which is to say some clunky narration that took a tone more akin to conversation among sixth or seventh graders sitting together in the lunch room, waiting for the bell to ring and recess to start.

Like the film, the novel tracks the search by the Empire for the Rebels, the battle at Hoth, Cloud City and, as the title implies, Luke taking his first, formative steps into the Force under Yoda’s tutelage.

Granted, in the course of the 336-page novel, read with aplomb and verve by Star Wars favorite Marc Thompson, we are treated to a more intimate portrait of the various characters as they struggle — Luke on Dagobah with Yoda, is the prime example, given the book’s title. Yet it’s also a deeper dive into the budding relationship betwixt Han and Leia, as they grapple not just with feelings for each other, but a pervading sense of frustration as they try to flee the Empire.

But it’s the segues after each chapter, the chatty interludes that take the listener out of the story. Trying to equate Force training to learning self meditation is a bit of a stretch. For the couple of times, it’s interesting. The fifth or sixth time? It’s cloying, annoying even.

Regardless, the audio book has its moments, notably the fight between Luke and an elephoth on Dagobah. That, among other things, is the book’s saving grace. Yes, it can be saccharine, there’s no denying that. Still, amidst that, there is a tenderness that underscores the story. That is never a bad thing.

— Matt Moore

You can order Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back — So You Want to be a Jedi? here.

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi — Beware the Power of the Dark Side!, written by Tom Angleberger, read by Marc Thompson

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One of my favorite iterations of Star Wars are the NPR radio dramas from the 1980s and mid-1990s. Written by Brian Daley, and performed by many original cast members, they are a staple of my fandom. This audio presentation of Return of the Jedi shares the same appeal. I felt completely drawn in and connected to the story — the same feeling I derive from listening to the radio drama. High praise, indeed!

I’ve seen Return of the Jedi countless times over the years, so I know the story well. What newness could be brought to a story beloved by millions? Author Tom Angleberger managed to bring a freshness to Jedi, while shedding new light on characters I didn’t realize I wanted to know more about. The Ewoks became more noble and brave. Jabba and his underlings became more vile and cruel. Mon Mothma became more stoic and resolute. The Emperor became more evil and twisted. Even Moff Jerjerrod gets his due.

Marc Thompson’s reading of Jedi was superb! He doesn’t just read the story — he reads it to you. Keeping in mind that these audios are geared toward younger listeners, this approach makes perfect sense. However, as an adult listener, I appreciated that approach as well.

In addition to reading the story, Thompson also provides the voices. While not a direct impersonation of well-known characters (although some come very close!), he perfectly captures the tenor and tone. Every character felt and sounded true.

The score by John Williams is used to full dramatic effect — including a cue or two from other films in the Saga — and callbacks to the prequels, The Clone Wars, and Star Wars Rebels were welcome. The best part? It all felt organic. Star Wars truly is one story!

— Lisa Dullard

You can order Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi — Beware the Power of the Dark Side! here.

Thank you to Listening Library and Disney Lucasfilm Press for proving the audiobooks for review.

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