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Literature / Star Wars: Razor's Edge

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Star Wars: Empire and Rebellion: Razor's Edge is a Star Wars Legends novel by Martha Wells, released in 2013. Set about a year before The Empire Strikes Back, it is the first published book in the Empire and Rebellion duology, along with Star Wars: Honor Among Thieves (which takes place about a year earlier despite being published second).

As the story opens, Princess Leia Organa, joined by Han Solo and a crew of Rebels, is en route to a rendezvous with a cadre of merchants sympathetic to the Rebellion, to negotiate for funding and supplies for the nearly completed Echo Base. Her ship, the Gamble, is attacked by an Imperial corvette and barely escapes. When they limp into the rendezvous point at a trading station, they witness an attack on a merchant ship (the very one that contains their sympathizers) by a pirate vessel. Leia is shocked to realize that the pirate craft is an Alderaanian patrol ship, all of which were thought to have either been destroyed with Alderaan or subsequently joined the Rebellion.

Determined to find out what caused Alderaanians to turn to piracy, Leia (along with Han and two of her crew) talks her way aboard the ship, the Aegis, to meet with Captain Celine Metara and her crew. They find themselves infiltrating a pirate base, both to rescue their allies and to try to get Metara out of the debt she owes to the pirate leader, so that she might consider another path. Meanwhile, the Imperial corvette is still out there, looking to finish the job it started.

Razor's Edge is the first of the planned Empire and Rebellion trilogy of novels set during the Original Trilogy era, designed to evoke the feel of classic Star Wars, starring (in order) Leia, Han, and Luke. Honor Among Thieves is the second story, and Heir to the Jedi was intended to be the third, but Disney's Continuity Reboot of the Expanded Universe interrupted this plan. Razor's Edge and Honor Among Thieves were deemed to be Legends works, and Heir to the Jedi was rewritten to be one of the first stories in the new Star Wars Expanded Universe. Reprints of Razor's Edge with the Legends banner do not include the "Empire and Rebellion" subtitle.

Razor's Edge contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Asteroid Miners: The Space Pirates' clearinghouse is in an old large-scale asteroid mine. The place is riddled with passageways both in-use and abandoned, strewn with leftover mining equipment in various states of disrepair. At one point, lacking a quick way back to their ship from a deep cavern, Han hijacks a tunnel borer and simply makes a new passage.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: For all of their bickering, Leia trusts Han implicitly and completely, which Han himself is startled to realize (she's glad the Millennium Falcon is going to be their backup ship, because she trusts Chewbacca, and by implication his partner). She never once considers that he might be the Imperial mole; among the Gamble crew, only General Willard himself rates the same consideration.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: In the final Legends novel before The Empire Strikes Back, Han and Leia's pre-romance is in full swing. They both privately admit to themselves their feelings for each other, while sniping at each other every chance they get. (Han has more "Your Worship"s for Leia than one can count.) In one scene they strategize in a very cramped restroom to avoid being overheard, and have to work very hard to avoid physical contact. Leia snaps at Han when his shifting positions distracts and flusters her.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Imperial Commander Degoren is trying to capture or kill Leia, who's high on the Empire's Most Wanted list. Flightmaster Viest expects personal loyalty from Metara in exchange for upgrading the Aegis and doesn't want Leia interfering. Han and Leia must deal with each in turn in order to escape the situation they've found themselves in. The two are aware of each other (Viest has sold out opponents to the Empire in the past), but are not allies, and Degoren would rather keep Leia out of Viest's clutches so that he can nab her himself.
  • Blood Sport: Leia and Metara are forced to participate in a game of Flightmaster Viest's own invention, by which she "evaluates" prospective business partners (and punishes disappointing subordinates). Players using hand-and-foot repulsor pads fly around a low-g arena attempting to knock a training remotenote  into one of several ore crushers left over from the mine. The crushers' openings are wide and fully capable of swallowing a player, players are not at all discouraged from attempting to knock each other into them (though none of Leia's opponents are that ruthless), and, oh yes, halfway through the game Viest drops an enormous reprogrammed mining droid into the arena, where it attacks players indiscriminately.
  • Boarding Party:
    • Imperial Commander Degoren operates out of a modified freighter, the Darsumae, to sneak into port at the Arnot space station and capture Leia's crew while she's busy at the pirates' clearinghouse. Leia and the Aegis crew attack the Darsumae and use their pirating skills to lock on, board, and capture it, rescuing the Gamble crew, who promptly rename the ship Gamble II.
    • When Degoren's actual warship, an Imperial corvette, arrives in the middle of that action and takes aboard the captured Luke Skywalker, Leia, Han, Chewie, and Sian use an escape pod to board the corvette in a desperate maneuver and rescue him.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Sneaking around the clearinghouse, Sian points out that there's probably a former mine detention center repurposed as a slave pen, and Han agrees that that would make sense. The narration from his POV:
    A mine this big must have had some kind of facility to deal with the miners who stole or got drunk or did spice or got into fights about stealing and drinking and doing spice.
  • But What About the Astronauts? citizens of Alderaan were off-world when the Empire blew up the planet, conducting anti-piracy patrols in the outskirts of the system.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: The pirate leader Aral tukor Viest has a scar cutting across the middle of her face, marking her as a rough customer, and wears facial piercings that highlight the scar, making sure everyone notices it and understands its significance.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Empire, in this story. Commander Degoren is after Leia because he received emergency orders to break off his usual sector-patrol duties and pursue her, since no other ship was in position to ambush her at the leaked coordinates. He knows that the Empire will reward him greatly for succeeding and punish him severely for failure.
  • Living Lie Detector: Aral tukor Viest is a Lorrdian, a race of humans who have developed a sophisticated language of signs and subtle face and body movements, due to their history of being slaves forbidden to speak. Many Lorrdians, including Viest, are experienced enough in body language to read truth and lies, as well as other aspects of a person, off of their face and body. Facing Viest, Leia is extremely careful with both her words and her tone of voice and facial movements, trying to use Exact Words as much as possible to conceal her true intentions—hampered by Metara, who isn't experienced enough to keep from giving herself away. When Han is captured, he does the same, but by then Viest knows more about them and their Rebel ties, and he is unsuccessful.
  • Mechanical Monster:
    • During Viest's Blood Sport "test," she drops a large barrel-shaped mining droid reprogrammed for rage and insanity into the playing field. Its cutting and digging arms attack the players, killing a Red Shirt and injuring Leia, its "sampling oriface" roars at them, and it more-or-less defeats itself by getting partially caught in an ore crusher.
    • Later, Leia and the Aegis crewmembers find Viest's tech attempting to repair the droid, and they commandeer it to rampage through the pirates' command center at an opportune moment. This backfires on them when it gets too close to the bomb they had rigged to blow up said command center, setting it off early.
  • The Mole: One of Leia's crew is an Imperial agent, having leaked coordinates for where the Gamble would be receiving a transmission to the Empire. When the Gamble escapes the resulting ambush, he spends the rest of the story looking for another opportunity to bring the Empire down on them. Leia and Han would have a much tougher time of things if he was better at his job.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Captain Metara is starting to come around to Leia's way of thinking, and is certainly feeling personal loyalty to Alderaan's princess. She probably could have been convinced to join the Rebellion, except that she dies saving Leia. The other Alderaanians, inspired by her sacrifice, do come around in the end.
  • Space Pirates: Not depicted at all sympathetically. Most pirates (at least in this part of the galaxy) take ships and crews whole instead of just looting cargoes, selling the crews into the slave trade, which is tolerated and resurgent under Imperial rule. Piracy is big enough business that they have a "clearinghouse" where they meet to repair and upgrade their ships, and fence goods and slaves. The clearinghouse "flightmaster," Aral tukor Viest, is the most ruthless of them all. Metara and the Aegis crew are portrayed as hopelessly naïve for thinking they can work with these pirates, attacking only Imperial targets and otherwise stealing cargoes without harming freighters' crews.
  • Taking the Bullet: Metara shoves Leia out of the way of Viest's sonic pulse weapon, and is killed by it.
  • We Need a Distraction: It takes multiple layers of distractions to allow the Aegis to escape the clearinghouse by ensuring that the pirates are too occupied to attack it.
    • Han suggests setting off an explosion in another part of the mine, far from the Aegis, to draw the pirates away, and Leia decides to blow up the command center—and possibly Viest herself, knowing that there will be pirates who want to seize power from her whether she survives or not.
    • To convince the pirates in their ships around the clearinghouse that they are under attack, she rigs up a transmission suggesting a large force of Imperials have arrived, by doctoring the Aegis's recording of the Death Star and its support ships arriving in Alderaanian space before it destroyed the planet.
    • When neither of those are enough to scare away most of the pirates between Leia's party and their ship, Han calls Luke and Chewbacca in the newly arrived Millennium Falcon and has them actually attack the clearinghouse to convince the pirates to run.