Battle Scars by Sam Maggs takes place a few years after the Fallen Order game (I suspect this book might take place around the same time as the Obi-Wan series?) I’m also not sure if this book happens right before the sequel game coming out in April, Jedi Survivor, or a year or two beforehand. I guess time will tell when I can actually play the game to find out where the story picks up.
Battle Scars opens with the Mantis crew, a tight-knit team at this point, raiding a Haxion Brood base. It is here that the crew pick up an Imperial defector, a Data Analyst named Fret disguised as a stormtrooper. Merrin, the last Nightsister witch of Dathomir, quickly begins a passionate affair with Fret. Given Merrin’s no-nonsense personality in Fallen Order, I found it a bit odd how fast she fell for Fret as well as how fast she seemingly trusted her, despite Fret’s Imperial ties. It all happens so fast that it’s hard for this reader to buy. The rest of the Mantis crew is weary, but cautiously agrees to a mission Fret proposes to acquire schematics for shrouding technology (The Shroud) before the Empire gets hold of it.
The first half of the novel focuses largely on the relationship between Merrin and Fret, which for me personally seemed very out of character for Merrin. I get what the author was going for in that Fret was supposed to remind Merrin of an ex-lover on Dathomir which in turned reignited her fire and magick use that she had been having trouble connecting with of late. Cal is mostly single-minded in focusing on the mission and protecting his crew, while Greez and Cere are mostly seen in passing in the first half as well. It seemed like the author didn’t really know what to do with Cere until the second half of the book.
In acquiring The Shroud, the Mantis crew and Fret find an engineer who is not only be the inventor, but also Fret’s former lover whom she thought was dead. Cue Merrin getting very brooding at Fret’s betrayal, as well as some “I told you so” moments from Greez (thank you, Greez, I was thinking that the whole time, too.)
We get more of Cal and Cere in the second half of the novel. Cere considers how to preserve the legacy of the Jedi. Cal struggles with his path forward in terms of fighting the Empire, but also his identity. In many ways, Merrin does as well and her experiences in this book really highlight to her who she really needs to be with in order to be on the right path. There are glimpses of a Cal and Merrin romantic relationship toward the end, and I will be interested to see if this dynamic is explored in the next game since Cal doesn’t technically have to adhere to a code anymore.
I overall found Battle Scars entertaining, however the first half of the book didn’t sit completely right with me given the very out of character behavior from Merrin (she doesn’t really spend a lot of time being suspicious and distrustful of Fret before starting their romance?) The second half was a lot more fast-paced and well-rounded. I also appreciated certain game mechanics being woven into Cal’s POV chapters. I found the writing style to be very YA-ish, which I’m not a huge fan of, but this is a Star Wars book so it is what it is.