Queen’s Peril by E.K. Johnston

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When fourteen-year-old Padmé Naberrie wins the election for Queen of Naboo, she adopts the name Amidala and leaves her family to the rule from the royal palace. To keep her safe and secure, she’ll need a group of skilled handmaidens who can be her assistants, confidantes, defenders, and decoys. Each girl is selected for her particular talents, but it will be up to Padmé to unite them as a group. When Naboo is invaded by forces of the Trade Federation, Queen Amidala and her handmaidens will face the greatest test—of themselves, and of each other.

Queen’s Peril just came out this month and it’s a prequel to Queen’s Shadow.

Just like Queen’s Shadow, I really enjoyed this book. I only have the hardcover and so I didn’t listen along with the audiobook this time. It is such a fast read, mostly because it is for YA readers, but I like YA. Also, like I said with my last review: there aren’t any big battle scenes and no lightsaber fights, but if you love Padmé, then this is a book to read.

*A few minor spoilers – but not really if you know Star Wars like the back of your hand, and read Queen’s Shadow.*

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Star Wars: Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray, narrated by Jonathan Davis.

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An unexpected offer threatens the bond between Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi as the two Jedi navigate a dangerous new planet and an uncertain future in the first canon Star Wars novel to take place before the events of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

A Jedi must be a fearless warrior, a guardian of justice, and a scholar in the ways of the Force. But perhaps a Jedi’s most essential duty is to pass on what they have learned. Master Yoda trained Dooku; Dooku trained Qui-Gon Jinn; and now, Qui-Gon has a Padawan of his own. But while Qui-Gon has faced all manner of threats and danger as a Jedi, nothing has ever scared him like the thought of failing his apprentice.

Obi-Wan Kenobi has deep respect for his Master but struggles to understand him. Why must Qui-Gon so often disregard the laws that bind the Jedi? Why is Qui-Gon drawn to ancient Jedi prophecies instead of more practical concerns? And why wasn’t Obi-Wan told that Qui-Gon is considering an invitation to join the Jedi Council – knowing it would mean the end of their partnership? The simple answer scares him: Obi-Wan has failed his Master.

When Jedi Rael Averross, another former student of Dooku, requests their assistance with a political dispute, Jinn and Kenobi travel to the royal court of Pijal for what may be their final mission together. What should be a simple assignment quickly becomes clouded by deceit and by visions of violent disaster that take hold in Qui-Gon’s mind.

As Qui-Gon’s faith in prophecy grows, Obi-Wan’s faith in him is tested – just as a threat surfaces that will demand that Master and apprentice come together as never before or be divided forever.

I did the same thing that I did for Queen’s Shadow. I bought a hardcover special edition at Celebration Chicago last year and I downloaded the audiobook, because I like the music and sound effects included. And I read along as I listened.

I really enjoyed this book, but let me get the things I didn’t like out of the way. These little things knocked off a star in the rating.

– No character, especially Jedi, in the Star Wars universe, in the films or other mediums says “By the Force” or “Thank the Force.” Actually, it’s a big pet peeve of mine when I see it written in fan fiction.

– The voice for Mace Windu was totally off. Which was a let down because the other voices were spot on. I don’t know what that accent was.

– Young Obi-Wan’s love of flying felt out of character.

Ok, so on to the likes!

– Great voice work for Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, Dooku, and Rael Averross (a new character).

– I loved the flashbacks with Dooku and studying the prophecies.

– I loved any discussions and debates the Jedi had about prophecies, and how wanting to control the future lead to the Dark Side.

– I loved Rael’s renegade Jedi attitude and disregard for the Jedi Code, especially when it came to celibacy. Now I want to read a fan fiction where he became Anakin’s teacher because things would have turned out WAY differently.

– I really liked Rahara and felt such sympathy for her.

– I found the idea of performance artist demonstrators really amusing.

– One of my favorite things were seeing the fault lines in the Jedi Order because it makes their downfall understandable. Like how they would serve the government of the Republic over being guardians of justice. Also, how some of their methods of raising young Jedi are wrong. I made a lot of bookmarks.

– I loved the little preludes to The Phantom Menace.
Like the plight of the enslaved people that Czerka corportation owned.
The Chosen One prophecy.
I am sure Qui-Gon learned from the young princess to look closer next time, and don’t underestimate her.

Everything tied together to well. Sometimes the pacing was a bit slow, but I liked the plot of story and the conclusion of it. I had so many suspects and was actually surprised by the twist.

4 out of 5 Prophecies.

Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston, narrated by Catherine Taber

Written by the #1 New York Times best-selling author of Ahsoka!

When Padmé Naberrie, “Queen Amidala” of Naboo, steps down from her position, she is asked by the newly-elected queen to become Naboo’s representative in the Galactic Senate. Padmé is unsure about taking on the new role, but cannot turn down the request to serve her people. Together with her most loyal handmaidens, Padmé must figure out how to navigate the treacherous waters of politics and forge a new identity beyond the queen’s shadow.

I bought a hardcover copy at Celebration Chicago last year and I downloaded the audiobook, because Catherine Taber (the voice of Padmé on The Clone Wars) narrates. I read along as I listened.

I loved this book. This might not be a book for every Star Wars fan because it is way more political than the novels we’re used to. There aren’t any big battle scenes and no lightsaber fights, but if you love Padmé, then this is a book to read/listen to.

So I loved this book for many reasons. The friendships between Padmé and the handmaids were great. It was wonderful to see what their strengths were and what their interests were outside of their duties.

The transition from being queen to becoming a senator and navigating the different political arenas was so well done. I especially like seeing Padmé learn how she had to change her demeanor, make allies, and learn how to shed the negative image people had about her. She had to get out of the shadow of what she did to Chancellor Vellorum as queen.

I loved the inclusion of the press articles because image is everything in the public eye.
Besides character image I loved the descriptions of her clothing. Practical armor hidden in style.

Minor spoilers below, but not really if you know a lot about Star Wars.

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Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron by Alexander Freed

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The first novel in a new trilogy starring veteran New Republic pilots!

On the brink of victory in a brutal war, five New Republic pilots transform from hunted to hunters in this epic Star Wars adventure. Set after Return of the Jedi, Alphabet Squadron follows a unique team, each flying a different class of starfighter as they struggle to end their war once and for all.

The Emperor is dead. His final weapon has been destroyed. The Imperial Army is in disarray. In the aftermath, Yrica Quell is just one of thousands of defectors from her former cause living in a deserters’ shantytown–until she is selected to join Alphabet Squadron.

Cobbled together from an eclectic assortment of pilots and starfighters, the five members of Alphabet are tasked by New Republic general Hera Syndulla herself. Like Yrica, each is a talented pilot struggling to find their place in a changing galaxy. Their mission: to track down and destroy the mysterious Shadow Wing, a lethal force of TIE fighters exacting bloody, reckless vengeance in the twilight of their reign.

The newly formed unit embodies the heart and soul of the Rebellion: ragtag, resourceful, scrappy, and emboldened by their most audacious victory in decades. But going from underdog rebels to celebrated heroes isn’t as easy as it seems, and their inner demons threaten them as much as their enemies among the stars. The wayward warriors of Alphabet Squadron will have to learn to fly together if they want to protect the new era of peace they’ve fought so hard to achieve.

Part of a Marvel and Del Rey crossover event, Alphabet Squadron is the counterpart to Marvel’s TIE Fighter miniseries, which follows the exploits of Shadow Wing as they scheme to thwart the New Republic.

I got this paperback as a giveaway at a New York Comic Con panel.

This Alphabet Squadron Trilogy is Disney’s version of the excellent X-Wing Series by Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston.

Alphabet Squadron is a long book because there is a lot of set up. Everyone, with the exception of Hera Syndulla, is a new character. It took me awhile to get into it because I had a hard time keeping the characters straight at first. I could have used a dramatis personae.

Overall I really did enjoy this novel. The slow development of the characters and the progression of them learning to get along were well done, as was the PTSD. This was a darker story than I remember the X-Wing series being.

I really liked the inclusion of Hera Syndulla in the novel, but since this was published a year after the series finale of Rebels, where is her son Jacen? There was no mention of him at all and at this point in the timeline he would be a young boy. Maybe Freed was not allowed by Lucasfilm to mention Jacen Syndulla? Maybe Jacen will be mentioned in the sequel? If I ever get to see Alexander Freed at a convention or book signing I am going to ask this.

The descriptions of the final space battle were really well done. I did not have any trouble comprehending the action taking place. I often find it hard to concentrate on battle scenes, but not this time.

Apparently there are tie in Marvel comics to this series, but unless I can borrow those from the library I am just going to stick to reading the novels.

4 out of 5 Squadrons.

Favorite Quotes:

Page 235: “Because when innocents die in war, there should be a point to it.”…”Because if you can’t even begin to explain what good you’re doing by fighting, you’re fighting on the wrong side.”

Page 424: She wished she were a better creature. That her metamorphosis would soon be complete, and that she could emerge as something bright and wondrous, shedding the atrocities of her life.
For now, however, she was what she was.
She readied herself for slaughter.

My review of The Rise of Skywalker

Well … what did I think of this expensive fan fiction? It was way better than The Last Jedi. Still I like The Force Awakens a bit better. Only because the ending of The Rise of Skywalker was very long and drawn out. I was getting frustrated and looking at my watch. There were parts I enjoyed but there are some plot holes, in my opinion, and inconsistent aspects. I miss George Lucas. His films were consistent with each other. This Sequel Trilogy (I am calling it the Fan Fiction Trilogy) feels like a mish mosh of 3 different films. The makers should have sat down and planned it all out from the get go. Not each director/writer doing their own thing.  It truly feels like J.J. Abrams started his own movie, then Rian Johnson did his own thing completely off course, and then Abrams went back to finish his own story.

I am going to break this up into things I liked, things I disliked and things I hated it.

 

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New York Comic Con 2019 – Saturday

New York Comic Con 2019 – Saturday, October 5

I was going to wear my Padmé green velvet costume that I wore at Celebration Chicago, but since I was not feeling well I decided against it. I just didn’t want to schlep around in a gown. I wanted to wear a comfy hoodie with pockets that I could put my tissues in.

So I wore my Her Universe Padmé hoodie. It’s the yellow, pink and purple ombré hoodie that I bought at Celebration Chicago.

I am bummed that I didn’t dress in cosplay, but it’s ok. I’ll wear my costume next year. I’ll also take even more vitamin C so not to get a cold.

My sister and I started our morning by going straight to the Penguin booth for The Starless Sea (by Erin Morgenstern) ARC giveaway.

Like I had said in an earlier post, the set up was super annoying and chaotic. I guess Knopf Doubleday were told they were not allowed to have people line up, which is stupid and ridiculous because A) every other booth at Penguin had lines, as did all the other booths on the show floor, and B) people will still loiter around until 11 and be in the way anyway.

The people loitering around the booth became a disorganized crowd of people just storming the booth at 11am sharp to get the free ARC. They would have been much better off counting the number of books the had, line people up and give them a numbered ticket after scanning their badges. Or first come, first serve, scan badge – hand out numbered tickets starting at 10am and then ask people to return anytime that day after 11am to get their guaranteed copy.

I think they totally underestimated the demand for The Starless Sea. This is the first book that Erin has written since the beloved The Night Circus ,which was published in 2011.

That is a big break, so of course people want this book. One girl told us that an ARC of the book was stolen right out of her hand at a giveaway at Book Con.

SO the fact that they didn’t line us up properly was a nightmare. The people working the table told the crowds not to loiter and come back at 11. But no one listens because they know if they do – they will miss out.

And they were really down to the second. It was at 11 sharp when they started scanning and handing out the books. The loitering crowd became a pushing mosh pit. You can say no pushing – but come on? How are people supposed to get out of the crowd once they got their book? At least when there is an ORGANIZED LINE there is an entry and exit point.

Utter ridiculousness.

My sister and I did manage to keep ourselves towards the front of the loitering crowd and were successful.

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My sister and I also took the Book Wizard quiz. I got an ARC of Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie.

I forgot to mention in the previous post that we also tried to guess the number of books in this stack for Orbit Books.

We were guessing by the thickness and adding it up on the calculator.
We guessed 9,594 pages. The answer is 9,590 pages! Off by 4 pages! UGH!

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New York Comic Con 2019 – Thursday and Friday.

New York Comic Con 2019 – Thursday, October 3

I don’t have much to say about Thursday. An important project had to be finished at work and so I had to sacrifice the panels I wanted to see. I ended up getting to the Con a little after 4PM and I only stayed a couple of hours.

I missed out on some of the ARCs the publishers were giving out but I did buy a mystery box from Penguin Random House.

 

I chose Ladies First in Sci-Fi and Fantasy and inside the box were two pins, a lined notebook, and these books.
Trading in Danger (Vatta’s War 1) by Elizabeth Moon
Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal 1) by Zen Cho
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Even though this book has already been released the book in the box is an ARC.

Besides buying those books I walked around the floor and checked out the Hallmark Pop-Minded booth. There are some ornaments that I will want to buy when they come out. I didn’t buy any of their NYCC exclusives this year. There were none that interested me.

The panels I sacrificed were:

Star Wars Audiobooks: A Behind-the-Scenes Conversation at 11:15 am-12:15 pm.
Get the inside scoop on how the Star Wars audiobooks are recorded and produced with some of the biggest Star Wars authors, voice actors, and producers in the business! You’ll hear from narrators Marc Thompson, Saskia Maarleveld, and Euan Morton in a tell-all panel moderated by Nick Martorelli (PRH Audio producer) about the new Star Wars titles they’ve worked on, how they create the characters, what it’s like in the recording booth and how production builds different layers of voice narration, sound effects, and music into the final track.

Rotten Movies We Love: Critics and Fans Reflect on the Stinkers that Stole our Hearts at 12:30 pm-1:30 pm. (Such a shame I missed this one because these Rotten Tomatoes panels are always a fun time.)

Ever been crushed to learn your favorite movie – or a new one you’re dying to see – has been given the infamous green splat from Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer? Inspired by the upcoming book, Rotten Movies We Love, comedian and movie lover, Mark Ellis hosts Rotten Tomatoes Editor-in-Chief Joel Meares, RT editor Jacqueline Coley, and a number of critics in a lively discussion about films that are so bad they’re good, underrated gems, and iconic cult classics. An interactive experience, audience members are empowered to put on their critic hats and join the spirited conversation – and participate in RT’s fan-favorite Tomatometer guessing game, Street Vs. Elite. 

Part of Your World-Building at 2:30 pm-3:15 pm.
It’s our world. Just add monsters. And ghosts. And time travelers. Four acclaimed fantasy and science fiction novelists discuss bringing their books to life. Featured panelists include Kat Cho (Wicked Fox), Rebecca Roanhorse (The Sixth World Series), and Zoraida Cordova (the Brooklyn Brujas series).

This one was actually at the NYPL on 5th Ave. I thought, and was hoping, that even though I would definitely be missing the other two panels maybe I would be finished in time for this one. Zoraida Cordova was a part of this panel and so I brought with me Labyrinth Lost and Bruja Born for her to sign. But I didn’t even make it to this panel. Carried around the heavy hard covers with me for nothing.

The last hour of the day my sister joined me after she left work. She also bought a mystery box from Penguin. She picked my second choice which was Classic Sci-Fi. She also got two pins and these books:
Hyperion by Dan Simmons
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
Foundation by Isaac Asimov

When she saw the Asimov book she was like, “I knew it!”

New York Comic Con 2019 – Friday, October 4- Part I

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Thrawn: Treason by Timothy Zahn; narrated by Marc Thompson

Grand Admiral Thrawn faces the ultimate test of his loyalty to the Empire in this epic Star Wars novel from bestselling author Timothy Zahn.

“If I were to serve the Empire, you would command my allegiance.”

Such was the promise Grand Admiral Thrawn made to Emperor Palpatine at their first meeting. Since then, Thrawn has been one of the Empire’s most effective instruments, pursuing its enemies to the very edges of the known galaxy. But as keen a weapon as Thrawn has become, the Emperor dreams of something far more destructive.

Now, as Thrawn’s TIE defender program is halted in favor of Director Krennic’s secret Death Star project, he realizes that the balance of power in the Empire is measured by more than just military acumen or tactical efficiency. Even the greatest intellect can hardly compete with the power to annihilate entire planets.

As Thrawn works to secure his place in the Imperial hierarchy, his former protégé Eli Vanto returns with a dire warning about Thrawn’s homeworld. Thrawn’s mastery of strategy must guide him through an impossible choice: duty to the Chiss Ascendancy, or fealty to the Empire he has sworn to serve. Even if the right choice means committing treason.

 

I think this will be the last of the Thrawn books for a while based on the timeline. It is set right before the finale of Rebels. The third book of this trilogy was not my favorite of the three. I was a little bit bored in the middle of the story, and I thought the plot was a bit..weak.

That being said I will focus on some of the positive things.

I really liked the humor Marc Thompson brought to some of the characters. Such as his Sean Connery voice for Admiral Savit. That cracked me up. As did his pompous, snobby voice for Assistant Director Ronan.
Whenever Director Krennic made an appearance he was always yelling, but Marc’s voice work for him was spot on. Oh, and I was so amused by the jokes at his expense about his white cape. So pretentious.

I loved the voices Marc did for the Death Troopers and how they were just grilling Assistant Director Ronan, because he was so annoying.

This time Thrawn did not say “Perhaps” as much! What a relief!

I did enjoy the subplot with Eli Vanto, the Chiss and their navigators. He didn’t annoy me this time and it was interesting to see his role with the Chiss were he is an outsider. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of them and learning more about the Force Sensitive girls who navigate their ships.

SOME SPOILERS BELOW!

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Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray, narrated by January LaVoy

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Witness the birth of the Resistance

When the Rebellion defeated the Empire in the skies above Endor, Leia Organa believed it was the beginning to a lasting peace. But after decades of vicious infighting and partisan gridlock in the New Republic Senate, that hope seems like a distant memory.

Now a respected senator, Leia must grapple with the dangers that threaten to cripple the fledgling democracy—from both within and without. Underworld kingpins, treacherous politicians, and Imperial loyalists are sowing chaos in the galaxy. Desperate to take action, senators are calling for the election of a First Senator. It is their hope that this influential post will bring strong leadership to a divided galaxy.

As the daughter of Darth Vader, Leia faces with distrust the prospect of any one person holding such a powerful position—even when supporters suggest Leia herself for the job. But a new enemy may make this path Leia’s only option. For at the edges of the galaxy, a mysterious threat is growing.

This is one of the top notch Star Wars novels. It’s my first Claudia Gray novel and she is an excellent author. (I plan to read more of her work. My sister is a fan of her Firebird series.)

Leia is so in character and it’s fantastic. Gray wrote her perfectly. She really got her intelligence, her heart, her temper and her sass so well.

There is some action and adventure in the story, but it is more political – and not in a boring way. The story takes place six years prior to Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens. Not an era I care for but after reading this I have more insight into how the First Order came to power.

January LaVoy’s narration was great. She sounded similar to older Leia’s voice. Her voice for Lady Carise Sindian was spot on because she sounded just like a prissy royal bitch. And I liked what she did for Ransolm Casterfo’s voice. It was great for his character development where he starts out as a stuffy ass and then by the end you are sympathizing with him.

I loved the development of the friendship between Leia and Ransolm. The turn around from enemies to friends to enemies to friends again was an emotional rollercoaster.

I can’t go further without going into some spoilers:

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Star Wars Celebration Chicago 2019 – Thursday, April 11

After missing Celebration in 2017 for the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars I said I wouldn’t miss the next one. And I meant it.

When they announced it was in Chicago I was a little disappointed. I never really had an interest in going to Chicago. Especially in April, when it is still cold and there is a possibly of snow. (And it did snow!) In the end I really liked Chicago and would like to visit again to see more of the sights and museums. Just not in April.

My sister, Victoria, and I flew in a day early to do some sightseeing. It was cold and it did rain quiet heavily so we didn’t get to see much. I’ll talk about that more in another post. Right now I just want to talk about Celebration!

Day 1 was a preview day, so no panels. The show floor opened at 1 pm so my sister and I spent the morning having breakfast at Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe. We had the Upside down pineapple pancakes. It was so delicious but so big we took the left overs to the hotel and it lasted us the whole week as our breakfast.

We then walked around Millennium Park to take better photos of The Bean and the sights in the sunlight. We also went to The Chicago Theatre.

After checking out the sights and buying some souvenirs we went back to the hotel so I could dress up as Barriss Offee. I made the costume myself. After getting to wear it I know some changes I would make. The cape needs a shrug underneath to keep it from shifting. I knew this would happen but I ran out of time. I would also like to add pockets to the skirt. As for the makeup, drawing on the diamonds was hard. I think I want to find/make little purple diamond studs to glue on with eyelash glue. I would also like to save up for a really nice lightsaber and not have the Toys R Us one (which I clipped to my belt and it mostly hid under my cape.)

I would also like to point out that I don’t like what was done to Barriss on The Clone Wars so I’m Legends Barriss- where she was Anakin’s peer and was not turned into a terrorist traitor. But that is a whole other discussion.

I did get many compliments and 2 guys took my photo when I was on E.K. Johnson’s book signing line. While I was taking a photo of an excellent Ahsoka cosplay (from the end of Rebels) she said to me, “Even after everything.” I chuckled but didn’t get into my Legends Barriss spiel.

My sister and I took the complementary shuttle from the hotel which was super convenient and not so crowded on a Thursday.

Something new this Celebration was that instead of overnight queuing for the main opening panels there was a lottery. I like the idea of that but I didn’t bother with the lotteries because the only one I really wanted was The Phantom Menace panel, but we were leaving Monday.

You could also reserve panels- if you got the crappie app to work. Which I never could for reserving panels, nor for the Lightspeed lane for the Celebration Store. The only thing I used the app for was reminders for the panels I wanted to see, my autograph and photo ops, and to map the room the panels were in.

There was an 8 hour wait on the queue for the Celebration Store. There were some t-shirts I did want. Mainly the badge art of Leia, Luke, Ahsoka, Anakin &Rex & Ahsoka, and  the Rebels mural.

But after that whole fiasco I gave up on it the first day. I don’t want to spend all day on a queue for just a bunch of t-shirts. And if the app had worked as it should have I wouldn’t have needed to wait and I would have had my shirts. They also didn’t tell anyone you needed to download the app update to get the Lightspeed Lane to even show up. I found that out from someone on a queue. But even so, when I did update it, the Lightspeed Lane still did not work for me. So: Celebration= FUN! Celebration App= Epic Fail!

Honestly, I don’t know why we can’t order this merchandise as part of the Road to Celebration and have it shipped to our home instead. Such B.S.

I ordered two things from the Road to Celebration: the Anakin and Padmé pins/t-shirt and the Hera and Kanan pins/shirt. I didn’t participate in any of the pin trading or buying. I kept my goodies at home.

Anyway, back to Thursday. As soon as we got to the exhibit hall I went straight to Del Rey to get the bracelet for the exclusive SWCC edition of Master and Apprentice by Claudia Grey. The bracelets were already gone for Thursday.

Next, and I knew it would be like this, the Her Universe queue was like a mile long. It snaked, with many line breaks to Artist Alley. At the very end of the day when my sister and I saw the line was short I did manage to buy from the Sisters of the Force collection Hera’s green sweatshirt and Padmé’s Lake Retreat dress. Everything else I wanted was sold out for the day.

So after checking out the line for HU we went to Anderson’s Books. The crowd was massive and getting into the store was a fight. I was looking for the SWCC exclusive edition of Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston. There were none to be seen so I was getting frustrated and was going to go ask the cashier. Victoria stayed on the check out line and thank goodness she did because they brought out a box with the edition I wanted. Vic grabbed one. I also bought a hardcover copy of Thrawn. I brought Thrawn Alliances from home for Timothy Zahn to sign but you had to have purchased something from Anderson’s to go to their signings.

Then we walked around to get the layout of the place. We went by Jason Palmer’s booth. He had been working on a giant mural that was unveiled at the convention that has the whole saga: The Prequels, The Clone Wars, Rebels, Rogue One, Solo, The Originals, and The Sequels. It is beautiful! If I had the money and a mansion, I’d get it.

Episode IX was covered the first day but I saw what it looked like on a iPad at the booth. You could buy the complete mural starting at $150 and it’s 10 inches by 7.5 FEET!

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