22With the release of Delilah S. Dawson’s new Star Wars novel, Phasma, galactic fans of Armitage Hux’s enforcer from The Force Awakens finally get all the details about this shiny baddie. And for all the gore, violence and backstabbing, remember this: it all started with a Darth Vader cupcake.

As you may have already discovered, I’m slightly frustrated with the tendency to introduce mysteriously awesome villains only to immediately dispense with them in one quick scene. So finding out that Phasma survived the destruction on Starkiller Base (read all about it in Marvel’s Captain Phasma Issue #1 of 4) is cause for great celebration. Ewoks-playing-empty-stormtrooper-helmets-as-drums level celebration (but only to the original William’s Ewok song, not the pan-flute heavy reworked disaster). Fortunately for us, Dawson creates rich motives for Phasma’s behaviors and attitudes highlighted in the pages of this intricately woven tale.

The story begins with Resistance spy Vi Moradi being captured by First Order captain Cardinal, an all red trooper in charge of training young First Order recruits. Having been raised and mentored by the corpulent Brendol Hux, Cardinal’s existence is disrupted when the elder Hux brings Phasma into the Order, where she rises quickly to power. Cardinal, like us, is skeptical of Phasma, her connection to Hux, and obviously intimidated by the mystery surrounding her origin and new position as a competing captain with uniquely colored armor. Convinced that she might present more of a threat to the First Order than a boon, he takes it upon himself to extract enough information out of Vi to discredit Phasma and retake his position as the only colored trooper in the galaxy.

Moradi, having visited Phasma’s home (and under the duress of torture) shares every detail conveyed to her by Phasma’s long-time friend, Siv, with whom she struggled to survive on the post-apocalyptic planet, Parnassos. Covered in water, dwelling on rocks and fighting with competing bands of scavengers, Phasma has been shaped by the harsh environment and a ruthless will to be the strongest of her clan.

Those left on the desolate planet of Parnassos have been forced to dwell like cave-men, using prehistoric means of hunting, defense and dress to continue eking out an existence. A particularly gruesome practice involving a device that extracts…well, life-essence from the dead hints at a time when the world of Parnassos was not so backwards. When General Brendol Hux crashes onto their world, Phasma quickly realizes that the universe has more to offer her and her people. Problem is, for Phasma, she is ultimately only concerned with the survival of one person—herself.

The book fits into a different type of narration. Instead of telling the story’s beginning/middle/ending, it jumps back and forth as Dawson peels back the layers of Phasma’s past and present. “Present day” is defined in the book as pre-Episode VII, the tale moves back ten years, back to the present, back 10 years again, and then back fifteen years, and then back again. For me, these stories amp up the “can’t put it down” appeal. I devoured the pages in an attempt to solve the mystery of Phasma.

Unlike some Star Wars novels, this one is pretty gruesome. The scenes are often bloody and violent, from the detailed combat to a very dangerous golden beetle that renders its victims overly hydrated. I suppose that puts the story well within the PG-13 world of beheaded Orcs ad trolls, ala Lord of the Rings, but just be warned— younger audiences will be ill prepared for the grittiness of the novel.

Veteran sci-fi/fantasy author Delilah S. Dawson considered her involvement with Phasma a wish granted. While consuming a Darth Vader cupcake, she made a silent promise to herself to write a Star Wars book. Shortly afterwards, she received the call. Good thing, too. Her past books involve popular series, award nominations, and even a pseudonym-written series involving foxes. Well, at least the word fox is in the title. Her hiring continues a very positive initiative to allow female creators the opportunity to expand upon highly sought after female characters. I am certainly hoping that this is not the last time we hear Dawson’s take on Phasma. Like Fett and other mysterious baddies, there is plenty of room in the galaxy far-far away for more of Phasma’s adventures.

Part of a huge push leading up to Episode VIII, being called Journey to The Last Jedi, you’ll want to pick up this book well before the December release of TLJ, unless you want to remain in the dark about this compelling character that will be resuming her threatening role in this next, highly anticipated Star Wars film.