Cover Image: Star Wars Poe Dameron: Free Fall

Star Wars Poe Dameron: Free Fall

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Alex Segura’s Poe Dameron: Free Fall illustrates the background of Poe as he, in an effort to escape his boring life on Yavin 4 jumps at an opportunity to be a pilot of what he believes are smugglers, finds himself falling into a seemingly inescapable void of joining the Spice Runners of Kijimi.

The main theme of this book deals with choosing to do what is right, no matter the consequences. This is something Poe struggles with throughout the story, and it’s especially difficult when his selfish and discontented desires get in the way. For example, while it is completely understandable why he would want to go out on his own and escape his (rightfully so) helicopter father, he quickly learns there may have been a better way to do it as he finds himself by accident in a life of crime.

Segura demonstrates a flawless characterization of every single role in this story, especially the lead. His words and descriptions provide the sarcastic, clever, stubborn, and impulsive Poe Dameron fans know and love from the films. Throughout the book, the reader will constantly see the wit and problem solving skills as well as the sass the character develops.

Fans will remember the first hints of Poe’s past in The Rise of Skywalker when he (begrudgingly), along with Rey, Finn, BB-8 and C-3PO, head to Kijimi, running into Zorii and Babu. In the book, readers experience the young pilot’s interactions with not only these but other characters that appear throughout the books and games of the Star Wars universe, such as BoShek, Caryn, and Tarand Crowe, to name a few.

Zorii is a crucial interaction for Poe, and one could argue she is the antagonist in the story, pushing him to change as he goes on his journey as they both strive for the same thing but go about it in different ways. Hinted in the movie, they have a past together with a deep relationship. Not only do we witness their banter, teamwork, and chemistry, but there are moments of reminiscence that are only made stronger and more powerful in the film with flipped perspectives. As an example, Poe suggests they run away together in the book, and in the movie, Zorii brings up the idea. In addition, readers also get a crystal clear idea as to why Zorii would kill Poe when she first spots him.

This story seems to provide additional background to specific moments in The Rise of Skywalker. For example, Poe is shoved into the hot seat to try the risky move known as hyperdrive skipping, and through Segura’s narration it is made clear how dangerous and deadly it can truly be. Another instance is the reasoning and history behind Zorii’s outfit, specifically her helmet.

Poe Dameron: Free Fall is a roller-coaster, perfectly paced read, filled with fun and suspenseful moments. If you’re a Star Wars fan, this is a definite must-read.
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A Star Wars novel is a keeper for me if it expands and /or adds depth to a character or a certain aspect of my favorite universe. E.K. Johnston does a fantastic job diving in the character of Padme Amadala in her books Queen’s Shadow and Queen’s Peril. She takes a couple sections of Padme’s life that are not featured in the films and uses them to help the reader get a better idea of the character’s motivations and life experiences. Alex Segura does the same with Poe Dameron when we meet him as a teen in Free Fall.

Poe is known as a good pilot on his home planet of Yavin 4 even though he hasn’t hit 20 yet. But it’s been hard growing up under the shadow of his deceased rebel hero mother. And his dad only wants to protect Poe… even going so far as to stifle his growth. An opportunity comes when a small gang of smugglers accepts him reluctantly into their numbers.

Much of the first part of the novel is spent with the initiation into the spice smuggling business. But as Poe’s moral compass starts spinning during each new job, he starts to wonder if this is the career for him. Another purpose of these early chapters is to meet a mercurial member of the group named Zorii. She will become a love interest and business associate, and will pop up in The Rise of the Skywalker.

We know he’ll eventually end up with the rebels… The question for the second half of the book is: How? And where do all those long stares come from in the latest flicks? What the heck is Poe thinking about? His father, his mother, his former life? Segura offers some much appreciated depth in Free Fall and makes me appreciate the character of Poe even more.

With the expansion of the galaxy, along with well-known characters and places, Free Fall is a Star Wars novel that can’t be missed!

5 out of 5 stars

Thank you to NetGalley, Disney Press, and the author for an advanced copy for review.
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I really enjoyed this book even though it is geared towards younger readers. It is a great story on its own or to fill in a few gaps and add to Star Wars lore. I had almost as much fun reviewing this book as I did reading it.
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Overall I enjoyed this book, as an extension of the Star Wars universe. Everything was in character, and it was really great to see Poe’s backstory. I think the story had a strong start, that set up a good book. My one complaint is that I really couldn’t see myself wanting Poe and Zorii to be involved with each other romantically. At times it felt like the only reason their relationship went in that direction was because it was hinted at in The Rise of Skywalker, rather than them actually being good together. But other than that I thoroughly enjoyed Poe Dameron: Free Fall, and will be on the lookout for more books by Alex Segura
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The Rise of Skywalker fed us a feast of new information regarding the characters we’d grown to admire over the first two installments of the sequel trilogy. We learned the truth about Rey’s bloodline. We discovered Finn wasn’t the only soldier to defect from the First Order.

We also learned Poe Dameron used to be a spice runner -- information that led our heroes on a dangerous mission to translate the script on an ancient dagger with the help of one of the newest, smallest, and cutest additions to Star Wars.

This fragment of Poe’s past opened up dozens of questions about where he came from and how he came to join the Resistance. Who was he affiliated with before serving under General Organa? How did he and Zorii Bliss meet? And why lightspeed skipping?

We figured a future book or comic would explore Poe’s mysterious backstory … and we were right. 

Alex Segura’s Poe Dameron: Free Fall is the latest addition to the growing collection of canon young adult Star Wars novels, and it’s a thrilling adventure you do not want to skip.

Plot

Free Fall locks itself firmly into its position as an action-adventure narrative from the moment the first word leaps off the page. The chaos captures the reader’s attention immediately: Poe’s ship is going down. He’s in trouble. Can he get out of it? Probably not.

But really, we’d expect nothing less from the famously adventure-hungry Poe Dameron. Crash a starfighter? Sure … as long as I do it while celebrating my victory.

Our hero’s motivations are clear from the start: He wants off Yavin 4. Away from his father; away from the people who have known him his whole life. He has big dreams! He doesn’t quite know what they are, but he has them, and he’s going to go find them.

He falls easily into the trap of believing a life among strangers will mend all wounds. So he soon finds himself off-planet, zipping through space with the exact kinds of people to whom you probably shouldn’t entrust your life.

Along the way, Segura makes a great effort to land Poe at as many figurative crossroads as one might expect to find while smuggling spice from place to place. Every questionable situation Poe finds himself in, he always finds a way out -- but you don’t always know how he’s going to manage it until he’s already free. As the pages turn, you start to feel more and more like this is a story you can predict in some elements … but certainly not in all of them.

Every critical choice a character makes not only carries the plot smoothly forward, but also guides them along their carefully laid out arcs. Being a primarily character-driven story, the plot came second to its subjects, which serves it well in this particular case. 

Things don’t happen TO our characters. Our characters act, and the story responds.

Characters

It’s challenging enough to create an entirely new character within the Star Wars universe and warm audiences up to them within a single book, movie, or TV pilot. Telling a fresh, interesting story about a character whom audiences already know and love is a different game entirely.

Poe Dameron has already extended beyond the films with his own comic series and major roles in books such as Resistance Reborn. Having seen him in different mediums and at different points throughout his character development, Segura had to figure out how to write Poe as if he were an entirely new entity waiting to be discovered.

The good news? He absolutely nailed it.

Free Fall still gives us bits and pieces of the Poe we know. Reckless. A little defiant. Much inclined to jump into any and every situation before considering the consequences those around him might endure. But there are differences, too. This Poe is much more fearful. Far less sure of himself. And much more dependent on others to get where he needs to go.

This younger, less experienced version of the pilot we know so well makes for a story you know for certain is going to end up in a vastly different place than where it begins. If your worry is a potential lack of character development in a protagonist we’ve already seen grow to astounding heights, you’re free to leave your concerns to rest.

Unlike the task of making a familiar character feel new, writing Zorii gave Segura the chance to take a character with a very small role in one movie and compose a backstory that will leave readers desperate for an entire series with this woman on the front cover.

Intriguing to the point of almost overshadowing Poe is his love interest, who doesn’t go by the name Zorii Bliss you might recognize from her debut in The Rise of Skywalker. Her alternate last name immediately creates a stir of curiosity within the reader: Why is her last name different? What is she hiding … or whom might she be hiding from?

Without giving away the twist, Zorii’s arc is complex and about as coming-of-age as a young adult novel can get. It juxtaposes perfectly with Poe’s desire to distance himself from the past from which he has always longed to escape. 

Where Poe wants nothing more than to craft his own story among the stars, Zorii wrestles with her deep-rooted attachment to her origins -- and what they may have in store for her future.

While the vast majority of the side characters in this story pale in contrast to the main players that drive the narrative, this also means they don’t distract from Poe and Zorii’s growth. The book revolves around not only their individual development, but also their relationship with each other, which delightfully adds to the delight of their banter many years later.

Originality

Free Fall’s originality stems largely from its third act, where we learn about Zorii’s troubling past and the unique villain our protagonists unexpectedly find themselves forced to confront.

As a whole, though, the story rings familiar perhaps in a few too many ways. A story can be exciting yet predictable when you analyze the entire project, and Free Fall does suffer slightly from the disadvantage of featuring two characters with preset backstories we’ve seen in Star Wars before.

Which leads us to ask: What makes a story about a smuggler on the wrong side of the fight unique? Have we tired out the trope of a young wanderer in search of bigger things ending up with the wrong crowd for the right reasons?

Perhaps this is a pain point that will resolve itself now that the Expanded Universe is beginning to explore completely new eras (The High Republic). It was already established that Poe Dameron was a former smuggler, and though the story didn’t necessarily need to be told, as a whole, it ended up part of a larger story that serves as a worthwhile read for any Star Wars fan looking for a fast-moving adventure.

Segura took what he had to work with and made something delightful. Even with the constraints of characters born of other storytellers’ imaginations, he created a story that feels like your favorite meal. These are ingredients you’ve tasted a dozen times before. But you’re certainly not mad about it.

In the near future, authors may have more freedom to create their own backstories for a variety of characters and circumstances to keep things fresh and exciting.

Writing

Every author faced with the monumental task of writing a Star Wars book comes to the table with unique experiences painting, expanding, and even creating worlds and universes with words. 

Segura, best known outside of Star Wars for his crime novels, brings his knack for crafting page-turning action sequences that balance perfectly with slower, more intimate dialogue and prose -- only to gradually build up suspense just in time for more edge-of-your-seat thrill.


Segura’s biggest strength of all ended up being the dialogue between characters -- particularly between Poe and Zorii. If you’re going to sell readers on a relationship, you have to go all in, and the author does just that -- with plenty of the usual awkwardness that always seems to find its way into budding romances between teenagers.

This brilliantly mirrors the feats of Star Wars authors such as Claudia Gray and E.K. Johnston, who both frequently use dialogue as a meaningful tool to craft real, relatable relationships between potential love interests in their stories.

Entertainment

Free Fall is, first and foremost, an absolute blast to dive into. If you go into it ready and willing to have a good time, you’re going to enjoy the story even if you’re not happy with the way everything plays out in the end.

What makes this story enjoyable is its authentic Star Wars feel. Some stories are set in the Star Wars universe -- it’s on the cover; you know it’s Star Wars. But something about their tone or the characters just doesn’t feel like the full galaxy far, far away experience.

Segura absolutely nails it, though, taking readers on a multi-planet journey where danger looms even in corners you’re sure couldn’t possibly betray you. We start out on Yavin 4, a place that’s as Star Wars as can be, and end with Poe Dameron listening to a particularly stirring speech from one of the most inspirational figures imaginable. Even when we’re lightspeed skipping across the galaxy, it feels like the Star Wars we’ve come to expect, in a good way.

A Star Wars book that spins a thrilling tale you can’t wait to relive a second time is a success in our book. Even if you might be able to predict how it ends, there will be moments during which you question yourself -- and plenty more that will leave you demanding more Poe Dameron. 

There’s no such thing as too much Poe.

Conclusion

Free Fall is the perfect bridge between the Poe Dameron of rebellions past and the Poe Dameron we meet in The Force Awakens. As with any coming-of-age story, this one introduces us to a lost, uncertain character and ends with a slightly less reckless, much more guided soul. 

He may not know exactly where he’s headed. But he knows where he’s been, and everything he learned that got him to where he stands as the novel comes to a close.

This is a story constructed for anyone who has ever felt as though the life they’ve been living is no longer the life they crave. For anyone who has ever left the comfortable and familiar behind in search of purpose; of acceptance; of hope.

It’s not generally recommended that you become a spice runner to aid your journey of self-discovery. But whichever method you do choose, you can follow Poe Dameron’s example in one significant way: Never doubt the person you can become because of the person you’ve been.

Also: Be kind to droids. They deserve better.
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Free Fall by Alex Segura is the fast-paced, shoot 'em up origin story of Poe Dameron. Ever since the release of The Rise of Skywalker in theaters, fans have been scrabbling for answers to certain questions about their favorite characters. One of those burning questions: Poe was a spice runner?!

Indeed, Segura details all of Poe's youthful misadventures with the Spice Runner of Kijimi. After deserting his father on Yavin in a spur of the moment decision, Poe finds himself acting as the newest ace pilot for the group of smugglers. Though his bravado and skill in the cockpit are never lacking, Poe soon realizes he is over his head. Amidst his constant struggle to blaze his own trail in the galaxy but still stand up for the right cause, Poe frequently butts heads with the spice runners==including their shadowy leader, Zeva. It doesn't take long for Poe to realize that navigating the criminal underworld proves trickier than navigating hyperspace...even when you're skipping it.

Perhaps the biggest triumph of this novel is not Poe's own backstory, but that of Zorii Bliss. As one of the standout new characters from The Rise of Skywalker, fans have been clamoring for more information about her. This novel provides that in spades. Without spoilers, readers will learn who Zorii is, where she came from, and just why she had such animosity towards Poe on the snowy streets of Kijimi in The Rise of Skywalker.

Overall, this story is a must read for sequel trilogy fans, fly boys, and lovers of Babu Frik alike!
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If you watched Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, you will know that the powers that be introduced an interesting hint at a backstory for Poe Dameron.  This caused great scandal as no Star Wars media prior to this novel gave us a clue about Poe Dameron, other than the idea that he idolized Leia Organa and was an excellent, if not reckless, pilot.  The movie hinted at a much darker history for Poe…that of a spice runner.  Shocking!  In his new novel, Star Wars: Poe Dameron: Free Fall, Alex Segura seeks to shed some light on the secret scandalous past.
	It all begins some decades after the construction of the New Republic with a teenage Poe recklessly piloting his mother’s A-Wing on Yavin 4.  Poe’s mother and father were heroes of the rebellion and Poe had inherited his mother’s flying skills.  Unfortunately, after his mother’s death, Poe’s father made every effort to dissuade Poe from flying, trying to get him settled into a farming life that Poe had never quite fallen in step with.  Poe wanted adventure…he wanted to see the stars.
	After a particularly reckless journey in his mother’s A-wing that finds the starship destroyed and a nasty argument with his father, Poe heads over to a local cantina and discovers a group of individuals looking for a pilot.  Seeing this as a way of getting off the planet and finding the adventure he had been searching for, Poe agrees to become a pilot for the group, never realizing what he was getting involved in until it was too late.  Poe had now become a member of the notoriously ruthless smuggling group known as the Spice Runners of Kijimi.
	Once he becomes a member, Poe finds it difficult to leave thanks to another teenage member of the group, Zorii.  Though the two have very different moral compasses, Poe finds himself falling in love with Zorii, but a couple of missions gone awry and a surprising revelation causes Poe to rethink everything he believed about the world and what he wanted in life.
	Star Wars: Poe Dameron: Free Fall is a young adult novel – that didn’t stop me from reading it.  Anyone who knows me will realize that I scarf up all things Star Wars – adult, young adult, etc. in an effort to educate myself about the Star Wars Universe, new or classic.  Actually, I found that this novel read a bit more maturely than past young adult novels from the Star Wars Universe, so that was helpful.  I found that I really enjoyed this Poe Dameron adventure.  Alex Segura did an excellent job in explaining just how a hero of the Rebellion could find himself in such a bad situation.  For me, it was not hard to fathom, considering Poe’s youth and brashness that often found him jumping into action without fully thinking out the situation.  It wasn’t hard for me to see the younger Poe getting himself into a situation he couldn’t quite get himself out of because he didn’t quite think things through.
	There may be some that find parts of the book were rushed…some adventures a tad bit truncated, but I found the length of the novel to be just right.  I enjoyed the new characters introduced, though I would have liked to see a little more fleshing out of those characters, particularly certain members of the Spice Runners.  I loved the way Segura not only explained Poe’s darker past, but his reasons for joining the rebellion and his relationship with droids.  I found the book was definitely not lacking in action, giving fans a little bit of everything from dogfights to gun battles to hand-to hand combat.  
	To sum it up, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Star Wars: Poe Dameron: Free Fall and would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to know the backstory of a member of the new generation of Star Wars heroes.
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fun and light book that helped to fill the void left from completing the star wars trilogy. I did not expect much from this book but it did deliver a lot more than I expected. Very fun read and highly recommend to anyone that is interested in the franchise.
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I have been reading for 28 years and have spent 25 out of 28 of those years reading Star Wars. I have spent more time reading up Star Wars than either astronomy or warfare (far more practical subjects.)  And, like most Star Wars fans, I have very self-important opinions about Star Wars, including the character of Poe Dameron.  

I say this to contextualize my review, because going into the book I already had  some pre-existing judgments about it.  One is because it is impossible to for me to look at the framing of Poe's character, as a franchise property, without contrasting his character against Finn and under a lens of exploring media and anti-blackness.  While correlation is not causation, I do know that when Poe was initially written to be a black male character, he died in TFA. Cast as Oscar Isaac, not only did the character survive, the character eclipsed Finn in story, marketing materials, and tie in materials.  

My initial reaction to hearing about this book was:  We have so much tie in material about Poe, including a ton of comics about him and even his parents. Is this the backstory I am dying to read?

It's also clouded by what fans have pointed out is a potentially problematic aspect of Poe in IX. Oscar Isaac has long disdained stereotypical Latino roles he has been offered, such as "drug runner." Not to mention some fairly well-justified fan suspicion that the character of Zorii Bliss (and Poe's repeated, ham-fisted, unwanted romantic advances towards her) was part of Disney trying to kill StormPilot (Isaac's intended portrayal of the character as in love with Finn.) Isaac has quite adamantly expressed his disappointment that Disney did not allow for this in the sequel trilogy.

This is all to say, going into Freefall, I had some high expectations.  There have been a lot of Star Wars books published in the past three decades that have not been worth reading, as well as some fantastic space opera stories and everything in between.  I wanted to see how a Latinx-identified author would explore Poe's character.  I was curious to know if Poe was childhood friends with Ben Solo.  Mostly, I was hoping with bated breath that the book would acknowledge Poe as bisexual, pansexual, or otherwise queer-identified (even if it would be Disney doing so after the fact.)

<b>What I liked:</b> Poe as a Disney princess who wants so much more than this provincial life (on Yavin IV)  The story is set in the sequel era but not really about the Resistance or First Order.

<b>What I was meh on:</b>  Poe's mom got "Disney'd" (aka deceased before the start of the story). 

I had a really hard time following the switches in POV to the point where I became frustrated.

Moving from Zhang's artwork to Noto's is potentially a move away from marketing the books, from the more "fangirl" appealing pretty-boy cover to a more staid, "neutral" Star Wars cover that looks like other Phil Noto covers.  That bummed me out.

Star Wars publishing has been really selective about what stories are told (like, oh my god, if I have to read another story about the year between ANH and ESB...) I assume Segura was given the prompt "Poe backstory" and that Poe backstory was chosen because it was deemed "safer" or to have more popular appeal (or less timeline finagling) than say a more complex Finn or Ben Solo novel.  I think my  lack of enthusiasm for the premise, couples with the story's slow start, really killed my interest.

<b>How's the romance?</b>  Poe and Zorri have a staid romance, he is attracted to her competence and jealous when he thinks Babu Frik might be a rival to her affections.  It kind of feels like she was the cute girl in his adventure story.

<b>Okay, but are there PoC?</b> Yes, and also a character who uses they/them pronouns.

<b>Bottom Line:</b> Free Fall is likely to whet the appetite of non-FinnPoe, Poe Dameron fans, but was not compelling enough to capture my middle aged fan girl interest.  I actually stopped reading the book to pick up Star Wars: Landscapes with a Blur of Conquerors, a top rated Star Wars fic on AO3.

Free Fall seems to fall between the (male protagonist dominated) middle grade and the (female protagonist dominated) YA Star Wars books.  Like Rae Carson, Segura was given an unenviable task of having to spin story with the flawed Rise of Skywalker script.  But ultimately, there are so many more complex Star Wars new EU novels out there, that Free Fall feels incredibly staid and safe--more like a controlled descent.
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Good book and fun to dive into Poe Dameron's backstory some more! I enjoyed getting a better feel for what really made Poe into the person he was in the movies. And it helped piece together his relationship with Zorii better. Definitely would recommend to others!
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This book was BEYOND amazing!! I have liked Poe since Day One and to read his backstory was truly a treat. I am literally counting the day’s until I can buy a hard copy of it!  

Alex Segura really captures Poe’s personality in a way that made all of the character’s actions make sense!  It’s a Star Wars story as fans want it: character development, stunning worlds, great friends (eventually), ace piloting, action, and adventure. If you are looking for a wild ride, join Poe Dameron—he’ll bring you into a “free fall!” 

Thank you Netgalley for the ARC, it was a true pleasure!
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“What’s in there?”
“Only what you take with you.”

Neither Yoda nor Luke Skywalker make an appearance in Poe Dameron: Free Fall by Alex Segura yet those are the words that kept echoing through my head the entire time I was reading the book. With the exception of the novelizations, Free Fall is the first book published after The Rise of Skywalker to intimately deal with one of the Sequel Trilogy’s major characters. I bring this up mostly because I suspect that many readers won’t just bring their personal feelings about Poe Dameron to the book but more specifically, their feelings about how The Rise of Skywalker handled the x-wing flyboy.

Everything isn’t great on Yavin 4 if your last name is Dameron. The relationship between sixteen-year-old Poe and his father Kes has been somewhat fraught since the death of his mother Shara Bey years ago. When Poe’s latest joyride ends in disaster, he finds himself in need of a change. He just didn’t quite expect that change to be piloting a ship for the Spice Runners of Kijimi and all the trouble that comes with it. And he really didn’t expect to end developing a connecting with fellow young Spice Runner Zorii Wynn.

This isn’t the sort of review I particularly enjoy writing because the phrase ‘it’s fine’ is what immediately came to mind when someone asked how I felt about Free Fall. Those two words feel like the epitome of damning with faint praise, which I certainly don’t mean to do. Segura did fairly well with the hand he was dealt here because the bulk of what made me struggle with this book were elements introduced by The Rise of Skywalker. Poe Dameron as a spice runner is just something I have not been able to come to terms with yet. It’s not something that feels like it jives with the Poe we got to know in the first two films and the other books and comics.

The other thing I brought into the book with me was a completely different headcanon regarding Kes Dameron, how he dealt with Shara’s death, and his subsequently relationship with his son. Again, this is very much a personal problem that is not exactly the fault of the book but it was still a hurdle it had to clear. And ultimately, I’m not entirely sure that it did clear it or that I’ve come to terms with it. This is probably not something that’ll bother most readers but if you’ve ever devoted a significant amount of time to speculating about the Bey-Dameron family… it might.

On the other hand, teenage rebellion via running off to join smugglers does feel very Star Wars. Segura does a good job letting both Poe and Zorii feel like teenagers even though they’re definitely not in typical teenager situations. Seeing the relationship between them and how things ultimately go wrong adds a new depth to their scenes together in The Rise of Skywalker. If anything, this book makes me want to read more about Zorii especially after this book ends because there are definitely stories to be told there and I want them.

Oh! The one no-strings attached piece of high praise that I definitely can give this book is that I finally get why everyone loves Babu Frik. He only has a few scenes but every single one of them is a genuine delight and I would also like Babu Frik to be my friend and help me with my problems.

Could I write more words about this book? Probably yes but ultimately, I think they’ll boil down to this: your enjoyment of Poe Dameron: Free Fall is going to depend greatly on how you felt about the introduction of his spice runner history, Zorii Bliss, and how much of your brain you’ve dedicated to musing about the Bey-Dameron family since 2015. Regardless of how you feel about those three things, I do think Free Fall is worth giving a shot if you’re a fan of Poe and I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing future Star Wars books from Segura in the future.

Thank you to Disney Lucasfilm Press for providing an advance copy of the book for review purposes.
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Descriptives

Page count: Hardcover, 384

Author: Alex Segura

Intended Audience: Young Adult

Timeline: Follows Return of the Jedi, precedes The Force Awakens

Main characters: Poe Dameron and Zorii Bliss

Brief synopsis: Having a dream of a life more than being stuck on Yavin 4, Poe joins the Spice Runners of Kijimi and gets more than be bargained for. 

Gut Feeling

Personally, I thought that Poe was one of the less exciting main characters in the sequel trilogy. I didn’t dislike him, but his arc was all over the place and it was hard to keep track of. Free Fall certainly helps fill in some of the holes in his character arc, specifically for new plot points added to his character in The Rise of Skywalker. However, I think that the book should have given Poe’s character more depth. I would have liked to see more than just his life with the Spice Runners of Kijimi. With a larger scope, we would have learned more about Poe. However, his character wasn’t the main reason why I was interested in reading this book. I was really excited to learn more about Zorii Bliss. She didn’t have a ton of time in The Rise of Skywalker, but I loved what we got of her. She truly has the potential to be one of the better strong, female characters in Star Wars. She did get more depth in Free Fall, but like with Poe, I wish we got more. This will be a common theme moving forward in this review. However, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the read. It was an overall exciting story that was easy to read. So without further ado, let’s get into the details.

Characters (7/10 pts)

Because this book’s purpose was to essentially provide a background for Poe’s character, I expected it to be full of character development. Mostly for Poe, but also for other characters like Zorii. What Freed added for these characters was good. We get to learn a little bit about Poe’s life before he left home and learn the most about him as a spice runner. I do wish we got more details about him than with this period in his life and as I said before, a broader scope of his life would have allowed us to get a better overall understanding of his character. However, there was a significant character-defining moment for Poe that helps out the score for this section. It was essentially at the climax of the book and you’ll understand what I’m talking about if you read it. I still wish we got more details on Poe, but this moment was powerful and I’m glad it was included. 

I also think it is important to talk about Zorii. We do learn more about her, but a lot of it is through Poe’s perspective. She is a second main character to Poe and I wish more of the book was devoted to giving her character depth. Like with Poe, the content with her was quality, I just wish there was more to it. There was potential to make her a strong character in Star Wars, and I don’t think that happened. I still love Zorii, I could just have more reasons to love her. For all of these reasons, I am giving 7 points for the characters.

Writing Style (7.5/10 pts)

For being a young adult (YA) novel, I thought that the writing style was a bit too simple. It felt more like a novel intended for teenagers. Not necessarily in the content (the content fit what I expect for a YA novel), but just how it read. It seemed there could have been many details added to the writing that would have helped the story come to life more. Also, at points, the flow of the writing seemed a little bit awkward. However, I do want to note that this never really took away from the overall quality of the book. All Star Wars novels are well written so I am just being nitpicky here. This is just how I can differentiate between different books. So even though this book is overall well written, it felt slightly less than average for Star Wars novels. I am giving 7.5 points. 

Plot (6.5/10 pts)

I was pretty disappointed with the plot. It jumped around a lot and was sometimes hard to connect what just happened to what was now happening. It really lacked scenes in between the peaks to give the plot time to breathe (pretty similar to The Rise of Skywalker). These scenes would have also set up the peaks better giving them more meaning. Without them, the peaks weren’t high enough. So for about 75% of the book, the plot was pretty weak. But the ending of the book, which is very important, was excellent. Like I said in the character section, it was crucial for Poe’s character. It also brought multiple character arcs together which made it the most exciting part of the book, as it should be. While I did enjoy it, I think it could have been a lot better if there were more details in the plot prior to the climax. The plot was one of the weaker parts of Free Fall, so I am only giving 6.5 points.

Intrigue (7.5/10 pts)

As I stated before, Poe was not one of my favorite characters in the sequel trilogy so I have to try and control my bias for this section. Naturally, I had less intrigue than normal, but I understand that if you decide to read this book you probably like Poe more than I do. However, there were still reasons why the intrigue for Free Fall was less than average. While there were many exciting moments, because they lacked scenes that gave them meaning, it makes it more difficult to get invested in the story. Also, it was difficult to know what the book was leading towards (it doesn’t help that we know that Poe leaves the Spice runners) so I wasn’t as motivated to find out what was going to happen. Even though I did enjoy the ending, the intrigue only started to peak near the end of the novel. What is working for the intrigue is the easy to read writing style. I could read much of it at a time with hardly any effort. This helps the score a little bit, but I am still only giving 7.5 points for the intrigue. 

What does it add? (6.5/10 pts)

This is the weakest part of the novel. There is nothing really that Free Fall adds to the Star Wars universe that is significant to more than the characters of Poe and Zorii. This makes the book mostly self-contained. This makes sense because the purpose of the book is mostly for these characters, but it just means that it won’t score well here. It isn’t a deal-breaker for the book, it is just the truth. The only thing that I can really think of that  adds to Star Wars is more information on the Spice Runners of Kijimi. They seem to be a significant part of the universe in the New Republic era. Also, their leader at the time was VERY cool. However, it still doesn’t really change much about how I view Star Wars holistically. I am only giving 6.5 points for this section.

Logic (+0.5 pts)

The Rise of Skywalker introduced us to lightspeed skipping and although it is a cool concept, it is difficult to wrap one’s mind around. Lightspeed travel itself is difficult, but there are plausible explanations like computers having to path out strict hyperspace lanes to travel by. Lightspeed skipping kind of throws that to the curb. But, through Free Fall, we do get an explanation for how this method works. For that reason, I am giving an extra half point.

Final Thoughts

My overall score for Free Fall is a 7.1/10, or a C minus. This is below average for books that I have reviewed thus far. As you can tell from the scores, there is no real strength to this novel and that is probably its biggest weakness. There’s nothing really that I can point to and say “this is what makes this book great,” outside of the defining moment for Poe’s character. I’d only really read this novel if you love the characters of Poe or Zorii. If you do, I don’t see any real reasons why you would dislike the book. But if you’re just looking for your next great Star Wars book to read, there are better options available.
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'Poe Dameron Free Fall' by Alex Segura is more than just a story of a young man coming of age under the rule of the New Republic.. more than the story of one of the greatest pilots to grace the stars. The title to me.. sometimes referring to a very literal sense.. but also in the midst of an emotional free fall.

At sixteen, he's already full of hunger for adventure and challenge.. but after numerous arguments with his father, former Pathfinder.. Kes Dameron and a close friend of the family.. L'ulo L'ampar, he's desperate to get out and see what he can do. Happening across a group of scoundrels at a local bar who are in even more dire need of him than he thinks he is of them, he takes a leap of faith that will change the course of his life completely.

With his mother, A-Wing pilot Shara Bey, already lost to him.. he's a boy on the verge of adulthood who feels little more than distance between he and his father. He's struggling to decide what kind of man he's going to be.. what kind of man he wants to be.. torn between the memories of a woman he sees as a hero and the realities of his farmboy life on Yavin 4. 

It's hard to say I blame him for taking the kinds of chances he does. In his position, anyone might strike out on their own with little thought to the cost of their actions.. yet deep down there's a consistent pull visible within him to do the right thing. Even caught up as he becomes, fearful at times, he makes an effort to be a good man.. and the decisions that so much as walk that morally gray line, are choices he revisits. He makes second guessing himself into a hobby at times, but I got that. The uncertainty in his own ideals.

There are definitely glimpses here in his youth.. of the man he would yet become. The seemingly fearless pilot and hero in his own right known for pulling half-baked plans out of thin air that actually usually work.. is already beginning to develop in this story. 

I enjoyed getting to know how he found himself amongst the Spice Runners of all things, since they certainly don't hold the same moral codes he obviously does. Though, what I love about Poe is he isn't afraid to get a little gray if need be.. there are just limits to how far he's willing to go. 

He's already a hothead and that gets him into more than his fair share of trouble, but it also just further endears him to me. After all, he's not so unlike that 'other' famous pilot in the Star Wars universe. 

During his adventure, we get to meet a young Zorii as well. A character who clearly had some kind of serious history with Poe when she appeared in The Rise of Skywalker, it was exciting to get to experience her backstory firsthand. I loved learning not only where she came from.. and how she came to be who she was.. but also what they were to each other and what her motivations might have been in the film.

The book is filled with page-turning action, vividly described space chases, and battles great and small. Segura did an amazing job of allowing the reader a peek behind the misdeeds of the spice runners to the people beneath. 

What a great addition to the Star Wars canon. I can't wait to read more..
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Poe: Dameron: Free Fall is a new origin story for Poe. Before this, we knew he was a pilot for the New Republic, that he joined up with the Resistance and flew for Black Squadron. But The Rise of Skywalker revealed a past life for Poe that we knew nothing about. He wasn’t just a pilot, he was a spice runner. As an enjoyable little read, Free Fall explores that little tidbit revealed in the movie and how he and Zorii Bliss once knew each other.

The story starts off with a 16 year old Poe Dameron zooming through the skies of Yavin IV and getting in big trouble with the local authorities for his disregard of air traffic laws. If you’ve read the comic Shattered Empire, then you know Poe’s parents are heroes of the Rebellion. His father, Kes Dameron was a Pathfinder, and his mom, Shara Bey, was an A-wing pilot. The book starts off with his mom already dead and Poe and his father being in a very estranged relationship. His dad won’t speak of Shara because it hurts him too much, and he won’t let his son fly or leave. It puts Poe in a very defiant state and eager to leave at any opportunity. Even if it means joining up with some smugglers or space pirates to get away. Enter Zorii Bliss.

Now the book makes a big deal out of giving Zorii a different name at the beginning of the book, so don’t let that confuse you. It’s still the same character from the movie. Zorii is about the same age as Poe, but her background is a bit different. Whereas Poe wants to fly, Zorii wants to be a great pirate. She’s a member of an up and coming pirate gang called the Spice Runners of Kijimi. So you see, when Poe says he’s a “Spice Runner,” it’s a bit more than a line of work. He was actually affiliated with one of the most feared and fearsome gangs in the galaxy. Through the book, it explores about a year of Poe’s life with the gang and Zorii. We get a good idea of how far he’s willing to blur his morals in order to have adventure and to get to know Zorii better. The book explores different worlds and criminal gangs as the Spice Runners go off on missions. Poe gets close to some of the pirates, especially Zorii. Yet in the end, there’s the parting of ways. All in all, it’s a fun story that helps shed more light on these characters.

It’s not exactly a great story, though. It’s fun and has some great moments, but there’s also times where the book almost feels like fan fiction instead of a professionally written story. Sometimes it’s little things like introducing too many aliens and too many details on characters instead of slowly revealing the info over time, like with Poe’s spice gang. Other things have to do with how the plot points are developed or forced upon the reader. For instance, Poe’s relationship with his father is just given to us rather than feeling like a natural and understandable thing. Even his jaunt into space which gets him into trouble isn’t really explained. We know the authorities threatened to shoot him down, but it’s not made clear why they would make such a threat to a sixteen year old boy who they were really familiar with. The ending relationship with Poe and Zorii was another thing I had an issue with as it felt more forced and not fully developed or natural. Those flaws with the storytelling hurt the story, but not so much as to make the book not worth reading.

On the flip side, there’s some fun stuff in the book. Babu Frik gets a couple scenes, one of them is really hilarious. The book actually explains what hyperspace skipping is and it actually makes sense, which was a nice bonus as the novelization skipped out on that. There’s a lot flying in the book since the pirates hire Poe on as a pilot. The interesting thing is that this is a very young Poe, so he doesn’t have much experience flying. Seeing him pushed to the limit in this book with his flying skills reveals that one of his real talents is coming up with plans in the spur of the moment, whether they’re good or bad. Plus it’s just cool to see this backstory for Poe and Zorii as it puts The Rise of Skywalker in a little different light.

Overall, I give Free Fall a three out of five. It’s a fun read and explores some interesting things, but it definitely could have been better. If you really want to know more about Poe and Zorii, it’s worth checking out.
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Young Poe Dameron’s life is drastically altered after the death of his beloved mother. For years since her passing, Poe’s still been struggling to find and keep a connection with his fighter pilot father. Eventually,  Poe decides it’s better to put some distance between the pair of them. Poe’s only option is to run away from home and do his best on his own. Unsure of what to do and what exactly he hopes to find, Poe ultimately knows that whatever his path is, the journey will show him the kind of person he wants to be. 

For all the fans of Star Wars who wanted to learn more about the dashing pilot who we first saw in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Poe Dameron: Free Fall is certainly for you. The novel by Alex Segura focuses on a teenaged Dameron after he leaves home and sets off on his own adventures. While there are some parts of Poe’s life that readers are familiar with after watching the latest Star Wars trilogy, there are still parts of his life that remain a mystery and Segura does a good job at bringing to life the story that was hinted at during Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

Of course, without giving too much away, the book mostly focuses on what brought Poe into contact with the Spice Runners of Kijimi. You will likely recall the banter between Poe and Zorii Bliss in The Rise of Skywalker which revealed the brief glance into the pilot’s past life as a smuggler, and it is in Free Fall that readers discover what Poe’s life was like during this time. Being 16-years-old, Poe doesn’t truly know what he wants but he clings to the idea of adventurousness and spontaneity alongside the Spice Runners. However, it doesn’t take Poe long to discern the fact that the Spice Runners aren’t the kind of people he should be surrounding himself with. 

Free Fall truly shines with Segura honing in on the characters in the book, specifically Poe and Zorii. While the book is about Poe, Segura did a good job of also relaying Zorii’s background to readers, showing that she is just as complex and interesting as Poe. In The Rise of Skywalker, my interest in the character was piqued and it was great to learn about her history. The dynamic between the duo gets more and more interesting as the book progresses, while the two are both battling inner turmoil and trying to find themselves. I wouldn’t be opposed to getting another book that focuses on the pair in the future, for sure.

Very much an origin story, readers will get to learn a lot more about a young Poe and just how he came to be. Ultimately, Segura created a fun adventure for readers. Anyone who is a fan of Poe should certainly check this book out.

3.5/5
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This was not good. The author took characters I already care about and have an investment in and made me care about them less. Poe deserves better. 

And it isn’t the fault of this author that Poe was saddled with a blatantly racist drug dealer trope, but ugh. 

There are other Star Wars novels doing it better. This is an easy pass.
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Poe Dameron: Free Fall takes us back in time to a much younger and vulnerable Poe, still reeling from the loss of his mother while searching within himself for that same adventurous spirit. Free Fall is meant to fill in the gaps of Poe's spice-running past, as revealed in The Rise of Skywalker, and while I think it certainly shows us, it falls just short of showing how this experience truly shaped Poe into the Resistance leader we know him as. 

I came into this book already having some issues with Poe's problematic spice-running history (and the optics around it). For me, the story did a good job initially of painting a more complete picture of Poe's family. It's evident that Shara's death is an open wound that never quite healed for Poe, one that is often reopened while butting heads with the overbearing Kes Dameron, who's afraid his son will follow those same pitfalls that took his wife. The opening scene where Poe flies his mom's A-Wing is fairly emotional, and I almost began to relate to Poe in his longing of a past that can never be reclaimed. These familial aspects had some promise in those beginning pages on Yavin 4 and I was hoping we would get more of that throughout the rest of the story, but it quickly became a sort of secondary storyline behind the logistics of spice running. Even though Poe is in his most angsty teenage phase, I questioned some of his choices thereafter, and by the novel's end, I didn't feel there was a satisfying conclusion with (or mention of) Poe's father. 

Poe's time with the spice runners quickly fell into a noticeably mundane pattern: start a mission, get betrayed, escape. Poe would then question his decision to join the spice runners. It became a bit repetitive, and I kept waiting for Poe to have the decisive "I messed up" lightbulb moment. We gain a lot of insight into Poe's relationship with Zorii Bliss, but it falls just short of being fully convincing. Both characters complement each other well during the high-stakes sequences but it ends there, feeling less authentic during the quieter moments. 

This book contained quite a bit of exposition and had several time jumps that I think could have been explored more thoroughly, such as by fleshing out Kes's experience, as opposed to Sela Trune (whom was a nice addition to the New Republic) or further exploring Poe and Zorri's dynamic. There were also a few action sequences that were enjoyable, such as the final battle. Author Alex Segura illustrates a galaxy in a state of complete disarray following the destruction of the Empire, and I have always enjoyed learning more about the overall political climate between factions and governments. 

For those who enjoyed the Rise of Skywalker, this book could serve as an entertaining supplemental story that will give you a newfound appreciation during the film's Kijimi scenes. But if you're hoping for more of a psychoanalysis of Poe and how he deals with and overcomes his early childhood trauma, this may not be the book for you.
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Well, there are certainly words on pages here.....and not much else.

Poe Dameron: Free Fall expands upon the backstory introduced in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker that Poe spent at least some of his younger life as a spice runner with Zorii on Kijimi. In this book, we learn why 16 year old Poe joins the Spice Runners of Kijimi and his adventures while in their ranks. While there, he meets Zorii, the other spice runner his age, and many others throughout the organization. However, if you know Poe from the TFA, TLJ, Resistance Reborn, and the Poe Dameron comic series, you may not recognize him here, as this teenage Poe shows very little of the qualities that makes him stand out.

This book was unfortunately a serious disappointment. While it was more focused than the latest DLP release, Queen's Peril, Poe Dameron: Free Fall suffers from a lack of any authentic and sensitive emotion. While the first part of the book focuses on the relationship between Poe and his father Kes, and their grief over the loss of Poe's mother Shara Bey, there's no genuine sense to it that roots us to this emotion. We never got to see Shara Bey alive and make a connection with her as a character, and are told, rather than shown, their pain over her loss. There is also a kinda-platonic, kinda-romantic relationship between two characters in this book that comes out of nowhere and doesn't make much sense, because the story hasn't allowed us to authentically empathize with their fondness for one another.

Telling rather than showing is a noticeable and recurring problem with this book. In addition to the telling about the grief over Shara Bey, there are multiple time skips in this book where we are then subsequently told that entire relationship dynamics are changed. This is jarring and unhelpful; the skipping doesn't allow us to get to know the characters authentically. I would have loved to see the ways and reasons why these dynamics changed, rather than being told them and moving on to the next action scene.

One thing that stood out to me and worried me as an adult reader of this YA book is how Poe (most often), and Zorii (to a lesser extent) describe one another. There are multiple points in the book when Poe will call Zorii a girl and then corrects himself and calls her a woman. This also happens with Zorii about Poe. They are 16. They are not men and women, but in fact teenagers. I guess maybe this language is to signal to us that they are attracted to one another?? It fell flat. At times this felt objectifying of Zorii and made it seem like the author really doesn't understand women or girls. Its 2020, let 16 year old Zorii be a 16 year old Zorii, and not 32 year old Zorii in the character of a 16 year old!!!

While the author does take time to introduce new species and planets, there is no depth to this book that makes it truly feel like STAR WARS. The lack of depth makes this book unmemorable and unfortunately not a worthy addition into the Star Wars canon. I can't in good faith recommend this book and don't feel it a necessary read in the canon.
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**4.5-stars**

Teenager, Poe Dameron, wants adventure and freedom. On his home planet of Yavin 4, he feels smothered by a father her views as overbearing. He doesn't want to take over the family farm, he wants more. Why can't his father understand that?

His father, Kes Dameron, was a sergeant in the battle against the Galactic Empire. Along with his wife and Poe's mother, Shara Bey, a renowned Rebel pilot, the two lived the sort of adventurous life Poe dreams of. His mother taught him how to pilot his own craft and it's well-known that he is gifted behind the controls; well exceeding his peers.

Since his mother's tragic death, Poe and his father have had a difficult time connecting and it seems her death has made his father even more protective over him. Considering Poe is really all Kes has left, it is no surprise he may be holding on a bit too tightly. Poe doesn't see the reasoning behind it, however. He's young and just wants to be able to choose his own path.

When an opportunity arises for him to flee Yavin 4, he jumps on it without too much consideration. His means of escape just so happens to be piloting a ship full of Spice Runners. The Spice Runners of Kijimi, to be exact, one of the deadliest crime syndicates in the galaxy.

The Spice Runners needed a new pilot, after the demise of their own, and Poe just so happens to be in the right place at the right time. He jumps on his chance and off they go. Of the crew he now finds himself with, Poe bonds quickly with young, Zorii Wynn, a human female, a native of Kijimi and an all-around badass.

They become quite close. It's no surprise, considering they're the same age and they continue to rise up the ranks together. Their relationship has moments of romance, but mostly is built on a mutual respect. Zorii has grown up in the Spice Runners and Poe learns a lot from her regarding their lifestyle and practices.

Ultimately, Zorii is hardcore, she has loyalties that go much deeper than any Poe could ever feel for the Spice Runners. When the two begin to be at odds about what the future holds for them, tough decisions must be made, pushing both of them to their limits.

Y'all, I really enjoyed this. As an origin story for a character I love, I thought this was fantastically presented. I really felt for Poe. It can be so hard to be a kid who feels like you were made for great things, but you don't feel supported in pursuing those things.

I love that he had the boldness of character to set out on his own. Even though the way he went about that was reckless, it ultimately made his life what it is. I think he needed that experience with the Spice Runners to truly understand what he was meant to do; his destiny.

Overall, this is a great addition to the Disney Canon. I am so happy that I had the opportunity to read it. Finding out the details behind Poe's early life and his relationship with Zorii, a relationship that shaped them both, it was just so satisfying.

As far as the Canon timeline goes, this novel falls after The Mandalorian and prior to the novel, Bloodline. If you have watched the new trilogy movies, you are probably familiar with Poe Dameron's character and if you enjoy him, as I do, you should definitely check this book out. It's a heck of a good time!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney LucasFilms Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I was so happy to have the opportunity to get my hands on it early and provide my thoughts.
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