Book Review: William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher

Posted August 6, 2014 by Debby in Reviews / 2 Comments

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back by Ian DoescherWilliam Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher
Series: William Shakespeare's Star Wars #5
Published by Quirk Books on March 18th, 2014
Genres: Media Tie-In, Retelling, Science Fiction
Pages: 172
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

Hot on the heels of the New York Times best seller William Shakespeare’s Star Wars comes the next two installments of the original trilogy: William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back and William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return. Return to the star-crossed galaxy far, far away as the brooding young hero, a power-mad emperor, and their jesting droids match wits, struggle for power, and soliloquize in elegant and impeccable iambic pentameter. Illustrated with beautiful black-and-white Elizabethan-style artwork, these two plays offer essential reading for all ages. Something Wookiee this way comes!

4 Stars

I was already impressed with and happily enjoyed reading William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope, and while I did think some things could have been improved, I wasn’t expecting the sequel, The Empire Striketh Back to do it SO MUCH BETTER. This was so much fun to read, and it was much more fluid than the first one.

From page one I could tell that there was a marked improvement in Doescher’s writing style. I was already impressed by how well he translated the Star Wars stories to Elizabethan, but he did have some hiccups here and there in Verily, A New Hope. This was pretty much completely remedied in The Empire Striketh Back. In the previous book I felt like he overused contractions at times, which made the sentence flow a bit clunky and awkward as he tried to fit everything into iambic pentameter – but I didn’t have that issue here at all. I was further impressed by how he adapted more elements of Shakespeare’s writing style, like using prose for lower class characters. I was a bit confused by but ultimately LOVED his take on Yoda – because how do you adapt a character that already speaks with words in the incorrect order? Simple: you make him speak in haikus! It was brilliant and very amusing.

What also impressed me in this installment of the series is Doescher’s ability to create more character depth (which all blends seamlessly into the canon of the original story). In Verily, A New Hope, he gave a bigger voice to R2D2, which I obviously loved. That’s still present in this book (and boy if I didn’t snicker and call out the R2D2 sass, because it is the best), and Doescher also adds a great internal monologue for Lando! Arguably, he’s a very complex character, but in the movies, little attention is paid to the internal struggle he goes through in betraying Han. I liked that that was depicted well in this book, because it really gives you something to think about.

I also felt like Doescher did a better job of developing the characters that were already present in the story. Now it might just be me, as I read the previous book a couple months ago, but I felt like there were more soliloquies in The Empire Striketh Back. In any case, they read more fluidly, and I loved the extra insight they provided. Particularly, I loved seeing the friendship between Luke and Han (from both sides!) and, of course, the romance between Han and Leia. It’s not so much the actions in the story, but how each of the characters feels about each other. I never got the sense that Luke and Han were that close in the movies, but it was beautiful here, in the book. And Han and Leia… man, I hardcore ship them. It’s just. Unf.

Ultimately, I do feel like some of the humor from Verily, A New Hope is missing in The Empire Striketh Back – though I will never stop laughing about that space slug. Fair is fair, the story was more engaging this time around, but I was hoping for more of those hilarious lines that play both on Star Wars and Shakespeare’s own works. I didn’t really find them. However, having let go of the desire for a hilarious parody, I can see how there’s value in how Doescher is giving more insight into his version of the Star Wars universe interspersed with comedic moments. The mix works rather well.

YODA: Nay, nay! Try thou not.
But do thou or do thou not,
For there is no “try.” William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher
LEIA: My feelings? O! Thou arrogant half-wit,
Thou oversizèd child, thou friend of slime,
Thou man of scruffy looks, thou who herd’st nerfs,
Thou fool-born wimpled roughhewn waste of flesh!

HAN: What scruffy? Scruffy, how? Whose scruffiness?
How am I all bescruff’d? William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher

Summing Up:

This series is definitely growing on me, and I’m pleased to say The Empire Striketh Back is a marked improvement upon its predecessor. I really liked getting to know these characters whom I’ve known for years in new ways. I’m now desperate to rewatch the movies, and I’m thinking it would be great to read George Lucas’s novels at some point as well. I will never get tired of this story.

GIF it to me straight!

Who-s-scruffy-looking-han-solo-30040999-500-244

Recommended To:

Star Wars fans, of course!!

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2 responses to “Book Review: William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher

  1. YESS!! I’m so happy to hear that the second book is better than the first one, even if the humour was lacking a bit more in this one… Empire Strikes Back is also a darker movie, so I guess it’d be fitting!

    Thanks for the great review, Debby! I cannot wait till my boxed set arrives for Xmas time!
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