The Paradise Snare - A.C. Crispin "From now on, it's just me. Han Solo."
Han Solo. Rogue. Scoundrel. Scruffy-lookin' nerf herder. He's the smuggler that charmed our hearts in A New Hope, who came back to rescue Luke, who butted heads with Princess Leia in The Empire Strikes Back, and lead a Rebel task force against an Imperial fortress in Return of the Jedi. But where did he come from?
Han Solo was a young boy, employed by Gariss Shrike to pitpocket, pilot swoop bikes in races, and con people out of money. Tired of that life, Han Solo leaves to Ylesia to work as a pilot. There he uncovers the secrets of a cult that is holding Bria Tharen, fellow Corellian and love interest, hostage.
NOTE: Based on prior reading and recent audiobook.

I Liked:
Han Solo is so cool, so it was inevitable that he got his backstory fleshed out. And it is apparent Crispin put some thought into it. She hinted at Han's ability to understand Wookiee through his Wookiee friend, Dewlana. She mentioned his cousin, Thracken Sal-Solo. And she even dropped in a scene with Princess Leia (okay, that's stretching it, but from a certain point of view...).
Crispin's writing is easy on the mind (at least, when read by David Pittu). It is descriptive, but doesn't get bogged in details like Barbara Hambly's did. It has dialogue, but nothing near the quantities of Jeter's Bounty Hunters War. It is intelligent, clever, and well-written.
There is no real overarching plot (at this point--I do know from prior reading that Ylesia has a role to play in the later trilogy), but that makes sense. This is a story about Han; it really can't have a plot (other than, obviously, how did he get to be so jaded in A New Hope?). But I liked it. He lives in his own, disconnected world. You don't have tons of Jedi thrust unnecessarily into the story. He doesn't somehow bump into Vader or one of his minions. He doesn't have anything to do with Bail and Mon Mothma. He's just a guy on the outside. And that I greatly appreciate.
Bria Tharen is the other character we see in this novel. What interested me in her was her wholehearted devotion to a false religion and her withdrawal from the Exultation. I felt this really built up her character and made her different from Leia. It would have been all too easy for Crispin to make Bria a Leia clone, but I felt she stayed away from that.
While somewhat stereotypical and predictable, Han and Bria's tender, young romance is kinda sweet. It's simple, unaffected by the cares of age and responsibility. Han is young and wants the best for Bria, while also desiring to pursue a career in the Imperial Navy. Bria is just trying to piece herself together. They probably should never have met (Han is an orphan, Bria comes from a wealthy family), but circumstances throw them together and they cling to each other as only youth can.

I Didn't Like:
I can't help but finish this and feel somewhat depressed. Han's life is so miserable! He's raised an orphan in an Oliver Twist-type life. He loses the woman of his life. Can nothing go right for him?
Speaking of Oliver Twist, I felt that aspect was a little heavy and almost unnecessary. Couldn't Han have parents? Everyone in this saga has issues with parents: Leia is adopted, Luke is raised by his uncle, the Jedi are taken from their parents at a young age. For once, I want to see a decent mom and dad with their child. I was hoping that could be Han, but alas...

Dialogue/Sexual Situations/Violence:
A few passing d*** and h***.
Bria and Han are lovers. Han mentions having previous girlfriends/lovers. Bria comes close to being sold into a pleasure house.
The book begins with Han fighting against Shrike. He then fights his way off Ylesia and out of a bank.

Overall:
This is a nice peek into Han's backstory. I really enjoyed it...but I wish it had more lighthearted moments like The Han Solo Adventures. I definitely recommend, but be wary: if you want to laugh, you might find yourself crying instead.