As with everything Star Wars, Rogue One now has several books to accompany its release and provide backstory that wasn't squeezed into the film. The two newest books — Rebel Rising and The Guardians of the Whills — are so popular that pre-orders couldn't supply demand, leaving many eager fans waiting for their copies. But if you're not so keen to do your #StarWars required reading, here's a quick breakdown of everything we learned from these books, and how they affect the wider saga.
Jyn Resists Being A Rebel In 'Rebel Rising'
Jyn Erso is a fascinating character. Yet with her stoic persona, Rogue One barely scratched the surface of her story. This made for a bunch of inconsistencies in her characterization, and unless you paid close attention to all the throwaway dialogue, you'll have missed most of her backstory. Luckily, Rebel Rising is here to fill in the blanks.
As was quickly alluded to in the movie, Jyn was brought up as part of Saw Gerrera's rebel splinter group. However, what we didn't know was how difficult her upbringing was. Having lost her father to the Empire, Jyn grew to resent Galen Erso, viewing him as an Imperial collaborator and rejecting him as her father. Instead, Saw became a father to her, even giving her the cover story of being his daughter. Unfortunately, Saw wasn't the best role model in the world.
Saw wasn't always the unhinged man we met in Rogue One, but Rebel Rising details his growing paranoia and extremism — Saw is no stranger to collateral damage, and believes more in martyrdom as a resistance tool than mobilizing the people. After Ahsoka Tano failed to save his sister Steela (in the animated show Star Wars: The Clone Wars), Saw lost faith in the Jedi and any kind of peaceful rebellion. So he trained Jyn to be a ruthless soldier in his little army, but only until too many people get wise to Jyn's real identity and Saw sends her away. Jyn sees this as another father abandonment, and resents Saw as much as Galen. It's no wonder that Jyn is disillusioned with the Rebellion as she grew up fighting Saw's private war against the Empire.
If you thought this was enough to turn Jyn into the bitter, hardened criminal we saw in Rogue One, think again — Jyn's suffering only begins as she tries to make her way in a tough galaxy. Bouncing from alias to alias, the Empire eventually catches up with Jyn, but she barters her freedom by promising to work for them. She joins a rebel crew and embeds a tracking code into their ship. They're all captured and, unsurprisingly, so is Jyn — the Empire having gone back on their promise to wipe her criminal record. Jyn is sent to the prison camp on Wobani, which is where we meet her in Rogue One. In one of her best and most defiant moments, Jyn laughs in the face of the stormtrooper who says that these will be "the worst days of [her] life."
Connections To The Saga:
- Mon Mothma and Bail Organa frequently appear on broadcasts pleading with the people to see the corruption inherent in the Empire.
- Jyn and Saw encounter a rebel "squadron" that uses the same terminology as the Phoenix Squadron in the TV show Star Wars: Rebels.
- "The Fulcrum" is mentioned, which refers to a codename used often in Rebels. At this point in time, presumably Kallus holds this title. However, the Rogue One companion magazine lists "Fulcrum" as one of Cassian Andor's aliases so it could be him they're referring to.
- Ante, an information broker (and fan fave) from the Darth Vader comic, pops up.
All in all, Rebel Rising fleshes out some important plot points from Rogue One, and really develops Jyn's character. It's worth a read.
Chirrut & Baze Protect Their Home In 'Guardians Of The Whills'
Despite the fact that much of the Star Wars fanbase is clamoring for a book set in Chirrut and Baze's young adulthood, The Guardians of the Whills is set just before Rogue One. To my mind, this is a missed opportunity. There's not much to learn from this book that we can't glean from Rogue One, and much of this story details Chirrut and Baze's brief stint working with — you guessed it — resident rebel maniac Saw Gerrera. I'm left wondering whether the Lucasfilm Story Group are trying to make up for Saw just being thrown into Rogue One, justifying his presence by writing reams of backstory for a character that didn't particularly chime with fans.
That being said, The Guardians of the Whills is worth reading because veteran Star Wars writer Greg Rucka totally gets the banter between Chirrut and Baze. Rucka absolutely nails their relationship and sense of humor, with plenty of funny moments in the book:
“My apologies, my apologies,” Chirrut said. He bent out of view, apparently searching the ground in front of him. “My stick, I seem to have dropped it. You surprised me, you are on the street so late.”
Baze settled the E-5 at his shoulder, exhaled half his air through his nose. The stormtrooper on the mounted gun ran the charger, the clack and whine of the weapon being made ready audible even from where Baze stood.
“Insurgent tricks,” the gunner said. He pivoted the weapon down at Chirrut.
Baze fired four times. Four stormtroopers dropped. He sighted on the last, but Chirrut had already moved, had done something with the recovered walking stick, and the last trooper was falling off the side of the speeder.
Baze closed the distance at a run, vaulting into the speeder to find Chirrut sitting at the control yoke.
“Shall I drive?” Chirrut asked.
Most of the plot of this book concerns Baze and Chirrut briefly joining Saw's insurgent group because he has the supplies they need. They go along with Saw's plans until one mission endangers a lot of civilian lives, so Baze and Chirrut derail the plan. Saw sees this as a betrayal and, in a fit of paranoid rage, casts them out. The Guardians of the Whills develops Saw's character from where we left him in Rebel Rising, revealing his descent from passionate rebel to unhinged, raving maniac.
Also, Baze's amazing giant gun is supposed to be mounted on a vehicle. Because Baze is just that badass.
Connections To The Saga:
- A bunch of Force acolyte groups are mentioned — the Brotherhood of the Beatific Countenance, the Phirmists, the Weldsingers of Grace, and the followers of the Central Isopter.
- None of these groups existed in Star Wars mythology until Rogue One.
- This book establishes that the Force was a big deal spiritually, but by wiping out the Jedi and defaming the Force acolyte groups as crazy cultists, the Empire managed to turn public opinion against the Force. This explains Han Solo's derision in A New Hope.
- Some background characters from Rogue One are fleshed out.
- Excerpts from a Disciple of the Whills religious text are included in the book, which offers some valuable insight into Force lore.
Overall, The Guardians of the Whills is worth reading for the interactions between Chirrut and Baze alone, and Greg Rucka's writing is as vibrant and engaging as it always is. However, there is something of a missed opportunity here in terms of story.
Who was your favorite character in 'Rogue One'?
[Poll image credit: Lucasfilm]