There are many mysteries surrounding the story of [Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens](tag:711158), and few characters are more enigmatic than the saga's new hero, Rey. Who is she, really? How did she end up on Jakku? Is she, as the clues seem to suggest, actually a Skywalker?
Greg Rucka's Before The Awakening is a new canon book comprised of three short stories about The Force Awakens's protagonists. Rey's story gives us a poignant and compelling look at her life before Star Wars 7, and there's more than a little tragedy in her tale...
Spoiler warning: now's the change to make the jump to hyperspace if you don't want spoilers! We've even put a handy video in to block the view...
In many ways, Rey is one of The Force Awakens's greatest successes, and her journey to become a hero is our main emotional thread throughout the film. But while Rey's abilities and strength are obvious, there's a sense of vulnerability about her which makes her all the more compelling.
Rey's Capability Is Not An Accident
One of the most annoying criticisms of Star Wars 7 is centered around the idea that Rey is, to put it simply, just too good at being a hero.
But, as Before The Awakening reveals, all of Rey's talents make total sense. Of course Rey is instinctively good at hand-to-hand combat: her ability to fight back was essential to her survival on Jakku.
"She'd learned to defend herself early. She had been in more fights than she could remember. More wins than losses, thankfully. She was good enough that the word had spread to stay clear of her and what she could do with her staff."
The book paints a bleak picture of life on Jakku. Rey is literally starving, eking out a meagre existence as she barters for food. What The Force Awakens didn't show was how Rey has to constantly guard herself, and her prizes, for fear of attack. And instead of running, Rey's instinct is to stand and fight, which is very admirable.
So yes, Rey's talent at lightsaber combat makes total sense. Can we stop arguing about this now?
Rey's piloting skills are explained in a very interesting way in Before The Awakening. It turns out that she hasn't flown many real life ships, but she did reconst a flight simulator, using it to train as a pilot.
"She learned so much that there was little the program could throw her way that would challenge her now. Full-throttle atmospheric re-entry with repulsor-engine failure? No sweat. Multiple hull breach deep-space engine flameout? A walk in the park."
After finding a working ship, Rey finally gets the chance to fly for real, in one of the most emotive parts of Before The Awakening. So, ability to fly the Falcon? Check.
Let's move on, because there's one truly tragic aspect of the story that we should really talk about.
Rey Doesn't Even Consider Leaving
The story centers around Rey's discovery of a Ghotroc 690, a crashed but salvageable starship which, once repaired, could allow her to escape Jakku. Before The Awakening really hammers home that life on Jakku is nightmarish: Rey wakes up every day starving, then desperately hunts for scrap, alone. Yet leaving never crosses Rey's mind. Instead, she gets excited about selling her only opportunity for escape to Unkar Plutt.
Ultimately this is the greatest tragedy in Rey's story, as her new found friends steal the ship and leave Jakku without her. Before The Awakening gives us a touching insight into Rey's mindset, revealing that in her desperation to stay where her family can find her she builds a prison for herself.
This helps explain Rey's determination to return to Jakku in Episode 7, and also adds a note of triumph to her story in the film: she is finally able to live for herself instead of waiting for someone who abandoned her.
"It was the one thing Rey never allowed herself to consider. They wanted to leave. But Rey had to stay. If she left, her parents would have no way of finding her."
While this is the only mention of Rey's parents we get in Before The Awakening, there is an intriguing hint about Rey's memories of her childhood...
Rey's Repressed Memories
We know that Rey's memories and dreams hide secrets: as Kylo Ren discovered, Rey had been dreaming about Luke Skywalker's island even before she knew he existed.
Of course, Rey's prophetic dreams might be due to her strength in the Force, but the fact that she saw Luke's island specifically hints at a connection between the two of them. The idea that Rey's memories of her childhood were erased to protect her is a popular fan theory. Although there isn't anything to support this idea in The Force Awakens, this book is another matter...
"She half-dreamt of being warm, of being small, lost memories trying to swim their way to the surface."
Considering Rey was five years old when she was abandoned, these memories could have been lost simply through time. Alternatively, Before The Awakening could be suggesting that Rey's memories have been tampered with.
So is this a subtle hint, dropped by Lucasfilm to set up Episode 8? If Rey really does have gaps in her memories this could explain her being a Skywalker, and being hidden for her protection after Kylo Ren slaughtered the Jedi students. Only time will tell, but if Before The Awakening proves nothing else it's that Rey's character is strong enough to carry a compelling story, regardless of who she may or may not be related to.