Change in the world is inevitable. No matter how much one will try to resist the world moving forward. The key is to know which way the winds of change is blowing. To know how much one can sacrifice and still hold onto a grasp of their true self. Carrie Fisher once said, “I haven’t ever changed who I am. I’ve just gotten more accepting of it. Being happy isn’t getting what you want, it’s wanting what you have,” (Newsweek article found here). In the novel Guardians of the Whills by Greg Rucka Chirrut and Baze do not change as their planet does; however, the chemistry of each other creates a balance as they learn to live together. To build a companionship of happiness. Something that can not be broken. But what happens, when innocents suffer? Who will stand up, and chose the right way to fight? Below is my review of Rucka’s middle grade novel.
**Spoilers to the movie Rogue One**
Occupation of Jedha! The tyrannical Empire shut down all the holy temples surrounding Jedha City leaving so many worshippers in anguish. However, the goal was not to suppress religions, but what some of those religious disciples and guardians protected. Preserved. The Kyber. Kyber is a living crystal that holds immeasurable power. So much so that the Jedi would use a kyber crystal in their laser sword. What devious deeds did the Empire plan to do, with such Kyber crystals? Saw Gerrera and his Partisans planned to find out. Planned to fight back. To rebel. In order to do so, Saw set out to recruit locals into his cause. His obsession. Enter two former Guardians of the Whills. Protectors of the Temple of the Kyber: Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus.
About Greg Rucka’s Writing
My first introduction to Mr. Rucka was his involvement in writing the Shattered Empire comic. He had a way, with voicing characters new and old seamlessly. Han sounded like Han. Luke sounded like Luke. Leia sounded like Leia. Chewie… You get the idea. Flash forward to his middle grade novels Smuggler’s Run and Before the Awakening. Rucka was able to add so much to the table, and nail the character’s motivations. For example, his take on Rey’s character in Before the Awakening was of hesitance, but at the same time optimism as she saw the good in others. The hope. Even as things didn’t go as planned she did not give into hate. She kept moving forward.
In addition, during the press tour of Shattered Empire, I learned how Rucka saw Luke Skywalker and Qui-Gon Jinn. How he interpreted the Force. How he approached storytelling. It comes as no shock to say that I was floored, when Rucka was announced to write about Chirrut and Baze. Two amazing characters, who were portrayed by the talented actors Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen in Rogue One. Let’s just say I couldn’t wait to find out how Rucka would add to the characters!
Welcome to Jedha
The world building of Jedha City, and it’s inhabitants was top notch. In Rogue One the city was about to explode. In Guardians of the Whills, we got to see the sparks ignite the fuse. The city felt poisoned by the presence of both the Empire and Partisans. The story followed Chirrut and Baze on their attempt to bandage a city hemorrhaging, with death and despair. Parents were dying, and children becoming homeless. Something had to be done. Violence was not the answer.
How to Best Enjoy this Novel
Greg Rucka is really good at these shorter novels. You can pick this up as a standalone, and not be lost. However, these other stories will enhance your reading experience. First is the Onderon arc from The Clone Wars TV show (episodes include “A War on Two Fronts,” “Front Runners,” “The Soft War,” and “Tipping Points”). This story arc introduces Saw Gerrera and his futile fight against the Separatists during the Clone War. Second is the novel Catalyst by James Luceno. This story introduces Saw Gerrera after the Galactic Empire is born, and how his resistance fighters would act. Third is the two part episode “Ghosts of Geonosis” from the TV show Star Wars Rebels. This story brings the viewer closer to the broken and paranoid Saw Gerrera we meet in Rogue One. Now, in the future, I would imagine Saw’s involvement in Season 4 of Rebels will only further lead into Guardians of the Whills.
After reading Guardians of the Whills, the young adult novel Rebel Rising by Beth Revis is a must (My review found here)! Not only does it bridge the story of Catalyst to Rogue One, but we get to see the last time Saw and Jyn Erso were together. By seeing how far gone Saw is in Guardian of the Whills to how hopeful he was in Rebel Rising… Trust me, it is worth exploring both stories back to back this way. I went backwards in my initial reading experience, and took so much out of both. You could read either one first, but Rebel Rising ends afterwards on the timeline.
In addition, the novel Battlefront II: Inferno Squad by Christie Golden will be a good continuation as it will involve some of Saw’s Partisans that escaped Jedha’s destruction after Rogue One. In Guardians of the Whills we were introduced to Partisans Beezer Fortuna, Kullbee Sperado, and more that Chirrut and Baze helped throughout the novel in exchange for supplies to those in need.
My feels… The chemistry of Chirrut and Baze was really believable. They were so much the same as they were different. Polar opposites finding balance in each other. The writing structure of their interactions were spot on and sweet. This helped during the sad parts of the story. Rucka has a way, with pacing his stories in a straight to the point, but never feeling rushed kind of way. I left the novel feeling optimistic, and enthralled, with Chirrut and Baze. The inclusion of different religious texts from the Star Wars universe was wonderful. We not only got the Jedi and Sith code, but other viewpoints of the Force. Disney Lucasfilm Publishing could not have gotten someone better to write this novel. The message and dialog stuck with me well after finishing the book. This book can be used as a teaching tool about certain points of view. About teaching compassion. About finding a different way to fight against oppression. If Greg Rucka does not get a chance to write a Qui-Gon Jinn novel, I will be sad panda. I highly recommend this novel to all Star Wars fans. This character focused story takes Chirrut and Baze on a new level, and my mixed feelings of Saw Gerrera continue to grow. Rogue One will not be the same in a good way. The movie may not have changed, but how I view it has.