The vibroblade rests upon the table. This was not a happy story. C-3PO once said, “We seem to be made to suffer. It’s our lot in life.” He was referring of course to droids, but the same could be applied to the victims of the Empire. The victims of the Rebellion. Jyn Erso was one of those victims torn apart by the atrocities of both sides. Evil deeds can come from anyone. The lesson is to rise above and do what must be done. The right choice is the hardest to make, and Jyn Erso had made many wrong choices. Below is my review of the young adult novel Rebel Rising by Beth Revis. The audiobook was narrated by the delightful Rebecca Soler.
**Spoilers to the movie Rogue One**
The vibroblade may not real, but the pain lingers on. The framing of Rebel Rising is the fade to black from the prologue of Rogue One, where young Jyn Erso is rescued by Saw Gerrera, to the beginning of the movie, where she is imprisoned on the labor camp planet of Wobani. Kanan Jarrus once said, “Battles leave scars. Some you can’t see.” This novel peels back away the curtain to show you those scars Jyn received in battles. Not just in combat, but in the decisions she made. Some self inflicted. Some cut deep into her soul by those closest to her. The bulk of the story consists of the time Saw raised Jyn to the events after he abandoned her.
Lifting the vibroblade in the air, the dread only grows. The way Beth Revis wrote Rebel Rising was amazingly haunting. Galen Erso once said, “If you found a place in the galaxy untouched by war…if you’re happy, Jyn, then that’s more than enough.” Revis knows how to write an emotional rollercoaster of feelings. The story reminded me of the movie Inside Out from Pixar. In Inside Out, each emotion one has gets collected inside the brain, and important “core memories” stay with the person a long time. The core memories are not just one emotion, and can even be a mixture of multiple emotions per core memory. On top of that, if one loses their core memories and stops feeling certain emotions their whole mind can become become devoid of feeling. Devoid of humanity. This internal struggle was swirling in the back of my head as I read Rebel Rising. Each core memory Jyn received, whether it was a joyous event or a crippling sad event. Each experience painted a picture of Jyn’s humanity.
Piercing my heart, the vibroblade of emotions struck right at the core. The movie Rogue One is an ensembled story. Padmé Amidala once said, “There’s always a choice! To live in fear is no life at all!” The movie only revealed snippets of, who Jyn Erso really was. What she was before being “rescued” on Wobani. Why she became the unknown hero. Even the novel Catalyst by James Luceno did not show what made Jyn Erso into the person she became. Rebel Rising on the other hand got down deep and dirty into forming the mold that became Jyn. Each experience Jyn faced in Rebel Rising was masterfully written. Moments from Rogue One have new context. Jyn’s connection to Saw is now so much deeper.
Going Into Rebel Rising
When the announcement came that Beth Revis was to write a Star Wars novel I was so ecstatic! I first heard about Revis through an interview, with the always compassionate Janine K. Spendlove last year on Unmistakably Star Wars (found here). However, I did have a moment of dissonance, when Revis’ Star Wars novel was first announced. It was simply titled “Rogue One Young Adult Novel.” This lead me to believe it was going to be an adaptation of the movie. Why it gave me pause was that I did not want to be forced to compare Beth Revis’ adaptation to Alexander Freed’s adaptation (he wrote the adult novelization). Boy was I so happy to find out it was a lead in story. My hype train flew off the tracks, and this novel delivered!
Villains on Both Sides
During the dark times, where the Empire reigned supreme it was assumed that only the Empire was fallible. However, this novel makes clear that not all Rebel cells are altruistic. Violence begets violence. What is special about this novel is how we are shown both good and bad Rebels, Imperials, and neutral parties. We are shown different perspectives that piece together the struggles thrust upon each other. Even Jyn, who is the protagonist does some terrible things. By showing each side from multiple angles, the story becomes real. Saw Gerrera and Jyn Erso go through a wonderful character growth. Even the new characters that Jyn meets after Saw left an impression on me. This novel has some very interesting surprises, and does not hold back any punches.
How to Best Enjoy this Novel
Beth Revis did a wonderful job connecting so many other Star Wars stories into her own standalone story. One could simply pick up this novel, and enjoy it tremendously. However, there are two key stories that add a layer of depth to this novel. 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 introduces the character Saw Gerrera, who plays an important role in raising Jyn Erso. Second is Catalyst by James Luceno. This introduces Galen and Lyra Erso and their struggle against Orson Krennic.
Additionally, I also recommend these other stories before diving into Rebel Rising. First is Ahsoka by E. K. Johnston. This story involves how a former Jedi joins the rebel cause in the fight against the Empire. Second is A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller. This story introduces the freedom fighter Hera Syndulla, who went on to lead the Ghost crew rebel cell in Star Wars Rebels TV show. Third is Guardian of the Whills by Greg Rucka. This story introduces Baze and Chirrut and their involvement, with Saw’s Partisans shortly before the events of Rogue One.
Rebel Rising was a well written story! Even though I knew where Jyn was going to end up in Rogue One, the journey to get there pulled my emotions into all sorts of directions. I can only imagine the feelings I will have, when I watch Rogue One again. Something that did stand out to me while reading this novel was how much Lyra Erso left an impression on Jyn. That struck a chord with me, because in the movie Lyra is practically non-existent (luckily the novelization did bring her up, and revealed her motivations during the prologue). There was also a duality in this novel of something so beautiful and horrifying unfolding. So many characters felt real. I highly recommend this novel to all Star Wars fans, but I do warn the story is physically and emotionally brutal. This is the story of Jyn Erso. The real Jyn Erso, and her motivations going into Rogue One. Additionally, the nods to other stories felt natural, and left me grinning ear to ear. Beth Revis was kind enough to appear on Unmistakably Star Wars, with Janine K. Spendlove, where she was able to discuss her novel (found here).