– Spoiler Review –
In Guardians of the Whills, Greg Rucka expertly captures the bond between leads Baze Malbus and Chirrut Îmwe while bringing the struggles of Jedha to light even more profoundly than Rogue One does, making the young reader novel one to be enjoyed by all ages and especially by fans of the two characters.
Considering this book is all about Baze and Chirrut prior to the events of Rogue One, not being able to match the chemistry of Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen would be a nail in its coffin. Thankfully, Rucka not only captures the magic of the relationship those two actors brought to the screen for Baze and Chirrut, but he even manages to outdo it from time to time, providing both the nuance and the more jovial nature of their friendship with ease. If you’re a fan of these characters and how they were in the film, or even, despite the book not confirming anything, Baze and Chirrut shippers, this book is an absolute must buy, no questions asked. And even though this is a junior novel, Rucka manages to delve into some more heady and murky subjects these two deal with on Jedha, from how they justify/cope with taking lives (of stormtroopers) to get supplies for those in need or questioning their faith, and it allows any age group to take the book’s representation of these characters seriously; It’s not much less than what you’d find in a young adult novel, I feel.
Likewise, the Guardians of the Whills manages to expand on the woes of Jedha and its citizens under the collective Imperial boot heel, very often in a rather mature manner that’ll add even more to your next Rogue One viewing experience. Rucka paints a pretty bleak picture of how things changed on Jedha once the Imperials took over, from how the dust kicked up from the kyber mining is slowly killing citizens, how tragic losses occur in insurgent battles, and so much more; It’s a complex subject and Rucka doesn’t write down or up to this book’s intended audience. The introduction of Saw Gerrera and his Partisans to the mix only exacerbates the turmoil already brewing and watching how it rippled through the Holy City of Jedha was one of my favorite parts of the book.
Due to the destruction of the Holy City aka most of Jedha in Rogue One, and I’m unsure if it’s intentional or not, but the city’s fate hung over the events within GotW while those same events helped me care a lot more about the people and their struggles on Jedha, thus making the moment in the film even more terrible in its rumbling destruction. Sure, the children of the orphanage Baze and Chirrut are helping manage to get off planet, thus readers don’t have to worry about them becoming the Death Star’s first test subjects, but there are plenty of children (like I still think about the little girl Jyn saves in the middle of the firefight every time I see the film) and other people there when it does strike thus reinforcing both how Baze and Chirrut could never do enough on their own and gives us another reason to distaste the Imperials (like we needed another anyways!). That GotW achieves this got me wondering, when will we ever see such treatment for Alderaan? Its loss is profound, especially for Leia, but beyond a few attachments here and there (Breha and Bail Organa) we simply haven’t spent a lot of time, if any, there pre-destruction (though Legends spent a lot of time with survivors post-destruction, at least like in Winter and Tycho Celchu) and I’d love to see them expand that world so it’s obliteration is even more sharply felt like Jedha’s is here thanks to GotW.
Here are a few other things:
- If you don’t trust me on how well Rucka gets Baze and Chirrut, read this excerpt at the official site.
- I really enjoyed the meditative quotes before each chapter, each one hinting at good life advice under the guise of Force related teachings. I’m betting Wookieepedia didn’t like it as much because there were a whole lot of new Force/religious groups to suddenly have to create articles for!
- Maybe this information is in the Rogue One novelization, but I didn’t realize Chirrut also has an echo box to help him get around easier and GotW introduced that tiny bit of info which reinforces how he isn’t Force-sensitive, something pointed outright in the book as well.
- While those curious for more details about the Guardians of the Whills and the Kyber Temple on Jedha will come up short, there are a few scant details but that’s simply not the focus of this book.
- Remember the crashed X-wing in the background of Chirrut’s first big scene when he rescues Jyn and Cassian? Or Baze’s giant cannon for a gun? The backstory for both are revealed here!
- There was a nice little reference to Ezra Bridger’s speech from Star Wars Rebels‘ S1 episode “Call to Action.”
- I don’t know who does this book’s cover/interior art, as the info doesn’t seem to be anywhere I’ve looked on the internet (I’ve asked some members of Lucasfilm Publishing so hopefully I’ll get a response soon, which I’ll update this when I do) but I did enjoy what little there was within. Kind of wished they had one or two more pieces, even. UPDATE: 5/17/17: Jen Heddle, Senior Editor at Lucasfilm/LucasBooks, responded: it’s Diogo Saito (the link to his page contains some possible NSFW drawings).
While Guardians of the Whills might be called a junior novel, it doesn’t always entirely read like it one and in the end said label shouldn’t matter for Rogue One fans, Baze and Chirrut fans, and most certainly Star Wars fans.
+ Rucka truly captures the bond between Baze and Chirrut
+ Expansion of Jedha’s woes
+ Doesn’t shy away from touching on mature subjects
Canon Comic Review: Rogue One (adaptation) (by Ryan)
Movie Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (by Ryan)
Canon Novel Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (by Chris)
Canon Novel Review: Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel (by Ryan)
Soundtrack Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (by Elliot)
Young Reader Review: Rogue One: Rebel Dossier (by Chris)
Canon Reference Book Review: Rogue One: The Ultimate Visual Guide (by Chris)
CANON NOVEL REVIEWS:
Aftermath | Aftermath: Life Debt | Aftermath: Empire’s End
Battlefront: Twilight Company
Lords of the Sith
A New Dawn
Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel
Heir to the Jedi
CANON YOUNG ADULT NOVEL REVIEWS:
Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure
Smuggler’s Run: A Han Solo & Chewbacca Adventure
The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure
Before the Awakening