– Spoiler Review –
Rebel Rising by Beth Revis is an excellently told tale about Jyn Erso’s life, set between the opening flashback of Rogue One and her being broke out of prison on Wobani by the Rebellion, while its Young Adult moniker should be ignored if that typically scares you away from a book because RR really highlights the harsher realities of the journey Jyn goes on.
Like most of the YA novels in canon so far, it’s a description that should not deter you from reading this book. Rebel Rising is a sprawling tale about Jyn Erso’s pretty rough life, a fact it simply doesn’t walk away from because it’s labeled YA, but rather it strides towards in honest and sometimes uncomfortable ways. I didn’t imagine Jyn’s life was ever easy after the events on Lah’mu, especially considering she ends up in jail at some point, but the journey Revis takes us on goes to some surprisingly dark and mature places that should help most readers realize just how good of a life they’ve had comparably. From Jyn’s unconventional upbringing in Saw’s lair, to a rather deadly partisan mission she witnesses, the gruesome and deadly events that force Saw to leave her to fend for herself, or even a job in her later years with slavers, her tale in RR doesn’t shy away from showing the darker corners of the SW universe that Jyn inhabits; I was very excited to see the grittier tone of Rogue One find its way into this novel and Revis doesn’t disappoint on that aspect, at all. There is a brief time in the novel where the young Erso catches some well deserved peace—a section which might feel like typical YA-level fare to some but really it’s there to allow this heroine a chance to live a normal life for a bit—but nothing good quite seems to last for poor Jyn, all of which adds to and helps set the stage to make her ultimate end all the more heroic and memorable in light of all the tragedy she suffers.
Beyond that, Revis really delves into Jyn’s mindset and helps readers see how she might go from the best fighter in Saw’s partisan group to wanting to stay as far out of the Rebellion and Empire fight as possible. Not only that, the way RR follows Jyn’s mindset helped clear up some confusion I had regarding Jyn’s seeming hatred for her father, as I had figured seeing what happened on Lah’mu would make her realize her father hadn’t been kidding when he said, “…whatever I do, I do it to protect you.” But RR reveals how seemingly being abandoned and Galen never coming to look for her, especially after she hears he’s living it easy with the Empire and has grown up around Saw’s paranoid mindset, add up to Jyn believing he really did abandon her and her mother to help the Empire. In place of Galen, we see how Saw could be considered a parent by anyone, despite his unorthodox methods and sole commitment to his mission to end the next war he has found himself in. Thanks to Rebel Rising pushing Jyn both mentally and physically to where she is in Rogue One, from how she grew disillusioned with the Rebellion to establishing the complicated relationship with father figures in her life, it adds extra emotional heft to moments in the film like her reborn belief in the Rebellion’s cause, her reunion with Saw on Jedha, and learning the truth about her father’s actions. Jyn lives a full and complex life and Rebel Rising manages to capture the most important bits, and the most pertinent to filling in her backstory, in excellent fashion throughout.
Here are a few other things:
- If there’s anything I would have against Rebel Rising, it’s simply that Rogue One gives viewers enough to fill in the blanks to Jyn’s life and RR plays out a little predictably because of it…but that’s hard to avoid considering it is sandwiched between two very set and unmovable points.
- The picture Revis paints of life on Wobani is one of absolute grim, more so than anything else Jyn endures, and it really hits home how terrible the Empire can be. Also, it answers the important question of why they even use the prisoners as a labor force when droids could do the work much faster and more efficiently: to simply break their spirits…and it certainly works, as even I was feeling a bit down in the dumps reading about Jyn and her fellow prisoner’s time there.
- Sadly, no Bor Gullet cameo! However, there was a cameo I was particularly excited about: the Ante, a Givin information broker first introduced in the first Darth Vader comic series. He wasn’t a favorite character or anything, but it was very cool to have him gain more of a presence in the galaxy than just his bit part in the comic!
- The line Jyn quotes from Saw towards the end of Rogue One, “…one fighter with a sharp stick and nothing left to lose can take the day…” is revealed here to actually be something Saw got from his sister, Steela. I do appreciate how RR spends a little time with Saw regarding Steela, something I was also happy Star Wars Rebels did in his S3 appearance.
- Bloodburn, a disease affecting pilots, hangs over the heads of the family Jyn shacks up with during her brief sabbatical from war. This was first introduced in the excellent Bloodline.
- Though it only appears in one chapter, my favorite bit of world building is the bulba creatures, which are a rat-like and has a plant growing inside of it (and the name plus description almost makes it sound like the Pokemon named Bulbasaur).
- Speaking of comics, the second issue of Rogue One‘s adaptation contained a very surprising and intriguing image: young Jyn, standing at Saw’s side as he is arguing with Bail Organa, who has a young Leia at his side, in some secret Rebellion lair. I was curious if we’d see this moment in Rebel Rising, but not only does RR not show this scene, it actually contradicts it. Most of the book spent with Jyn at roughly that age shows her staying solely at Saw’s base and only a former operative working with Saw who joined the Rebellion shows up there. Her first introduction to Bail is in a HoloNet broadcast she watches and even later, when the book’s epilogue takes place in the Rogue One scene where Jyn is brought before Mon Mothma, Jyn’s internal monologue says she only recognizes Bail from the Holos she saw as a kid. I understand that lead times for novels and comics are different, though I’m still a little surprised this wasn’t necessarily caught. However, I’d be remiss to point out that RR‘s lack of such a scene as Rogue One #2 depicted doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t happen, but the details seem to point there’s a discrepancy here. Either way, this doesn’t take away from the novel in any way, shape, or form and I only mention it because I find it interesting.
- Hear a bit about the book’s inception from Beth Revis herself in an interview at the official site and another at Blastr.
A realization hit me while reading Rebel Rising and it’s that we essentially have about as complete of a picture of Jyn Erso’s life as possible with this book, the film itself, and even bits of Catalyst, as we’ve now seen her life from birth, teenage years, to even her death. You can’t say that too often for most main characters like Jyn in Star Wars, and while we’ve certainly not seen every moment ever (something Beth Revis teases from time to time), it’s practically every moment that seems to truly matter. Fans of Rogue One, and specifically Jyn, should make Rebel Rising a top priority to get the complete picture.
+ Excellently sets the stage for the Jyn Erso we meet in Rogue One
+ Covers large swath of time efficiently
+ YA moniker shouldn’t prevent you from picking this up!
Junior Novel Review: Guardians of the Whills (by Ryan)
Comic Review: Rogue One (adaptation) (by Ryan)
Movie Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (by Ryan)
Novel Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (by Chris)
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)
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