Wednesday, 6 December 2017


What better way to celebrate the approaching first anniversary of the superb Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and its key heroine, than this look back to a fine book that debuted earlier this year (2017), and a tale chronicling Jyn Erso's formative years as a solider for the charismatic but dangerous partisan warrior Saw Gerrera, as well as the later lead-up to her capture to and eventual rescue from the Imperial's brutal labour planet prison of Wobani: Beth Revis' very worthy entry into official Expanded Universe canon with Rebel Rising.

A perfect bridging tale between James Luceno's official lead-in book Catalyst and the official film novelisation of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story by Alexander Freed, Rebel Rising literally picks up where the beginning of Rogue One's teaser opening saw a lonely, fearful, unsure whom to trust child Jyn stranded underground on the refuge world of Lah'mu, suffering the loss of her mother and the departure of her scientist father via a mysterious and deadly group from the Empire, led by a cruel figure she barely recognises from her time on Coruscant. Ultimately feeling betrayed by her father, now seemingly dedicated to an Imperial cause, this dark notion of his conspiracy will fester in her mindset for years to come and lead to a simmering hatred against him and the galaxy at large, creating the scenario that she can truly only trust herself as intergalactic events take their toll- though at least she grows up with a protector and mentor of sorts in Saw Gerrera, becoming his de-facto companion and a singular-minded and truly talented resistance fighter for him in his obsessive missions to right so many wrongs across the galaxy, determined to win no matter what the cost and ready to make all kinds of sacrifices, right up to the point in her later life where she will eventually be abandoned. Above all else. though, Saw's priority is to find out how and why Galen Erso's scientific talents are being used by the Empire-in particular his knowledge of the powerful Kyber crystal energies and the devastating destructive power they wield. It will prove a mystery for Saw that will endure for over a decade.

At this point in the STAR WARS timeline, it seems that the galaxy has never been more to heel under the power of the Empire and its legions of soldiers and power, with only a few pockets of resistance to stand up to them. Saw's cell, a thorn in the side to the actual building-in-numbers Rebel Alliance, proves the most effective, of which news of his deeds-despite often shockingly violent and unorthodox- soon travel to raise the spirits and make him and the seemingly loyal do-or-die men and women under his command, fleshed out in the book a little bit more, and in ways that could never have been done onscreen- desirable targets for capture and execution, not just by the Empire but via bounty hunters and other types of scum and villainy. A difficult scenario for Saw to balance aside his plans, as his adopted daughter becomes so visible, with a true identity that must be kept secret at all costs.

Within such drama and intrigue, Rebel Rising's storytelling works best in this first third, as Revis effectively charts and develops that very unique relationship between Jyn (between the ages of 14-16) and Saw: giving them moments of friendship, distrust and an almost yet too edgy father/daughter nature that we all know will never last between them- two truly 'damaged goods' individuals. The end truly justify the means with Saw, a complex and haunted personality, a genuinely tortured soul with the loss of his fellow fighting sister, Steela, during an early battle on their Onderon homeworld during The Clone Wars, seeding his long journey into darkness and his efforts to fight the Galactic Empire whose leaders betrayed his home, family and peoples' legacy, and later the galaxy. His remembrances of Steela are important here- the woman whom he knows should ultimately have been the rebel leader, and that in their struggle he should have been the one to die, not her. We get the feeling that Saw sees a lot of Steela in Jyn, especially in her adaptability and personal courage.

As their missions become more dangerous and more innocent lives are lost, the book's second half reveals the catastrophic event that led to their ultimate separation, and the fiery end wrought to their intense relationship in an explosive incident at an Imperial mining facility, an aftermath that changes both of them psychologically, and for Saw physically, by the time they are eventually reunited onscreen in Rogue One. After that separation, for Jyn comes the wilderness years, of which she once more falls back on her singularly developed skills in trying to evade both the Rebellion and Empire, ultimately to no avail, seeking a place of refuge across the galaxy at a time of adventure, danger and further personal tragedy. Coming of age as a woman during the book's final third, this is when the incoming tide of the Rebel Alliance's uprising eventually catches up with her, sending her back into danger, captured and put in an Imperial prison where few survive long, and to an appointment with her father's lifetime research legacy perverted into a nightmare super weapon made reality.

A destiny for Jyn that will lead to the Death Star, eventual personal salvation, and the liberation of her spirit- an emotional baptism of true courage...

AFICIONADO RATING: Best read to Michael Giacchino's film soundtrack, Rebel Rising is a worthy part of the Rogue One legacy and an essential purchase from EGMONT, proving itself an even better book than their previous STAR WARS heroine showcase for Ahsoka Tano. 4 out of 5 

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