*This book review may contain spoilers for those that have not yet read Star Wars: Rebel Rising.*
An excerpt from Star Wars: Rebel Rising
“The Jedi tried to save her, sure, but she didn’t. Steela fell anyway. Fell to the bottom of the cliff, onto solid rock. Ever see what happens to a body that falls that far down onto stone? Bones don’t just break, they shatter.”—Saw Gerrera
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
An eight-year-old girl named Jyn Erso hides in the tall grasses on Lah’mu while she watches the Death Troopers murder her mother as the Empire takes her father away. Shrouded in fear and overcome with shock and loss, she is not alone. Saw Gerrera, a veteran of the Clone Wars, and widely known as an extremist, takes her in, and raises her as his own child. He doesn’t just protect her as a father; he gives her the training to survive the ever-growing Empire, and the resources she needs to become a rebel.
Over the years, Jyn becomes dedicated to the mission—and the man. Saw. Fighting alongside him and his recruits are dangerous beyond measure. And as time passes by, the death toll climbs—leaving Jyn to question how far is she willing to go as one of Saw’s soldiers. As she struggles with her own views on compassion for humanity, her entire world (or what’s become of it) hits a shatterpoint. Betrayed and broken, Jyn must find the strength and the will to pick up the pieces and move on. But there’s only one question left to answer. It haunts her, and it holds her back from herself. In order to believe, in anything, she needs to know… Does hope exist?
OK, first things first, Wow! Talk about character growth and backstory. Rebel Rising nails it! Beth Revis does an amazing job by filling in the gaps between where Star Wars Catalyst ends, and where Rogue One: A Star Wars Story picks up, right before Jyn leaves for Wobani. In other words, this is the bookend you’ve been looking for.
Honestly, it’s no secret that I’ve been hoping to find out what happened during those years with Saw. What their relationship was like and how Jyn coped with such a tremendous loss at such an early, and tender age of eight. After all, before this story took place, all we knew was that Jyn and her parents were rescued by Saw, and brought safely to Lah’mu. Like Jyn, we knew that Lyra trusted Saw and that gave her hope. But the question remains: would that hope be strong enough for Jyn to hold on to when everything and everyone she ever loved is gone?
The themes behind Rebel Rising—hope and trust—are continuously explored throughout the duration of the story. Predominantly with Jyn, but also with the other characters as well.
From the beginning, we see Jyn struggle with the concept of hope and trust. It starts with the last words she hears from both of her parents, Galen and Lyra. Galen practically pleads with her to trust him, that everything he does is to keep her safe while Lyra tries her best to instill a hopefulness that goes beyond what one can see or touch—the Force.
Unfortunately, Jyn’s youthful beliefs start to diminish as she begins her journey from childhood into a young adult. Let’s face it: she was raised by Saw Gerrera, a terrorist and an individual who is so emotionally broken that he has lost his way for humanity. And yet, knowing all of this, Jyn goes out of her way to seek Saw’s approval on everything she does. For that is all that matters to her and as the story flows from her time with Saw, and her time in an Imperial prison on Wobani, and that’s all that ever mattered. Jyn’s existence is a double-edged sword: she wants to be trusted, and she wants to be able to trust in others. But in the end, all she finds is a constant flow of heartbreak and disappointment.
Jyn’s shatterpoint—a broken girl. Being abandoned once is enough to break you. Twice, well, that’s enough to destroy you beyond comprehension. Saw does the unthinkable and leaves Jyn behind in a war zone with nothing but a blaster, and an empty promise to come back for her. It cripples her emotionally and leaves her vulnerable. Regardless of Saw’s training and her traumatizing past, Jyn manages to pick up the pieces of what’s left of her broken spirit. She clings to a slither of hope to fight and survive, somewhere between the fight of the Empire and the growing Rebellion. For the Empire and the Rebellion have both taken everything from her, all that ever mattered.
Inversely, Jyn reminds me of the tale by Mark Twain, “The Golden Arm.” Similar to the fable, she loses everything and everyone she comes to care about. Especially when she loses Hadder. He was her one-and-only romantic relationship that she tries so desperately to refuse but finally gives into. It is the only true healthy relationship she experiences, and it, too is taken from her by the Empire and the Rebellion.
The Setup—the Martyr—that’s Jyn.
Yes. Saw raised her to do one thing. To finish what his sister started.
“The resistance against the Empire needs Steela.”—Saw Gerrera
Steela’s light was snuffed out too soon and he knew it. Before I even saw Rogue One in the theater, I knew Jyn would be the “Mockingjay” of Star Wars. In fact, from the very first trailer, I knew. Saw sees his own sister within Jyn Erso. As he tells Jyn the story about Steela, he gives her a scarf to cover up the Kyber crystal necklace. In a manner of speaking, Saw passes the torch because the scarf belonged to Steela.
“The resistance needs a martyr. A tragedy. Something so horrific that people can’t help but stand up and fight, too. You understand?”—Saw Gerrera
Hope. A continuous theme in Star Wars and it goes hand-in-hand with trust. This is the momentum of Star Wars: Rebel Rising. It’s a heart-pounding, compelling, engrossing peek into Jyn’s backstory that we didn’t get to see in Rogue One, but it certainly enhances that on-screen story to a whole new level of intensity. A definite must-read and in my opinion, an essential story to Jyn’s character arc because…
“One fighter with a sharp stick and nothing left to lose can take the day.” —Jyn Erso
*Thanks to Disney Press for providing us with an advanced copy for review purposes.*
Star Wars: Rebel Rising written by Beth Revis is available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook as of May 2nd, 2017.