A lengthy novel that often goes into adult themes not expected for a book geared toward the YA crowd.
Star Wars: Rebel Rising is one of the latest YA branded books in the Star Wars canon. The novel, written by Beth Revis, follows the exploits of Jyn Erso from the time she is “abandoned” by her family at the beginning of Rogue One to the time when she is picked up on Wobani later in the movie.
The book itself covers several years of Jyn’s life, much of it under the “care” of Saw Gerrera, where she learns the “art” of terrorism (essentially). Her learning focus was on how to fight and blow things up, but mostly her expertise was in document forgeries including access documents for ships. This allows her to get Saw’s people into and out of systems that they otherwise would not be allowed to go. And that is how she goes through her life from one situation to another. She uses these skills to constantly progress herself along and frequently get her into deep trouble.
I feel like I must address the YA issue. This is, I believe, the third major YA book in the new Star Wars canon since Disney took over and they are a weird bunch. All of these three, along with Lost Stars and Ahsoka, are these massive tomes that often top 400 pages. Granted the books are dimensionally a bit smaller than the adult novels from Del Rey, but they are still hefty books. However, not only are the novels long, the topics are often heady. Lost Stars is essentially a Romeo and Juliet story set within the Star Wars universe and Ahsoka follows the former Padawan after the horrifying events of Order 66. Rebel Rising even brings up scenes of torture, mutilation, and like is often the case with these YA novels, implied sex scenes. It goes far enough that I wouldn’t feel comfortable reading this particular novel with my daughter (who is 7 currently). I know these books are meant for older children, but the YA label gives the impression that they should be for the younger crowd.
Rebel Rising follows a trope that is becoming far to frequent in the new canon, which is the telling of people’s lives over the course of the novel. We saw it in Tarkin, Lost Stars, Catalyst, Thrawn, Ahsoka (to an extent), Battlefront, and will likely see it in the new Leia and Phasma novels. And frankly, I’m getting rather tired of it. Tell me a nice, self-contained story that plays out over the course of the novel. I like those. These “connecting” stories that only really exist to fill in the blanks between other more important stories become dull and uninteresting over time. Rebel Rising falls into this problem for me. Not only is it long, but I found it rather dull at points and because the book is so large, no matter how long I read, I never felt like I was making any progress in the book. There was always so much more to go.
Upon reading the story there are a couple of things that popped out at me. I actually became rather invested in Jyn — much more so than I originally thought I would. I was constantly wondering if she would do the “good thing” or the “self-preservation thing” and it was frequently a toss-up what really would happen. The last quarter of the novel actually had me rather in suspense of which one she would pick multiple times. Also when she was left by Saw, I thought for sure that he would be coming back in the novel. I mean, he left her so early in the novel. That couldn’t be it. It didn’t feel like the time that was described in the movie and the movie novelization. But I guess that was it.
Overall, the story was alright. A bit dull at times, but I think that is more a result of the format issue than any problems with the writing. How else do you fill in every second of Jyn’s life? She goes from Catalyst, where she is born, directly into Rebel Rising, which leads directly into Rogue One. Pretty much every second of her life is covered, which is rather remarkable figuring she was a completely new character in the Star Wars canon as of late last year. The writing itself was solid and I did find myself engaged by the end of the novel so I can give this a pretty competent rating.