We are less than two months away from The Rise of Skywalker and with fresh buzz from the final trailer debut last week, I was thrilled for the opportunity to read Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse. Mostly, I couldn’t wait to hop back into another adventure with Rey, Finn, Poe, Rose, and General Leia Organa. If there’s one constant in these “Journey to The Rise of Skywalker” stories it’s that the First Order has cast a wide net across the galaxy and is even more determined to snuff out hope. Resistance Reborn is not just that. This is the story of a desperate group of heroes trying to figure out how to fight for freedom against overwhelming odds – and at a time when it’s especially dangerous to be the hero in a galaxy far, far away.
Before we jump in, this review is intended to be a non-spoiler one. That being said, Del-Rey and StarWars.com have dropped a number of big reveals in the hours leading up to me sitting down to write this. Those don’t necessarily give away key plot points but there are a lot of familiar faces popping up in this story. I’m going to assume everyone reading has seen those lists and I’ll probably mention a few of them. Just wanted to clarify that in case folks reading want to avoid them.
I chose this frame from The Last Jedi because I think it perfectly expresses what Poe Dameron is going through in Resistance Reborn: trial by fire. Though Resistance Reborn isn’t entirely dedicated to Poe Dameron, he’s the character I found myself thinking about the most when I put it down. When we first met Poe in The Force Awakens, his situation was dire, but as soon as he found himself behind the controls of a TIE Fighter escaping from the First Order I don’t think he stopped smiling. Poe seemed to be the dashing, fearless, confident, charismatic glue that held small hopes together. We meet a very different Poe Dameron in Resistance Reborn. Every quality I listed and the ones you’ve come to expect are still there, but we get much deeper into the character and find out what makes Poe Dameron doubt himself. The defeats suffered by the Resistance in The Last Jedi have affected Poe tremendously. He doesn’t see them as sacrifices for the greater good – he sees them as personal failures. Poe knows he needs to become a leader but he feels like the lessons he’s being forced to learn from defeat were always staring him in the face. Poe Dameron is trying to learn to forgive himself.
Though moments inside Poe’s head and regret can get melancholy or dark, there is nothing downtrodden about Poe. He knows he doesn’t have the luxury to devote the time to dealing with stress, grief, and trauma. The Resistance needs him, so Poe is learning how to be the leader he knows will be counted on. The vacuum of leadership in the Resistance is just as badly felt as their lack of numbers, so Poe feels a real sense of urgency to become more than the best pilot in the Resistance. His teacher in leadership, General Leia Organa, can’t do it alone.
Leia is another character forced to show strength while shaken from the terrible losses she’s endured in both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. She’s lost her government, her husband, her brother, her friends, and at this point…her son. The emotional stress would cripple most of us but Leia has no choice but to push forward. She’s the only one who can lead the Resistance at this point and she knows it. As if her the wounds she’s taken to her psyche from the previous two films weren’t enough, she’s also dealing with the physical repercussions of being blown into space. The pain has definitely come to Leia, but she’s fearless in Resistance Reborn. Rebecca Roanhorse will put Carrie Fisher’s voice in your head, I can almost guarantee it. Leia has a family in the Resistance, but it struck me many times how alone she must feel. This is still the Leia we all know and love, but she knows she won’t be around forever and there’s also an urgency in her to find firm footing for the Resistance.
The Resistance are hunted. The First Order is swarming the galaxy, overrunning planets, installing puppet governments, and consolidating their power – all while ruthlessly hunting for the Resistance. Roanhorse does an excellent job of conveying an underlying dread in every chapter. Not only is the Resistance greatly outnumbered, they are facing an enemy who is still something of a mystery to them. The First Order move through the galaxy like a cloaked predator. The Resistance know what they are all about, but a great portion of the galaxy lay somewhere between hedging their bets on decent life under the First Order and apathy. This reluctance to join the fight against tyranny is another factor working against the Resistance. A big part of the story in Resistance Reborn is finding out why no one responded to Leia’s distress call in The Last Jedi. You’ll find out why and it’s definitely not what I expected.
Thanks to Marvel’s Poe Dameron, we have some idea about what Black Squadron was up to during their notable absence from The Last Jedi. There were still some gaps and Resistance Reborn fills them in nicely. This is the same squad you remember from The Force Awakens, with the addition of Suralinda from their time in the comics. Suralinda is a welcome addition to this group and provides a lot of brevity. Resistance Reborn made me appreciate this is just a stellar cast of characters. You’ll get to know each of them much better in this story, as well as some other other familiar squadrons that show up. Since Del Rey tweeted earlier today, I guess I’m at liberty to say Inferno Squad shows up. It’s so cool to see Zay Versio and Shriv interact with Poe, Suralinda, Jess, Karé, and Snap. Roanhorse did a stellar job of pulling these characters into the story in a way that’s not too “fan service”, though you would never hear me complain about fan service. I’m all for it, but I’m trying to say it’s not forced. These characters retain everything you loved about them in their different mediums, while Roanhorse continues to add to them.
Well, I guess now that the Loth-cat is out of the bag, I’ll say a little bit about the right-and-honorable Mr. Wedge Antilles. When I started reading I had no idea he’d be showing up, but he does. Norra Wexley, rebel pilot, also shows up, with their partnership as strong as ever. Wedge and Norra are war heroes who’ve earned what little part of the galaxy is theirs. What I loved about the relationship between Wedge and Norra is that their story is one. They have made a life together and there days of fighting in the wars of the galaxy seem to be behind them. Then Snap and Karé tell them what’s at stake and the two must decide if they’re going to help or not. I’m not going to get too detailed because learning about their life and what might bring them back to the fight is one of the book’s strongest points. Wedge and Norra both play huge roles in the story that unfolds. Again, Roanhorse takes familiar characters and expands upon them wonderfully.
Finn has definitely overcome any apprehensions or fears he had about fighting the First Order. There’s also a calm to Finn in this story we haven’t really seen – mostly because he’s almost always on the move. Finn has always exuded courage to me. He does what’s right when it counts, it’s just the uncertainty he encounters in himself between those watershed moments of morality. Finn is as clear as we’ve seen him and he’s ready to do anything for the Resistance. He has some great moments and we haven’t really gotten much of him in the “Journey to The Rise of Skywalker” stories yet. I look forward to seeing this more confident Finn in The Rise of Skywalker.
Rose has also risen in the ranks of the Resistance. Though she’s not in this story as much as I’d hoped, every scene she’s in is great. She continues to assert her technical brilliance and carry on the Tico family legacy. Rose has also had to deal with loss and that makes her kindred spirits with many of her companions. Like Poe, Rose sees she can rise up and be a leader in the Resistance. I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more of her leadership role in The Rise of Skywalker.
Rey has a role in this story, but we are very much in the dark with what’s going on with her. Obviously, she’s been through a lot and I expect she feels the weight of the galaxy is on her shoulders. She still has so many questions. There is very little talk of the Force in Resistance Reborn, but you still feel it’s there when Rey or Leia are around. Rey seems subdued and reflective when she appears, but she’s not afraid to fight when trouble arises. As much as she is the last Jedi, Rey is a fierce protector of the Resistance. Similar to her portrayal in Justina Ireland’s Spark of the Resistance, this is Rey fighting for the Resistance, in the moment. She’s the hero needed in this moment, and the Resistance needs to survive, so that’s all she’s focused on. There is some great dialogue between her and Leia, as well.
We’ve seen a few different facets of the First Order but in Resistance Reborn we see one of the more disturbing ones – indoctrination through fear and greed. An ambitious officer named Winshur Bratt, who is new to the First Order, serves as the antagonist. He’s gone from being a normal bookkeeper for a ship manufacturer to a First Order officer and he’s tasting power for the first time. Watching Bratt descend into the cutthroat, brutal military structure of the First Order gives you a sense of what kind of viper one has to be to make it to the top. Though Bratt functions as an antagonist, it’s really the First Order who loom over everything. Like I said earlier, the most terrifying thing about them is they can show up at any moment. Bratt gets pretty dark but he’s definitely no Hux. This story doesn’t really demand some giant, master villain, though.
The story spreads across the galaxy. We return to planets like Corellia and Ryloth. The Resistance doesn’t like to stay in one place too long but they are forced to find refuge to regroup and assemble whatever bodies and ships they can. You’ll see a lot of familiar faces, in addition to the ones I mentioned above. Some you’ll recognize from films and others you’ll recognize from comics or previous novels. I’d recommend getting refreshed on the Aftermath trilogy, Marvel’s Shattered Empire, “The Awakening” arc of Marvel’s Poe Dameron, Bloodline, and I’m sure I forgot something. Roanhorse definitely has a hold on the galaxy and the canon. I was very impressed with how packed this book is with characters from across the canon but it doesn’t feel like anyone gets neglected. They all contribute something.
Resistance Reborn is ultimately a story about heroes. Heroes finding themselves, heroes discovering themselves, and heroes remembering who they once were. There are some very dire moments in this story and things overall look bleak for the Resistance. The hope given to the reader comes through the friendship, good nature, courage, and loyalty each member of the Resistance display. They are not fighting to rule the galaxy, they are fighting for the galaxy and for each other. The rest of the galaxy is just waking up to what the First Order is but our heroes know. Whether the galaxy knows it or not, they have protectors. I imagine we won’t see all of these characters in December, but the lucky fans who’ve read this story will know they all gave something to this fight.
Rebecca Roanhorse wrote a great story and I hope everyone gets a chance to experience Resistance Reborn. I could read a whole trilogy of books like this, so I hope she will be writing more Star Wars stories soon. This story has everything good I look for in Star Wars. It’s also a page-turner in the best sense. Roanhorse does a great job of adding suspense and intrigue I didn’t expect. The characters she created are just as well realized as the more familiar ones. The writing is also extremely streamlined and I flew through this book in an afternoon. Resistance Reborn is well worth your time.
Resistance Reborn is on sale November 5th at your local bookstores and is currently available for pre-order from online retailers. Special thanks to Del Rey for the advanced copy used for this review.