Review – “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” Novelization by Rae Carson
The Skywalker saga came to an end with The Rise of Skywalker, and everyone has their own opinion on the film. Some loved it. Some hated it. And others, like me, found our opinion somewhere in between those two extremes. I absolutely loved some parts of the movie, but I was more hesitant to embrace others. For everything I adored, there seemed to be something else that caused me to scratch my head and wonder why the creators went the direction they did. I won’t get into all that here, but I will say that I definitely had a lot of unanswered questions after watching the movie.
I recognize the monumental task that was ending not only the new trilogy, but the Star Wars saga as a whole, especially considering the passing of Carrie Fisher, who no doubt would have carried more narrative weight in this final film were she still alive. Still, while I enjoyed the film, there were some things that I felt were noticeably missing that could have really brought the saga home. Thankfully, the novelization of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker by Rae Carson (Star Wars: Most Wanted) is here to answer some of my questions and to add in a few of those things that had been missing on screen.
I’m not here to complain about The Rise of Skywalker. I really did enjoy the film, especially after watching it a second time. That being said, it wasn’t really until I read this novel that I fully appreciated the story that the creators were trying to tell. I’m not sure how much of this book is just adding in moments of the film that were left on the cutting room floor or how much was Carson’s own contribution, but regardless, it’s a beautiful adaptation.
There’s obviously no substitution for seeing Star Wars the way it was meant to be seen, in cinematic form on a big screen, and Lucasfilm gave us a truly epic and gorgeous movie last December. So I’m in no way saying that the book is a better experience than seeing the movie. But I will say that narratively, the story of The Rise of Skywalker plays out much better on the page than it does on screen. Rae Carson simply did an amazing job with this book.
At just shy of two-hundred and fifty pages, it’s a quick read devoid of any fluff that could have easily encumbered the story. Somehow, Carson is able to not only give us a precise, well-paced adaptation of the movie, but to also enrich the experience by adding new scenes and expanding others. I knew exactly what was going to happen next, and I still couldn’t put it down.
Through Carson’s perspective, I really grew to love the story that is The Rise of Skywalker. The things I didn’t love about the movie, I now see in a little bit different light, the things that were unclear now have sharper clarity, and the things I loved about the movie are presented even better at many times throughout the novel. So, in short, let me say that this book is definitely worth your time.
If you absolutely hate everything about the movie, this probably won’t magically make you appreciate it, but it’s definitely worth your time if you enjoyed the film and want to go deeper, have unanswered questions, or if you were on the fence about it like I was. I still think the movie has its issues, and while I think it’s not ideal to say that you really need to read the book to fully appreciate the story, I’m really glad I read it.
What I’d really like to do for the rest of this review is take a look at several of the things in the book that were not in the movie as well as moments in the film that were further explained or expanded upon in the novel. The novelization is called the “Expanded Edition” of The Rise of Skywalker for a reason. The moniker might be slightly confusing at first glance, but make no mistake, there is no “regular edition” of the book. This is it. Expanded Edition simply means that the book gives additional details that are not in the movie itself, and if the rumor that the home release won’t have any deleted scenes is true, then this is the only way to enjoy these extras.
But before I get into spoiler territory, let me just go ahead and say that I loved this book. Next to The Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover, it’s probably my second favorite novelization of any of the main saga films (I specify main saga films because the Solo novelization by Mur Lafferty is my absolute favorite).
Alright, so now let’s get to the really good stuff. What’s in the book that’s not in the film? I’m sure this list is not all-inclusive, but I made notes as I went through the book on things I either didn’t recall being in the movie or scenes that were obviously extended for the written page. Some of these moments are more subtle, whereas some even went as far as to change my perception of certain scenes entirely. Without further ado, here we go…
The decision to include more scenes with Leia was probably a no-brainer for the book. For obvious reasons, the movie was limited in its use of the General, having to rely solely on the production team’s ability to implement unused footage of Carrie Fisher to include her in the movie at all. I thought that this was handled quite well in the film, but obviously, if she were alive, they would have done things differently. There are also more flashbacks in the book to her training with Luke than what we got in the movie.
One of those scenes has Leia in the forest of Ajan Kloss, balancing on her hands as Luke tries to distract her. Luke talks about how he had done that same exercise “back on Dagobah” (a phrase he often repeated that she grew to despise), but that when he had done it, it was on one hand while balancing Yoda on his foot. Leia was too well trained in the political arena to give in to this distraction, however, and so she sharpened her focus, causing her to eventually levitate off of the ground. Luke was amazed. He lovingly admitted her footwork in lightsaber combat may be terrible but that she could do other things that even he could not.
Leia Talks to Ghosts
It is revealed that Obi-Wan and Yoda have talked to Leia intermittently throughout the years, communing with her in much the same way that they had with her brother.
The Oracle and the Vader Cult
On Mustafar, after cutting down the warriors in the forest, Kylo Ren encounters the Oracle, a.k.a. “The Eye of Webbish Bog”. This was originally in the script for the film and had even been created by the prop department. The description and eventually an image of the creature was leaked, but it never made it to the final cut of the film. It is described as a giant sleeping baby-like being with a spider-like creature attached to it. The spider-thing speaks, but the two creatures live in symbiosis and cannot exist without the other. The Oracle reveals that Darth Vader was once its master. When it sees how Kylo Ren was able to defeat all of its protectors (the warriors he killed in the forest), he deems him worthy to possess his master’s hidden relic and points Kylo to the wayfinder. Also, during this scene, the ruins of Vader’s castle can be seen in the distance.
A Comic Connection
Palpatine’s life support device is actually a deep cut reference to a Star Wars comic from the ‘90s. The device is called an “Ommin harness”, a mechanical spine once worn by the ancient Sith king, Ommin. For more on this, check out the Tales of the Jedi comic series.
Palpatine’s Clone Body
Though explained in further detail later in the book, some details on the resurrected Palpatine are revealed early on. When Kylo Ren confronts Palpatine, he instinctively knows that Palpatine is a clone, but that the spirit within the broken body is that of the original Sith lord. The clone body was unable to house his immense power, thus the deterioration and constant need of life support.
The Sith Eternal
Palpatine’s disciples were called the “Sith Eternal” (also sometimes referred to as the “Final Order”), true believers in the dark side, devoting their lives to dominate the galaxy and serve their Emperor. They had been following him since the days of the Empire, working to prepare a vessel for his dark spirit on Exegol, as well as building the Sith fleet. They worked secretly within the ranks of the First Order, culling the most promising of the kidnapped children to their own ranks (the red Sith troopers). Allegiant General Pryde was secretly working directly for Palpatine and had knowledge of the Sith fleet.
It seems to be more heavily implied in the novel that Jannah is Lando’s daughter, but by the end Lando seems to be under no illusion that she is or that he will even see his daughter again. Jannah reminds him of his daughter, and he wants to dedicate the rest of his years to helping her and others like her (children who were forced into service under the First Order) to find their own way in the galaxy.
Rey’s Dark Side
When Rey thought Chewie was on the transport and was fighting with Kylo Ren to save him, you really get a sense of the darkness rising in Rey. Through her attachment to her friend, she begins to think possessively. Chewie was hers and Kylo wouldn’t have him. It is then that she lashes out in her emotions and accidentally destroys the vessel with Force lightning.
Chewie and Ben’s Special Bond
Kylo Ren interrogates Chewbacca aboard the Steadfast. Kylo tells the Wookiee that he hadn’t forgotten how he’d shot him at Starkiller base. He then taunts him, urging him to try and kill him, to go ahead and have his revenge for Han Solo. Chewbacca is silent, but that didn’t stop Kylo. Prying into the Wookiee’s mind looking for answers about Rey’s mission, he discovers that Chewie had a deep affection for the girl. He knew that Chewbacca never really loved him that way; Snoke had shown him that. But as Kylo searches Chewbacca’s mind, he is flooded by an onslaught of memories from the Wookiee: a far younger Han Solo than he himself had ever known, the joy when the Wookiee’s best friend married the woman he had come to love as his own sister, cuddling Ben as a toddler then later teaching him to fly and to shoot.
There are additional scenes showing how Zorii got off Kijimi with Babu Frik before the planet was destroyed. She witnesses the Knights of Ren and the First Order murder some members of her group, and in the end, she narrowly escapes the planet’s destruction aboard her modified Y-Wing with Babu Frik. There aren’t a ton of new scenes with Zorii, but they make her sudden appearance in the battle at the end seem a little less out of left field.
Leia is Barely Holding Herself Together
Getting blasted into space from the Raddus in The Last Jedi has had a negative effect on Leia’s body. She is slowly slipping away. Throughout the book, Luke speaks to her a couple of times through the Force telling her, It’s time. There is only one thing left. And then you can rest.
As her journey comes to an end, we get to see inside Leia’s head a little bit. Her final thoughts dwell on her legacy. She is initially hesitant to move on, knowing how important she has been as a leader of the Resistance. But she eventually realizes that the best thing she can do is to let go, and to let her legacy live on in the younger generation that was perfectly capable in their own right. Here are her final thoughts before reaching out to her son and letting go of her physical body:
“She was Leia Skywalker Organa Solo. As she caressed Han’s medal, she fully embraced all those inheritances. And she would pass them all to the next generation. Her Skywalker legacy would go to Rey, Organa to Poe, and she would try one last time to pass her Solo legacy to her son.”
There is a scene where Lando boards the Falcon for the first time in years and his mind is flooded by memories. He takes a peek at his old cape closet, only to discover that Chewbacca had his own personal effects inside. On a small metal shelf, Lando sees a hologram disk, the edges worn with use. He knows it’s not his business, but he couldn’t resist. He flicked the switch to reveal an image of Chewbacca with a small human child in his arms. The boy, Ben Solo, was delighted at being held by his “Uncle Chewie” and Chewbacca was equally delighted. Leia had never given up on her son. But it turns out, Chewie hadn’t either.
Palpatine’s Survival Explained
When Rey encounters Palpatine, there is a sense of familiarity with his presence. Revulsion and shock is there as well, but there is something about him, as if he had always been with her in some way. As she approaches the Emperor, she sees a flashback of the Emperor being thrown into the abyss by his own apprentice. She then learns exactly how he survived:
Falling, the dying Emperor called upon the dark side of the Force to thrust his consciousness far, far away to a secret place he had been preparing. His body was dead before it hit the bottom of the shaft, and his mind awoke in a new body. But it was too soon. The cloned body hadn’t been perfected yet by his followers on Exegol, and it wasn’t strong enough to contain all of his power. The Sith Eternal worked tirelessly, splicing genes and creating unnatural abominations (I assume this is how Snoke eventually came to be though he gets no further explanation in the book) in the hope that one of the strandcasts would be viable. They would do anything to create a home for their “god-consciousness”.
One of these genetic strandcasts lived and even thrived. A not-quite-identical clone, his “son”. But he was useless to Palpatine, powerless. The boy’s only worth to him would be to continue the bloodline through more natural methods. Thus Rey was later born to him, the perfect vessel, strong enough to contain all the power of the Sith.
When all the ships arrive on Exegol in the final battle with Lando, there is some chatter across the comms, revealing the Ghost (though no clue as to who was piloting it) from Star Wars: Rebels, a pilot from the Alphabet Squadron novel (possibly Chass na Chadic), Zay Versio from Star Wars: Battlefront II, and Kaz from Star Wars: Resistance.
The Death of Nien Nunb
One thing that was more clear in the novel was the destruction of the Tantive IV and the loss of Nien Nunb who was on it. I can’t remember this from the movie being shown explicitly, but Poe laments his passing in the book along with everyone else on board Leia’s old ship. Here I thought Admiral Ackbar’s death in The Last Jedi was without ceremony. I didn’t even know the Sullustan had died until I read the book.
Finn’s ability to touch the Force is even more clear and explicit in the novel. Just like in the movie, he keeps having those “feelings”. Rey eventually begins to sense his connection to the Force as well. This was what he had been wanting to tell her in the movie but never got the chance to. He attempts to tell her again in the end, but she assures him that she knows already, having sensed his bright presence in the Force earlier on.
Two Halves of a Whole
After Ben revives Rey by sacrificing his own life force, Rey feels the power of their connection like never before. When he was Kylo Ren, it felt invasive to her. Now, it felt right. She felt whole. All those years she felt alone, she realizes, were not so much because her parents had abandoned her, but because the other half of her was not beside her. Now, just when she had found that precious connection and the incredible oneness that it brought, it was ripped away. But in her lamentation, a voice comes to her, Ben’s voice. I will always be with you, he said. “No one’s ever really gone,” she whispered in reply.
The Golden God
On Endor, Wicket and his son look up at the sky to see a Star Destroyer being destroyed as people all over the galaxy are now standing up to the First Order. This scene is in the movie, but there’s a little more in the book. Wicket tells his son that their friends did that, pointing to the destroyed starship. “Princess Leia?” his son asked. “See-Threepio?” Wicket nodded. There was no doubt that the golden, godlike one was responsible for yet another deliverance. After all these years, the Ewoks still see the protocol droid as a deity.
Rey’s New Lightsaber
There’s been some debate as to whether or not Rey’s new lightsaber in the end was double-bladed. The novel confirms that it is indeed a single-bladed weapon. The outer casing and emitter was salvaged from her quarterstaff (as many surmised from watching the scene on screen), and it felt perfect in her hand. She loved that it felt like the exact inverse of the lightsaber held by the dark Rey of her vision on the Death Star, which kind of explains why she ended up not going with a double-bladed design like many fans were hoping for.
The Skywalker Legacy
When the old woman on Tatooine asks her who she is and she sees Luke and Leia in the distance, it is only after she hears Luke’s words to her that she takes the surname of Skywalker. She is hesitant at first, but then Luke tells her, It’s yours, Rey. With Luke’s approval, it is then that she announces her new name, Rey Skywalker.
Well, that’s it folks. If you’ve read the book and noticed anything that I missed, please share your observations in the comments below. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Expanded Edition) by Rae Carson is available now digitally and in hardcover format. Happy reading Star Wars fans!
Jordan Pate is Co-Lead Editor and Senior Writer for Star Wars News Net, of which he is also a member of the book and comic review team. He loves all things Star Wars, but when he’s not spending time in the galaxy far far away, he might be found in our own galaxy hanging out in Gotham City or at 1407 Graymalkin Lane, Salem Center, NY.