No stranger to the larger Star Wars story, Rae Carson approached the task of retelling its conclusion and gave us an even better story than the original.
Star Wars has released a novel adaption of every one of its films since 1977. Not every novelization gets the level of praise it deserves, though. Matthew Stover’s Revenge of the Sith rarely makes it onto best Star Wars book lists when it should claim the top spot by default.
That book may have some competition now, however. And not just because both are beautifully written conclusions to their respective trilogies, though they are.
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The fandom is still in the process of recovering from unnecessarily harsh reactions to The Rise of Skywalker more than three months after its release. People are still mad — some even have a right to be. Others are now watching the movie again and finding all the little details that make it worth re-watching, even if their overall opinions don’t change much (and that’s OK).
This made the release of the film’s novelization a critical event. Whether you liked the movie or didn’t, many people reached for their own copy simply to see what it might add or change from the original story we saw on the big screen.
I won’t spoil anything major here — believe it or not, despite the fact that this is an adaption of a story most of us already know, it’s possible to ruin the surprises, and this book is too good for me to be partially responsible for doing that to you.
Regardless of how you felt about The Rise of Skywalker as a film, it’s hard to argue that it didn’t have its flaws, especially in terms of pacing and properly utilizing some of its most important characters. Many things were left unclear. Many things felt rushed and ill-placed.
There are just so many things a two-and-a-half-hour movie can’t do. We all knew that going in. We knew it was going to get some things wrong. This is why so many had (rightfully) high hopes for the book.
A book can do what a film can’t. It can show you a character’s thoughts, explain things in more detail, help audiences to make connections they may not have been able to on the big screen. Some might argue that a book “shouldn’t have to” do these things, but when faced with a deeply flawed (though still enjoyable) movie, it almost becomes the novelization’s responsibility to act as a supplement its audience didn’t know it needed.
And that’s exactly what Rae Carson’s adaption accomplishes — and so much more.
How can I choose what to praise first? Giving Rose Tico more lines, for example, and making her purpose back at base a little clearer. Giving us more Leia, too, because there was nothing more anyone working on the film could have done to give us that and I don’t think anyone can in good conscience be upset about that.
I won’t spoil the sweet “Uncle Chewie” moments — I wouldn’t dare. I’ll put it this way: If you wanted more Ben Solo in the movie, you’re going to get more of him in this book. Not perhaps as much as you might hope, but that’s the point. You get just enough of him so that when he sacrifices himself to save Rey, it makes that sacrifice really mean something.
That’s how I feel about this book in general. Somehow, the way Carson writes it, the stakes feel higher. The action feels more intense. The quiet moments are softer, the painful scenes sharper. And then there are those extra bits of fanservice sprinkled in, and I’d say we don’t deserve them, but after all these years, after all this time, we absolutely do.
Rae Carson was not given an easy task. But she took it and she nailed every single word of it. If I could give her more praise than I already have for blessing us with this masterpiece, I would. And I’ll keep trying. She did not deserve the harassment she received, and if you have no other reason to buy and enjoy this book, let that be it.
The book is an adaption of an already existing story, true, and there was only so much she could have gotten permission to do with it. But she took what she had and she made it beautiful. That’s not as easy as you’d think. But she sure makes it look that way.
I encourage you to watch the film again, then go directly to this book and start reading. See how much it enhances its source material. Let yourself get lost in it. This is the end of the Skywalker saga. You can see its final words right on that closing page.
Maybe they’ll change the way you feel. Maybe they won’t. But you have nothing to lose by giving all these pages a chance. There very well may be something within them that warms your soul, even if the story as a whole could not.
Have you read any Star Wars film novelizations? Which would you recommend?