A new biography of Star Wars’ most famous family is not just a retelling of the saga that played out through nine movies. Skywalker: A Family At War is a sweeping history of three generations told the same way a scholar would write the history of a royal family.
Author Kristin Baver (associate editor and host of This Week in Star Wars) approaches the Skywalker family biography as if she’s a historian in the galaxy far, far away. Even the book’s inside jacket description notes the narrative was compiled by piecing together historical sources like “R2-D2’s memory files, personal diaries and correspondence, holorecordings and news dispatches, as well as other documentation of galactic events.”
Baver’s real-life background as a journalist also shines through in her writing, making the book a well-researched yet entertaining biographical narrative.
When it comes to the three generations-spanning content, Skywalker: A Family At War delivers intriguing and eye-opening details that give crucial context to the overall saga. The book is broken up into three parts: The Father, The Twins and The Dyad — chronicling the lives of Anakin Skywalker, Luke and Leia, and then Ben Solo and Rey.
The book is both a captivating summary of the three Star Wars trilogies and an intimate expose of the fears, hopes and motivations of the Skywalker family members.
It delves into the fear-soaked psyche of Anakin that eventually led him to the Dark Side to become Darth Vader. Luke and Leia’s narratives show how their upbringings reflected their biological parentage while also fostering in them the strength and compassion to be better and do better than Anakin and Padme Amidala. As for Rey and Ben Solo, their dyad in the Force arc captures the stark contrast in their childhoods that fostered in both a preoccupation with the past.
Baver’s biography is the first time we get more details about Rey’s and Ben’s lives before the events of The Force Awakens when they first met. While Rey would later learn of her power in the Force and her Dark Side legacy, Ben grew up with his biological parents — both war heroes — by his side. Like Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side, Ben’s transformation into Kylo Ren is described as one of deep fear, conflict and feelings of betrayal, which the book poignantly explores.
As all fans know, the Skywalker saga did not just play out on screen. Baver’s book deftly explains the relationship between Anakin and his padawan Ahsoka Tano as one that was supposed to reign him in and give him something to focus on other than the terrifying nightmares of his wife Padme dying. The book also details more of Leia’s Force sensitivity and training as well as the “opposites attract” relationship she had with Han. And there’s insight about the Lars family on Tatooine, who adopts Luke shortly after he’s born.
Luke and Ben’s fraught mentor-apprentice relationship is also explored, including up to the moment when Ben’s feelings of betrayal by his own family pushed him to destroy his uncle’s Jedi academy and fully embrace his Dark Side legacy as the grandson of Darth Vader.
The book isn’t all gloom and heartbreak, though. There are some moments of levity, including a quick poke at Anakin’s aversion to sand and Ben’s touching relationship with his Uncle Chewie. And learning that toddler Ben called Lando Calrissian “Unca Wanwo” is now in the running for the cutest phrase in all of Star Wars.
Baver’s approach to combining the stories of three generations spanning over 40 years makes it feel like we’re hearing the Skywalker saga all over again for the first time. We know that Anakin becomes Darth Vader and his wife Padme gives birth to twins Luke and Leia, who are separated at birth but find each other two decades later. We know those Skywalker twins then learn of their dark parentage but overcome their fears to destroy the evil Empire their father helped create.
We also know that the Dark Side and the Sith, in particular, are very difficult to snuff out, as seen in Ben’s fall from the light through the machinations of Snoke. And through Rey’s story, we know that familial ties aren’t the only things that bind, as she refuses to bow to her grandfather Emperor Palpatine’s dark requests to resurrect the Sith.
But Skywalker: A Family At War reads like a fresh take on a historical document, something that could easily be cited in an essay on the Skywalkers’ impact on Tatooine or a study of the unique powers shared between a dyad in the Force. It’s also just a fun, insightful read, one that sticks with you long after you finish the Epilogue.
The Skywalker saga may be over, but it certainly lives on through this expertly crafted piece of Star Wars history.
Skywalker: A Family At War by Kristin Baver is available now.