Funny story: when I went to buy my copy of this book, I didn’t open it to look at it before I paid. Why would I? So I took it home, cracked it open, and saw that it abruptly started on page 32. No title page, no nothing. I then embarrassingly spent all afternoon thinking that this was a choose-your-own-adventure book.
Hmm….maybe that wasn’t that funny. Guess you had to be there. Anyway, let’s jump into Most Wanted by Rae Carson!
Han and Qi’ra are both up for promotions within Lady Proxima’s White Worm gang. Well, more specifically, they’re up for the same promotion. All they have to do is complete one mystery errand. Hijinx ensue.
The errand revolves around a mysterious datacube, which Lady Proxima is keen to acquire. Though they are hideously outbid, the cube winds up in their possession anyway, and Han and Qi’ra, along with their Rodian friend Tsuulo end up on the run through the streets of Corellia. A tip from a droid friend of Han’s leads them to a woman known only as The Engineer, the designer of the cube’s contents. Their new mission becomes returning the cube to her, while staying out of the clutches of the Empire, the crime syndicates, and the White Worm gang.
4 Things I Liked (and 1 I Didn’t)
1. Han and Qi’ra stay consistent
I was surprised to learn on this reread that Most Wanted is actually set the same year that Solo begins. I suppose that makes sense, given how little Han and Qi’ra change between this book and when we first meet them in the movie.
Han is…well, he’s Han. Personable, charming, talks his way out of problems he stumbled into because he wasn’t thinking it through. He gets defensive when Qi’ra and Tsuulo refer to the speeder he’s building as a “hunk of junk” (get used to it, my guy). He is absolutely brimming with the hope and the pluck and the optimism we see in Solo, which we know won’t last forever. It won’t even last that much longer, but it was nice to get a bit more of it here. He also has a natural aptitude for piloting, which is hardly surprising (but is it believable? I mean…there wasn’t a training montage or anything….ok sorry, sorry)
Qi’ra. Oh, Qi’ra. I feel like Qi’ra should have grown up on Naboo or Alderaan. This girl just has such an affinity for nice landscapes and pretty things. Even when she makes her own safe house, she makes sure to try and make it as aesthetically pleasing as possible. When she receives a new outfit from Lady Proxima for her assignment, it gets damaged and she laments this damage on two separate occasions. She is also just as calculating and guarded as she is onboard Dryden’s yacht in Solo. It makes it that much more heartbreaking, knowing how close this book is to the events of the movie. Her guard is up for the majority of the book before it starts to come down. She is even offered a job with The Engineer aboard a luxury vessel, and declines it for the sake of Han and Tsuulo, to stay with them. And yet in a very short amount of time, she’s going to wind up property of Crimson Dawn and her guards will go right back up. But the life she wanted was right within her grasp, and on her terms. She’s skilled enough that she could have risen to the top of any organization she wanted.
Actually. While we’re on the subject, can we please get a Disney+ thing of Qi’ra running a crime syndicate? Thanks
2. It’s not the Death Star for once
So they get the datacube, they turn it on, and they find it’s blueprints they can’t read.
“Oh, it’s the Death Star”, I’m thinking.
But you know what?
Yes, the Death Star was a huge problem in the Galaxy right around this time period, there’s no denying that. But it’s great to see this book continue in the same vein as Solo and have absolutely nothing to do with the Death Star.
There is the possibility that I’m only now considering, that maybe the shield tech within the cube had initially been designed for the Death Star. The Engineer is an imperial defector after all. But the fact that it never comes up, and is never referred to in that way is still a refreshing change of pace.
3. It’s actually not even the Empire this time
OK, this may not be technically true if the shield tech did in fact turn out to be for the Death Star in the first place.
Whether or not it is has no bearing on the plot as it pertains to Han, Qi’ra and Tsuulo. Their primary foes are the Droid Gotra and the Kaldana syndicate. Crime syndicates are such a large part of the world of Star Wars, and yet they’re largely underexplored in the media (one might even say….criminally underexplored badum tss). So coming off of three books where the Empire and the Death Star were the centrepiece to the conflict, this is another refreshing change of pace
4. Poor Tsuulo
Tsuulo is a fellow White Worm who becomes entangled in Han and Qi’ra’s assignment and decides to stick around and help them. Tsuulo is from Coruscant, but was orphaned on Corellia while visiting with his family, and opted to join a gang rather than live hand-to-mouth while his brother tried to succeed on the racing circuit. Tsuulo is interesting in that while Han and Qi’ra want to escape their White Worm life, Tsuulo sees it as the preferable option.
What I really like about Tsuulo though, is he was raised on Coruscant and was educated there, so he buys into the Imperial propaganda. He believes that they’ve brought stability to the galaxy and that they can’t possibly be that bad. But while he was on Coruscant, he also learned about the Jedi and the Force. He was given a pamphlet by a “street preacher” (who was definitely a Jedi or a Guardian of the Whills) that taught him about the Force and he finds it absolutely fascinating. He prays to it when they are in tight spots even though he doesn’t fully understand it.
Characters are usually either/or in Star Wars: You either throw your support behind the Empire, or you hold the Jedi in high regard. Tsuulo is a bit of both, which made him fascinating to me and I only wish we got more.
5. The White Worms
Are you ready, because this is such a nitpick. We get the gist of what Han and Qi’ra do for the White Worms, in a very general sense. They occasionally allude to the tasks they had to carry out for Lady Proxima. I wish the book had started a little earlier than it actually did, showing both Han and Qi’ra individually completing missions for Lady Proxima so I could see how his “no-plan-all-charm” and her “plan-it-to-death” approach succeeded on an individual basis.
Han not only speaks multiple languages, but actually makes the observation that someone speaking a language in a broken way does not indicate a lack of intelligence, and I love that.
Pretty sure Qi’ra’s outfit from Lady Proxima is the same one we see her wear at the start of Solo
You know what would be fun? Qi’ra Disney+ series, and we bring back The Engineer. They face off. This time as equals. Oooooooh DRAMA.
Han sees a painting of Emperor Palpatine that he finds unnerving while they are sneaking into an Imperial facility. In that moment they’re worlds apart, and this poor boy from the sewers of Corellia has no idea how much that man in the painting is going to mess with his family over the next 40 years. I’m not crying, you’re crying.