I was given this book by my brother for Christmas. I read it for the first time in August. I literally could not bring myself to read a buildup to the Rise of Skywalker knowing how much that movie broke my heart. What made it worse was knowing that this book was supposed to be really, really good.
This book is so good it makes me angry. I love it. I love what it’s setting up for the story. I love how well it captures the characters voices and the sense of hope in the face of uncertainty and despair. And to have the potential of this story absolutely squandered in the movie it was meant to set up is unfair both to the story and to those that loved it. Let’s take a very calm, collected, not-salty-at-all-about-the-end-of-the-saga look at Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse.
Shortly after the Battle of Crait, the Resistance is struggling. Their numbers are restricted to the beings who were on board the Falcon at the end of The Last Jedi, and Black Squadron, Poe’s crew of pilots.
They need more leaders. They need somewhere to go. They need to bounce back after their horrific losses. Making matters worse is the fact that the First Order is rounding up anyone and everyone who could threaten their rule, or worse still, be allies for the Resistance. The names of those still to be rounded up are kept on a list.
A list that, fortunately for our heroes has been leaked out.
Unfortunately, as is the way of such things, the list is now being auctioned to the highest bidder at a party populated by the criminal elite. With new focus in mind, the growing Resistance crew, now including Wedge Antilles, Norra Wexley as well as Zay Versio and Shriv from Inferno Squad decides to undertake one big heist that will hopefully salvage their movement.
5 Things I Liked (and 1 I Didn’t)
1. Poe’s Character Arc
It’s not for everyone, but I really love Poe’s character arc in The Last Jedi. I think it makes sense that in a highly charged situation, things will go wrong, people won’t listen, and hard lessons need to be learned. Like in a procedural TV show where the hot shot lead actor chafes against a new authority figure and messes up a lot in a bid to prove them wrong.
But this isn’t a medical drama with a case-of-the-week, this is galaxy-wide warfare, and we didn’t have 10 episodes for Poe to get used to Holdo’s style. So he makes some bad choices that get a lot of people killed. He even makes bad choices before she shows up, because the conflict he’s in is unprecedented. And in this book, Poe is given the time and the space to process the consequences of his actions.
He wrestles internally with his guilt for a good chunk of the book. He has a hard time facing the decisions he made. He’s haunted by the lives they’ve lost and the role he played in it. It is only in coming clean to the entire company, and having others confess their shortcomings as well, that the Resistance can put their shady problematic pasts behind them and move forward.
What makes this arc so strong is it directly builds off of everything we know about Poe already, and he grows into a confident leader because of it. I almost don’t mind that Poe didn’t have much of an arc in the next movie because of how strong it is here. If “the greatest teacher of all, failure is”, The Last Jedi was where Poe saw failure, and the events of this book show how much he’s learned.
2. Unofficial Sequel to Bloodline
You know how I said I love Bloodline. Well, what no one told me, and what turned out to be an amazing surprise, is that this book feels almost like the unofficial Bloodline sequel.
Leia is the other major point of view character. Where in Bloodline we saw her preparing to resist the rise of the First Order, here she is working to put the Resistance back together after suffering horrific losses.
Though it’s probably not necessary to read Bloodline before reading Resistance Reborn, it’s so much better if you do. For instance, the Resistance is given shelter on Ryloth by Yendor, the same Twi’lek who came to Leia and asked for her help running out the criminal entities in the earlier book.
But then, there’s my absolute favourite part. One of the people being held by the First Order, whose name appears on the list, is none other than Centrist senator Ransolm Casterfo! The one with the awesome name! His ending in Bloodline broke my heart, with him sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit, so I love that he was rescued from an uncertain fate here.
Also, just generally, Rebecca Roanhorse really nails the character of Leia. For someone who is so omnipresent in the franchise, she isn’t always written well, but Roanhorse really gets her (as, of course, does Claudia Gray).
3. StormPilot is canon and you can’t take this from me
I’m all for showing strong male friendships in media. We need more of it without it being read as romantic.
But we need to talk about Finn and Poe.
It’s absolutely no secret that I am a Reylo. I go hard for my ship and yes I’m still upset about it 9, nearly 10 months later, thank you for asking. However. Before I ever decided that I wanted the two space wizards to fall in love, I decided that I would very much like a love story between the daring pilot captured by the First Order and the stormtrooper with a heart of gold that rescues him.
This book gives me that. And not in a over-the-top romantic way that would be hard for a corporation to sweep under the rug, it’s true. More in the angsty, pining, slow burn, friends to lovers kind of way. The kind of romance I used to see in books as a kid, where it’s all so subtle but it makes you breathless with the mere idea.
Granted this is all subtext. And I could be reading way into it: the lingering looks, the touches that last too long, the intimate conversations, Poe asking if the two women in Finn’s life are his girlfriends, then looking relieved when Finn says they’re just friends? Could all be coincidence. But I ask you: is it a coincidence that while I was taking my StormPilot notes for this post, “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston started playing on my 90’s Shuffle playlist? (Yes, probably)
4. A Star Wars book for adults that actually feels like a book
Before you get all confused about what this means, let me explain.
With some notable exceptions (Claudia Gray, for instance) the Star Wars novels written for adults feel like…not books. It feels like the author is attached to the visually familiar aspects of the movies, and is trying to bring that into their books. A noble goal, but one that rarely works out. It’s one thing to see the Death Star blow up. It’s quite another to just describe it. I never once felt here like Roanhorse is secretly trying to write a Star Wars movie but finds herself restricted to the medium of books.
I’ve often expressed my frustration with (or just skimmed past) the pew pew parts of the other books. For all that this book has the pew pew parts, they are action scenes that are appropriate for a book. It isn’t 15 pages of battle tactic, its 2-3 pages of a chase/fight, either on foot or in a ship, but rather than just going over the nitty gritty of the action, it explains how the characters are reacting or feeling in the moment. Some authors forget: you have the ability to get in a characters head. Use it.
5. Under The Sea
This isn’t a big point, but it’s also the cutest thing ever. The party that they have to infiltrate to get the list is ostensibly the birthday party of a high-ranking woman on Corellia. The theme is some kind of underwater affair, but it’s described so much like the stereotypical Under The Sea prom theme (albeit with a lot more tech and money behind it) that I found the whole thing delightful.
My only regret is that Finn and Poe didn’t have time for a slow dance before the shit hit the fan…
6. The Imperial Dude
I was tempted to make the “dislike” for this book be the fact that it’s so good, the film it’s meant to set up seriously pales in comparison. But that’s a failing of the movie and not the book. As I’ve said several times, this book is really, really good. But as with anything there’s bound to be a part I liked the least, and this is it:
One subplot in the book revolves around Winshur Bratt, a First Order officer. One of his office aides is responsible for the list of Resistance sympathizers leaking out beyond the First Order.
While I do like getting a look at the inner workings of the First Order, the entirety of this subplot only mattered in that it was a means to an end. As cool as it was to see Bratt’s depraved psychology, I would have liked to spend more time with the Resistance.
As with all the books I loved, you can see this “dislike” mostly just boils down to personal preference again…
In Bloodline, Han and Leia speculate on their future grandkids. Wedge and Norra do the same in this book. I only bring this up because that’s never happening for any of them. Their sons are dead. This is fine. I’m fine.
I’m a Bendemptionist, and I love that Leia in this book makes it explicit that no one is responsible for saving Ben except Ben himself. Which arguably is what happens in The Rise of Skywalker (even if that only lasted for 30 seconds). It’s also pretty clear she loves her son still and maybe wouldn’t find peace in him dying before his 30th birthday, but hey that’s just my interpretation *steps off soapbox*
ON THAT NOTE (sorry, last one), when Leia has to tell a co-commander that one of his children died in the line of duty, she takes no pleasure in it. She says that no matter the nobility of the intention, there’s no such thing as a “good death”. How can a book this sweet, well-meaning, and emotionally resonant be designed to precede a movie that doesn’t understand the world in which it’s set? A Leia that feels this way is not a Leia that would find peace at the death of her son.
Finn’s code name for the party is “Kade Genti”, a character from a popular children’s adventure series, which is the cutest thing ever. It also reminds me of all the times in other media where a character needs a code name and uses a name from Star Wars. It’s nice to know that the kids in Star Wars have a space adventure equivalent of their own