With the anthologies behind us, it’s time to move into the middle grade books! These are all going to be firsts for me too, since I hadn’t planned on reading them at all at first.
Then I got in too deep.
Anyway. With a new chunk of books comes a format change! This time, it’ll be three books at a time, and a more general overview of the story because they’re so short and to dive too deep would remove a lot of the mystique.
First up, books set prior to the Original Trilogy! *Spoilers Below*
Guardians of the Whills by Greg Rucka
Guardians of the Whills is set on Jedha, sometime shortly before the events of Rogue One. Baze Malbus and Chirrut Îmwe are former Guardians of the Whills, now scraping by since the arrival of the Empire and the shuttering of the Temple of the Kyber.
Recognizing the unjust system all around them, the two of them do the best they can to make life easier for those who suffer, particularly those who used to be temple disciples. They focus the bulk of their efforts on two sisters, Killi and Kaya, who run an orphanage in Jedha City.
Their good work doesn’t go unnoticed, and they are shortly approached by Saw Gerrera’s Partisans, and invited to join their cause, which they do in an effort to chase off the Empire and try to salvage life as it once was.
While I don’t feel any backstory for Baze and Chirrut is necessary to enjoy Rogue One, that didn’t make this book any less fun or enjoyable.
It was awesome to see someone engaging with the Force differently than just being a plain Force user. It was also great to dive into what makes Baze and Chirrut so different. One gives into his anger and it’s caused him to set the Force aside completely, while the other doubled down in his beliefs and uses it to drive him.
We also have the two men winding up on Saw Gerrera’s bad side, which might add a curious dimension to their motivations the next time I watch Rogue One. I’m personally a little meh on how Saw is painted as unstable and dangerous for so long, but here towards the end of his life (I assume) it makes a little more sense. When you’re in it so long, you start to lack perspective.
Chirrut can “sense” Baze clearly in the Force, even clearer than he can sense himself. Between the two of them, they also have a very close bond despite being opposites. I found myself asking “dyad lite?”
So Jyn has Rebel Rising, Baze and Chirrut have this, Cassian is getting his own show. Bohdi Rook content when?
Lando’s Luck by Justina Ireland
Sometime before the events of Solo, Lando is living the life as a not-entirely-above-board smuggler. A trip to Hynestia and an inability to walk away from the sabacc table puts Lando directly in the crosshairs of Queen Forsythia, who is prepared to have him killed for transporting a banned substance onto the planet. Her daughter, Rinetta, strikes a bargain: if Lando agrees to transport the planet’s imperial tribute directly to the Empire, then he be allowed to walk away with his life.
But Rinetta’s motivations are not so cut and dry. The so-called tribute is actually a sacred artifact from Livno III, and it’s absence means the world has fallen into chaos and disrepair. Her mentor, Zel Gris, hails from that world, and it is out of respect for her that Rinetta wants to see the artifact, the Solstice Globe, returned where it belongs.
But because this is Lando, nothing goes as planned. They take a detour to another planet for him to pay off one debt, only to be caught and apprehended by Forsythia and dragged back to Hynestia, leading Rinetta to have to orchestrate a breakout and beat her mother at her own game in order to see justice carried out.
I like Lando Calrissian. I think he’s at his most interesting when he’s wrestling with everything he thought he knew about life, the universe, and himself, all covered up with a flashy cape and an abundance of self confidence. But at this point in his journey, he isn’t quite there yet.
That’s why my favourite parts of the book were ones that were told from Rinetta or L3’s points of view. I love L3 because of how delightfully independent and over the top she is, and her chapters are just more of that.
Rinetta’s chapters are what really shine through in this book for me. As much as I love our legacy characters, I love seeing how new characters we’ve never met before interact with and face conflicts set out by our legacy characters, or just how they exist in the world at all. I understand why the book was focused on Lando: it was to coincide with the release of Solo. While I did enjoy it, I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had been more focused on Rinetta.
The story is framed as a tale being told to Bazine Netal, who is seeking the whereabouts of the Millennium Falcon. I know she appears in some short stories and The Force Awakens briefly, but for me, I’ve actually seen her more in fan fiction than anything else, so yes, this was jarring.
L3 makes an offhand reference to the fact that fights on Mustafar usually end up with one of the parties dead, then tells Lando and Rinetta to “study history” when they’re confused about what she means. Does L3 know about Anakin and Obi Wan, or are duels to the death just a thing that happens on Mustafar?
Pirate’s Price by Lou Anders
Though I suspect this is the Han Solo counterpart to Lando’s Luck, this book makes the interesting choice of telling the whole story through the eyes of everyone’s favourite Weequay space pirate Hondo Onaka.
Following on her investigation from Lando’s Luck, Bazine Netal tracks Hondo to Batuu, as she’s heard he is now in possession of the famous Millennium Falcon. He promises to tell her how he came to have it. But because this is Hondo and he can’t do anything straightforward, he tells Bazine two whole other stories before he gets to explaining how he acquired the Falcon.
The first – and longest – of these stories details how he attempted to sneak on board the Falcon and steal it from Han and Chewie, but found himself stuck when they suddenly take off in order to grant someone passage on a distant world. He makes himself known to them and offers his services on the journey. What follows is an Oceans 11 style adventure involving clones, hidden explosives, and a planet covered in a red organism and populated by giant snails.
The second story is set on Takodana, home of Maz Kanata and her famous castle. Hondo flies there to purchase some less-than-legal ships and parts, and is dragged along by Maz on an adventure to rescue Han and Chewie from the very same smugglers Hondo planned on meeting with.
The third and final story also serves to resolve the mystery of how Hondo came to possess the Millennium Falcon in the first place. Chewie lends it to him for repairs and for his use sometime after the events of The Last Jedi. Though a nemesis from an earlier story tries to take the ship from him, Hondo manages to prevent it, with the assistance of the porgs that now live on board.
I think making the decision to have Hondo narrate the story was a wise one. If this had been another Han Solo story played straight, I don’t know how interesting that would have been. But like this, with Hondo’s over-the-top narration style and with us seeing Han and Chewie through the eyes of someone who doesn’t usually get to tell the story, the book as a whole was really refreshing.
I’m so glad the solved the mystery of how Hondo came to possess the Falcon, and how it is that you can pilot it when you visit Galaxy’s Edge. Though I do wonder how long he had it for, since in The Rise of Skywalker it’s back in their possession long enough for them to break parts of it again after Hondo repairs it.