Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, written by Rae Carson and based on the film of the same name by JJ Abrams and Chris Terrio, is the novelized version of the final chapter in the Skywalker Saga. Picking up the story a year after Star Wars: The Last Jedi we follow our heroes Rey, Finn, and Poe as they fight against the evil First Order while an old enemy returns. Secrets are revealed about our hero’s past and there is more to Rey and Kylo Ren’s connection than meets the eye. Rae Carson, when adapting the film, was able to craft a novelization that was faithful to the source material but managed to surpass it in many ways.
To get it out of the way, most of the film’s problems have been fixed in the novel. The pacing is much slower and it really gets into the character’s thoughts and feelings. I understood Rey’s struggle with her identity so much more because of this. Due to this much better pace, the story is easier to understand and digest. On top of the better pace, the book is a much better sequel to The Last Jedi and that’s not me saying the film isn’t a good sequel either. Connections throughout the book are made whether that be Leia missing her friend Holdo or Poe fearing he’ll make the same mistakes he made during the events of The Last Jedi. The book also includes even more of Rose Tico who was severely underused in the film. While her presence isn’t greatly improved the scenes that have been added are amazing.
Carson uses the medium she’s working with so effectively and is able to make the characters and their stories beautiful to experience. Rey’s struggle with her identity is brought to its conclusion here and it is done with such insight into her character. As the reader, I felt what she felt. In her moments of fear and anger, Carson is capable of expressing these emotions with ferocity but in Rey’s moments of love, compassion, and happiness she conveys it with such grace. Rey’s relationship with Leia was done justice in this adaptation. The love they have for each other is shown beautifully and in her darkest moments Rey asks herself, “What would Leia do?”. It’s made very clear that Rey is not a damsel in distress and she is very capable of handling herself but she’s also human with weakness and fear of allowing her linage to control her. This balance is something Carson nails and makes Rey a character I can see little girls or anyone for that matter looking up to.
Kylo Ren/Ben Solo is a character that is written amazingly as well. This is the moment where his entire story comes to its heartfelt conclusion. Throughout the trilogy, Kylo Ren is portrayed as someone who feels rejected by his family and wants his pain to go away. For years he is groomed by Snoke to believe he could never be loved or accepted and that the darkness is the answer. In the previous films, we see that every time Ren chooses the dark he is left empty and in more pain. The author shows this struggle extremely well. A scene added to the novel helps give insight into this. When interrogating his father’s best friend and co-pilot, Chewbacca, Kylo Ren is confronted by his past. He sees his Mom, Dad, and Uncle Chewie in this moment and all the happiness they once had. Doing this horrible thing to someone he truly cared about brought him no pleasure or relief. This speaks for his struggle in this story. He finally needs to face his past and realize he’s loved for who he is, Ben Solo. His entire family helps him realize this but Rey and their connection play a huge role in his redemption. The book even goes as far as to call Rey Ben’s light. When Ben finally returns and he goes to unite with his “ray of light” it’s one of the best moments in the entire book because of how Carson is able to present the moment.
Poe Dameron is a character I came to love in The Last Jedi. The Rise of Skywalker continues his journey of leadership in such a great way that just reinforces the lessons Poe learned from Leia and Holdo and shows him dealing with the guilt of his failures. The novel translates his story so well. He knows that one day he will need to take Leia’s place and lead the Resistance but he’s afraid of failing his mentor, his friends, and the galaxy. Poe is eventually forced to take up leadership and comes to realize that he is stronger when he has faith in his friends. He shares the responsibility of leadership with his best friend Finn, someone he considers to be like a brother.
My favorite thing about Poe in the book is that he’s learned from The Last Jedi and knows that it is now or never so he sends the entire Resistance fleet to Exegol but when no one is coming to help he is afraid he’s made the same mistake as he did previously and caused his fleet’s doom by sending them into a fight they can’t win. Thankfully his belief that people would come was right and Poe echos his words from The Last Jedi. They were the spark the lit the fire that burned down the First Order. Carson is able to brilliantly tie in Poe’s experience in the previous film into this story and it goes to show how much he’s grown and learned.
The only character I was really disappointed in during the film was Finn due to feeling like he didn’t have much of a substantial character arc or dedicated part of the story. I felt his development was carried over from the previous films but all they did with him here was making him force-sensitive which isn’t bad at all. The part that bugs me is how little was done with it. When it comes to how Rae Carson decided to use Finn I only have praise for her given the material she had to adapt. Many times the story will be told from Finn’s point of view and these moments are some of the best because it’s something the movie doesn’t do or isn’t capable of doing. We know how much his friends and the Resistance mean to him. He found a family with Rey, Rose, and Poe which Carson portrays with so much heart. She is able to prove why Finn is such an enduring character.
The greatest additions to the story which are contained in the novelization are expanding on General Hux’s plot against Supreme Leader Kylo Ren and learning how Zorii Bliss escaped Kijimi. General Hux’s actions in this story are extremely fitting for his character but I feel the movie didn’t show his feelings and desires well enough. I realized this after reading the novel and experiencing how well-crafted Hux is. I see when read he’s been planning this for a long time, maybe even since Kylo Ren first took the throne from him and his selfish disposition and lust for power shows he’s never truly cared about the First Order and their cause. He only wants the throne which he feels is rightfully his but his selfishness catches up to him and causes his downfall. It represents Snoke’s analogy of comparing Hux to a rabid cur in The Last Jedi perfectly which the film didn’t manage to capture.
When it comes to Zorii and her escape from Kijimi it was completely new material that really added to Poe and Zorii’s relationship. The reader gets to experience her thoughts and feelings which really gave the sense that Poe and her have a history. This helped her feel much more fleshed out and gave The Knights of Ren so much more to do which was greatly appreciated.
In conclusion, Rae Carson’s novelization of The Rise of Skywalker manages to tell the tale of the film but adds to the story and improving it in so many ways. For me, it was like experiencing the story all over again and I loved it. I’d highly recommend the book for those who love the movie or even people who had problems with the movie but believe some simple changes could improve the story it told. As I said previously, Rae Carson took the amazing experience of the movie and was able to surpass it in almost every way.