Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.
He's dark. He's powerful. He's a bit unhinged. He commands armies but whines in his room to the mutilated helmet of his dead grandfather he never knew. Kylo Ren is the synthesis of the broodiness of Anakin Skywalker and the ominousness of Darth Vader. His backstory is both tragic and mysterious. Originally conceived of as “the Jedi killer,” he leads the Knights of Ren and uprooted Luke’s Jedi academy by either converting or killing his classmates. We want to see him succeed and do the right thing, but it's hard to hope for the best after he eliminated one someone who felt like family to us—his own father, Han Solo.
The magic of what makes Kylo Ren work is exactly this dilemma and so much more. When he was introduced to fans in the months leading up to Episode VII, reactions varied. Some complained about the crackling crimson cross-hilt lightsaber. Others marveled. Some said the mask was derivative of Darth Revan. Resoundingly, it was hard not to think the obvious: it's a cool character design, but how will he compare to the single most legendary villain in the history of pop culture, Darth Vader? As it turns out, this was front-and-center in the minds of the filmmakers as well. For Kylo Ren himself, this represents his single greatest doubt. In one of the quieter moments of The Force Awakens, he voices his indecision and his "pull to the light." This culminates in Rey turning the tables on her interrogator in the movie's second half, reading Ben Solo's mind and giving words to what we were all thinking, "You're afraid that you'll never be as strong as Darth Vader!" Therein lies the stroke of brilliance. Kylo dreads being a pretender. He wants to establish himself as a true dark side powerhouse, but standing in the way is the Resistance, Rey, his own inner doubts, his parents, and his master, and even his own legacy.
Kylo Ren’s story is truly one of the most compelling elements of the Sequel Trilogy. He had a tragic turn to the dark side involving a perceived betrayal by his parents and some sort of manipulative targeting from Supreme Leader Snoke. There’s still so much of his story yet to be explored. But The Last Jedi gave us a series of flashbacks show his rocky relationship with his uncle, Luke. His agenda is hard to pinpoint, exactly. On the one hand, he wants to prove himself and establish his evil prowess, but on the other, he doesn’t follow a traditional villainous trajectory. He eliminated his own master, Snoke, and invited Ray to join him in ruling the galaxy. At the end of Episode VIII, he becomes the new Supreme Leader of the First Order, but has he truly erased his pull to the light?
While the wealth of Kylo Ren stories are yet to be told (an exciting idea!), here are a few recommendations. He will feature most prominent in an upcoming mini-series from none other than Charles Soule, The Rise of Kylo Ren. The author described it as “from Ben to Ren.” It looks to tell the story of leaving Luke’s Jedi academy and becoming the villain we love to hate. You’ll also want to check out two recently released comics in the Age of Resistance series, Snoke #1 in particular, for a young Ben being trained by the Supreme Leader in the dark side cave on Dagobah. Empire’s End shows baby Ben. Bloodline features Leia in the expanse between ROTJ and TFA, with glimpses at how an adolescent Ben might receive the surprise news that Darth Vader was his grandfather. We’re not willing to let the past die with Kylo, not yet anyway. Additional recommendations if you’re a fan of Kylo Ren’s persona include a taste of Soule’s best comics writing in his Darth Vader series, a tour of the dark side with Darth Plagueis, an ambitious and eager-to-prove-himself Darth Maul in Shadow Hunter, and Jacen Solo’s first steps down the dark path in Legacy of the Force: Betrayal. We’re anxious to see what the future holds for Kylo, but there’s plenty to read in the meantime.
After the fall of the Empire, the Senate is split into the Populist and Centrist parties. Both profess the goal of restoring the Republic, though they are unable to set aside their opposing views. Tired of the pointless bickering within the Senate, Leia takes on one final mission before retiring. However, the mission proves to be bigger than she originally thought, inducing chaos and unveiling corruption.
Leave it to Claudia Gray to make politics exciting with action and drama! Bloodline is also an excellent gateway into the sequel trilogy, making this an essential read for fans interested in that era.
When a common foe from Han and Lando's past shows up on the latter's doorstep, the recent hero of the Rebellion and new father to Ben Solo must rush off once more to save both his friend and possibly, the entire galaxy.
Last Shot uniquely employs a number of different eras throughout the novel, and while jumping between time periods, we get to experience Han, Lando, L3-37 and more at various points in time, allowing us to witness the maturation and evolution of our favorite characters right before our eyes.
With a host of new characters right alongside the classics, including a villain that can't help but terrify all those who encounter him, Last Shot is an essential addition to the Han Solo story.
Alan Dean Foster brings his fantasy and sci-fi storytelling experience to Star Wars canon for the first time in his adaption of the highly-anticipated 2015 film The Force Awakens.
The official novelization of the film expands upon the events shown onscreen, giving readers the chance to see the Resistance engage in battle with the First Order from the unique points of view of different characters. Whether you’re a fan of Rey, Poe, Finn, or a combination of figures old and new, this book will take you on a journey across the galaxy you’ll not soon forget.
Jason Fry gets the honor of continuing Star Wars’s rich history with novel adaptation. In particular, his novelization shines in adding additional material to enhance the story in written form, such as Luke’s Force vision introduction and re-insterting deleted scenes from the film–even Rey’s third lesson! The novel allows us to get an inside look at certain characters such as BB-8 during the space battle over D’qar. Reading the novel of Episode Eight will allow you to soak up the story like never before, taking your time with the characters and getting the story from all-new perspectives.
Did you ever hear the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise? It's a sprawling tale that establishes several important origin stories for characters fans know well. Readers learn how Plagueis seduced Palpatine to the dark side and how their alliance led to the Sith apprentice’s ultimate betrayal of his master. This is how darkness truly began to rise.
Plans for the Trade Federation’s blockade of Naboo is at risk of being compromised, so Darth Sidious sends his skilled apprentice to Coruscant to take care of the problem. Completely loyal to his master, Darth Maul vows to crush any threat that is prone to delivering their secret agenda to the Jedi.
Shadow Hunter is a spectacular display of a Sith apprentice’s devotion to their master. Darth Maul had been trained by Darth Sidious since he was a child, and it shows in the way he hunts his prey and fuels on his anger to finish the job.