While the opinions exhibited in this review are primarily those of the writer, input was provided by the entirety of the Youtini staff. SPOILERS AHEAD for Resistance Reborn.
The journey to The Rise of Skywalker has officially begun and it’s already looking like it will be every bit as enjoyable as its final destination thanks to Star Wars newcomer Rebecca Roanhorse and her direct prequel, Resistance Reborn.
In many ways, The Last Jedi did what all great second acts do: heighten the stakes, provide a plot twist, and end with the fate of our heroes hanging in the balance. Since credits rolled on Episode VIII, fans have been theorizing about what the next steps would be for the handful of freedom fighters left in the Resistance and how they could possibly rally enough of a force to give themselves a fighting chance against the might of the First Order. The answer, it seems, is not in an overwhelming, pendulum-swinging act, but rather in small moments of quiet determination. It is those small moments—drops of water, according to Rey—that will be built into an ocean.
We don’t have an ocean quite yet…but the water is rising and the current is growing strong.
Resistance Reborn is a fitting title, as the plot of the book is exactly that—the rebirth of the Resistance after its humbling near-destruction on the salt plains of Crait. The story picks up aboard the Falcon mere days after the end of The Last Jedi when General Leia Organa’s galaxy-wide call for help was met with silence. There is a sense of strained courage and melancholic hope aboard the vessel as our heroes regroup to complete what appears to be the altogether impossible task of somehow amassing an army capable of taking down the First Order once and for all.
Although Leia’s call went unanswered, there is still hope that allies to her cause exist. There are whispers that the First Order has been rounding up and imprisoning old Rebel leaders and ex-Imperials alike. More than whispers, there are also substantiated rumors that a list exists of all those individuals who are wanted or have already been detained, as well as their last known locations. While the prospect of such a list seems too good to be true, its existence represents the best chance that the Resistance has for bolstering its numbers with the type of people it truly needs.
The book itself is broken down into three separate missions that all come to a head at the end of the story. Poe, Finn, and a small group from Black Squadron are sent to a fancy soiree where the auction for the aforementioned list is being held. Wedge Antilles, Norra and Snap Wexley, and a handful of new recruits are sent to rescue a high-profile prisoner. Finally, Zay, Shriv, and a gang of pilots sneak into the scrapyards on the planet Bracca, intent on commandeering ships for the Resistance. Meanwhile, Leia, Rey, and Rose run a makeshift command center at a temporary base on the planet Ryloth.
Ultimately, despite the odds, the Resistance is successful in its various missions and takes a small step down the path towards toppling the First Order. The novel ends with a modest celebration among the heroes at a brand new hideout. It is a bright spot before yet another plunge into the darkness; the quiet before the storm that is promised in The Rise of Skywalker.
Far and away, the most surprising and successful part of this novel was its sheer inclusion of other material from Canon. As our initial spoiler-free review first stated, this novel is in many ways a love letter to the Expanded Universe.
Let’s do a quick run-down of the cast.
Poe Dameron’s Black Squadron, as featured in the Poe Dameron comic series, returns in full force. Suralinda Javos, Jess Pava, Snap Wexley, and Karé Kun all play significant roles. In fact, we meet them immediately where the comic left off, in the aftermath of the battle for Grail City on the planet Ikkruk. But beyond that, Roanhorse even goes so far as to carry on small jokes from the comics, including Jess Pava’s nickname,“The Great Destroyer,” which she earned for her poor track record with astromech droids while out on missions.
Of course, Snap isn’t the only Wexley that returns in this novel. We also get his mother, star of the Aftermath trilogy, Norra Wexley! Since the events of the Aftermath trilogy, Norra has been retired from the galactic conflict, instead living a quiet life as a farmer with her husband and fellow ace pilot, Wedge Antilles. But when Snap and Karé pay them a visit requesting their help, there’s no question as to whether they’re willing to step up once again and spearhead a mission to Wedge’s home planet of Corellia.
Several faces from Leia’s past also make important appearances. Fans of Claudia Gray’s Bloodline will recognize Senator Ransolm Casterfo, the person responsible for revealing Leia’s parentage and destroying her political career, who is one of the First Order’s prisoners needing rescue. Yendor, the Twi’lek pilot-turned-political leader from Lost Stars, Aftermath, and Bloodline, also comes back, offering a home on Ryloth to the Resistance forces in their time of need. Finally, a fellow Alderaanian, General Rieekan, returns to the fold for his first canonical appearance since Hoth!
Fans of Star Wars video games will be delighted to see the return of Battlefront II's Zay Versio (daughter of Iden Versio) and the wonderfully inappropriate Shriv Suurgav, her Duros guardian, as they join the Resistance.
Aside from the characters from other stories, Roanhorse also did a fantastic job of writing the major characters of the saga from Leia to C-3PO. Amidst the major storyline, she expertly sneaks in quiet moments of character study that nicely balance against the heavy plot building, giving readers hints towards the trajectory of their favorite characters in TROS.
We see Leia struggle with the burden of being one of the last of the original Rebels and the weight of expectation that role places on her to lead yet another successful uprising. We see Poe wrestle with feelings of guilt and unworthiness in the wake of his past mistakes. We see Rey question her place in the equation as both a freedom fighter and a Jedi. Ultimately, this story is an exploration of the difficulties of leadership which are so often overlooked.
All of these character moments are merely seeds being sown for what will happen on screen in December, but those who have read this book will be able to enjoy what comes to fruition even more.
It is difficult to grade Resistance Reborn with respect to originality. It mined a ton of material from other authors’ works, which is unoriginal by definition. There wasn’t a plethora of new characters or ships or planets, and even the ones that were new were actually created for other projects, like the planet Bracca for the upcoming video game Jedi: Fallen Order. But then again, a novel serving as a direct prequel to a film isn’t exactly aimed at being original. Its very purpose is to set up what’s to come by using the pieces of what has already been established.
Then again, from a certain point of view, the sheer number of ties Resistance Reborn has to other works could be looked at as incredibly original in and of itself. It was refreshing to have a novel with that much connective tissue. It made the experience of the story all the more rewarding.
That's the point of having a Canon to begin with, isn’t it?
While this was Rebecca Roanhorse’s first foray into the Star Wars universe, it will most assuredly not be her last. She was an accomplished author before this novel, winning both the Hugo and Nebula awards for her work in science fiction/fantasy. After reading Resistance Reborn, it’s no wonder as to why. She has a phenomenal ability to write thrilling action sequences, but also masterfully places you inside the heads of your favorite characters.
Outside of her abilities as a writer, Roanhorse also offers a unique perspective. As a woman of Native American and African-American heritage, she is yet another member of a recent wave of diversification in the Star Wars author community. Star Wars is set in a galaxy full of all kinds of people from all kinds of planets and it therefore only makes sense to have a diverse group of people weave those stories with as many perspectives represented as possible.
If you, like us, loved what Roanhorse did with Resistance Reborn, then we have good news. She has already revealed that she will be returning to Star Wars to write a Darth Maul short story for a Clone Wars middle grade anthology!
Resistance Reborn was a page-turner. Roanhorse certainly knows how to end chapters in such a way that you’re immediately flipping to the start of the next one to see what happens. Several Youtini members got through the book in a matter of one or two days, and we’re willing to bet a lot of you Youtinians were no different.
While the story was entertaining in its own right, it will be even more so for those that have a deeper knowledge of other Star Wars stories. Basically, the more you invest in this story (and the ones it's connected to), the more you get out of it.
Given the vast library of Star Wars audiobooks from Penguin Random House Audio, we have come to expect quite a high standard of quality from every project. All star narrator Marc Thompson returns to the Canon to narrate Resistance Reborn, and while his descriptive narration of the story is undoubtedly stellar, some of the character voices are surprisingly not up to his usual level of excellence.
His portrayals of men like Poe Dameron and Wedge Antilles are especially fantastic, but unfortunately, most of the female voices lack the authenticity of their movie counterparts. The voices end up sounding a bit more like commentary than actual performance. Perhaps this is more of a comment on the male narrator’s ability to accurately portray a female’s voice, but Leia, Rey, Rose, and others sounded particularly weak during portions of the story where the words exhibited strength and purpose.
The way that Thompson weaves the world together through narration is still brilliant, and the sound effects and music raise Resistance Reborn through the ranks of perfect production, but I couldn’t help myself from wishing that a female narrator had been brought in to voice the other characters.
This book is the absolute perfect foundation for The Rise of Skywalker.
Resistance Reborn is about what all good Star Wars is about: retaining hope in the darkest of times and believing in yourself even in the face of overwhelming odds. All of our heroes manage to do both throughout this novel, and they will surely have to do so yet again in The Rise of Skywalker.
The amount of time and knowledge it must have taken to craft this story is unparalleled. With characters, planets, and references from a wide range of other Star Wars projects, this book is, in many ways, the crowning achievement of Canon thus far.
Sure, the overall opinion of Resistance Reborn is probably bolstered by the wave of excitement around the “final” installment of the Skywalker saga set to drop next month, but that's kind of the point! Regardless, it’s a fantastic novel in its own right. Rebecca Roanhorse is an immensely talented addition to the Star Wars saga and we're hopeful that she will be gracing us with new projects in the future.
The journey to Episode IX is officially underway, the Resistance has been reborn, and if you listen closely, you can already hear the roaring of an ocean building in the distance.