2019 may be the biggest year in the history of Star Wars. By December’s end, an entirely new streaming platform will be released, the first single player video game in years will be conquered, and most importantly the Skywalker Saga will be at an end. Over 40 years after George Lucas’s vision of Han, Luke, and Leia’s adventures were first witnessed by the masses, their chapter will be closed.
To call The Rise of Skywalker ‘anticipated’ is an understatement of truly epic proportions.
Therefore, it stands to reason that Lucasfilm would do all that they could to get fans pumped up for the movie, right? We’ve received (at the time of this review) a teaser trailer, a sizzle reel, and the first leaks of toys (that we can all get our hands on this coming Friday!). All of the promotion for Episode IX has focused not solely on the conclusion of the Sequel Trilogy but, importantly, on the conclusion of the complete nine film epic.
After all, it can still be argued that nostalgia reigns supreme in the world of entertainment, and what better way for Star Wars to celebrate that idea than with a single novel that collects the entirety of the story so far? This is exactly the promise that Delilah Dawson and Brian Rood’s The Skywalker Saga makes to its readers. Unfortunately, in an attempt to truncate all eight films into one concise package, The Skywalker Saga fails to completely capture the epic scope and storytelling prowess that compelled us all to fall in love with an unparalleled galaxy far, far away.
With most of our reviews here at Youtini, I would begin by detailing the plot of The Skywalker Saga. In this case, that practice is relatively moot due to the novel’s strict adherence to the favorite films of its intended audience. Instead, I will start by addressing how the breakneck pacing of the story affected my overall reading experience and therefore, my opinion on the nature of the plot itself.
The Skywalker Saga dedicates roughly fifty pages to each episodic Star Wars film, and generally focuses on a single character’s point of view: the Prequel Trilogy shares Anakin’s journey; the Original Trilogy tackles the adventures of Luke; the Sequel Trilogy centers on Rey. This is not to say that the plot lines of other characters are completely ignored, but these three are undoubtedly the protagonists of their respective films, the book unequivocally tells us.
On one hand, this device presents some advantages for the writer and reader alike. Anakin’s story in the prequels, for example, becomes much clearer without the repeated diversions into other storylines. Specifically, his love story with Padmé becomes all the more powerful due to Dawson providing the lovers center stage within the conflicts of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
Unfortunately, the positive consequences of this abbreviated storytelling method stop there. Because every saga film must be covered throughout the book, the details and story points are often rushed - or completely glossed over - in favor of story acceleration. At times, I began to wonder if I could even follow the plot of each chapter if I hadn’t seen the movies, and after finishing the book, I think it would be a lot to ask of a new reader. The combination of reading the screenplay-verbatim dialogue and trying to keep up with the whiplash pace of the narrative will more than likely cause you to hit play rather than continuing this read. The artwork accompanying the stories is gorgeous, but, like the writing, will ultimately just make you yearn for the majesty of the films’ cinematography.
As advertised, this book is meant for readers between the ages of 10 and 14, but if you’re a parent looking to introduce your child to Star Wars through this novel, I’m afraid that the pacing of these stories would add prohibitive confusion rather than infusing them with the ravenous excitement we all hope to someday share with our kids..
While it may not help the overall enjoyability of the novel, the choice to focus on three main protagonists definitely helps illuminate the individual journeys of Anakin, Luke, and Rey. This is best shown during the prequels as Anakin’s love for Padmé evolves beautifully on the page; it allows their love story to be front and center, as perhaps Lucas originally intended.
Anakin’s fall also makes more sense in this format thanks to the ommission of certain scenes, including Palpatine’s brutal murder of the arresting members of the Jedi Council. In The Skywalker Saga, Anakin simply walks into the Chancellor’s chambers to see Mace Windu about to land the finishing blow. Whereas the aggressively accelerated plot usually proves to confuse or dilute moments, this particular case allows us to ride Anakin’s wave of panic and fear as he impulsively decides to save his mentor and cement his descent into the Dark Side.
Beyond Anakin’s additional motivation, the saga characters aren’t provided with too much additional content or insight within this novel. The dialogue is identical to that found within the films themselves, and the artwork, while exquisitely painted, essentially replicates movie stills and therefore doesn’t add any greater context to the moments it represents.
Delilah S. Dawson is a fantastic Star Wars writer. As far as we at Youtini are concerned, that is not debatable. Recently, she has written a host of comics and the supremely well-loved Black Spire (check out our review here), and she has even joined us for an incredible interview on The Living Force Podcast! She clearly loves Star Wars and she leaves it all on the page.
So it is with all of that respect and admiration that I must admit...the writing in The Skywalker Saga lacks her usual zeal and finesse. At the core, I’m not sure who this book is written for. At times the writing style feels overly simplistic as if the word choice and sentence structure were aimed toward younger readers, and at other moments, the complexity suddenly increases to a level that could be prohibitive for such eyes. The content continuously toes the line between being too basic for fans of the franchise and too complicated for newbies, and the result lies somewhere in the middle that is ultimately unsatisfying for both audiences.
However, I don’t believe the fault lies with Dawson, whose work we’ve seen and loved before. Writing The Skywalker Saga may have been an impossible task. The need for a breakneck pace of the novel did no favors to the author, because the Star Wars saga is inherently packed with complexity. Every movie has multiple plotlines mired in lore, betrayal, and redemption and trying to squeeze all of that world building into bite size chunks, particularly for an unspecified age group, would provide the same impossible challenge to any writer.
If you want to experience the visual majesty of Star Wars, you would be better off flipping through an art book, and if you want to read the full stories of any of these films, there are plenty of fantastic film novelizations for adults and children that do just that.
The Skywalker Saga is an absolutely gorgeous book. Illustrator Brian Rood captures hundreds of iconic moments in the pictures that appear on almost every single page, and there were plenty of times that I swore I was looking at a photograph rather than a painted representation of some of my favorite characters.
Most of the time, these illustrations take your breath away and instantly transport you to the Star Wars galaxy as you’re reading, but other times, the artwork is just a bit too stilted to elicit the proper visceral reaction. While the likenesses are essentially photo-real, the action scenes lack momentum and energy that help them lift off the page. My heart swelled when I saw Yoda sitting pensively on Dagobah, but my heart wasn’t pounding as Luke and Vader clashed sabers.
That being said, if you want to lay this book on your coffee table and leaf through it from time to time to remind yourself of some of your favorite moments in the saga, you won’t be disappointed. Each page instantly transports you to a moment in the series, and the warmth of those memories can be an incredibly powerful thing. But if you’re hoping to gain new insight into the characters or the stories through the artwork, you’d be better off flipping through one of the aforementioned “Art of…” books that do that job impeccably.
As you can likely tell by this point, I really wanted to love this book: I love everything about The Skywalker Saga as a concept; Delilah Dawson is one of the absolute masters of her craft; Brian Rood’s artistic talent is positivity jaw-dropping.
Nonetheless, I can’t say that I was wholly entertained as I read through this novel. Perhaps if I was reading it aloud to a younger reader, I would have found that entertainment value in the shared experience. Yet, I can’t help but think that the same joy and excitement could be found in a shared watch of the movies or a joint read of the junior, or even adult, novelizations.
At the end of the day, The Skywalker Saga promised to infuse its readers with the excitement and joy that we all experienced the first, second or eighty-fifth time we watched the movies that chronicle the stories of Anakin, Luke, and Rey. While valiant in its attempt to condense the entire saga into one wonderfully designed novel, unfortunately the cohesive, emotional nature of the story was sacrificed in the attempt.
Nonetheless, we will eagerly await the next installment in the Star Wars universe from Delilah Dawson, we will keep our eyes peeled for more beautiful art pieces from Brian Rood, and we will ravenously count down the days until the saga concludes with The Rise of Skywalker.