The end of Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi left the galaxy far, far away in dire straits: the First Order had chased the last survivors of the Resistance fleet to the desolate mineral world Crait, and decimated their numbers in a final, climactic battle. General Leia’s plea for help from the crumbling movement’s allies went unanswered. And while she, Rey, Finn, Poe, Rose, Chewie, and a handful of others escaped, it seemed clear that the galaxy was in the hands of Kylo Ren and the First Order.
With December’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker expected to open several years later, it’s up to the expanded universe to fill in the gaps in the narrative. Rebecca Roanhorse’s new novel Resistance Reborn helps pick up the pieces left scattered in the wake of The Last Jedi, revealing how Leia and the remains of the Resistance get back on their feet and move to confront the First Order once again. It’s a fast-paced, thrill-a-page ride that brings back plenty of old faces and introduces some new ones. It’s a positive story about the power of good people to stand up and confront evil, and it will definitely get you jazzed to see that opening crawl scoll past one final time.
The novel picks up in the days after the Battle of Crait. Leia is still recovering from the wounds that she sustained while the First Order chased down the Resistance fleet, and grappling with the loss of her many friends and companions—including her brother. Despite their losses, she holds out hope that there’s still a spark of resistance against the First Order remaining in the galaxy.
Roanhorse builds the First Order into a formidable threat, revealing their appetite for galactic domination as they fill void left by the destruction of the New Republic and the Resistance movement alike. They move quickly to take over planets like Corellia, Ryloth, Myrra, and others, coopting local support. Even as the remaining Resistance fighters attempt to chase off First Order incursions, some planets, still fearful of its military might, are reluctant to their movement. The novel provides a window into the inner workings of the First Order that the films haven’t had time for, lending much-needed depth to the organization and the ways it functions (or doesn’t). While we don’t see Kylo Ren or General Armitage Hux (and their absence is notable), we do meet a handful of mid-level First Order officers on Corellia: Executive Records Office Winshur Bratt and his staff, and a pair of cadets named Monti Calay and Yama, in charge of overseeing the bureaucratic overhead for the First Order—including a number of political prisoners.
Meanwhile, with their ranks decimated, Leia realizes their first step needs to be replenishing their numbers, and dispatches her remaining allies across the galaxy to try and find someone willing to stand up and fight back. Their first stop is the planet Ryloth, where Leia calls in a favor and finds some safe ground from which to operate.
She soon begins sending envoys to recruit not only soldiers, but leaders and military strategists. Temmin “Snap” Wexley (played by Greg Grunberg in the films) and his wife Karé Kun head off to Myrra to track down Wedge Antilles and Snap’s mother, Norra Wexley, while Poe Dameron seeks out the assistance of the enigmatic Maz Kanata. Others are tasked with heading off to shipyards to track down any hardware that might replenish the Resistance fleet.
Eventually, all of these characters clash as the Resistance goes after those disappeared political prisoners being held by the First Order. (As a side note, completists will want to check out Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy and Claudia Grey’s Bloodline, as a number of familiar faces from those books pop up.)
While many Expanded Universe novels exist at the edges of the Star Wars galaxy, Resistance Reborn feels like a vital next step in the saga. While the Resistance’s dire position was made patently obvious at the end of The Last Jedi, Roanhorse hammers the point home: the movement is down to its last people, and if they’re found, they’ll be snuffed out completely by the First Order’s stormtroopers. While the odds are certainly against them, the narrative feels like an inherently optimistic one, despite it all. (You know how these rebels react to being told the odds.) It feels particularly pressingly relevant in our world of 2019, a time when mass protests against oppressive governments are raging in the streets of Chile and Hong Kong. Star Wars has evidenced a streak of radicalism, telling the story of brave rebels standing up against oppression, and Roanhorse deftly threads that needle as the Resistance flares back into life. Yet it’s a book that never feels weighed down by the subtext; rather, she captures the feel of some of the older, now-Legends novels, crafting a high-stakes adventure that moves at a clip, driven by a vibrant cast of characters and plenty of action.
Despite the First Order’s tightening grip on the galaxy, there are people who are willing to stand up, if given the right motivation. It’s no spoiler to say that Snap and Karé are able to coax Wedge and Norra out of retirement, Leia is able to leverage her remaining allies to get some safe ground, and even Monti, the First Order cadet, has some misgivings about the allegiances he’s sworn. The lingering spark of resistance remains, ready to burst into full conflagration when the time is right—which will undoubtedly be right around December 20, when The Rise of Skywalker arrives in theaters.