Understanding The Rise of Skywalker Through Canonized Star Wars Books

Written by: Rachel Goodman – January 6th, 2020 6:41am PT

By now, most of us have seen Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. While there have been mixed feelings about the way the film wrapped up the Skywalker saga, the final moments answered some of our most burning questions. At the same time, other fans have complained about being left with more questions than answers—plot holes which become slightly clearer by reading the canonized Star Wars books.

Credit: Disney

We don’t yet have a novelization of TROS—releasing in March—but we’ve got some clues from the already available books and from the visual dictionaries released for the films.

For some background, authors have been writing novels set in the Star Wars universe since the 1970’s, both about the characters we know (Luke, Leia, Han) as well as new characters. Del Rey books, an imprint of Random House, published fan favorites such as Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn, Darth Plagueis by James Luceno, and Betrayal by Aaron Allston. 

After Disney made the deal to purchase LucasFilms in 2012, all the books written in the universe before 2014—including the books mentioned above—became part of the extended world and labeled “legends.” So, they’re no longer canon. 

Credit: Disney

For the purposes of this article, I’m focusing on the books published after the acquisition (the first canon book starts with A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller, published in September 2014).

Fair warning in advance—I’m about to drop all the spoilers and dig deep with fan theories and content from the books. If you haven’t seen The Rise of Skywalker and you don’t want anything ruined, you should probably come back to this article once you’ve seen the movie. 

Here are some of the biggest moments in the novels and visual dictionaries that help support what we know about The Rise of Skywalker:

  1. In the comics, we get a hint that Palpatine survived at the end of Return of the Jedi.

In the Marvel comic, Star Wars: Shattered Empire, we see a hologram of Palpatine which seems to have been sent posthumously after his “death” on Endor. The message had been sent to Imperial officers after the events of Return of the Jedi and encouraged them to lash out violently in order to quell the rebellion. While most fans presumed this to be a hologram pre-recorded before Palpatine’s death, we can now guess there was something more to the message. 

Credit: Disney

One of the biggest questions lingering after TROS is how exactly Palpatine survived the events on Endor, and this is a question that perhaps the novelization of TROS will help with.

  1. The books Rey borrowed from the Jedi temple on Ahch-To make a vital appearance in TROS.

In The Last Jedi, we were given a few subtle clues that Rey ended up with the Jedi books from the temple. After Yodi burns down the temple in Luke’s presence, we were led to believe the books had burned down along with the building. However, in The Last Jedi, there’s a brief glimpse of the books stored on the Millennium Falcon after Rey leaves the island, and we see that she has them in TROS.

Furthermore, in the visual dictionary book for TROS, one of the pages has been opened to the Chain Worlds Theorem—also known as the World Between Worlds or Vengeance Scatter. 

For those who haven’t watched the show Star Wars: Rebels, the World Between Worlds plays a huge role in the series with Jedi Ezra Bridges. Ezra goes to this in between dimension and ends up saving Ahsoka, pulling her away from a duel where Darth Vader almost kills her.

With news of Project Luminous on the horizon, and the return of Rebels and The Clone Wars, could it be that we’re going to see a spinoff with Rey where she ventures into this in between world? In Rebels, Ezra hears the voices of Rey and Kylo while in this dimension—though Rey and Kylo have not even been born yet.

Though this is a very polarized theory, some fans who ship Reylo have argued this is exactly what they believe will happen; that somehow Ben Solo’s stuck in limbo and will wind up being dragged out. People against this theory argue Ben’s redemption arc would be ruined if this were to happen and would promote abusive relationships. With Rian Johnson helming the next Star Wars movies, we’ll have to wait and see what direction he takes.

For more on Ben’s turn to the dark side, be sure to check out the upcoming comics The Rise of Kylo Ren

  1. Han and Leia sometimes struggled as parents which makes Leia’s sacrifice in TROS even more powerful. 

In Bloodlines by Claudia Gray, the novel focuses on Leia’s issues with the Resistance, about six years before the events of The Force Awakens, after it comes out that she’s Darth Vader’s daughter. What seems to be noteworthy here is her decision to keep this information from young adult Ben Solo, and how this aids in his turn to the dark side.

From Last Shot, we also see Han Solo as a new parent and get a glimpse at a man who provides for his son more out of obligation than anything else. Not to say that Han Solo or Leia were bad parents, just that the books really flesh out what a young kid could have gone through growing up with parents who had some very important things to—you know, like saving the galaxy and ensuring peace—which could have made them a tad distracted as parents.

  1. Wayfinders—the Sith tool which guided Rey to Exegol—was an ancient technology predating the navicomputer.

Credit: Disney

In the visual dictionary of TROS, we learn that both Darth Vader and Darth Sidious had their own Wayfinder.

  1. Do you remember the cameo for the character Wedge Antilles in TROS? He actually plays a much bigger part in the book Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse.

The first time I saw TROS, everyone in the theater clapped when Wedge Antilles—a character who’s appeared since New Hope in 1977—showed up as part of the Resistance. Though moviegoers would assume his character is minor, Resistance Reborn reveals him to be Poe’s mentor, and Wedge plays a vital role in the events of this book, set between films TLJ and TROS. 

  1. During TROS, Rey, Poe, and Finn embark on a mission to Kijimi in order to illegally translate a Sith message inside of C-3PO. The “spice” running we learn about isn’t new to the Star Wars universe.

Beyond being mentioned in A New Hope, “spice” is actually one of the focuses in Lord of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp—a novel which takes place right after the events of Revenge of the Sith. Darth Vader, who has just turned fully to the dark side, makes his way with Darth Sidious to the planet Ryloth where the drug “spice” is common. Also, as an aside—George Lucas actually took the term spice from the novel 1965 novel Dune by Frank Herbert.

Once the extended release of The Rise of Skywalker publishes in March, I’m sure there will be a ton more information, especially surrounding the controversial ending with the kiss on Exegol and the questions surrounding Rey’s final moments on Tatooine. Author Rae Carson has stated the novelization of the movie, which she’s writing, would span over three hours if turned into a movie.

For the future of Star Wars, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy stated in an article with the LA Times she planned on bringing back the characters from the sequel trilogy. 

We know very little about Project Luminous at the moment except it seems to be surrounding popular authors of the canon books. Clone Wars season seven returns February 17th, and Disney has also already announced a Star Wars Rebels sequel in production.

One thing remains certain—with such a wide variety of books out there in the Star Wars universe, it’s never been a better time to dive in. What are you waiting for? Let the force be with you—and read some Star Wars books!

About The Author:

Rachel Goodman is a Los Angeles based actress, host, and writer originally from a suburb of Philadelphia, PA. In college, Rachel wrote for the Penn State Abington Literary Review and was an editorialist for The Lion’s Roar and The Montgomery County Ticket.

More News