Review cross-posted from Mindtricked.org with permission.
On sale now is Star Wars: Guardians of the Whills by best selling author Greg Rucka. This prequel novel to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is set before the events of the film and focuses on Baze Malbus and Chirrut Îmwe as they go about their daily life on Jedha in the face of growing Imperial oppression.
An exciting adventure about two of the brave heroes from the smash hit movie Rogue One: A Star Wars Story!
On the desert world of Jedha, in the Holy City, friends Baze and Chirrut used to be Guardians of the Whills, who looked after the Kyber Temple and the devoted pilgrims who worshipped there. Then the Empire came and took over the planet. The temple was destroyed and the people scattered. Now Baze and Chirrut do what they can to resist the Empire and protect the people of Jedha, but it never seems to be enough. Then a man named Saw Gerrera arrives, with a militia of his own and grand plans to take down the Empire. It seems like the perfect way for Baze and Chirrut to make a real difference and help the people of Jedha live better lives. But will it come at too great a cost?
Rucka gives us a glimpse at the relationship of Baze and Chirrut that builds on the interactions we saw in the movie but goes far beyond that. Baze and Chirrut are two men who have gone from similar origin points as Guardians of the Whills but who have diverged in their paths and their faith. Baze full of anger at what the Empire has done seeks a way to fight back, this is part of the plot of the book but is also reinforced metaphorically as part of his story revolves around his search for a new gun. Chirrut is full of desperate hope, he chases his connection to the Force as transitory as it may be and seeks to provide what meager protection he can for the most vulnerable. While the Baze of Rogue One and this novel present a harsh front, there is a small flicker of faith and hope within him. This flame of hope withing Baze is kept lit by Chirrut, a living bulwark against Baze’s darker impulses. Chirrut relies on Baze not only for his physical back up but also for his ability to ground Chirrut’s perceptions in reality.
It is interesting that Baze has given up his faith while Chirrut has maintained it despite all the challenges to it. Chirrut’s faith falters briefly in this novel in a moment that is almost reminiscent of the momentary flash we see of Galadriel with the ring of power in Lord of the Rings. Would Chirrut’s faith break and he give into his anger he would be a much scarier vessel for anger than Baze Malbus ever could be. It may sound cliche but Baze and Chirrut are very much a personification of ying and yang, complementing, intertwined and relying on each other.
Along the way in the story we meet a great many new characters as well as glimpse characters we only saw briefly in Rogue One. For me the stand out were the three ladies that were introduced, the sisters Killi and Kaya Gimm and the female pilot turned mechanic Denic.
Killi is the older sister and Kaya is the younger sister, Killi was a Disciple of the Whills but both sisters now run an orphanage that looks after the children who have been left homeless and parent less from the Imperial occupation. Killi and Chirrut have a connection as friends and former members of the complementary orders that served at the Kyber Temple. In another time and another place it is easy seeing Killi and Chirrut having a relationship that turned into something much more.
Kaya doesn’t get a ton of development in this novel, we know she has some technical skills but she is set up in a way that means she could have a real future in other stories.
Denic is the one that interests me the most. With bright red hair the former pilot has a history that is only hinted at as a pilot in the Corporate Sector. There is enough here to build a really interesting character going forward or backwards and it is easy to see how she could cross paths with someone like Han Solo should they choose to set some stories in the Corporate Sector again.
Denic has a connection with Baze, that similar to Killi and Chirrut’s chemistry could have built into something different under different circumstances. As it is Denic is a crucial player in what allows Baze to be as effective as he is in Rogue One.
I loved these new characters that Rucka introduced and we did get a glimpse at some younger characters who could similarly be reused again in the future.
Of course the book also features an appearance by Saw Gerrera and his Partisans. Saw is portrayed somewhat favorably in the book while his fighters are less so. The real conflict in the novel results from the combination of the Imperial occupation and Saw’s attempts to fight back. As Baze and Chirrut are swept up in this conflict they face choices and realities that put them on a different path that leads to their appearance in Rogue One.
The book also features a poem before each chapter collected by Kozem Pel who was a Disciple of the Whills. These give us some more insight into the beliefs of different individuals and faith groups in the galaxy. It is a nice touch and really adds some value to the novel.
There are also some black, white, and red pieces of artwork that spread across two pages a few times throughout the book. Depicting key moments in the story.
Overall Disney does a wonderful job in presentation on many of their new books. High quality binding and paper make for a book that is durable and no dust jacket means that it would get bent, torn or lost. The size of the book is a little small but that is good for smaller hands to be able to handle easily. At 240 pages it is a fairly long book, but the chapters are relatively short and the included quotations make it a quick read.
If you enjoyed Rogue One and want to know more about Baze and Chirrut or are interested in a little more about faith in the Star Wars galaxy then this book is a must read. While it is targeted at a younger audience it is full of fully realized characters who behave in ways and have conversations and actions that will keep the adult reader’s attention as well.
As Sajar Ohmo of the Clan of the Toribota said, “In Darkness I follow the light and find my way to the beginning, again, and again, and again.” When you pick up Guardians of the Whills you might just find yourself finding your way to the beginning, again, and again, and again.