When Jyn Erso was eight years old, she saw the Empire murder her mother in cold blood and kidnap her father. She herself stayed safe thanks to a hiding place, and is finally saved days later by Saw Gererra, a freedom fighter against the empire who is also a close confidante of her father. In the years that followed, Jyn grew up with him and acquired outstanding code programming skills, which she then used to aid Saw’s cell in her attacks against the Empire. The older she gets, the more she prepares Saw with gunshot and combat training to play a more active role in the fight against the Empire. But already one of their first active missions goes badly wrong, and Saw and Jyn are separated from each other. Jyn escapes to a planet on the outer edge, where she begins to build a new life away from war. But it doesn’t take long before the arm of the empire, which is devouring more and more planets, also reaches its new refuge …
Review (may contain spoilers):
After “Der Auslöser” took a look at the beginnings of Galen Erso’s work on the Death Star project, “Jyn, the Rebel” now reveals the history of his daughter, and that – albeit with a few temporal jumps – from that moment where Galen was kidnapped by the Empire and his wife was murdered, until Jyn was rescued by the rebels during the prisoner transport on Wobani. Seen in this light, Beth Revis’ novel leaves few questions unanswered with regard to Jyn’s background. I particularly liked the first half, where we see Jyn practically growing up. We start with the moment, already known from “Rogue One”, when Saw finds her in her hiding place, and then tie in with her flight to Saw’s hiding place. In the following we see how the two grow into a small family, with Saw soon starting to prepare his ward for the fight against the empire. At the same time, both are trying to prevent Saw’s rebel colleague from becoming aware of Jyn’s origin – Galen Erso is now considered a traitor to the cause, who works voluntarily with the empire. In any case, Saw wants to prevent anyone from using Jyn to put pressure on her father. To protect their secret, he even goes over corpses. I found a very specific turn around the traitor in his ranks somewhat predictable, apart from that I really liked this part of the novel, which makes up about half of the book. I was particularly impressed by the chapter where Jyn goes on her first real mission – and ultimately finds herself in a situation where she has to shoot an opponent. The fact that, despite all the training, preparation and indoctrination of Saw, she does not manage to pull the trigger, I found it very emphatically – and sympathetically – described. But also Saw Gererra’s appearance here – and not least in how far he is willing to go to protect Jyn’s secret – clearly gains in profile (although his appearances on “Rebels” undoubtedly also played their part to have).
However: After Saw and Jyn are finally separated from each other (an event that we already knew from “Rogue One” of course that it had to happen sooner or later), “Jyn, the rebel” makes a rather strong narrative break. And even if what came after that wasn’t bad either, in my opinion Beth Revis couldn’t quite build on the successful first half there. On the one hand, this is probably due to the fact that some elements – such as youth romance – were quite clichéd and individual developments were also very predictable. I also found the second half a bit disheveled, first with her extended stay with the family, then the escape to the space station, and finally the mission that made sure that she was arrested by the empire. And in general I somehow found that the author didn’t quite succeed, not quite that, from the way in which Jyn is brutally torn out of the supposedly peaceful-idyllic life due to the ever-stretching hand of the empire Got the best out of it. But her brief, involuntary alliance with the corrupt imperial officer didn’t really impress me either. Finally, Beth Revis also gives an insight into Jyn’s captivity, with the relevant chapters breaking through the chronology of the novel, and being interspersed in between. These represent their dreary, desolate and hopeless existence there basically well, but the gain in knowledge – compared to the rest of the novel, which is quite interesting in this regard – was almost inevitably rather limited. At least the last scene, which leads directly to “Rogue One” (or more precisely, takes place during this one), I really liked; Last but not least, that this reminds you of the other events from the film. And knowing what tragic, early end Jyn’s life was heading for gives the whole novel, in retrospect, even more (emotional) weight.
“Jyn, the rebel” fills the gap between the prologue and the actual story from “Rogue One” and tells – with one or the other leap in time, of course – Jyn Erso’s prehistory. From her rescue by Saw as a small child, to their years together (where he is already being prepared by him for the fight against the empire), to her experiences after Saw and her parted ways. I found the first part, however, as I have to admit, a lot more gripping and interesting than the second half, where I found the novel a bit banal, clichéd and predictable in places. And in general I have to say that I found “Jyn, the rebel” quite entertaining and interesting, but now I would not necessarily have the impression that the prehistory described here is essential and / or that it would greatly enhance the figure. As a fan of the film, you can take this prequel novel to heart.
(Cover © 2017 Panini, designed by Brian Rood)