Note: This review is spoiler-free.
Movie novelizations have an opportunity to flesh out a story in ways the movie can’t. It’s not bound by the same limits of time or perspective. Lately with the Star Wars novelizations being presented as expanded editions, it’s become a promise that it’s not just another format, but that you’ll get much more to the story out of the book.
These versions of novelizations also have been a chance to make some storytelling patches. With a movie like Solo: A Star Wars Story, several storytelling issues could be amended without making any big changes to the plot. Mur Lafferty’s Solo novelization stood on top of a compelling story foundation and charismatic acting performances to elevate the material. With The Rise of Skywalker: Expanded Edition, standing upon the story of the movie feels more like something for the book to overcome.
The expanded edition takes the emotions, characters, events – pretty much everything from The Rise of Skywalker and magnifies them for better and sometimes also for worse. Included in that magnification is the movie’s almost desperate feeling of needing to be everything everyone could want. And in continuing to try to make everyone happy, it loses some of the power a novelization can have. Things don’t feel as deep when they continue to spread out in so many directions.
Instead of getting to lean into untapped moments, the book reads more like it needs to explain everything. So if you had a lot of questions, this book’s ready for you. There’s a lot of why and how covered. On one hand, it’s fair enough since the movie refused to explain most things. On the other sometimes the explanations made me wish someone had said “because I said so” instead. There are laughable explanations and ones that go too far, slowing scenes down to a crawl. For several there seemed to not even be a hint of them in the movie. But there are also expansions that made me wish they could somehow magically be fit back into the film despite knowing there’s not really room for them.
Even with an overall slow down of the movie’s frantic pace, The Rise of Skywalker: Expanded Edition can be an exhausting read. When there’s already arguably too much going on for one movie, adding in so much more can easily dial the “too much”-ness up to another level. Props to author Rae Carson for tackling this behemoth though. It’s tough to single this writer our for any specific addition choice as it’s too hard to tell what came from some version of the script, where director/writer J.J. Abrams or writer Chris Terrio had any input, or which directives may have come from Lucasfilm.
What I can say is Rae Carson’s writing is descriptive and heart-felt. She slides in ways to make female characters (and a few non-female) with smaller roles mean something to the story instead of being cameos. And she works hard to make throw-away lines have more relevance and carry-though. It feels unfortunate that her writing had to be tied down by what this story already was when it got to her.
At the end of the day, if you enjoyed The Rise of Skywalker, pace yourself and you’ll probably be okay with reading with this novelization version. If you’re just looking for plot answers, you’ll get them in abundance. And if you had issues with The Rise of Skywalker or outright disliked it, this book most likely won’t significantly change your opinion of it.
The publisher provided FANgirl with a copy of the book for review. As usual opinions are my own and do not necessarily represent the opinions of other contributors to this site.
The Rise of Skywalker: Expanded Edition by Rae Carson is out now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook from Del Rey and Penguin Random House.
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Kay is FANgirl's resident geek fashion expert and co-host of the Hyperspace Theories podcast. She reviews books and movies for the site with a heart for storytelling and a mind that likes to analyze. Kay's been a guest on various podcasts sharing her love and knowledge of storytelling, film-making, fashion, and of course, Star Wars.
Most days are filled with her work as a creative services professional - designing websites & branding, photographing, voice acting, editing, and more. Kay spends the little bit of free time she has reading, costuming, and, of course, making pew pew noises. She would pick up more jobs and hobbies if she was a Time Lord.