This week, I re-read Beth Revis' Rebel Rising! It's a really amazing book following Jyn's whole life between the prologue of Rogue One and when we first see her after in that movie. I think learning about all of her experiences over the course of this period of time really add a lot to her character, and provide context for her actions and beliefs in Rogue One, which I think is what a good character-study book like this absolutely should do. If you're a fan of Rogue One, I would highly, highly recommend this book to you.
Spoilers ahead for Rebel Rising by Beth Revis!
The first part of the book (and honestly my favorite parts) are where we learn about Jyn's life when she was with Saw. This part of the book not only adds a lot of context to Jyn's character and story, but to Saw's too. I loved learning about how Jyn found herself in the same ideals that Saw had, and how much she worked to train and learn skills to help and impress them. They had a strong bond and a father-daughter dynamic, but we could also see Saw progressively turn into the more paranoid and violent version of himself that we see in Rebels or Rogue One. This was my favorite part of the book because we got to see the early split between Saw's partisans and the early rebellion. I think one of the most striking scenes in the whole book is when Jyn goes on a mission with Saw where they're tasked with infiltrating a gala. She's not sure why, until bombs loaded with razors go off, massacring people- not just the Imperial officials, but everyone there. It's a shocking scene even though I remembered it from my first read, and a huge moment for Jyn's character as it's her first taste of really brutal, senseless violence. We also get to see what happened when Saw left Jyn behind as they said in Rogue One- they were trying to hide her identity as Galen Erso's daughter, but she was found out. On a mission with Saw, they were betrayed and caught in the destruction of an Imperial factory, and Saw told her to run because her identity was found out, and he didn't think she'd be safe with him anymore.
Shortly following her time with Saw, Jyn is taken in by a mother and her son- the Ponta family. The Pontas give Jyn a more peaceful life, and she's able to exist as a teenager for a little while. The parts with the Pontas are really sweet, and we start to see Jyn's resentment for the rebels grow as a rebel recruiter attracts the attention of the Empire on their peaceful planet (though the Empire was already slowly growing a presence from taking over nearby mines). There's also an interesting scene where Jyn recognizes a partisan she once worked with with Saw following her, and it turns out Saw had him follow her to make sure she was okay, even though he didn't want to come back for Jyn. Though I don't agree with Saw here, I can understand what he's doing- but for Jyn, this enrages her. Which is also understandable. As she spends time with the Pontas, her resentment of the rebels starts to slowly turn into hatred, especially when she tries to escape with the Pontas when the Empire tries arrests them and they get caught in a space battle between TIE fighters and Y-Wings. The Pontas' ship gets hit and destroyed, while Jyn just barely gets away.
After this, Jyn is on her own. She planet-hops, picking up odd jobs that are less than legal, and gets caught. She gets deeper into her convictions about rebels just ruining everything and things being easier if people stop caring, and I think the book does a really good job of helping you sympathize with Jyn even if you disagree. I feel like it also really helps you understand her position when we meet her in Rogue One. After Jyn gets caught, the Empire plants her on a rebel crew they're trying to track down in exchange for freedom, and guilt eats Jyn as she befriends them while betraying them. It also just Of course when the Empire does catch them all, Jyn gets thrown in prison too, and that's how she ends up in the Wobani prison we see her in in the beginning of Rogue One.
Throughout the book we periodically break away from the chronological story of Jyn's life to see her time in the prison in Wobani. It's really rough. I think Beth Revis does a great job of portraying the hopelessness and despair of the prison, and how much it can really break someone over time. It's another thing that adds to her character in Rogue One and explains why she believes the things she believes in the beginning of that book.
I've mentioned a lot how Jyn's disillusionment with the rebellion is explained really, really well in this book, and how she doesn't align herself with idealism but rather just trying to keep surviving, but I think something this book also does really well is explain how she has the foundations to become the inspiring, hopeful leader she ends up as in Rogue One. Between her mother's idealism she saw early in her life, her time with Saw teaching her the importance of a figure that people can follow, and of course the events of the movie, I think her character really comes full circle in the best way possible.
Something I realized on this reread is that we've basically seen Jyn's whole life in Star Wars in a fairly in-depth way, which I don't think can be said about any other character. She's born in the book Catalyst and we see her up to when her family moves to Lah'mu. In this book, we see everything from her departure from Lah'mu with Saw to her time in the prison on Wobani through her rescue from the Rebellion, and then in Rogue One we see everything else up to her death. It's so interesting, but also really sad. I really love her character, and it honestly makes me really happy that we're able to see her entire journey, from beginning to end.