Star Wars: Spark of the Resistance is the great new book from author Justina Ireland, with art by Phil Noto, and is part of the “Journey to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” media project.
As with her last book, “Lando’s Luck”, Spark is a middle grade/junior novel with an emphasis on misadventure, teamwork, selflessness, and beating the odds. In both cases, our protagonists place themselves in peculiar and dangerous situations to help others in need. Definitely a classic literary structure, but by my interpretation of it, and after reading some of Ireland’s previous work, she seems particularly adept at it in my opinion.
Here’s the summary…
When a distress plea goes up from the isolated planet Minfar, Resistance heroes Rey, Poe, and Rose hear the call! Together they will face down a First Order battalion, terrifying flying creatures, and a weapon that could change the course of the war!
This book, as with the entire “Journey to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” series, takes place sometime between Episodes VIII and IX. And If the Resistance is going to stand a chance against what we expect is waiting for them in TROS, they really need to be a well-oiled machine by then. This story focuses on fine tuning such relationships.
The book isn’t clear on how much time has passed since the battle on Crait, but the Resistance has managed to rebuild a little, having amassed a small fleet of Mon Calamari and Corellian ships. But where they’ve managed to replenish in starships, they still lack in soldiers, so it stands to reason that the few who remain, must function as one.
Because of that, a big part of this book is really focused on establishing the building blocks of a relationship amongst this trio of core Resistance warriors. As far as we’re concerned, Poe, Rey, and Rose (and BB-8) have never really teamed up before on paper, so they’re getting to know one another on the fly. But there is a familiarity between them that tells me, while this may not be their hundredth mission together; it’s not their first either.
But these are three very affable people so getting along shouldn’t be that difficult. But remember, Poe is still a little shaken from the events in The Last Jedi, where his bluster resulted in many lives being lost and Leia demoting him. Plus, he’s never really met someone like Rey before, someone with tremendous untapped power, clearly on the cusp of greatness.
Not to worry though, he hasn’t lost ALL his conceit, and at one point, is very impressed with himself when he is recognized by one of the First Order troopers. He seems to enjoy his newfound celebrity, even if it’s for all the wrong reasons. And in a pretty humorous moment, Commander Spiftz asks his trooper how she was able to recognize Dameron, to which she responded, “Who else has that hair?”
As for Rey, she’s taking mostly everything in stride, including her burgeoning Force powers. She’s definitely a little frustrated with her inability to wield or even summon it, but her patience seems to be an asset in this case, not a liability. So, don’t look for Rey to pull Star Destroyers from orbit or anything like that, but what we do get, is a Force wielder who believes that her focus determines her reality.
“…she relaxed into the warm potential of the Force and she asked it to guide her…”
Even being on the planet, which seems to be attuned to the Force more than most, offers her moments of clarity and a focus she hasn’t had in a while. In one instance she’s able to summon the support of a brood of “mekles”, giant carnivorous 4-winged beasts, who make quick work of some Tie Fighters. Its clear Rey is developing a host of Force abilities and can now add “beast control” or “animal kinship” to the list…awesome.
Also, since she exclusively uses either her quarterstaff or blaster, I’m wondering how long before she rebuilds her lightsaber? The one that was ripped apart on the Supremacy?
Rose on the other hand is using her determination like high-octane fuel, injecting it into her core, giving her skills and abilities an uncanny level of power. She of course thrives on empathy and is still the harbinger of good will, winning over those around her with her sense of duty and determination.
She proves time and time again how invaluable she has become to the Resistance, when she’s not repairing the Falcon; she’s fighting off a squad of Stormtroopers using a prototype Imperial walker.
Like the summary says, the group receives a distress call originating from the planet Minfar, and even though there is a high probability of it being a trap, they can’t risk losing more allies to the First Order. So, they make the group decision to sidetrack their supply run and take the Millennium Falcon on a potential rescue mission instead.
One thing we’ve learned recently from Rebecca Roanhorse’s upcoming “Resistance Reborn”, is that the First Order is typically one-step ahead of the Resistance when it comes to recruits. So, if this group is aware of that, then they can’t risk NOT responding to this destress call, as they need all the help they can get.
When they arrive at the planet, they are welcomed by a squad of First Order Tie Fighters, dispatched by Commander Branwayne Spiftz, a whiny mid-level keener who’s only goal in life is to incite jealousy through promotion. He can’t believe his good fortune when the infamous YT-1300f Corellian light freighter shows up on his doorstep, foolishly predicting a promotion to the rank of Admiral in the immediate future.
Prior to that, the reason Spiftz was at Minfar at all was to recover an old Imperial weapon, left behind on the planet’s surface years ago, in one of its many abandoned laboratories. Accompanying him on this quest is a Professor Glenna Kip, a mysterious woman who isn’t part of the Fist Order but has been chosen to be the non-military science liaison on this expedition. For her part, she seems highly intelligent, yet her motivations aren’t entirely obvious, yet. The one thing that is clear is her strong aversion to Commander Spiftz and his lack of decorum, and whichever side she may align herself with philosophically, it doesn’t appear to be the First Order.
Spiftz, and what he calls an inadequate force, have had no luck finding anything on the planet other than trouble form the local flora, fauna, and biological denizens. In the case of Minfar, the most troublesome seem to be the Zixon, an underground dwelling, green-furred, intelligent species native to the planet who practice bipedalism. They have long claws and tall ears and basically look like giant rabbits than can walk, speak basic, and even use weapons. At the panel in New York, Justina referred to them as “murder rabbits” and while that’s kind of true, is more of a playful dysphemism. And in case you might be wondering, no, none of them are Jaxxon.
The McGuffin for this book, the weapon multiple parties are after, is the Echo Horn. The Echo Horn is an Imperial mind-controlling device they used to force species to do their bidding. More than just simple “mind-control”, Jem, the leader of the Zixon, described it as hearing “…a delightful song that you could not resist…” or a sensation that was “like sleeping while awake.” Both ways, it’s a potent enslavement device, and the First Order clearly wants to use it for their malicious intent.
Professor Glenna Kip is keenly aware of this, having seen its effect on the Zixon years ago, and is determined to reach it before Spiftz and his troopers do.
Once they all figure out that the Echo Horn is in a laboratory in the Forbidden Lands, it becomes a race to the finish line for both parties. Who will get to it first? The Resistance or the First Order? It’s an outcome you’ll likely see coming but the devil is in the details on this one, plus there’s a killer Luke Skywalker reference near the end, so I won’t spoil it.
The ending is neat and tidy and will leave you feeling pretty good overall, I’d say! Justina clearly isn’t here to make waves or have an overly long drawn out discussion about the philosophy behind, well, everything. No, she’s interested in telling a story about people with character, people with integrity, we know them as heroes.
Like I said, her character work is strong and that’s never truer than with the new characters she presents to us. The most interesting of the lot for me, hands down, is Professor Glenna Kip. We don’t know her age but it’s clear she’s quite old from passages like, “Glenna had been researching the very nature of the galaxy when Branwayne’s grandparents had been babes in the womb…”
And we never find out her species, but she’s described as being “not quite human” with greenish tinted skin and tiny scales on her face. She’s also quite physically adept, able to defend herself skillfully and perform acrobatic style feats that far surpass humans.
We learn that she’s not only determined to keep the Echo Horn out of the First Order’s hands, she’s also working at the behest of General Organa! We also learn that not only has she been on Minfar before but helped free the Zixon from Imperial servitude years ago, who were using the Echo Horn to control the Zixon, a device she herself helped create.
It was she who equipped the Zixon with the skills necessary to not only defend themselves against tyranny but thrive on their home planet which offers a plethora of homegrown threats, such as the dreaded Grobels.
As for the antagonist, this is where the book falters slightly, offering up a simplistic, if not boring, villain for our heroes to play with. Commander Spiftz is cut from the same cloth as many other First Order officers who have achieved minimal success despite themselves. Poor guy doesn’t really stand a chance here but that’s almost entirely the point, especially if you’re looking at it from Glenna Kips point of view. She was looking to hitch a ride back to the planet with someone who could be easily duped, manipulated, or controlled.
Lucky for her, despite a few small bumps in the road, Spiftz’s desire to succeed above all else not only sealed his demise, but insured her plan had a very high chance of success. In fact, I’d argue the Force was at work here, assigning such an inept officer to this task seems to be the work of a higher power, I’d just wished he was perhaps a little zanier.
As far as how this will connect to The Rise of Skywalker, I don’t see there being too much carryover. The Resistance did pick up some new allies in the Zixon, some of which went back with Rey, Poe and Rose to lend a hand. They can most assuredly call Minfar a safe space for them now, especially with Glenna staying behind, keeping an eye on things. And there are plenty of laboratories left full of supplies that they now have access to, so, should the need arise, they can skip back there anytime and stock up or hide out.
Mostly, I believe this book serves the overall narrative that the Resistance isn’t going anywhere despite the heavy losses incurred in The Last Jedi. And, there are no shortage of good people in the galaxy who are still in need of salvation from the First Order and their destructive ways. Heroes are at a premium these days and whenever the Resistance gets to flex those muscles, it can only be viewed as good PR.
The story is insular however, and there are no guarantees at all these characters or locations will play any sort of role in Episode IX, but perhaps that’s not the point? Perhaps the driving force behind this story is to impress upon us that there are civilizations out there still willing to fight against evil, regardless of the odds.
The Zixon serve as a reminder to Rey, Poe, and Rose what they’re fighting for, why they risk everything to fight the First Order and their doctrine of hate. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that, and that’s what’s so great about Justina’s writing. It’s not flashy, it’s all precision and execution.
Justina world builds incredibly well, giving you a strong base from which to work with as her characters cover a lot of territory on the planet. With her help, you can conjure up just about any environment she gives you, providing the general landscape in detail for you to build upon.
Perhaps the best compliment I can muster is Justina has a very strong sense of exactly who her characters are, at the exact moment in which they exist. Because this is ultimately a footnote in a much larger galactic narrative, Justina doesn’t have to concern herself with altering time and space; she just must deal with the six inches in front of her characters faces. She has crafted a story so delightfully un-convoluted, that her character work and dialogue get a chance to shine bright and are deserving of praise.
And, she’s able to do all of this in a relatively short amount of time, both in real time and in-universe. The book itself is only 244 pages and is a very brisk read, and the story itself takes place over the course of only two days or so the fact that she crafts a fulfilling tale is noteworthy.
She’s created a fantastic new character in Glenna Kip and I’m really hoping we haven’t seen the last of her and the Zixon, I look forward to chatting with her about them. Her take on Rey and where she’s at with her Force maturation process is interesting enough that it deserves further discussion, but even just as a leader, Rey is coming into her own.
This is a really good follow-up to “Lando’s Luck” for Justina and I’d really like to see her take on a novel one of these days. She’s become one of the more reliable Star Wars authors and I’ll be looking for more from her in the future!
So, bottom line is, if you’re looking for a fun little adventure that has great character work and teams up three Resistance members who haven’t spent much time together, “Spark of the Resistance” is for you. Oh, and the rabbits, don’t forget about those murder rabbits.
“Star Wars: Spark of the Resistance” is published by Disney-Lucasfilm Publishing and is available now. You can order a copy by clicking HERE!
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