Rogue One: A Star Wars Story introduced the world to the team of unlikely heroes who successfully stole the plans to the Death Star, leading directly into the events of the original Star Wars classic, A New Hope. Largely following Jyn Erso, the abandoned daughter of a scientist who made the Empire's world killer possible, the film was full of twists, turns and shocks. While Rogue One gave an indication to the beginning of Jyn's story, there's a 15-year span that is missing from the film.
You can fill in the gap from those fifteen missing years with a new Lucasfilm Press tie-in novel, Star Wars: Rebel Rising. Readers will get glimpses of Jyn's early childhood on Coruscant before her family went into hiding on Lah'mu through a few flashbacks, but it is largely broken up into four sections covering her upbringing with Saw Gerrera and beyond. Imprisoned in an Empire concentration camp, the entire story is told in flashbacks as Jyn looks back on her life and the events that lead her to that moment. A few pauses along the way reveal what prison life is like in a galaxy far, far away. At times it almost feels like a Star Wars version of Orange is the New Black (without the elements that make that series TV-MA) and careful readers will notice that many of the jobs the prisoners do cause Jyn to unknowingly help build the Death Star.
While Jyn's adventures are consistently exciting and engaging, the hardest part to get through are her formative year's being raised by Saw. These pages lay the groundwork for the rest of the story, but it isn't until almost 100 pages in (out of 410 pages) that the book becomes so exciting that it's hard to put down. And they pay off in the sense that Jyn's highly technical skills pay off later because you know how she learned them all.
It should come as no surprise that Jyn gets separated from her surrogate father, but the way in which it happened is a major plot point in the book. Readers will be filled with anxiety on each of their missions knowing that it's going to happen, but not knowing when. And the ways in which she is able to survive on her own are all at once inspiring and heartbreaking.
Reading Star Wars: Rebel Rising has really enhanced my enjoyment of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I now know where Jyn has been, why she is the way she is, and even a lot more about Saw. This is the second Rogue One tie-in novel (the first was Star Wars Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel), but the first to catch fans up on what happened between the prologue and when Jyn joins the Rebel Alliance. Unlike many of the Del Rey Star Wars novels, this one was designed for ages 12 and up, told at a slightly younger reading level and making it a quicker read for adults. However, at no point does the story feel watered down and author Beth Revis has crafted a thrilling story that fans of Rogue One are guaranteed to appreciate.