If you’re a fan of Rogue One, and of Jyn Erso in particular, you might want to get your hands on Rebel Rising, by Beth Revis.
This book chronicles the events of Jyn’s life from the time Krennic came for her father at eight years old, until the Alliance breaks her out of the Wobani prison camp. The narrative flashes back and forth between Jyn’s time with Saw (and other events after he abandoned her) and her time at the prison.
The first third of the book tells of her time with Saw, and we get a better picture of their relationship. When he rescues her from the cave, he tells her “I don’t know what to do with you, kid.” What he ends up doing is training her to fight, which is all to the good. But, although he becomes a sort of father-figure to Jyn, he’s not particularly good at it. He doesn’t coddle her. But it’s clear he cares for her.
Jyn’s time with Saw Gerrera paints a clearer picture of the man. He seems cold and unfeeling, but we learn that he once had a sister. She died years ago fighting against the Empire, but Saw was the one who had inadvertently caused her death. Since then, he’s closed himself off to any emotion except rage and a laser-focus commitment on destroying the Empire no matter what the cost. Instead of joining with others in a concerted effort to defeat the Empire, he’s become a terrorist.
Jyn is loyal to Saw (he came for her, after all), but even she internally questions his tactics. Still, he’s all she’s got, and his abandonment of her during a mission gone wrong is a traumatic blow. Saw knew that Jyn’s real identity as Galen Erso’s daughter would forever follow them, and put their various missions in danger. Turns out, even though Saw cared for her, he cared more for his crusade against the Empire.
After Saw’s abandonment, Jyn finds herself on a planet called Skuhl, where she comes to live with a woman named Akshaya and her son, Hadder. She comes to know a brief year of peace and happiness, and even has a little romance with Hadder, before both the Empire and her past shows up to ruin things once again.
After that, she becomes a wanderer, taking on jobs where she can as a codebreaker, not caring whether she works for the Imperials or for anyone who works against them. This proves to be her undoing, however, as she often gets caught between the two. She tries to remain neutral, while still following her conscience, which is a tricky thing in the galaxy just then.
Eventually, she gets double-crossed by the Imperials she’s working for, and gets sent to Wobani. The Wobani prison scenes gives us more insight into the conditions she lived under there, which is to say, soul-crushing. At one point, Jyn loses all hope, but it’s the memories of her mother (of whom she’s reminded of by the kyber crystal around her neck) that gets her through.
“Trust in the Force,” her mother had told her before she died, and Jyn interprets that as meaning, don’t give up hope. When the Alliance breaks her out of the prison, and presents their ultimatum (help us find your father or we’ll send you back to prison), she agrees. Obviously she doesn’t want to go back to Wobani, but it’s not necessarily to find her father at that point, either, or to help the Alliance. Her mother didn’t want her to give up hope. The last few paragraphs of the book sums up her decision:
“The last thing Papa had said was to trust him.
The last thing Mama had said was to trust the Force.
She wasn’t sure she could do either of those things, but for the first time since she was eight years old, she was willing to try.
…She looked out at the faces of the people around her. Expectant. She recognized something in their expressions that she had never expected to see again.
She had thought her hope had died on Wobani. Snuffed out like a flame deprived of oxygen…But seeing these people, the way they still believed they had a chance–a chance hinged on her–rekindled that spark inside her she had thought died long ago.
She wouldn’t go down again for doing nothing.
They were giving her a chance. It wouldn’t change what had happened in the past. But maybe it would help change the future.” (Pgs 409-410).
Rebel Rising is a good story of Jyn Erso’s formative years, creating the person we see at the beginning of Rogue One. I think it may have been marketed as a YA novel, so the story is fairly straightforward, but still interesting enough to hold an adult fan’s interest. I will admit it’s a bit depressing; this girl just doesn’t get any breaks. Her life is hard, short, and ultimately tragic; but also triumphant. Recommended.