This Star Wars article contains spoilers.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was polarizing, to say the least, and fans have pored and debated over its plot twists and script for the past few months. Revealing that Rey is a Palpatine in the tradition of Luke Skywalker’s reveal as Darth Vader’s son was just one of the strange and surprising elements. And it left more questions than answers in the end.
The novelization, marketed as an “Expanded Edition” of the movie’s story, elaborates on Emperor Palpatine’s plan and the movie’s central relationship. Carrie Fisher’s role in the movie was limited by her passing, but author Rae Carson had more flexibility than the filmmakers did with the character.
Here some of are the additions, explanations, and interpretations added in the novel that will expand what you already know about the movie:
Palpatine Is a Clone
The book lays out a clear timeline for how Emperor Palpatine survived being thrown into the Death Star’s reactor in Return of the Jedi. He spends the next 30 years as a disembodied spirit living in a half-failed clone host, using what he learned from his mentor Darth Plagueis’ Force-powered attempt to live forever, but neither of them was quite able to perfect it.
The clone body is “broken” and “dying,” which explains his desiccated appearance in The Rise of Skywalker. The fanatical scientists Palpatine worked with, “the heretics of the Sith Eternal,” kept trying to make a perfect clone but never succeeded.
Palpatine’s “Son” Was Also a Clone
In this same section. the book explains how Rey’s father came to be. He was a type of clone too, a “not-quite-identical” strand-cast who Palpatine despised for his “disappointing ordinariness.”
At least now we know Palpatine didn’t actually reproduce the traditional way. He considered his cloned son a useful way to “continue the bloodline.” That didn’t quite turn out the way he thought.
Failed Snoke Clones
The Supreme Leader Snoke clones seen floating like pickled bodies in the movie are another off-shoot of Palpatine’s clone experiments. Palpatine could puppet them through the dark side of the Force, but they weren’t strong enough to inhabit. This explains Snoke’s passing but imperfect resemblance to the Emperor. Kylo Ren discovers the Snoke clones early in the book and decides they’re one more reason not to bother with any more dark side masters.
Rey and Kylo’s Kiss Wasn’t Romantic?
Whether or not The Last Jedi set up a “Reylo” romance is one of the most controversial questions in the Sequel Trilogy. The Rey-Ben kiss in the movie happens after Ben has revived Rey, and the novel describes it as a moment of relief and connection: “A kiss of gratitude, acknowledgment of their connection, celebration that they’d found each other at last.”
The book puts a lot of emphasis on Rey and Ben as a Force Dyad, able to unlock incredible power when they’re together. Another hint that the kiss doesn’t necessarily have to be interpreted as romantic comes in the foreshadowing of this scene. Earlier in the movie, Rey heals a snake-like creature. Afterward, her interaction with it includes gratitude: “Its tongue flicked out, and it hissed, blowing her hair back—a kiss of sorts.”
Force Dyad Explained
The book explains a bit about what exactly the connection between Rey and Ben Solo is and how it works, emphasizing that Rey would not have been able to resist the Emperor without Ben as “the other presence in her mind, bright and shining with light.” It also says Palpatine had “tried to create a dyad with Anakin, as his master had tried to create one with him. The Rule of Two, a Master always in desperate search of a yet more powerful apprentice, was a pale imitation, an unworthy but necessary successor to the older, purer doctrine of the Dyad.”
Rose Has More Scenes in the Book
Rose and Rey interact a bit more in the novel than in the movie. Previously, The Rise of Skywalker editor Maryann Brandon told HuffPost that Rose was cut for time: “She’s an important character in the Resistance, and we tried very hard to show that in the film, and I think we did, but the film just really couldn’t handle much more character stories.” Limited footage of Carrie Fisher may also have made scenes at the Resistance base difficult all around, but it’s a pity Rose’s story wasn’t given higher priority after she was introduced as a major character in The Last Jedi.
In the novel, Rose checks on Rey but isn’t able to dig into her “Jedi stuff.” Rey also considers looking for Rose to help to fix BB-8 and has a friendly conversation with her before Rey leaves the base.
Leia’s Jedi Training Revealed
The movie’s brief flashbacks to Luke and Leia’s Jedi training had major Legends timeline vibes since Leia eventually became a Jedi and wielded a lightsaber in the old continuity. Their new canon training took place on the planet Ajan Kloss, the same one where Rey is training and the Resistance is hiding out now. Leia is delighted by her own powers, including an ability to levitate upside down. She also trained with Luke on Endor shortly after Return of the Jedi.
Zorii Bliss and the Spice Runners Get More Backstory
Poe Dameron’s old friend Zorii Bliss has several new scenes with her gang, the Spice Runners. The novel introduces us to the two people she traveled with in the movie, Vicii and Vibbo, and a human girl called Lluda. The book shows that some of them tried to survive the destruction of their planet when the First Order turned its guns on it but mostly failed. Lluda, for example, sacrifices herself to help Zorii escape, solidifying the terror of the First Order’s plan. Throughout, Zorii is characterized as someone who always says what she thinks and cares about helping the people around her. She even rescues Babu Frik.
Jannah May Be Lando’s Daughter
Many fans were left scratching their heads about Lando Calrissian’s interaction with former stormtrooper Jannah, who wants to search for her missing family. The Visual Dictionary suggests that Lando may be projecting, since his own daughter went missing, but doesn’t directly answer the question people have been asking: Is Jannah Lando’s daughter? Perhaps not.
The novel swings back in the other direction, mentioning Lando’s backstory and making it seem even more likely that a dramatic reveal would prove his daughter had been here all along. We just don’t know. But we do know he and Jannah are both highly motivated to free more First Order kids.
Who Are the Sith Eternal?
The people packing the stadium seats around the Emperor and the crews of the new Final Order Star Destroyers aren’t from the First Order per se. Before his death and after, Emperor Palpatine had been putting plans in place using the labor of the Final Order and the Sith Eternal. Both Sith and Imperial loyalists, as well as kidnapped and brainwashed children, make up the ranks for the Sith Eternal. Some, like new character Captain Chesille Sabrond of the Star Destroyer Derriphan, have never left Exegol. Instead, their entire lives have been spent on the planet waiting for the moment the Emperor would unleash a new regime on the galaxy.