clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Everything the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker novelization adds to the movie

The ‘Expanded Edition’ novel, due March 17, is already shading Episode 9

If you buy something from a Polygon link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

kylo reen seethes as rey escapes from his First Order ship in Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker Image: Lucasfilm Ltd.
Austen Goslin (he/him) is an entertainment editor. He writes about the latest TV shows and movies, and particularly loves all things horror.

For every answer Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker delivered while wrapping up the Skywalker Saga, it raised another question. The murky plot became a critical hang-up during the December 2019 release, but it may have been the best sales pitch for Rae Carson’s Episode 9 novelization, due on March 17. In the wake of The Rise of Skywalker, fans have been antsy to learn how the novelization would shed light on some of the underdeveloped aspects of the story.

While the novel isn’t out yet, a few key passages have already crept online. It’s tempting to call these leaks, but that isn’t necessarily accurate: copies of the book were sold early to attendees of C2E2. Snapshots of passages would inevitably go viral.

These early excerpts suggest there are a few things that Carson’s book makes clear — and in some cases more confusing. So with the book still a few days away from release, here are the biggest things that we’ve learned about Star Wars canon thanks to the The Rise of Skywalker novelization.

Palpatine was using a clone body

The version of Palpatine we see in The Rise of Skywalker is just a clone of the earlier former emperor. This might be the least surprising, but most important reveal in the novel, at least from the early excerpts. Cloning is a well established part of the Star Wars canon at this point: There were entire clone wars, there was an attack involving many clones, and there have even been a few hints that cloners are interested in Baby Yoda on The Mandalorian. We also know that Palpatine embraced cloning to grow Snoke bodies.

“Emperor Palpatine lived, after a fashion, and Kylo could feel in his very bones that this clone body sheltered the Emperor’s actual spirit.”

It is a little weird that he was able to ... possess a clone with his spirit, and it’s not totally clear why he wouldn’t pick a better body to possess. A clone Rey seems a bit stronger than a clone Palpatine (but less recognizable, perhaps). Either way, we know that the Palpatine we see in Rise of Skywalker is the spirit of the character seen in Return of the Jedi now in a clone body. Palpatine clones were something that Star Wars Legends canon used frequently, but not something J.J. Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio said out loud in the script.

This opens up a few possibilities with more cloning-centric plots in future Star Wars stories, but it also leaves the door open, at least a little, for Palpatine to return — yet again.

Rey’s dad is also a clone

Speaking of Palpatine clones, apparently that’s exactly who Rey’s dad really was. In his quest to make a perfect clone, Palpatine ended up with dozens of rejects. One of the clones, while functional, showed no force aptitude at all, making it a disappointment. But Palpatine allowed the clone to survive so that it could carry on the Palpatine bloodline. That clone was Rey’s dad.

“One genetic strandcast lived. Thrived even. A not-quite-identical clone. His “son.” But he was a useless, powerless failure. Palpatine could not even bear to look upon such disappointing ordinariness. The boy’s only worth would lay in continuing the bloodline through more natural methods.”

Now, this idea seems to go against the actual plot of the Rise of Skywalker film, in which we’re told that it was by choice that Rey’s parents fled Palpatine. In fact, that was supposed to be the entire reason we knew they were good people. We don’t count “they sold you to protect you” as a redeeming quality here, sorry.

It’s also curious that Palpatine’s clone, who didn’t have force powers, would go on to have a child that does have the force. Cloning force users can be extremely difficult, so Rey’s dad losing the force that the original Palpatine had isn’t too surprising. If the midi-chlorians didn’t survive the clone process then why would it reignite a generation later with Rey? And if the midi-chlorians did survive the cloning process and Rey’s dad had them the whole time, then really wasn’t the lack of force powers mostly a fault of Palpatine’s training? This is where bits of a novel may not sell the entire new(ish) concept.

Rey and Ben’s Kiss wasn’t romantic

The strangest reveal of the Rise of Skywalker novelization sheds a little more light on the kiss that Rey and Ben shared at the end of the film. In the film version, after Ben uses all his strength to heal Rey, they share a kiss in the brief moment they’re both alive. The same basic events happen in the novel, but apparently it clarifies that the kiss was not, in fact, romantic.

“His [Ben’s] heart was full as Rey reached for his face, let her fingers linger against his cheek. And then, wonder of wonders, she leaned forward and kissed him. A kiss of gratitude, acknowledgement of their connection, celebration that they’d found each other at last.”

It’s not really clear what the intention here is, but it definitely feels unnecessarily mean to the Reylos. Ben’s already dead, after all. Sorry, Reylos.

Finn is Force sensitive

Finn’s Force powers from the Rise of Skywalker Novelization Photo: Reddit user Riri19911/Del Rey

This isn’t exactly news, but the novel did make this canon. In the Rise of Skywalker movie, Finn spends the entire film trying to tell Rey a secret, but he never does. We found out after the movie, thanks to various interviews, that Finn wanted to tell her that he’s Force sensitive. In the novel that’s made a little bit more explicit ... but not by much.

“The moment Rey came back to herself, Finn knew.”

Unfortunately, don’t hold your breath for a Disney Plus series to flesh out Finn’s arc in the future. “You ain’t going to Disney Plus me!” John Boyega told Variety after being pitched the possibility.

Rey is watching a sunrise on Tatooine

A photo of the end of the Rise of Skywalker novelization where Rey calls herself Rey Skywalker Photo: Reddit user Littyyolo/Del Rey

This doesn’t tell us much about the story, but it is a nice conclusion to Rey’s thematic arc. After she tells the nosey old woman on Tatooine that her new name is Rey Skywalker, Rey turns to leave, but pauses just long enough to watch Tatooine’s twin suns. In the movie this parallels the moment in A New Hope when Luke himself turns and watches the two suns set. But, thanks to the novel, we know that these suns are actually rising on a new day. So that’s nice.

The next level of puzzles.

Take a break from your day by playing a puzzle or two! We’ve got SpellTower, Typeshift, crosswords, and more.