The final episode of the (original) Star Wars saga looms on the horizon. And the new expanded universe of Star Wars is filling in the gaps between The Last Jedi and Rise of Skywalker with several novels. Let’s review Journey to Star Wars: Spark of the Resistance by Justina Ireland. This young adult novel focuses on Rey, Poe, and Rose as they help a new (and cuddly) race of alien creatures when the First Order shows up on their planet searching for a long-lost weapon.
(Spoilers for Journey to Star Wars: Spark Of The Resistance below)
Image via StarWars.com
Journey to Star Wars: Spark Of The Resistance Travels To A New World
Star Wars: Spark of the Resistance begins with three of our heroes on a routine transport mission, picking up supplies for the Resistance. When they receive a distress call from the planet Minfar, they drop everything and rush off to help. To be fair, it seems like they were craving some adventure. Who sends the Millenium Falcon (the most recognizable ship in the galaxy as this novel claims several times) on routine cargo pickups?
Arriving at Minfar, the heroes engage in a brief space battle with the First Order forces. This battle is one of the stronger moments of action in the novel. The imagery of Rose and Poe shooting down TIE fighters, while Rey pulls off some fancy flying is pure Star Wars. It is a scene that exists outside of this book, one that could take place in any movie at any time. It is also the only space battle that is described in the book (a later fight that occurs during the novel’s climax is described with just one line of text).
The rest of the action in the book takes place on Minfar, this both helps and hinders the pacing of the novel. This focused standalone story gives us an interesting planet, a new race of creatures, and an intriguing new character. However, I found myself wondering what else was going on in the galaxy. The POV switches between our Resistance heroes and the First Order villains without ever cutting away to the rest of the Resistance and that makes the story simultaneously too big and too small. Focusing so closely on Minfar and its inhabitants feels like all of this should be far more important than it inevitably will be.
Poe Dameron | Image via StarWars.com
A New Character Shows Promise Amidst A Muddled Story
The most interesting character this story has to offer comes in the form of a scientist named Glenna Kip. Kip used to work for the Empire in some secret underground labs on Minfar. She has joined up with the First Order to return to the planet in attempt to find the weapon that she created so long ago. She aims to destroy it once and for all. This weapon is called the Echo Horn. It can control the native sentient race of the planet – a group of rabbit-like creatures called the Zixon.
In her former life on Minfar, Kip apparently became acquainted with the Zixon and taught them how to avoid the monsters on the planet and thrive underground. She grew friendly with the Zixon and freed them from the grip of the Horn after the Empire fell. It is unclear why she didn’t destroy the Echo Horn at that time. Or why she suddenly felt like it was imperative to return to Minfar to get rid of it, despite the risk of the First Order claiming it for themselves.
Glenna Kip is the kind of character that would have been found in the old Extended Universe novels. An alien scientist with shifting allegiances who ultimately wants to do good, but has to do a whole lot of bad along the way. She is capable and intelligent with enough of a mysterious air about her that left me wanting to know more. In fact, I wonder if Glenna Kip will appear in Rise of Skywalker and this whole book is designed solely to introduce her to the Star Wars canon. I know that I’ll be keeping an eye out for any green-skinned scientists in the next movie.
MacGuffins and Weak Characterization Drag The Story Down
Perhaps the main issue with the plot of this book is the mcguffin that drives the action of the story. The Echo Horn was partially created by Glenna Kip, but we never get any information on what exactly it is. When finally located, it appears to just be a box that doesn’t actually emit any sound. I admit that I was anticipating a strange Jedi artifact that utilized the Force in some way. But the Horn is never explained. We don’t know what it is or how it works. We don’t even know if it can even be used to control other creatures beyond the Zixon, which is why the First Order is after it. This is just lazy writing.
In a novel like this where the main characters are limited, I also expected more characterization of the heroes. However, the only one who gets even a hint of character development is Rose Tico, who empathizes with the plight of the Zixon. Rey and Poe certainly do things in this novel, but their motivations and characterizations are incredibly basic. The book treats the heroes as if they are complete strangers to one another. It is a strange dynamic, and at no point during the story do any of the characters mature as individuals, grow closer, or get to know one another better.
Journey to Star Wars: Spark of the Resistance | Image via Disney/Lucasfilm
Where Is The Force In This Journey To Star Wars?
Speaking of Rey, there is a significant problem with the way the author completely ignores her Force abilities. In the beginning of the story, Rey attempts to use the Force to find a character on Minfar. She closes her eyes and literally asks the Force ‘where is this person’ and when she gets no answer, she just shrugs and gives up. This is not the Rey that we saw at the end of The Last Jedi. Also, this is not how the Force works and Rey knows enough at this point to be aware of that. This demonstrates the author’s complete lack of understanding about the complexities of the Force in the Star Wars universe.
Rey’s point of view chapters don’t even indicate a basic awareness of the Force, on a planet teeming with life. She has no Force visions, no levitating of rocks, she never even uses her lightsaber. Weirdly, parts of this book make it seem like Rose is Force sensitive as she is the one who senses danger and is aware when a giant monster is following them. The writing in this area was just very strange and left me baffled.
Rose Tico | Image via StarWars.com
Star Wars: Spark of The Resistance Fails to Light A Fire
In the end, the book Journey to Star Wars: Spark of the Resistance is a reasonably entertaining adventure. Glenna Kip is an interesting character who deserves a better vehicle than this novel. The planet of Minfar is intriguing and rife with potential for other stories. The race of the Zixon could prove to be a valuable ally to the Resistance in the future (and seems like a fun callback to the old Marvel comics character Jaxxon, a green rabbit). And it would be cool to see them on-screen. But the novel itself feels poorly written. Weak characterization and baffling story choices drag the story down. It all feels too muddled and and despite the pace of the book moving quickly, it is actually boring at times.
I know that this was a young adult novel and it cannot be weighed against other ‘adult’ science-fiction books. But I am of the opinion that children’s literature should not be dumbed down. And this book feels like a watered-down version of Star Wars, made to be easy to read and understand for children. But I’m not sure it succeeds even on that front. Journey to Star Wars: Spark of the Resistance has a lot of potential, but fails to live up to it.
(Featured image via Disney Books/Lucasfilm)
Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.