Star Wars: Guardians of the Whills – A Beyond the Films Review

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Star Wars Beyond the Films‘ Nathan P. Butler is now posting short, non-spoiler reviews for many new releases. Spoiler-filled discussion will often follow in the weeks or months thereafter on the podcast. 


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Guardians of the Whills by Greg Rucka (hardcover, 2017)

After his success with Before the Awakening, the discovery that author Greg Rucka would be writing another “tie-in to a film that isn’t released before the film” book for Disney Lucasfilm Press was welcome news. This time, he tackles the Guardians of the Whills, Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus, in the appropriately-titled Guardians of the Whills. How did this backstory tie-in to Rogue One fare in Rucka’s hands?

Guardians of the Whills

Guardians of the Whills is not so much an origin story for Chirrut and Baze as simply a story set prior to Rogue One that helps show us more about their thoughts and attitudes through actions taken an undetermined time prior to Rogue One during the Imperial occupation of Jedha. (Yes, as a chronology enthusiast, it drives me batty that so many new books and comics are set in nebulous time frames without actual years pinned down. This book continues that pattern.)

The tale follows Chirrut and Baze in their efforts to protect the orphans of the Holy City and their caretakers from being caught in the crossfire of the battle between the Empire and the local anti-Imperial partisans, led by the newly-arrived Saw Gerrera. The tale brings them into contact with Saw for the first time (putting the lie to the idea that their first encounter was in Rogue One), provides an origin for Baze’s iconic cannon from the film, and allows us to witness the evolution of certain aspects of the Imperial occupation (such as the move of the Dauntless to hover over the Holy City rather than being in orbit).

For fans of Star Wars tie-in books, used to not having them lead directly into films in recent years, these connections would probably be enough to satisfy. Thankfully, Rucka takes the book a bit deeper by exploring themes of the horrors of war, the plight of non-combatants in wartime, and the notion of who bears responsibility for the casualties of a conflict. It presents the kind of introspection on behalf of Chirrut (and even Baze) that one would expect of the character(s) we met in Rogue One when presented with such moral concerns.

While fans of Saw will probably wish that he had more page time in the book, this isn’t Rebel Rising, so its focus on Chirrut and Gaze, upon whom the book is named, should have been a given.

The Verdict

Guardians of the Whills presents a very human story in galactic wartime and provides a bit more depth to Chirrut and Baze for those who found them a tad lacking in Rogue One. While not a direct lead-in to the film, enough continuity elements pop up to sustain those seeking direct connections, while deeper questions of morality emerge that will keep even adult readers engaged.

Recommended for: Those interested in a more “human” tale that does not take a side within a war but instead essentially takes a side in the balance between war and peace, along with those interested in a bit more depth for Chirrut and Baze.

Not recommended for: Those seeking a direct lead-in to Rogue One or a story that pins itself down to a specific timeframe other than the (unfortunately) usual vague “sometime during blah blah blah” style of chronological placement.

The copy used for this review was provided by Disney Lucasfilm Press.

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