A review of the novel leading up to the events of Solo: A Star Wars Story
At 348 pages, Star Wars: Most Wanted by Rae Carson, does a fun job of weaving in not just the backstory of how Han and Qi’ra came to work as a team under Lady Proxima who commands the entire White Worm organization, but also how said group works and their position in it. Without spoiling too much, here’s a hint, the two are not as low down as one would think. Aside from the two main characters (Han and Qi’ra), the novel is full of surprises that make the story a fun and easy read. It mixes the fun and adventure people have come to expect from Han Solo and gives them a better introduction to Qi’ra than we got in the movie.
The main critique I have of the novel that does not involve spoilers would be, if you’re going to introduce a new character such as Qi’ra, release the novel a week or so beforehand so people actually have a chance to read and really get to know that character before they are introduced in a movie. While she was…interesting in Solo: A Star Wars Story, it would have been nice to know a little more about her and a certain choice she made towards the end of the novel, before diving right into the movie.
Spoilers Ahead – You Have Now Been Warned
Upon first opening the novel, I was expecting to be greeted with the famous words, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” as has been done in many current canon novels before, whether they are part of the main episodic stories or not. I was wrong. This novel did not open with those words. Rather, it dumped you right in. Out of the several canon novels that I own, I could only find one other example of those famous words not being included. That example is in Claudia Gray’s Leia: Princess of Alderaan. At this point, I am left wondering, is there a reason behind this, such as author’s/publisher’s choice, plot related, or some other reason?
I am not complaining, merely curious. After reading so many Star Wars novels, it has basically become conditioning to expect those before diving right in. It’s Star Wars tradition, to begin with those words whether or not it’s connected to the main story. As such, to start the novel without them was about as jolting as seeing Rogue One for the first time without those famous words. Getting over that, I prepped myself for an about average story, and that’s what I got.
Han and Qi’ra don’t have a lot in common other than not having a lot. They’re street kids on the industrial planet Corellia, doing whatever it takes to get by, dreaming of something more. They each jump at a chance to prove themselves in the perilous world of Corellia’s criminal underbelly, only to discover they are on the same mission for the same unscrupulous boss. When the job goes disastrously wrong, Han and Qi’ra are on the run–from pirates, a droid crime syndicate, the Empire, and their boss–and will have to learn to trust each other if they are going to survive.
The Story Opens
The novel opens with Han rushing to return to the White Worm nest before curfew. While he is successful, it was fun to later learn how he acquired his mechanical prowess; apparently, he had a land speeder of his own that he worked on whenever he could, not that anyone in the White Worms knew until later, of course. Even though the mechanics in a ship are vastly different than those in a ground speeder, it still gave him a firm basis on which to start. One has to start with the basics and walk before they can get advanced and learn how to run. With Han’s position at close to the top of the organization, he was supposed to be completely dedicated to their cause and do everything he could to further it. Working on a speeder, unfortunately, doesn’t fall within his job description.
Shortly after making it back just in time for curfew, Han and Qi’ra were ordered to meet privately with the leader of the White Worms before the former could even get much to eat. Ignoring his growling stomach, Han follows Qi’ra and the guard before being ushered into the audience chamber one at a time. It is here Han learns that if he successfully completes his next assignment, he will be promoted and earn the title of Head White Worm. With this comes more food at a slightly better quality.
Unbeknownst to Han, Qi’ra was also offered the same deal when she entered the audience chamber before him. The problem, of course, is that there is only one spot open for Head. Fear not, as due to complications that arise during the task, the two are not competing for long before they are forced to work together in order to survive. Sure, they eventually go back to competing towards the end, but it’s more of a half-hearted effort. Between the two of them, Han knows who really deserves the position the most.
Highlighting Important Points
Once their individual tasks go sideways on them, the story follows both Qi’ra and Han as they not only learn how to depend on each other in order to make it back alive but also open up and trust each other. Basically, it’s about what one would expect from a story of this type. It’s fun, but not more than that.
Despite its quality, there were some points that stood out for me. Going in chronological order, these were: meeting a droid aptly named Tool, finally gaining some information about Han’s father, but not really gaining any insight at all, and Qi’ra’s ultimate choice to stay with the White Worms despite a very lucrative job offer. While one point caused me to start sensing a pattern in certain Star Wars characters, another was just a bit of pure fun, and yet another made me think of how two characters in the movie could have crossed paths.
Meet Tool, The Droid
As result of their assignment going sideways, Han and Qi’ra (along with a couple other characters they team up with), find themselves allied with a droid aptly named Tool. Knowing that the item Han was sent to collect, an Imperial data cube that a few other groups were bidding on, was more important than his “life”, Tool pulled out every attachment that he had been fitted with, in order to cover Han’s escape. While he somehow doesn’t immediately die due to all the damage he was sustaining, he does die later. Not only is he a droid, something that is often used to complete tasks that humans either don’t want to or think are beneath them, but also as an all-purpose tool to communicate with other machines.
Between K-2SO, L3-37 and now Tool, I’m sensing a trend here. At this point, I’m just wondering how C-3PO, R2-D2, Chopper, and AP-5 are still functioning. This is especially so when one thinks back to Return of the Jedi when C-3PO and R2-D2 are in the bowels of Jabba’s Palace and viewers are treated to a droid flipped upside down and screaming in pain. Does someone over at Lucasfilm have a droid-in-pain/droid death fetish? Actually, I don’t think we want to know.
Moving further into the story, we finally learn about Han’s father. His mother is still a mystery, but at least we have some information on one of his parents. Or rather, do we? During a rare quiet moment with Qi’ra, Han actually plays a form of two truths and a lie, or is it two lies and a truth? With him, it’s hard to tell. While Han’s final tale about him and his father sitting on a fence at the end of the day in a freighter shipyard mulling over life could be true, when Qi’ra asks him if he’s lying again, he simply answers, “You’ll never know”. As frustrating as this is, it’s also still fun as it leaves it open to fan speculation about what the type of person Han’s father actually was and if we really need to know about his father.
Qi’ra’s Ultimate Choice
Having finally arrived at the tail end of the story, Qi’ra was offered a choice, either go with their very hospitable host Jenra aka The Engineer, whom had helped them salvage their assignment and essentially live and work in the lap of luxury, or go back to the literal sewers that made up the White Worm lair. While many people would very likely take the former option after years of the latter, there was a catch that Qi’ra caught while renegotiating the deal, she would be treated as no more than a mere pawn, easily thrown away at the first sign of trouble. Like most people, that didn’t really appeal to her. As such, she returned with Han at her side and a completed assignment under her belt.
The question is, why did she do that? Isn’t she treated the same in the White Worm organization? Back towards the beginning of the novel, they did send mercenaries out to kill her for failing the assignment. Why would working for someone else be any different? At least with the new assignment, she’d get to experience some luxury before a situation went south on here and left her by the side of the road to fend for herself. More than that, she even acknowledges that this would give her better jobs options. Logically, there is no in-universe reason for her to refuse the offer.
To step out of the Star Wars universe for a minute, it would also allow the filmmakers to skip over all their backstory in the beginning and get right to Han and Qi’ra reuniting in the scene pictured above, switching Dryden Vos for Jenra The Engineer. It’s a simple enough thing. Sure, Dryden was interesting, but Jenra seems even more so.
Qi’ra choosing to stay with Han and the White Worms organization, was not the end of the story, however. No, once the two returned, there was still the position of Head White Worm to worry about. Which of them would and should deserve to get it? By all accounts in their organization, Han should deserve to get it as according to Lady Proxima, leader of the White Worms, Han is, “…instinctive, and lucky, liked by everyone around town. An ambassador.” At the same time, she also says that he’s occasionally disrespectful.
Being the scoundrel with the heart of gold that we all know and love, Han understands how much this position means to Qi’ra. As such, he uses Lady Proxima’s own reasoning of his occasionally disrespectful ways, to disqualify himself and urge her to promote Qi’ra instead. It is also at this point that he also reinforces Qi’ra’s loyalty to the organization by informing Lady Proxima and the entire organization that has been gathered to watch these proceedings, by stating that Qi’ra is so loyal to them that she even turned down an extremely lucrative job offer in order to return to them.
With Qi’ra now the new Head of the White Worms, the novel ends with her and Han sharing one of the upgraded meals she alone is now entitled to. Even though Qi’ra claims that sitting alone at the table sharing a meal does not constitute a date, she says that she is not opposed to the idea in the future.
Even though this novel gave interesting information about Han and Qi’ra’s backstory along with that of how the White Worms functioned overall, I still rate it as about average. I’ve read better Star Wars novels, but I’ve also read worse. Would I recommend it to other Star Wars fans…sure, if they have nothing else to read. At the very least, I will say it was worth the money I paid for it. I did keep coming back to the story and finish it after all.
Read Most Wanted by Rae Carson if you want to know more about Han and Qi’ra’s history, but overall, it’s not required.
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