Retro Reviews: ‘Rogue One’ by Alexander Freed

November 17, 2020 at 8:22 am | Posted in Books, Random House, Regular Feature, Retro Reviews, Reviews, Star Wars, Star Wars Books | 1 Comment
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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the second adult film novelization in the canon written by Alexander Freed and released in December of 2016.

If you’ve read my previous novelization review of The Force Awakens, you know that novelizations have a high bar with me. In fact, unless it’s something I’m really interested in, I usually skip novelizations in media tie-in fiction because they rarely add anything of value and if they do, it’s nominal. There are very few novelizations that appeal to me, and most do not.

But this book does not fit that mold. Alexander Freed wrote a novelization that was very faithful to the film and still added many scenes and insights and worldbuilding without being clunky or over the top. Freed struck the right balance, and is an excellent example for future authors to follow.

The first thing that I loved was that the prologue felt very much like an extension of Catalyst, which is the prequel novel to Rogue One. It’s hard to quantify, but Freed’s writing style matched very well with Catalyst, to the point that if I didn’t know better I’d have guessed that Luceno wrote it. That shows how well the tie-in material has worked surrounding Rogue One because it all meshes together really well.

My favorite part of Freed’s novelization are his “reports”. There are only a handful of these throughout the book, but they provide tons of insight into the story and into the world. These reports revolve around Alliance leadership, Imperial leadership, and Galen Erso’s team. The report regarding how Galen Erso planted the exhaust port into the Death Star was brilliant and entertaining. Mon Mothma’s personal files were sweet and heartwarming and sad all at the same time. Del Rey took a risk by changing the format to this book and it worked spectacularly.

I also thought that Freed absolutely nailed the rivalry between Krennic and Tarkin. He really built off of both the movie and off of Catalyst and made them power hungry strategists. Their dynamic was the best written dynamic in the book.

Freed’s descriptions of Jedha, Eadu, and Scarif were all very sensual. I felt like I could smell the water on scarif, feel the rain on Eadu, and taste the food on Jedha. I normally don’t like descriptions and feel like they are just filler, but his were sparse and well used.

If I have one nitpick, it’s that I didn’t love what Alexander Freed did with Jyn’s inner thoughts. I thought that Jyn’s constant swearing in her inner monologues was out of character, especially from what we see in the movie and in Rebel Rising, her full length prequel book. I didn’t believe that she felt entirely the way she’s portrayed regarding her father. I thought Jyn just didn’t care, but in the book it’s almost that she hates her father, and then turns last minute. It’s an interesting choice that I would not have made had I had the reins to this project. Nonetheless, other than those moments, her dialogue was ok and her comedic lines still landed.

Baze and Chirrut benefited the most from added material. They still act like old brothers (and have a similar dynamic as that of an old married couple). They were funny and charming and still awesome in their own moments.

I also appreciated seeing some additional insights into General Draven. I thought the film cast him as a heartless character, but this book really seems to make him more sympathetic. 

This isn’t a critic of the story itself, but I want to praise the beautiful cover art designed by Elizabeth A. D. Eno using the poster from the film. It is the most aesthetic cover of the sequel era novelizations and really grasps the reader.

Overall, I really loved this book. This is not only my favorite novelization in the canon, but it is also my favorite Alexander Freed book. I think he struck gold and I hope that he continues to do so in his future novels. I give Rogue One 5 out of 5 stars. Great job Freed.

My next review is Aftermath: Empire’s End, which I’m looking forward to finishing that trilogy and reading more about Cobb Vanth again.

Written by Jonathan Koan.

1 Comment »

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  1. I loved this book, too, and I agree with your nitpick about Jyn’s inner thoughts. I think they’re a bit out of character and I really don’t think she hated Galen.Great review!


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