From the cover and title, The Merry Rise of Skywalker lets its readers know right away that this take on Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker will be a combination of tragedy and comedy, merging both genres from the bard into one unique creation. Rey and Kylo stand back to back on the cover with Leia below Kylo and Palpatine below Rey signifying the tragic opposition of their legacies and their fates. The title, however, a play on The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare refers to a comedy where the audience’s favorite character is alive again for no reason, tongue in cheek just like Palpatine. That self-awareness is what makes this read such a cathartic experience. It acknowledges that both deep emotional sadness is to be found in this story along with the levity, something many fans craved from the film and the end of the saga.
Warning: From this point on, the review contains spoilers for The Merry Rise of Skywalker
For never was a story of more woe than this of Rey and her Ben Solo.
The narrative through line between The Rise of Skywalker and The Merry Rise of Skywalker is the tragic romance at the center of the story between Rey and Kylo Ren. Ian Doescher doesn’t shy away from the tragedy and it’s appreciated. He purposefully weaves parallel after parallel with Romeo and Juliet.
From Kylo’s opening line, “Two rivals, both alike in dignity,” to Rey’s final line with Kylo, “My life, I see, hath been his timeless end,” Doescher intelligently inserts verses that pull on heartstrings and prepares you for the upcoming tragedy. His verses also highlight the unique connection between the characters and how they are drawn to each other. The result is readers are given the time and space to grieve and find catharsis in the story.
Favorite Rey and Kylo Verses:
- Her visions are mine own, as if we two/ Shar’d but one eye, one ear, one mind, one heart.
- We two are like a planet and its sun,/ Each circling round the other evermore
- Our close connection turns to something more—/ He hath th’ability to touch me here,/ To be where I am momentarily/ That what is mine is his and his is mine.
The “Merry” in the Merry Rise of Skywalker
While the tragedy at the heart of the story is given its space, Doescher balances it with moments of levity. This is found most between Poe and Finn. Their verses together are full of merriment and banter. C-3PO who particularly shines in The Rise of Skywalker is also given funny verses and even gets to hold Poe’s hand when they do the group handshake after Pasaana.
Other “Merry” Moments:
- The snake on Pasaana can talk
- Several Stormtroopers have their own comedic scene as preparation for the reader before jumping into the emotionally intense final climax of the story
- Easter Eggs like Palpatine’s Ommin Harness and Kylo’s helmet being reforged in the ancient forges of the Sith with Sarrassian Iron
Finally, Chewbacca, our “furry friend and confidant” provides much needed humor throughout the story. His verses are in Shyriiwook and then the translations below in the footnotes are hilarious and endearing.
Monologues hath been thine treasure!
Due to the nature of film, it’s hard to delve into the depths of characters’ internal thoughts and feelings. The play format allows The Merry Rise of Skywalker to highlight each character often multiple times through monologues.
Standouts for Kylo Ren include when he enters Exegol at the beginning of the story, while he’s thinking about Rey, and after seeing the memory of his father. These help make his moment of redemption truly triumphant. Rey is also given several lengthy monologues about Kylo, her actions throughout the story, and the familial legacy thrust upon her. It’s nice to have time with our heroine who was been through so much as she processes all of her feelings, and Doescher should be applauded for making it a priority.
Leia and Chewie are given monologues at significant moments in the story. Leia has space to reflect on her son and Chewie mourns Leia’s death in beautiful verses. Nearly every other character also has monologues that flesh out their feelings including Poe, C-3PO, Zorri, and Hux. Finn has several verses that are full of such heart, but I do wish that he and Rose were given significant monologues as well.
On the whole, The Merry Rise of Skywalker succeeds at being a retelling of The Rise of Skywalker by acknowledging both the tragedy and comedy found in the story. The genre lends itself to giving fans a unique way to not only process the story, but provide entertainment that will hopefully be a fun and healing experience.
Thank you for this. I had planned on skipping this but you may have convinced me to at least support the author with a purchase. I might even gather the courage to read it and enjoy it like the last two entries.
Wonderful (& very fair) review Hammie! I always looked forward to the Shakespeare adaptations of the SW films prior to TROS but it’s heartening to hear & see that regardless of the film, this adaptation did a better job of balancing the kind of emotions we were all hoping for. Looking forward to reading it in full!
What do you think about the book having Leia mention her Son Ben and her adopted Daughter Rey, then having Ben echo that with the saying Strong Daughter and Mighty Son? I find the review lacking by not discussing this, nor warning readers.
Lovers had not been explicitly stated. Instead, it was reinforcement of familial bonds as had other media presented it.
I apologize for not warning about the son and daughter thing but Leia calls them twins of the Force in the novelization as well so for me I was grateful that she even acknowledges that Ben and Rey have a relationship and her “adopting” Rey doesn’t prevent that from existing.
I also saw it as different authors trying to reconcile the movie that includes both, lovers and familial bonds, and also this indescribable connection of the dyad. It’s why we had so much binary sun imagery before TROS as well. The Son and Daughter of Mortis is what I thought of during Ben’s line.
I imagine if there is post-TROS content those creators will have to do similar things. Defining the dyad and the lover and familial subtext will be unavoidable.
The references in the text and the Afterword from the author saying he drew from Romeo and Juliet is pretty intentional and explicit as lovers to me as well.
I am disappointed. An afterword is an afterthought. The review raised my hopes higher than I expected and I just crashed after seeing a repeat of the movie. Little to no consolation for Ben broke my heart all over again.
I appreciate the reply.
Ugh. I’m sorry!! I’m definitely still hurt about what happened with TROS but it’s an adaption of the movie so I thought everyone would know not to expect more than what’s already there 🙁
This was the first content where the tragedy was actually acknowledged by paralleling Romeo and Juliet though. That was mainly where my praise was coming from.
I seriously appreciate you taking the time to read my review and to comment! I’ll try and be more careful in the future of making things clear.
In all honesty the ST never knew what it wanted to be beyond a refurbished OT. It never had any themes or throughlines to speak of. The whole adopted family (a great theme on its own), Rey being adopted by Luke and Leia, was a hamfisted last minute addition. Probably a result from some suit asking at a board meeting: “So what is this trilogy about?”, lol… Jokes aside though, any material that at least tries to make some sense out of the story is a win in my book!
Great review! I’m a little curious though as this review doesn’t address what seems to be kind of an elephant in the room with this novel, which is that TROS (at least the film version) doesn’t fit the structure of a Shakespearean tragedy, nor does Ben fit the definition of a tragic hero. Would you say the book makes adjustments for that? Or is it just kind of a “don’t think too hard about it” read?
The Play acknowledges it’s parallel to Romeo and Juliet heavily.