Han Solo Trilogy: Rebel Dawn (A.C. Crispin)
Rebel Dawn is the third and final novel of the Han Solo trilogy, a series of books that look at Han Solo’s early years. This third and final installment feels like anything but a Han Solo novel at some points- there is a substantial amount of time spent on sub plots involving the Hutts and Han’s former lover, Bria Tharen. Despite not having anything to do with Han initially, the two stories do tie in at the end, it also helps that they are entertaining in their own right. Han’s story is more concise and generally better than in the previous books too, as he quite literally takes the final steps towards becoming the smuggler we met in A New Hope. The book competently fulfills its intended purpose, wrapping up the series in an explosive conclusion that is substantially better than the previous climactic space battle over Nar Shaddaa.
The book starts with a pivotal moment in Han’s life- winning the Millennium Falcon from Lando in a game of sabacc. By now card games are pretty dull, especially in this trilogy where there has been one or two in every book, but it was still a nice way to kick off the book. From there we learn about what Bria Tharen has been up to for all these years. She has been fighting for the Corellian Resistance- an early Rebel Alliance movement- and is currently trying to acquire the unification of the various rebel factions through the galaxy. Her quest is compelling and important to the Star Wars mythology, in addition to providing a nice contrast to Han’s part of the story. Bria’s character still falls a bit flat though. This is mostly because she seems to be incapable of making mistakes or being poorly regarded by her comrades/anyone she meets…literally everyone, from suspicious rebel officers to Boba Fett (popping up from time to time here to give our heroes a good scare) has at minimum a grudging respect and admiration for her.
A more interesting and overall better side plot is the one involving the two major Hutt factions, Desilijic and Besadii, now led by Jabba and Durga respectively. This segment continues the story of the epic rivalry between the two factions seen in the previous book, and this tale of deception and betrayal will be appreciated by anyone who appreciates tales of the underbelly of the Star Wars universe- Prince Xizor even shows up to tempt one of the leaders with an offer they can’t refuse. Meanwhile, Han attempts to strike out on his own as a smuggler, taking weapons to Kashyyyk, among other jobs. On Kashyyyk, we get an important moment for Chewbacca as he marries his love, whom he hasn’t seen in fifty years. Despite the now obvious continuity error (Chewie was seen on Kashyyyk in Episode 3, just twenty years or so before the events of this novel) the scene is touching and the romance between Chewie and Mallatobuck is infinitely better than the contrived one between Bria and Han. Lando gets quite a bit of face time here too, encountering Bria (and Boba Fett) by random chance and relaying the encounter to Han. Eventually Han and Bria meet up and re kindle their long dormant relationship. This leads to the final act of the story, as Bria convinces Han to talk his smuggler friends into supporting an Alliance invasion of Ylesia. Han agrees, and they meet up with many of their old friends- the Togorians, Han’s smuggler contacts, Sullustan pilot Jalus Nebl in preparation for the invasion. Meanwhile, the Hutts take an interest in the Besadii-owned jungle world. Rival Jabba has decided to aid the Rebellion in the fight, arranging for the assassination of key planetary leaders. Durga, the rightful owner of the planet, even plays a part in its destruction when he orders Boba Fett to kill the administrator of Ylesia, Teroenza, due to his suspected role in the death of Durga’s parent.
It all comes to a crescendo in the same place it started- Ylesia. In one final, epic land battle for control of the “paradise,” Han and his companions all play a part in the liberation of the slaves from their t’landa Til overlords. The battle is an entertaining departure from anything else seen in the series, being far more tactical in nature than any of the previous encounters and showing off Han’s leadership skills quite nicely. Unfortunately, Bria decides to completely betray Han and his friends, cutting them out of their part of the loot for the good of the Alliance. This marks the beginning of a surprisingly dour ending, as Han will lose the love of his life and his smuggler friends before the end of the book. To make things worse, here we learn about the incident that caused Jabba to issue a massive bounty for Han’s capture, and by the conclusion- set just seconds before Han’s introduction in A New Hope- he seems to be down on his luck, but far from defeated.
Crucially, Han’s character is quite believable throughout the book. He has matured quite a bit over the course of the trilogy and we now see him as basically the same person from the movies. His dynamic with various characters is quite interesting here. He and Chewie have a relationship very similar to that in the movies, and while that is important, his changing relationship with Lando and Jabba will be the most interesting for fans of the films. He and Lando are best friends at the beginning of the book, while he and Jabba have a very solid employee-boss relationship. The change to a very cold relationship with Lando and an outright scornful one with Jabba was very important for this book to capture, and it did so in a mostly convincing manner.
The writing style is the same rather simplistic one seen through the previous two novels in the series. There is nothing particularly memorable about it, but it is also far from bad. The dialogue is really good, as the author captures the banter of the smugglers very well while conveying the Hutts and more “formal” proceedings in a believable manner. Action scenes are probably the strongest aspect of the writing, though there is a surprising lack of memorable space battles in this book, there are plenty of close escapes and heroic moments to make up for it.
Rebel Dawn is a satisfying conclusion to the Han Solo Trilogy. The ending lends quite a bit of gravitas to the series as a whole, and characterizations are solid all the way through (minus Bria, who is simply too bland to be liked- she is basically exactly like Leia but with less wit and far less believability.) The author does a great job of tying together the various sub plots, and even working the Han Solo Adventures into the story by making these three tales into “interludes” that recognize them as having happened, while charting the impact they had on Han and Chewie. Just about everyone will get something out of this book- the Hutt scenes are very interesting to underworld fans, while people who favor the more traditional Alliance vs. Empire battles will love the growth of the Rebel Alliance movement. It isn’t a perfect book, but it is a very good conclusion to an excellent series.