Released in the build-up to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Spark of Resistance is a young adult novel by Justina Ireland set just before the movie. The book was part of the “Journey to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” line of books and comics, with the events of the story continuing the adventures of Rey, Poe, and Rose just months after the devastating loss on Crait in The Last Jedi. It’s a bad time for the Resistance, but that doesn’t stop the trio of Resistance fighters from trying to do the right thing and help a planet in trouble from the First Order.
Justina Ireland’s only previous foray into the Star Wars universe was the tie-in to the Flight of the Falcon series, Lando’s Luck, which followed Lando during Solo‘s gap in time, while Lando owned the Millennium Falcon with L3. For Spark of Resistance, we are jumping far forward in the Star Wars timeline and following the adventures of three of the Sequel Trilogy’s main characters (with Finn being the most notable absence).
The first thing I noticed about the book was really how short it was. I listened to the audiobook and it was only four hours long, which is a finish-in-a-day sort of book. But since the story was so short, it really jumps us right into the action, without a lot of superfluous information.
The story starts off with a problem on a planet called Minfar, populated by a species of rather short but intelligent aliens called Zixons. The First Order has invaded, looking for a former Imperial superweapon and since not many of the Zixons speak Basic, it is assumed they are just stupid animals. The weapon, it turns out, is kind of like a mind control device, except it only controls the body actions of anyone under its sway, but that is enough for the First Order. In order to protect themselves from the First Order, the Zixon’s send out a distress signal to the Resistance. The signal is received by our heroes aboard the Millennium Falcon.
Eventually the Resistance heroes win the day, which is what everyone would assume would happen. The plot of the story is rather enjoyable and the writing style is top notch. Justina Ireland has a way with words that lets them just flow through the page and keeps your attention on the action. The Zixons, which were new alien characters introduced here, were interesting but nothing that made or broke the story. They kind of reminded me of the Hoojibs from the old Marvel series and I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that they became important characters within the story, but the author makes it work for the most part.
But the real draw into this story, and what I appreciated most, are the characters. Although there are several background characters, we really can boil the cast down to Rey, Rose Tico, Poe Dameron, BB-8, First Order officer Commander Spiftz, and a First Order scientist, Professor Glenna Kip.
The Resistance characters kind of fall into their character tropes, but it seems works for them here. For instance, Rey is the leader. She takes command of the situation and leads from the front. Her most interesting parts within the story are her arguments with Poe, where it seems that Poe feels like he should be leading various actions and dismisses Rey’s abilities, just to be shot down. Besides that, I feel we don’t learn much about her in the story, but she was definitely consistent from where we last saw her at the end of TLJ.
Rose has always been a favorite character of mine, but I am noticing more and more that authors and directors don’t know what her principle trait should be. Is she a master mechanic, or an expert shot, a leader, or all three? She is hard to pin down and I have found that authors seem to be all over the place with where they want her, which is understandable since she is even all over the place in the movies: from master mechanic in TLJ to Resistance Leader who doesn’t seem to be doing any mechanical work at all in TROS. I noticed that here, where she was mainly the mechanic, although one comment about her saying that she could make the shot made me question whether I have ever seen her shoot a blaster before.
Poe seemed to be the most played up character in the book. It was frequently commented on about how he is famous for his good looks and his hair, but he also has an aspect of toxic masculinity about him that promptly gets slapped down by Rose and Rey. It’s great to see Rey put him in his place about flying the Falcon, however he shouldn’t need her to prove her abilities to him when it’s her ship. I loved the way that Justina Ireland handled Poe, like she knew what he was, but also what he could be with proper coaxing. And after a bit of coaxing in the book, he turns into more of a team player by the end.
The new characters were an interesting mix. Commander Spiftz seemed like a screw-up commander, who was given this ship in order to just make him go away. He is constantly acting as if he is better than everyone else around him and that everyone is a waste of space. You know, basically what you’d expect of a First Order commander. There’s nothing really deep about the character. He is what he is, the villain.
The scientist though, Professor Glenna Kip, was I feel the strongest character in the book. She is a new character and one that I feel the author put all her effort into. Professor Kip is a humanoid alien with green skin and scales, but not too far from human beings. The amount of xenophobia just rolling off Commander Spiftz was palpable. Without saying as such, he basically couldn’t think any less of her because of her species. It definitely had the aura of racism, but twisted to fit into the Star Wars universe, where aliens are the lesser beings, especially in the First Order. This brings up the question about why Professor Kip would be working for the First Order, well that’s a twist that I will leave to the readers to discover.
The audiobook was narrated by Jessica Almasy, who is fairly new to the Star Wars audiobooks, and she did absolutely fantastic. Her Poe had a bit of a weird, gruff tinge to it, but overall her flow and cadence were beautifully done and I was able to relax and listen to the book quite easily. I have been listening to a lot of audiobooks lately that have been read by men, and she was a refreshing presence to be greeted by when I started this book.
Overall, I would say that Spark of Resistance is a pretty strong recommend for me. It’s not a “must-read” because it doesn’t have the bigger impact that I like to see in my Star Wars stories, but it is a nice, self-contained story with great writing and strong character work. The audiobook is also great in this instance and I hope to hear more from Jessica Almasy in the future.