Rogue One instantly became one of my favorite Star Wars films from the moment I first saw it, and with it, Baze Malbus and Chirrut Imwe became two of my favorite characters from the story just as fast. The pair haven’t appeared in as many additional stories as many other Star Wars characters, but they are the stars of Guardians of the Whills by Greg Rucka, a middle-grade novel set in the months prior to the opening of the film.
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In Guardians of the Whills, Baze and Chirrut are living hand-to-mouth in the Holy City of Jedha. Former Guardians at the Temple of the Kyber, they now spend their days on the streets helping the people of the city as best they can and their evenings occasionally helping to liberate Imperial supplies and pass them along to those in need – specifically to the city’s orphanage. When Saw Gerrerra and his Partisans arrive on Jedha, Baze and Chirrut team up with his group but quickly find that the rapid escalation of violence in the city has dire consequences for those they care about. They soon find themselves needing to make difficult decisions about their future and that of the children in the orphanage.
There is an element of tragedy that lingers on every page of this book. It comes, I think, from knowing what will become not just of Baze and Chirrut, but of the city of Jedha itself and – realistically – the vast majority of its residents. The people of Jedha have suffered terribly, both physically and emotionally, and you know through everything that far worse is coming. Despite that, however, Guardians of the Whills was a joy to read. From the darkest depths of despair spring the brightest kernels of hope, and hope is ever-present here. You see it in the actions of Chirrut and Baze, in the choices their friends make, and, of course, in the children of the orphanage.
The absolute heart of the story though comes from the relationship between Baze and Chirrut. Their playful banter and good-natured antagonism are a constant and are clearly the only thing that keeps them going when their world is, at times literally, crumbling around them. There were genuinely laugh-out-loud funny moments between the two that helped keep the tone of the book lighter than its subject matter might otherwise have allowed. Of course, given that this is a middle-grade book it also has a happier ending than what might have been expected from a Jedha-centric story aimed at adults.
At the start of each chapter is an excerpt from Collected Poems, Prayers, and Meditations on the Force, a book edited by Kozem Pel, a Disciple of the Whills and Chirrut’s former mentor. I would especially love to learn more about the Guardians and Disciples, in order to understand more about how hugely the arrival of the Empire impacted Baze and Chirrut as people, and also to learn about Force-worship on Jedha and across the galaxy.
Guardians of the Whills is now one of my favorite Star Wars stories and made me eager to read more about Baze and Chirrut. I also hope to one day learn more about what happened to the other new characters who escaped the destruction of Jedha. It is a short, easy-to-read book filled with the message that love, humor, and hope can be found even in the worst of circumstances, and I feel that is a message we all need more than ever right now.
Check out more Star Wars novel reviews in our The Saga Continues column.