Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker remains one of the most divisive movies in Star Wars history. After the late Emperor Palpatine made an unlikely comeback in his ongoing bid for galactic domination, the conclusion to the Skywalker Saga threw in unexpected new ideas about Sith Wayfinders, the Sith Eternal, and a previously unseen Sith homeworld called Exegol – and not all of them made sense within the film’s slightly rushed narrative.
These days the Star Wars timeline isn’t just about the movies and TV shows, however, and the new novel Shadow of the Sith (out now from Del Rey Books) helps explain some of the mysteries that may have left you scratching your head after Episode 9. Set 17 years after the destruction of the second Death Star, the new book – from author Adam Christopher, who also wrote Stranger Things novel Darkness on the Edge of Town – unites Luke Skywalker and Lando Calrissian on a mission to track down infamous Jedi hunter Ochi of Bestoon, the mercenary who killed Rey’s parents.
It’s a story of sinister Sith forces, Luke’s efforts to better understand the Force, and Lando’s ongoing quest to track down his missing daughter. But Shadow of the Sith is also packed with little nuggets of information that can enhance your understanding of The Rise of Skywalker and the other Star Wars sequels. Here are 11 things we understand better after reading the latest novel from a galaxy far, far away. Spoilers ahead!
Rey and her parents
After plenty of speculation over whether Rey’s parents were nobody, somebody, or even Obi-Wan Kenobi, The Rise of Skywalker finally established that they had a surprisingly pivotal role to play in galactic history. We already knew, of course, that they met a grisly end after leaving their daughter with junk dealer Unkar Plutt on Jakku, but Shadow of the Sith reveals why they felt they had no other option.
A “strandcast” (clone) engineered from Emperor Palpatine’s DNA, Rey’s dad had no Force powers and was therefore considered an “abomination” on the Sith homeworld of Exegol. With the Sith Eternal unable to harm the boy without incurring their boss’s wrath, he was effectively free to wander the barren world, and occasionally sighted Darth Vader when he paid his master a visit. He eventually escaped, however – in the Han Solo tradition, he “borrowed” his name, Dathan, from a kindly Symeong – and found himself on the world of Hyperkarn. There, he fell in love with Rey’s mother, Miramir, who – like her future daughter – had a natural ability to fly and repair spacecraft.
Eventually, after Rey’s birth, they move to Jakku to live a quiet life, but are forced to go on the run when the Sith come looking for the Emperor’s Force-sensitive granddaughter. Unfortunately, not even the New Republic are particularly keen to help a family of fugitives flying around in a dilapidated old freighter pinched from Plutt’s shipyard – this tragic lack of allies helps explain why Rey winds up living on a desert world with the Worst Babysitter EverTM.
Luke’s self-enforced exile on Ahch-To is still some years away, so when Shadow of the Sith kicks off, he’s running his Jedi school on Ossus, the world where he trained Grogu in The Book of Boba Fett episode 6. The 16-year-old Ben Solo is also yet to fall from grace – Luke even says, “I couldn’t hope for a better student,” and as far as we can tell, the future Kylo Ren’s biggest transgression is calling his teacher “uncle” rather than “Master Skywalker”.
As well as educating the next generation of Force wielders, Luke has a sideline collecting Jedi artifacts, which presumably explains the impressive collection of Forcey tomes that Yoda would eloquently critique as “page turners they were not” in The Last Jedi.
In the novel, Luke starts having extremely vivid visions of a barren, lightning-filled world that we all recognise from The Rise of Skywalker, so he flies off with R2-D2 in his trusty old X-wing to work out what the Sith are up to – and learn everything he can about Sith Wayfinders and mythical world of Exegol. Along the way he communes with the Force on Tython (the world where Grogu opened hailing frequencies in The Mandalorian), and gets an unexpected visit from a famous Force-wielder from his past. He also runs into nine ghostly wraiths, in what feels like a tribute to The Lord of the Rings.
The galaxy’s number one card player, gambler, and scoundrel (we like him) was particularly short-changed by The Rise of Skywalker. The crucial fact that his two-year-old daughter had gone missing several years earlier – probably taken by the First Order, which had a long-standing policy of child abduction – was only made clear in The Rise of Skywalker: The Visual Dictionary, but Shadow of the Sith plugs a few more gaps in canon. As well as exploring the torment Lando felt after her disappearance, the book confirms that her name is Kadara – though if you’re looking for a definitive answer to speculation that The Rise of Skywalker’s AWOL Stormtrooper Jannah is Lando’s daughter, you won’t find it here.
When Shadow of the Sith begins, Lando’s still looking for leads about his daughter’s whereabouts when he eavesdrops Ochi of Bestoon telling some criminal associates about his latest assignment from the Sith. The bar-room conversation sets Lando’s spider-sense tingling, so before long he’s making calls to old friends in the New Republic, and dropping in on his friendly neighborhood Jedi, Luke Skywalker.
Despite everything that’s going on in Lando’s life, it’s refreshing to see that he still likes looking at himself in the mirror, rocking a well-tailored cape, and jetting around the galaxy in a ship called the Lady Luck. Lando remains a man who embraces the good things in life, which may explain why he describes Luke’s trusty old X-wing as a “museum piece”.
Ochi of Bestoon
The owner of the Bestoon Legacy, the ship Rey saw flying away from Jakku in The Force Awakens’ flashback sequence, Ochi of Bestoon had quite the history before he murdered Rey’s parents. Indeed, with a packed resumé that includes hunting down Jedi during the Clone Wars (he met Mace Windu) and working for criminal syndicates Crimson Dawn and Black Sun (he crossed paths with Han Solo’s ex, Qi’ra), this mercenary is the quintessential bad egg in that galaxy far, far away.
Shadow of the Sith explains away more of Ochi’s checkered past. Having had his eyes and part of his brain replaced with cybernetic implants after a mission with regular clients the Sith – he describes Darth Vader as “a weirdo” – he’s obsessed with returning to Exegol so he can become “whole” again. In the book, we see him accept the assignment to hunt down Dathan and Miramir, and receive the knife inscribed with unreadable Sith writing that’s a key McGuffin in The Rise of Skywalker. It’s worth noting that said blade is powered by the Dark Side, can repel a lightsaber, and feeds on blood.
Shadow of the Sith doesn’t take long to explain why the rodent-like droid Rey, Finn, and Poe find on Ochi’s old ship, the Bestoon Legacy, is so timid. Since Ochi the wheeled droid from an academic, he’s experienced a lifetime of abuse at Ochi’s hand, as his master made a habit of beating, kicking and disparaging his every move. Even Ochi sees D-0’s value, however, thanks to his highly effective sensors and surprisingly efficient data storage capabilities.
(Former) Emperor Palpatine
It turns out the dead were speaking long before the opening crawl of The Rise of Skywalker. With a bit of help from his Sith Eternal minions, the artist sometimes known as Darth Sidious pays Ochi of Bestoon a visit from beyond the grave. Palpatine demands that the mercenary track down his granddaughter, in the hope that those pesky Midi-chlorians have skipped a generation and turned Rey into a potential ally. Ochi’s reward? The route to Exegol.
The Sith Eternal and Exegol
There may only be two Sith at any one time but they have plenty of staff to keep things ticking over behind the scenes. Based on the world of Exegol – mysteriously, perhaps intentionally, hidden on the other side of the so-called “Red Honeycomb Zone” – the Sith Eternal are religious zealots who live to do the bidding of their Dark Side masters.
It’s already well established in Star Wars lore that, by the time of The Rise of Skywalker, they’ve managed to build a colossal fleet of all-powerful Star Destroyers and assemble legions of red-clad Sith Troopers. But Shadow of the Sith confirms that the order’s presence goes back long before the events of the original Star Wars trilogy, and that the Emperor and Darth Vader were regular visitors to Exegol. (The planet has also featured in the ongoing Darth Vader comic.)
Popular Sith Eternal pastimes include conducting morally questionable biological experiments, and chanting the names of Sith heroes: Darths Plagueis, Revan, Noctyss, Sanguis, Kakon, Voord, and Shaa all get a shout out.
Anyone who watched The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels probably assumed the device Kylo Ren plugged into his TIE Whisper to track down Exegol at the start of The Rise of Skywalker was a Holocron. Not quite so.
While the Sith Wayfinder that Ren uses is also a storage device, it’s based on slightly more primitive technology, and less a multi-purpose hard-drive than an elaborate sat-nav. In keeping with the Sith’s ongoing rule of two, the Wayfinders come as a pair – one for the master, one for the apprentice. Alas, The Rise of Skywalker never properly explained that the Wayfinder recovered by the former Ben Solo had belonged to his grandad, Darth Vader, who kept it safe at his castle on Mustafar.
Lor San Tekka
“He’s going to make a fine Jedi one day,” Lor San Tekka (played by Max von Sydow in The Force Awakens tells Luke Skywalker, blissfully unaware that, in a few short years, Ben Solo will literally be the death of him. For now, however, this member of the Church of the Force is one of Luke’s most trusted allies – no great revelation there, seeing as the Skywalker will one day trust San Tekka with a map to his secret whereabouts on Ahch-To – and a sounding board for the Jedi’s weird visions. The Lor man also has a history of aiding Luke’s relic-hunting exploits, and subsequently points him in the direction of…
Because everybody in Star Wars has a backstory, it turns out that the Resistance operative played by The Lord of the Rings and Lost star Dominic Monaghan has a former life as an archaeologist. He’s working on a dig on Yoturba with his bird-like Hoopaloo professor when the Luke and Lor road show pays them a visit.
One of Kin’s colleagues describes the academic as “short and funny looking, and who knew where his accent came from?” We’re assuming that, as the Ninth Doctor once pointed out, “lots of planets have a north”.
The slimy First Order Allegiant General (played by Richard E. Grant) who went on to command the resurrected Emperor’s Sith fleet is also involved in Shadow of the Sith. At this point in the Star Wars timeline, he’s a mere high colonel – he’d been a captain in the Imperial Navy during the post-Return of the Jedi Battle of Jakku – and rather displeased that he’s having to work with the private sector, in the form of the profiteering Corporate Sector Authority (CSA). He also finds Ochi of Bestoon strangely amusing.
Did you learn something new about Star Wars? For more, check out our pieces on all the new Star Wars movies coming your way soon.