September 1 wasn't just the day all the wonderful new Last Jedi toys came out -- it was the beginning of Journey to the Last Jedi, the wide range of books releasing between now and December to fill in the world of Disney's ever-growing Star Wars canon. Here are the most significant moments and revelations contained within them.
Images: Disney Press and Del Rey
Everything from children's books to arts and crafts books were all part of the launch lineup for Journey to the Last Jedi, but it's two new novels about female figures in the Star Wars saga that hold a few big hints about the future of the the Star Wars galaxy: Delilah S. Dawson's Phasma, detailing some of the mysterious backstory of the chrome-plated warrior, and Claudia Grey's Leia, Princess of Alderaan, a prequel set in Leia's youth that holds a significant connection to The Last Jedi. Both are worth a read in full, but here are some of most important details we found in both books.
The Enigma of Captain Phasma Is Part of Her Character
In the run up to The Force Awakens, Captain Phasma was a ridiculously cool-looking enigma... and ultimately a disappointing one, given her surprisingly minimal appearance in the movie. After all the hype, we barely learned anything about her beyond her appearance and general demeanour. While Phasma the novel reveals her origin story -- a warrior born on a low-tech world called Parnassos, uplifted when a starship carrying Brendol Hux, one of the shadow council members of the burgeoning First Order rising from the ashes of the Empire, crashed there -- Dawson also plays with the nature of the character being so mysterious by weaving it into her steely resolve.
Phasma is ultimately out for herself and herself alone, and is willing to do anything to ensure her personal survival. We'll get to that more in a little bit, but Phasma sees her past as a "savage" as a potential weakness others could exploit. The framing device of the novel features a Stormtrooper officer we saw in posters for the book, Cardinal, interrogating Resistance spy Vi to find dirt on Phasma so he can return to a position of status within the First Order -- so as she rises through the First Order, she keeps her past a secret -- to the point she even helps Hux wipe out her family and tribe.
In the nearly two decades she spends training and elevating herself in the First Order, she always remains masked, her real appearance a mystery to her fellow troopers and officers. Phasma's enigmatic presence in The Force Awakens may have been disappointing, but at least the novel gives the character a reason for it.
Phasma's Strange Relationship With the Hux Family
That total desire to keep her origins secret doesn't just extend to the genocide of Phasma's tribe, however. While she rose up in prominence in the First Order to become the face of its Stormtrooper training program, Phasma bided her time, waiting to have enough security in her position before sneakily striking out at the survivors of Hux's crash-landing on Parnassos, eliminating the retinue that picked her up from the planet and brought her to the Unknown Regions.
That includes Brendol Hux, who Phasma kills with a poison insect -- but she wasn't alone in plan to kill him. She was aided in the assassination by Brendol's bastard son, Armitage... that is, General Hux from The Force Awakens. Hux may ultimately follow in his father's footsteps as the primary architect behind the First Order's Stormtrooper training initiatives, but his distaste for his father is enough for him to get involved in Phasma's cover-up scheme.
The Reason Why Phasma Helped Lower Starkiller Base's Shield (Probably)
Another thing Phasma repeatedly establishes about Phasma's character is that she is her only master. Unlike many adherents of the First Order, she didn't sign up because she believed in their ideals or the glory days of the Empire. It was simply the best opportunity for her at the time, the only way she could rise beyond her life as a tribal warrior on her homeworld. The novel is ceaseless in reminding us that Phasma is absolutely willing to do anything -- betrayal, murder, subterfuge, you name it -- if it means she makes it out of a scenario in one piece. Her loyalty is fearsome, but only Phasma really knows that it's to herself rather than the First Order.
This probably helps explain why this supposedly legendary warrior was more than happy to give up when confronted by an old man, his Wookiee friend, and a former Stormtrooper on Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens, lowering the shield surrounding the weapon-slash-planet for them without so much as an opposition. She probably didn't count on being tossed into the trash compactors for her troubles, but it goes to show just how many people Phasma is willing to throw under the bus as long as she can get out fine.
Phasma Might Not Always Be a Foe
That self-determination is also heavily hinted as meaning that one day in the future, Captain Phasma may be a willing ally of the Resistance... or, at least, someone no longer allied with the First Order, if it means she can get away from its inevitable downfall. In Phasma's framing device, Cardinal and Vi discuss Phasma's alarming ruthlessness in her will to survive; Resistance spy Vi uses it in the stories she tells Cardinal, in the hopes she can turn him into a defector by showing that not even Phasma is fully loyal to the First Order. There's a passage of Cardinal's thoughts at one point that hints that Phasma's turn away from the First Order the minute she no longer sees it as aligned with what she wants isn't just a possibility, it's a disaster waiting to happen:
Although it won't convince his superiors, Cardinal knows Vi is right. Even as an orphan, he never took such bold, cruel means to survive. To think: As a teen girl, she purposefully disabled her brother with a knife and watched her parents die, then... painted her body with what was left of them to cement her next loyalty. When she accepted that salve, she bcame Scyre. And he already knows what happened to the Scyre. Armitage thinks he's got a Kath hound on a leash, but what he's got is a rancor just waiting for the gate to open. No one will see the real Phasma until the moment when what the First Order wants is no longer what she wants. One day -- and it's coming -- Phasma will betray them all. Just like she did her family, and just like she did the Scyre.
Her loyalty? Means nothing.
So maybe we can expect a Phasma heel turn in Episode IX.
The Rise of the First Order Has Been Alarmingly Fast
Phasma is set in two distinct time periods: The story of Phasma's journey meeting Brendol Hux and leaving her homeworld is set around 10 to 16 years in the past from the "present timeline", where the story's framing device of Cardinal's interrogation of Vi takes place. That present is specifically stated in the timeline introduced at the start of the book as being after the novel Bloodline, which already crazily revealed that its story -- which involved a faction of the New Republic Senate breaking off to join the Imperial Remnant and formally establishing the First Order -- takes place just six years before The Force Awakens.
The implication is that Phasma's framing device is set closer to Bloodline in that six-year period than The Force Awakens (at one point the First Order is still described as a "new" threat on the galactic scale). But Brendol Hux is still meant to be in his early days of a recruitment drive of teens and young children to brainwash as First Order Stormtroopers when he crash-lands on Parnassos. That means the organisation goes from shadowy remnant hidden in the unknown regions of space to major intergalactic force with a fleet and systems of planets (with a giant planet-killer base) under its command in about a decade and a half.
Sure, there's precedent with the Empire itself -- the period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope is just 20 years -- but it still feels like a very accelerated process.
Leia Has Known Laura Dern's Last Jedi Character for a Long Time
Claudia Grey's Leia, Princess of Alderaan is less intense in its wider connections to upcoming movies or the state of the galaxy as her work in Bloodline was, given that it's set in the days before A New Hope with Leia as a teenager. But it does feature a character with important links to Star Wars' immediate future: Amilyn Holdo, a future Resistance Vice Admiral played by Laura Dern that we'll meet in The Last Jedi -- an important character that's also long been rumoured to play a potentially antagonistic role within the Resistance.
Princess of Alderaan reveals that Holdo, a woman from the planet Gatalenta (first mentioned in Bloodline and known for its serene people, as well as its connections to the Jedi Order both before and after the purge), has been a lifelong friend of Leia, and the two have known each other since they were children. The young Holdo we see in Princess of Alderaan is presented as a whimsical, slightly weird and carefree character, very different but equally smart in her approach to the galaxy around her in comparison to Leia.
While there isn't much more to be gleaned from her appearance in the novel, much is being made online of a brief passage where Holdo and Leia discuss romantic interests, with Amilyn revealing that her tastes are far more eclectic than Leia's:
"A pair of pretty dark eyes." Then Amilyn thought about that for a moment. "Or more than a pair, if you're into Grans. Or Aqualish, or Talz. Or even -- "
"That's all right!" Leia said through laughter. "It's just humanoid males for me."
"Really? That feels so limiting."
"Thank goodness it's a big galaxy."
While the description is by no means explicit in saying that Holdo's interests apply to both male and female aliens -- she just mentions being interested in species beyond humanoid males -- if that does end up being Grey's intent with the conversation, Dern would hold the honour of portraying the first openly LGBT Star Wars character on the silver screen when Last Jedi hits theatres later this year.
Crait Is One of the Rebellion's Oldest Strongholds
Princess of Alderaan's other major connection to The Last Jedi comes when it's revealed that Bail Organa (now Viceroy of Alderaan, after stepping down from the Senate) has helped fund one of the fledgling Rebellion's biggest and earliest outposts on the backwater world of Crait -- the salt-sanded world we'll see in The Last Jedi (and in Disneyland's new Star Tours ride, too).
We've known since it was first revealed at Star Wars Celebration this year that Crait was the site of a former Rebel base now being used by the Resistance, but now we know it's one of the oldest -- a fitting battleground for the battle between First Order Walkers and Resistance speeders we've glimpsed in the trailer.
The Sad Fate of Captain Panaka
While this isn't a major connection to the future movies, Princess of Alderaan also features the first new-canon appearance of a character since The Phantom Menace: Hugh Quarshie's Naboo Royal Guard, Captain Quarsh Panaka (I wonder where they got the first name from). And it's quite a sad tale.
The novel lifts Panaka's role from the old Expanded Universe and recanonises it: By the time of the novel, he's now the Imperial Moff of the Naboo system, and a loyal adherent to Palpatine's Empire. Leia finds herself travelling to one of Naboo's moons to meet Panaka and the current queen of the planet, Dalné, and when Panaka sees Leia for the first time, he's overwhelmed with shock. He sees Padmé Amidala's face in hers, and realises that Leia is his former queen's daughter. Panaka doesn't tell Leia his revelation -- he just stares intensely at her throughout their encounter -- but he does plan to inform Palpatine that he believes Amidala gave birth before her death after all... except as he's about to, his chalet is blown up by a bomb after Leia leaves, killing him.
Leia later learns that the bomb was planted by the Partisans, Saw Gerrera's fringe cell from Rogue One, but there you have it: A minor Star Wars character brought back for the first time, only to be summarily blown up.