9/10 – Carson Deepens Connections to ‘Solo’ Film and the Force With YA Novel
Despite having the same pen (first) name as the author of Most Wanted, Rae Carson and I share something else in common.
A love of characters who overcome adversity and experience profound personal and emotional growth. That’s what young adult novels are supposed to be about and she nails it on the head in her writing of Han and Qi’Ra and the crazy situations that find themselves in during Most Wanted.
Most Wanted is a precursor to Solo: A Star Wars Story, taking place only a few years before the events of the film. Han and Qi’Ra aren’t lovers… they aren’t even friends. They’re two scum rats looking to prove themselves as members of the White Worms Gang, a prominent group in the criminal underbelly of Coreilla, a core world widely known for its shipbuilding yards. Humans haven’t been historically welcomed into the gang at this point in time either, so if either one of them hopes to get the title of “Head,” which brings with it another helping of food and a newfound respect in the gang, Han and Qi’ra will need to demonstrate their worth to their alien superiors.
Lady Proxima – you’ll remember her as the disgusting slug-looking thing at the start of Solo – calls the two up-and-coming members into her “office.” She assigns each of them with an incredibly important task to do, alone. They take off separately and end up walking into different meetings as White Worm representatives with two other organizations (the Droid Gotra and the Kaldana pirates) at the table. They don’t have a clear understanding of what’s going on, and even though they do exactly as Proxima orders, things take a violent turn.
Chaos ensues, but Qi’ra gets away with her life. Han does the same, but he also manages to grab the datapad the syndicates were bartering over before finding his way into the sewers. Luckily, as the Force would have it, Han and Qi’ra run into each other (literally), join up and soon realize that they were given the same assignment, but on different ends of the deal.
They’re now being hunted. Everyone wants the information that’s on the datapad. And it’s clear they are in way over their heads.
The pair needs to find a way to get back into Proxima’s good graces AND stay alive so they decide to involve their mutual acquaintance and gang member, Tsuulo. He’s a Rodian with an affinity for technology and expresses a religious-like view of the Force.
Throughout the novel, these three are a team constantly on the run, but with Tsuulo’s tech skills, Qi’Ra’s smooth talking and Han’s instincts, they may make it to the next day and the next day and somehow find the strength to keep going. Working together, they may stay alive long enough for one of them to become the next “Head” or possibly find something bigger and better than what Coreilla can offer.
It’s quite obvious that Carson’s writing of these characters is the best part of the entire book. She does wonders at portraying the differences between Han and Qi’Ra and the way they think and approach various situations in different parts all around Coronet City. Although it’s clear they are different – in their upbringing, in their personalities, in their innate beliefs – they make for a compelling and complementing pair. Layer by layer, you quickly understand how Han relies on his hardwired intuitive nature and truly thrives by taking advantage of spontaneity while Qi’ra is calculating and cunning, which makes her a perfect fit within the criminal underworld itself. These moments lay the foundation for their decisions later in Solo and give us so much more depth with Qi’ra’s character in particular.
But despite their differences and Han’s hilarious mincing of compliments more than once, the two young gang members find friendship in each other and in Tsuulo.
Which brings me to one of my absolute favorite aspects of the story. Tsuulo, the Force and how Carson handles Han’s incredulity when concerning its mysticality. It’s the time of the Empire so it’s understandable that many people don’t speak of the forbidden taboo – the Jedi, the Force, the sacred religion – but it’s not completely forgotten. Tsuulo brings up his belief in the Force early on and it’s clear that Carson uses his him to help ground Qi’ra and Han in several different moments throughout the novel.
And while Han is adamant about his disbelief in the Force, he firmly believes in luck and always trusts his gut. Split-second decisions are his bread and butter. But who’s to say that the Force isn’t manifesting itself as “luck” in Han’s actions? Or in Qi’ra’s ability to talk her way through a bad situation? Or when Tsuulo “prays” to a seemingly invisible higher power?
It’s such a wonderful way to expand the narrative surrounding the Force and reinvent the overused and one-dimensional view that the Force is only something Jedi and Sith can use. To me, it’s so much larger than that and the Force is something that weaves its way through every living thing.
Most Wanted is a fast read for those of us who consider ourselves a bit older than the young adult demographic – I read it in a few hours – but that doesn’t make the story any less enjoyable. It’s full of action, emotion and some comedy (mainly Han, of course!), but Carson ensures it doesn’t stray too far away from those softer, in-depth moments that make Star Wars such a captivating experience.
And she gives readers a wonderful coming-of-age story that adds so much more to Han and Qi’ra’s relationship in Solo: A Star Wars Story.