Before the Awakening is a successor to the young reader Journey to the Force Awakens trilogy of books. Illustrated by Phil Noto (who also illustrated The Weapon of a Jedi, Moving Target, and Smuggler’s Run) and written by Greg Rucka (who also wrote Smuggler’s Run and Shattered Empire), the novel explains what Finn, Rey, and Poe were up to prior to the events of The Force Awakens. It’s divided into three sections, one for each character, and elaborates on their backstories and provides some insight into where each of them are at the start of the film.
(Slight spoilers for The Force Awakens ahead.)
I continue to love Greg Rucka’s writing style, and I hope Disney Press and Marvel hire him for more tie-in stories. I’d love to see him write a Del Rey novel, too, especially once involving X-wings and pilots. He has a genius way of writing backstory without making it seem info-dumpy. His characterizations for all three heroes are great, fitting in perfectly with what we saw from them in TFA. While the plots of the three sections aren’t of huge importance, they’re definitely interesting and enjoyable stories.
My favorite section, by far, was Poe’s. It reads exactly like an X-wing novel, and it solidified my desire to have Poe star in an new novel or comic series. We learn more about his childhood on Yavin (one part in particular made me very sad, especially after Shattered Empire) and how he was recruited to join the Resistance. Poe reminds me so much of Wedge Antilles and, because of his humor, Wes Janson. He definitely takes after his mom when it comes to flying. This section also contains some insight into the political structure of the New Republic and the Resistance, if the movie left you wanting in that area.
While I liked Poe’s section the best, Finn’s and Rey’s stories are also good reads. We learn that Finn never really fit in with the other stormtrooper cadets, and why Rey chooses to live such a solitary lifestyle. The end of her section was such a gut punch, especially after seeing The Force Awakens and watching her learn to become close to other people. I want to give her a hug. Finn’s section in particular made his “naming” in TFA even more poignant. We also learn a little bit more about the machinations of the First Order.
Before the Awakening is a quick and easy read, and a great addition to The Force Awakens tie-in material. It stands alone, but has a few connections with Rucka’s other Star Wars material. I definitely recommend it.