Book Review: ‘Skywalker: A Family at War’

Cover art by Matthew Ferguson. (C) 2021 DK Publishing and Lucasfilm

Skywalker: A Family at War

Author: Kristin Baver

Publisher: DK Publishing

Date of Publication: April 6, 2021

No. of Pages: 320 (Hardcover Edition)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Book

On Tuesday, April 6, Dorling Kindersley – aka DK Publishing or DK Books) released Skywalker: A Family at War, a canon biography of the Skywalker family, the core group of characters around which the nine films of the Star Wars saga revolve. Written by Kristin Bayer, a journalist and editor for Lucasfilm’s StarWars.com website, this 320-page book covers the triumphs and tragedies of three generations of a family whose strong connections to the Force had, for both good and ill, consequences that shaped the course of history for an entire galaxy.

This is the first Star Wars book that I have seen without the iconic 1970s-era logo! The cover art, though, tells you that yes, Virginia, this is a Star Wars book. (C) 2021 DK Books and Lucasfilm

Written as an “in-universe” reference book, Skywalker: A Family at War tells the story of Anakin Skywalker, his twin offspring – Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa – and his grandson Ben Solo in the style of a biography written by a historian with access to numerous sources of information.

As the book’s dust jacket flap blurb explains:

Many are familiar with the legend of Luke Skywalker or the whispered stories of Kylo Ren and Darth Vader, but by piecing together all the available sources, including R2-D2’s memory files, personal diaries and correspondence, holorecordings and news dispatches, as well as other documentations of galactic events, this account chronicles the deeper story of the Skywalker dynasty.

The narrative meticulously explores the family members’ complex motivations and psychological states as they confront and ultimately triumph over personal and galactic turmoil. Through it all, readers will gain a more profound understanding of the flawed but noble family that played such a central role in the Republic’s fall to the Empire and the Rebel Alliance’s ultimate victory over tyranny.

The 320-page hardcover is divided into three parts – which, of course, correspond to each of the trilogies of the Skywalker Saga[1]  ̶  and  and follow the narrative of the nine films in chronological order. The three parts are:

  • Part One: The Father – 15 chapters
  • Part Two: The Twins – 11 chapters
  • Part Three: The Dyad – 7 chapters

Skywalker: A Family at War also has, like many reference works, a prologue to set up the author’s thesis and an epilogue that places the main narrative into some perspective for the in-universe denizen of that galaxy far, far away to whom the book is supposed to address.  

These are just a few of the photos you’ll find in Skywalker: A Family at War. (C) 2021 DK Books and Lucasfilm

It also has, like many history books in our universe do, photo inserts that depict the Skywalkers and some of the other historical figures they crossed paths with in the half-century or so of galactic events covered in Skywalker: A Family at War, including Watto, Anakin Skywalker’s owner when he was a nine-year-old slave, like his mother Shmi, on Tatooine, Senator/Supreme Chancellor/Emperor Sheev Palpatine, Mace Windu, Ahsoka Tano (Anakin Skywalker’s Padawan), Bail Organa, Mon Mothma, Lando Calrissian, and Supreme Leader Snoke, just to name a few.  

From the Publisher

The Skywalker story has everything: passion, intrigue, heroism, and dark deeds.

This revelatory biography explores every twist and turn of the Skywalker dynasty: the slow seduction to the dark side of Anakin; his doomed marriage to Padmé Amidala; the heroics of Luke and Leia; the fall and redemption of Han Solo and Princess Leia’s son, Ben; and the struggles of his dyad in the Force, Rey.

Leaving no stone unturned in tracing the dynasty’s trials and tribulations, this definitive biography of Star Wars’ first family explores and explains the deeper, more personal story of the Skywalkers, their characters, motivations, and, against seemingly impossible odds, their ultimate triumph. – back cover blurb, Skywalker: A Family at War

Excerpt

As the Jedi Council gazed upon Anakin for the first time, wise, diminutive Master Yoda sensed that Anakin was gripped by fear. And fear was a dangerous ally. For the Jedi, fear was a path to the dark side of the Force, an entry point to misgivings that could be nursed into anger and hate. Nevertheless, Anakin’s emotional response to his situation, including his fears, was a very human reaction to the sudden upheaval he had experienced in his life; Qui-Gon believed that, with the proper guidance, Anakin’s natural anxieties would subside and be replaced by a Jedi’s clarity of vision. If Jinn was correct, the boy would bring balance to the Force, defeating the creeping darkness that was already beginning to cloud both the Force itself and the Jedi Order’s abilities to perceive the threat to it.

However, where Qui-Gon saw promise, Obi-Wan Kenobi and many on the Jedi Council sensed trouble. Obi-Wan did not hide his concern, even from Anakin himself. The boy’s raw power in the Force was something to be wary of. He was malleable, and in the wrong hands, such explosive potential could be turned to evil.

Few were surprised that Qui-Gon defied the Council’s initial adverse reaction to his request to make good on his promise and train the child. With Obi-Wan almost ready to become a Jedi Knight himself, Qui-Gon was free to take on a new Padawan, and he was determined that Padawan should be Anakin—once the Council came around to the idea, at least.

Qui-Gon began to gently coax Anakin toward a greater understanding in the ways of the Force. If questioned, Qui-Gon would have argued that he was not training the boy, merely providing guidance as a mentor and guardian in his absent mother’s stead. Just as he had done while helping Anakin into his podracer before the Boonta Eve Classic, Qui-Gon offered the boy the benefit of his wisdom: “Always remember, your focus determines your reality,” he told him. “Stay close to me and you’ll be safe.” Those words would resound in Anakin’s subconscious for years to come, an echo of wisdom—and false hope—forming the basis of his doubts that anyone could truly protect him. And if no one could, his young mind reasoned, he would have to become the strongest Jedi who had ever lived in order to protect those around him instead. If he focused hard enough, he could make it come true.

At this time, the unscrupulous Trade Federation was implementing a blockade on the planet of Naboo, stopping all shipments to the peaceful planet in protest over the taxation of trade routes. However, this boycott was merely a clever cover for a plot to invade. While the Galactic Senate sat idly by, Qui-Gon, Anakin, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the faithful astromech droid R2-D2 embarked upon a mission to protect Queen Amidala and disrupt the Trade Federation’s invasion of her planet. Once on Naboo, Padmé revealed herself to be Queen Amidala and forged an alliance with the Gungan army to mount a counterattack against the Trade Federation invaders. In the midst of their success, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan once more encountered the beastly Darth Maul.


This warrior was strong in the Force and carried a double-bladed lightsaber that burned blood red, betraying his allegiance to the dark side. With his appearance, came irrefutable proof: the Sith, an ancient order of Force-wielders devoted to the dark side, deception, and greed, long thought defeated and destroyed, had returned. Beneath a cloak of secrecy, a new Sith Lord, Darth Sidious, and his apprentice Darth Maul, had risen up, secretly orchestrating the Trade Federation’s invasion of Naboo as their first act in a scheme that would ultimately lead to the last days of the Republic and give rise to the Galactic Empire. In a duel that pitted the light against the darkness, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan fought Darth Maul, unaware of the true malignant deceit of the Sith at work inside the Galactic Senate. As the Jedi would learn too late, Darth Sidious was really Sheev Palpatine, a placid-looking senator from Naboo who was willing to sacrifice his homeworld to push the peaceful Republic to the brink of war.

As the battle raged, Qui-Gon was pierced by Darth Maul’s blade. Determined to avenge his master, Obi-Wan attacked Maul, but in his anger and despair lost his own lightsaber and nearly his life. Summoning the last of his strength, and empowered by the Force, Obi-Wan called Qui-Gon’s lightsaber to his hand to cleave Maul in two. Thus the apprentice and the sacred weapon came together to avenge the fallen Jinn.

It was too late for medical intervention; no amount of bacta could heal Qui-Gon’s mortal wound. All Obi-Wan could do was cradle his master’s head and heed the Jedi’s dying wish: To train Anakin Skywalker, despite his own deep misgivings. – ©2021 Kristin Baver and Lucasfilm

My Take

I have been a Star Wars fan for nearly 44 years. Ever since I saw the original version of George Lucas’s Star Wars in a Miami-area theater in the fall of 1977, I have been fascinated – some might even say obsessed with that space-fantasy tale of high adventure, rebellion, and romance set “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” I’ve watched every film – even the underrated Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated movie of 2008 – in theaters and watched most of the television fare produced from 1978 (the infamously bad Star Wars Holiday Special) to the present, including fan favorite The Mandalorian.

Author Kristin Baver. Photo Credit: Twitter

I also have a sizeable collection of books, including all of the movie novelizations, six of the nine screenplays (none of which, sadly, are presented in true screenplay format) of the Skywalker Saga films, most of the Marvel and Dark Horse comics adaptations of the films, and a smattering of novels from both the official canon and Legends. I even have some of those Collector’s Edition books published simultaneously with the release of the Original Trilogy movies or shortly afterward – The Star Wars Album from 1977 is one of those – that publishers rushed to bookstores to cash in on the saga’s popularity, especially among young die-hard fans (including 15-year-old me in 1978).

In my Star Wars book collection I also own some of DK Publishing reference books, including the 2016 edition of Star Wars: Year by Year, several editions of Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary, and Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia. I like them because even though many of the titles are geared toward younger readers (heavy on illustrations and other graphics), Dorling-Kindersley makes sure that the authors write the text in a way that adult fans of the Star Wars saga can enjoy the books without feeling sheepish about reading a “kids’ book.”

To my surprise, Skywalker: A Family at War is a different offering from DK Publishing in that it is less reliant on pictures and looks and “reads” more like a real biography of the Skywalker family written by a researcher living in that “galaxy far, far away.”  Even the title omits the familiar Star Wars logo, although the art on the cover, which is beautifully done by Matthew Ferguson, makes it quite clear that this is, indeed, a Star Wars book.

Author Kristin Baver is a journalist and a Lucasfilm employee; she is the Associate Editor of StarWars.com and has written news stories about George “the Maker” Lucas and other important people who create Star Wars content. And along with the Lucasfilm Story Group’s Pablo Hidalgo, she is the coauthor of the upcoming revised edition of Star Wars: Year by Year.

Skywalker: A Family at War is Baver’s first published book, but you wouldn’t know it by reading its account of Anakin Skywalker’s rise from slavery to Jedi Knight, his subsequent fall to the Dark Side as a result of his own inner struggles and the clever machinations of the evil Sheev Palpatine, and the roles played by Anakin’s offspring, Luke and Leia, to defeat the tyranny of the Empire that their father, as Darth Vader, helped to bring about as a result of his very human and tragic character flaws.

Baver does a good job of “filling in the blanks” of all three trilogies in the Skywalker saga, with an emphasis on the most complex story arc – the Tragedy of Darth Vader. Part One: The Father, has the most chapters – 15 in all – and includes more details about Shmi and Anakin’s life before the events of The Phantom Menace, Anakin’s training as a Jedi Padawan and his struggles to fit in with the other apprentices in the Jedi Temple, his relationships with his two mentors – Palpatine and a young Obi-Wan Kenobi – and the inner struggle within young Skywalker as to which path in the Force to follow.

The artwork on the cover is reminiscent of classic 1977-era poster art by Tom Jung, Tom Chantrell, and John Berkey.

Some of this narrative, of course, is taken straight from the films, but much of it, especially the insights about Anakin’s tutelage by Palpatine and Obi-Wan, is not. In one of the chapters in Part One, Baver describes how a 12-year-old Anakin, fed up with some of the taunts from older, more experienced Padawans, angrily uses the Force to whisk two of his tormentors’ lightsabers and ignites them in mid-air.

He doesn’t hurt them, of course – Anakin is still too close to his good, “wannabe Jedi” side at this stage – but the biographer shows that even at the age of 12, Obi-Wan’s comment to Qui-Gon Jinn that “the boy is dangerous” in The Phantom Menace was not totally without merit.[2]  

As I said earlier, this is a rare Dorling-Kindersley book that relies more on the written word than on illustrations and feels (and reads) like a real reference work written for older readers. As I mentioned earlier, Skywalker: A Family at War has two photo inserts, done in the same style as the ones you’d find in a true-life history book, arranged in chronological order and without letting on that these are either stills from the films and Star Wars: The Clone Wars or publicity stills from the Original Trilogy.

 I ordered my copy of Skywalker: A Family at War a few days before its April 6 publication, and I received it on the day it was on shelves in bookstores and online seller warehouses. I have not finished it, of course; I do have a “day job” as a screenwriter, and even though that gig has flexible hours, I can’t devote too much time to reading as a leisure activity.

However, I have enjoyed what I have read so far, and I’m so impressed by Baver’s writing style and ability to tell a story that I have pre-ordered the upcoming Star Wars: Year by Year update, which is due for publication by DK Books in September.

If you are a Star Wars fan who has seen all of the films and TV shows about the Skywalker clan but are frustrated by some of the “blank pages” in their 50-year-long history, Skywalker: A Family at War is, as Obi-Wan Kenobi might say, is the book you’re looking for. It draws from canon sources and behind-the-scenes stuff that can be found in titles such as Star Wars: The Visual Dictionaries and other Lucasfilm materials, and, presumably, stuff that George Lucas has said or written about the films he personally made or oversaw as producer before he retired in 2012.

This is a highly enjoyable book, and I heartily recommend it to any Star Wars fan.


[1] The Prequel Trilogy (1999-2005), which consists of The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith; the Classic (or Original) Trilogy (1977-1983), which consists of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi; and the Sequel Trilogy (2015-2019), which consists of The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker.  

[2] Of course, since The Phantom Menace is a prequel and fans from the 1977 Generation already knew that Anakin grows up to become Darth Vader, Obi-Wan’s “premonition” was already a foregone conclusion. However, for a first-time viewer who had by some miracle never seen Star Wars and somehow avoided obtaining any knowledge about who Darth Vader is or what his relationship is with the other characters, the notion that the kid played by Jake Lloyd was dangerous would seem rather unlikely.  

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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