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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a film famously packed with things that leave loose ends dangling for fans to speculate on, but because this is Star Wars we're talking about, we haven't actually had to wait too long for creators outside the film itself to pick those ends up and run with them. This happened first with the Visual Dictionary released in conjunction with the film, which leant plenty of intriguing new details to the people and places in Rise of Skywalker, and now it's happening again with the official novelization, dubbed an "Expanded Edition" of the story, by Rae Carson.
As the name suggests, Carson's novel attempts to expand on various scenes and concepts laid out by J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio's screenplay for the film. It doesn't change what happens in the movie, but in many cases more context will be brushed in to deepen the mythology. Because many of the film's greatest mysteries surround the resurrected Emperor Palpatine, it's natural that Carson is expanding concepts surrounding Palpatine in particular. Now, we know that one such expansion includes the revelation that Palpatine's son is not actually a son in the strict biological sense.
In the film, Kylo Ren reveals to Rey that she is, in fact, a Palpatine, specifically the Emperor's granddaughter. Flashbacks show us brief glimpses of Rey's parents as a Jedi hunter tracks them down and murders them after they've hidden young Rey on Jakku, but no further context is given. We are only really told that Palpatine apparently had a son, which left the entire internet free to make all manner of jokes about the Emperor's sex life. But that's not the whole story.
As first reported by Screen Rant, and confirmed through SYFY WIRE's own research, the Rise of Skywalker novelization reveals, through Rey reading Palpatine's thoughts, that her father was not Palpatine's son, but rather another clone.
As we reported earlier this month, the novel confirms that Palpatine's body in The Rise of Skywalker is a clone, albeit an "imperfect one" that will not be able to contain his spirit for much longer. Near the end of the book, as Palpatine pressures Rey to take part in the Sith ceremony in which she'll replace him, she is able to read his thoughts, and gains a better understanding of exactly why this happened. When Palpatine apparently died at the end of Return of the Jedi, he'd already been planning to prolong his life for years, sensing Vader's eventual betrayal. With this in mind, he'd instructed his followers to begin making him a new body, hence the clone, and he "thrust his consciousness" out of his old body before it even hit the bottom of that shaft in the Death Star. When Palpatine's spirit arrived on Exegol, though, he found that his loyal Sith Eternal followers hadn't finished thier work. As the book puts it, "Palpatine was trapped in a broken, dying body."
So the Sith Eternal did everthing they could to fix their error, keeping Palpatine alive in his new body (hence that robotic arm with all the tubes) while working to create new genetic "strandcasts" to replace the first body. It was through this process that one "not-quite-identical clone" managed to survive. This clone "thrived," but he was a "powerless failure" in Palpatine's eyes, full of "disappointing ordinariness." That said, the Emperor still saw potential in this new "son" to carry on his bloodline, so he sent the clone out into the world to eventually produce an heir.
"And it was through that eventual union, unexpected as it was, that Rey was born," the book reads.
So, in the biological sense, Rey is not actually Palpatine's granddaughter. She's the daughter of his clone, albeit a clone just different enough to look be a regular guy with no dreams of Sith conquest. This is particularly interesting in light of the clone's own inner life, since we still know very little about him as a person. In the film, he seems to have known that it was important to hide his daughter, but did he know why? Does he remember anything of his past? Rey was born a little more than a decade after Return of the Jedi, and this clone son was clearly a product of Sith Eternal efforts after Palpatine's original body died, which suggests he didn't have anything approaching an actual childhood. Does he know this? Does he have fake memories? It now feels like a whole other novel could be written just focusing on this man and his strange, perhaps unknown legacy.
This revelation also seems to tamp down all that speculation about Palpatine's love life, but hey, this doesn't mean he never had a lady friend in the Imperial Palace.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker's official novelization is in bookstores March 17. SYFY WIRE will have more coverage of the book and its revelations soon.