Read an excerpt from Most Wanted, the Han and Qi'ra YA prequel to Solo
Han Solo’s hardscrabble teen years come to life in a new YA novel about the smuggler’s underworld upbringing, venturing further back into the mean streets and dark alleyways that shaped him.
In Most Wanted, written by Rae Carson (best known for The Girl of Fire and Thorns), Han and his friend Qi’ra live among the orphans and runaways of the industrial world of Corellia, scraping out an existence by way of scams, hustles, and outright stealing — often in service of the wretched sewer-dwelling creature known as Lady Proxima.
The book has been kept secret until the opening of Solo: A Star Wars Story to avoid spoiling some of the revelations made in the film. Now, Entertainment Weekly has an exclusive preview from the book, with Qi’ra (played in the movie by Emilia Clarke) on the run through the subterranean corridors of the shipbuilding world.
Before long, she runs into someone familiar, although not necessarily welcome: Han, played in the movie by Alden Ehrenreich.
Although the story is set a long time ago in a faraway galaxy, Carson says she brought a lot of personal feeling to this tale of kids growing up fast and tough.
“In 1983, I was a 10-year-old welfare kid, taking care of my brother and sister while my single mom eked out a meager living as a bank teller,” she says. “I was obsessed with everything Star Wars. That year, all I wanted in the whole world was to see Return of the Jedi. But we couldn’t even afford a Christmas tree, much less a trip to the movies.
“I had to settle for going to my local library and checking out the media tie-in novel. I cried the whole way through it,” she says. “Eventually, I did get to see Episode VI, but I’ll never forget what it was like to find the novelization and hunker down in my bunk bed for hours to read through it multiple times. If I went back in time and told tiny Rae that someday she, too, would be a Star Wars novelist, she would not believe me, because wonderful things like that just didn’t happen to her.
“Well, baby girl, wonderful things do happen, and the galaxy far, far away is so much closer than you think.”
Below is the chase from Chapter 4 of Most Wanted:
Qi’ra reached the edge of the basin. Three storm tunnels gaped open in the wall before her, set all in a row. The one on the right took a hard turn back toward central Coronet, so that wasn’t an option. The other two would get her nearer the White Worm lair, and though the leftmost tunnel would force her to take a longer route, it would also provide more twists and turns. Either of them would be safe enough, as long as it didn’t start raining.
She wasted precious moments debating between the two tunnels. Light flashed in the middle one, followed by a clunking sound.
Something or someone was coming toward her.
She reached down and ripped the torn piece of fabric from her skirt. Then she tossed it onto the edge of the right tunnel, where it was sure to be noticed, before launching herself into the one on the left. She bruised her shin in her haste to climb up. It was too low to run; she half crouched, half crawled as she pushed forward into darkness.
The decoy fabric might buy her only a minute or two.
Lady Proxima would protect her. It was the only rational thing for her to do. Qi’ra was one of her most valuable scrumrats, or she wouldn’t have been sent on this mission in the first place. Moloch and the other lieutenants could hold off any pursuers. Even that idiot Rebolt and his hounds could be formidable in a pinch. She just had to get there.
Footsteps and splashing echoed behind her. It sounded like a whole army was coming.
“This way!” a man called. “Someone entered this tunnel recently!”
Blast. Her decoy hadn’t worked. At the very least, she’d been hoping they’d split up, unsure which way she went. She knew better than to count on luck, though. That’s why she always had a plan, and her plan was to reach the warren of the Old Town sewers. There were so many intersections and dead ends, and she knew every single one. She could easily lose her pursuers there. So long as she didn’t panic. So long as she was smart, quiet, and fast.
The tunnel opened up, and her back and shoulders thanked her for the opportunity to stand up straight. Light poured down from a storm drain above her head. To her left was another tunnel, sloped slightly upward. It was a tough, slippery climb through sewer muck, but if she made it, she’d have a real chance.
She plunged in and used forearms, elbows, and knees to leverage herself upward. Water ran past her in the other direction. It was almost nothing, the merest trickle, but it was just enough to make the tunnel floor slick and hard to navigate.
“Which way did she go?” boomed a voice, and Qi’ra froze. Sound was tricky in these tunnels. Sometimes a noise as loud as a freighter engine was really a kilometer away. And sometimes the merest whisper of sound was as close as your ear.
“I think she’s headed toward Old Town,” someone else said.
“Call dispatch. Tell them to send a unit to Old Town to cut her off.”
Qi’ra crept forward silently. Stealth was more important than speed in this slick, upward-sloping tunnel. Otherwise she’d lose her feet and slide right back into the arms of those CorSec guards. Every bit of forward progress was agony. Her heart was too loud in her chest, and her breath came fast and hard. A lip of darkness lay ahead. She just had to reach it. Lights flashed against the walls around her, turning them from gray black to rust red.
“Hey, I think I see her! Stop right there or I’ll shoot. . . .”
Qi’ra heaved herself up over the lip of darkness onto a stone ledge. No time to rest or even think, because guards were climbing up the tunnel after her. She hopped to her feet and plunged forward at a dead run, counting on the darkness to keep her safe from blaster fire. Ahead was a branching corridor that ran beneath an old cantina. Qi’ra didn’t know who owned the cantina or exactly what went on in that less-than-fine establishment, but she did know that sometimes they had to dump product fast, and they’d built a chute for exactly that purpose.
All the White Worm scrumrats knew about it. Occasionally, Lady Proxima was paid by the cantina owner to retrieve the product—usually nothing more than shipyard components, but sometimes money or even spice. In return, the White Worms got to use the chute whenever they needed to evade pursuers. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement, and it would be Qi’ra’s salvation.
She reached the corridor and paused to listen. The guards had said something about cutting her off in Old Town, so there was always the chance that someone would be waiting to intercept her.
All was quiet, save for a steady, echoing drip-drip-plop.
She plunged inside.
Something exploded on the ledge she’d just vacated. Qi’ra tumbled to her knees, holding her hands to her ears. It took a moment to realize what had happened. Not a real explosion. Someone had thrown a stun charge. If she hadn’t turned inside the corridor when she did, she’d be flat on her back, probably unconscious.
She scrambled to her feet and sprinted ahead, but her gait was unsteady, her ears ringing. Just a little farther… There! She saw the chute. It was covered by a curtain of sorts, a burlap-like material painted to blend in with the wall around it. Once inside, she would slide right into White Worm territory.
Footsteps splashed nearby—too near. She reached for the curtain.
Someone barreled into her, sending her sprawling in the muck. Hands were reaching for her. She fought back like a rancor, attacking blindly with hands and feet. “Get off of—” she started to yell.
“Qi’ra!” said a familiar voice. “It’s me. C’mon, we have to get out of here.”
Hands reached for her again.
“People are after me. You can’t stay here.”
“After you?” Qi’ra threw off his hands and scrambled to her feet on her own.
“Come on!” He tried to pull her back, away from the entrance to the chute.
“Han, what are you doing?” Why did he keep grabbing her? The guards would be on them at any moment. “The chute is right there! We could be back at Proxima’s in less than—”
“We’re not going back there.” Her heels made furrows in sewer mud as he dragged her away.
“But I have a plan—”
Another stun charge lit up the tunnel, turning Qi’ra’s sight into fire, her hearing into clanging symbols. “Blast,” she said through it all. “They cut me off.”
There was no reaching the chute now. It was too late. Han had ruined everything, and now they were probably going to die.
“Please, Qi’ra,” Han said. “I don’t want to leave you behind.”
She had no choice but to follow him. It was the only way left not blocked by guards and stun charges. Together, they plunged into the dark, footsteps close at their heels.
Solo: A Star Wars Story