Kelly Lynn Thomas
The most ambitious Star Wars publishing project to date, The High Republic, launched last week with the publication of Charles Soule’s Star Wars: The High Republic: Light of the Jedi.
A middle grade novel, The High Republic: A Test of Courage by Justina Ireland, and a comic series launched the same week, and will be followed by Claudia Gray’s young adult The High Republic: Into the Dark and a middle grade comic series from IDW next month.
The High Republic, formerly known by its codename Project Luminous, has been hyped up by Lucasfilm, Del Rey Books, and much of the fan community for over a year now, and I’m here to tell you: Light of the Jedi absolutely lives up to that hype.
The story begins in hyperspace, where an ancient freighter carrying goods and settlers for the Outer Rim suffers an accident that causes the ship to break apart and scatter across the galaxy. When pieces of the ship emerge in Hetzal, threatening the entire population of the agricultural system, the Republic sends some nearby Jedi Knights to help.
Jedi Master Avar Kriss leads the Jedi giving aid by engaging in a battle meditation that links them all together through the Force. Avar is the blonde Jedi featured on the cover, and it seems she’ll be an important character throughout the High Republic novels and comics.
In this section we also meet Twi’lek Jedi Master Loden Greatstorm and his padawan Bell Zettifar as they pilot nimble Jedi ships called Vectors that use lightsabers as ignition keys and require the Force to pilot. While these two help evacuate as many people as possible from the inhabited worlds of the system, other Jedi try to stop pieces of the freighter from making impact.
In Revenge of the Sith, Mace Windu mentions that the Jedi’s ability to use the Force has diminished. Until now, we haven’t had any sort of reference for what a Jedi’s full powers would look like. And wow.
I don’t want to spoil anything, but the High Republic Jedi do amazing things. Reading their feats gave me the same thrill I had when watching Luke Skywalker come into his own in Return of the Jedi. Of course, even at the height of their power, the Jedi aren’t all-powerful, and sometimes tapping into the Force exhausts the physical body beyond its limits.
I’ve yet to read a boring Star Wars book, but the way Charles Soule keeps ratcheting up the tension in Light of the Jedi is truly masterful. This book is a page turner if ever I’ve read one, and I binged the whole thing in two days (I didn’t get enough sleep, but it was worth it to finish).
After the Great Disaster in the Hetzal System, the narrative shifts to unraveling the mystery of how this hyperspace accident happened in the first place.
Republic Chancellor Lina Soh issues a shutdown of all hyperspace lanes in the Outer Rim to forestall any further accidents, and gives the Jedi a deadline for solving this mystery. The Starlight Beacon, a space station in the Outer Rim that will serve as a Republic outpost, is set to open soon, and Soh wants it to open on time to show the galaxy that the Republic can handle this—and any—crisis.
The phrase “We are all the Republic” echoes throughout the book as a rallying cry, an elegy, and a shorthand for what the Republic stands for.
The Nihil, a group of ruthless raiders that can move through hyperspace like no one else in the galaxy, emerge as the book’s villains. As pieces of the destroyed freighter emerge and wreak havoc across the Rim, the Nihil swoop in to take advantage of already suffering systems.
Legends fans will get some Yuuzhan Vong vibes from the Nihil when they are first introduced, but those vibes faded for me as we spent more time with their leader Marchion Ro and his top three lieutenants.
Marchion Ro makes an excellent villain: He’s smart, cunning, cagey, and perhaps most dangerously of all, knows exactly how powerful the Jedi are—along with their weaknesses. Toward the end of the book Soule drops some hints that Ro’s family had some sort of connection with either the Jedi or another group of Force users, but we’ll have to wait for future books for more details.
Light of the Jedi has a huge cast of characters, and my largest critique of the book is that sometimes that cast is difficult to keep track of. It’s a testament to Charles Soule’s writing chops that even when I confused characters, it was easy enough to keep the story straight.
The ending of Light of the Jedi left me hungry for more on a number of fronts, and I can’t wait to learn more about this era and its Jedi.
We are all the Republic!