Claudia Gray Brings the Jedi Into the Dark and Back to the Light

Anna

Into the Dark, the newest offering in The High Republic arc, is simply fantastic. This book is targeted at young adults, and is written in such a way as to really engage that audience yet leaves no other age group behind. Each Jedi in this book is going through transitions in life, just as many teens grow and change significantly from middle school to high school to adulthood. It is a tale of constant evolution of belief—in good versus bad, in the future, in trust that the Jedi Council is in sync with the Force, a journey Into the Dark and also back to the light. The last time I saw this much questioning as to the path of the Jedi was in Claudia Gray’s Master and Apprentice, and I LOVE IT. There will be some minor spoilers in this review, mostly in terms of character development rather than overall storyline, so proceed with that knowledge.

The main character of the book is Reath Silas, Padawan of Jedi Master Jora Malli. Reath is not what we would call a “traditional” Jedi—he is more of what I would call a Renaissance man. He loves the archives and studying, though that does not mean he is not also very skilled in the use of his lightsaber—he is one of the top students in his class, as he is with all of his academic pursuits. In the prologue of the book, Jora Malli tells Reath that they are leaving the temple on Coruscant, as she has left the Council to take a new posting at the Starlight Beacon, the space station on the frontier of the Outer Rim. Reath is understandably less than thrilled about this—he would rather stay in Coruscant, in the Temple where he was raised and with easy access to the archives. He travels toward the beacon with Jedi Dez Rydan (Jora’s previous, and much more adventurous Padawan), Wayseeker Orla Jareni, and Master Cohmac Vitus. They travel on a ship called the Vessel, captained by Leox Gyasi, with co-pilot Affie Hollow (who is close in age to Reath) and navigator Geode. 

Soon after the Jedi and crew of the Vessel start their journey, they become aware of and must adjust course due to the Legacy Run disaster (detailed in Charles Soule’s Light of the Jedi). They answer the distress call of a small ship carrying a young girl named Nan and her caretaker. This in turn leads to the discovery of a seemingly deserted space station, a solar flare, and several ships racing to the relative safety of the station. Once on board, our Jedi sense that something on the station is bound to the dark side, and the adventure for our Jedi and the crew of the Vessel truly begins. The story here, for me at least, is more about the characters and their arcs than the adventure itself.

My favorite character from The High Republic this far is definitely Wayseeker Orla Jareni. “Wayseeker” is a new class of Jedi. They operate independently of Jedi Council rule. Orla is unique in that she is so clear in her devotion to the Force, even though it sometimes puts her at odds with the Council, and despite the questions it evokes, even within her own mind. At the beginning of the book, she is questioning her choice to be a Wayseeker—debating if she should continue on this path and deciding in that moment that she has to “at least begin. Go back to the origins of it all.”[1]She later says that “The Jedi Order and I no longer…see eye to eye”[2], though she would likely tell anyone who asked that she “needed to come to know the Force in a deeper, even more meaningful sense”[3] to avoid having to explain further and perhaps incur the displeasure of the Council. Her connection to the Force and conviction to follow its call, rather than the will of the Council, is so compelling.

Orla’s relationship with Cohmac, echoed in flashbacks, is very complicated. They were on a mission together 25 years ago that parallels some of the events and feelings on the station. These parallels clearly make both Jedi very uncomfortable and lead them to question their place within the Order and its tenets. I feel like the events of 25 years ago is what set Orla on the path to Wayseeker. She follows the teachings of the Order rather than her instinct, and a tragedy occurs as a result. This tragedy forces a realization—that “if the Order was telling her to ignore the Force…it wasn’t the Force that was wrong.”[4]

Cohmac’s questioning is far more dangerous, when viewed from the lens of it being a slippery slope to the dark side, though it depends on one’s point of view. Cohmac is very focused on balance. His meditation is “I behold the world within myself. I behold the world without myself.” He questions the Jedi Order’s wisdom in refusing “to look at the Force in full, to examine the darkness as well as the light”, asking “how can we split the Force in two? How can we justify such an act of violence—and it is violence such a dividing, even the darkness from the light.”[5] The reverberations of the loss 25 years ago and a loss in the current timeline throw Cohmac into a sadness and rage that is worrisome—in this reaction I felt like he was slowly sliding toward the darkness. He questions why the Jedi should not feel anger and emotional pain, why the Order “asks us to excise the deepest parts of ourselves.” Orla brings him back from that ledge, explaining that “There is no emotion so justified or noble that it cannot lead to madness, if not kept in the proper proportion.”[6] I believe that it is Orla’s dedication to the Force, rather than the Order, that enables her to save her friend, to return him to balance. Orla’s statement about proportion is so important here, as it reflects the balance that is such a central tenet in Cohmac’s personal code, and his belief that the Order has a very one sided view of the Force. 

The change Reath goes through over the course of the novel is probably best summed up by a question that Jora poses before they are separated: “Tell me, Reath, why can you not cross the Kyber Arch by yourself?”[7] It is described in the book as follows:

“The Kyber Arch stood within one of the vast meditation chambers of the Coruscant temple. Each crystal in the arch was a kyber crystal, one retrieved from the damaged lightsaber of a Jedi fallen in battle. As beautifully as it sparkled in the light, it was a reminder of the price their fellow Jedi had paid in the pursuit of justice over the past millennia. Thick at the bases, the very topmost curve of the arch had deliberately been left extremely narrow, as a representation of the perils the fallen had faced.”[8]

Jora tells Reath ”Neither you nor any other Jedi has ever crossed the Kyber Arch alone, nor will anyone have to do so. When you know the answer why, I believe you’ll understand why we’re headed to the frontier.”[9] Reath asks several people about it, physically crosses it, and finally comes to realize what she meant. 

Growth seems to be a major theme for Claudia Gray. It is important here, in Leia, Princess of Alderaan and in Master and Apprentice. The parallels between Into the Dark and Master and Apprentice are clear to me. In Master and Apprentice Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are struggling. Qui-Gon has been offered a seat on the Council and is very unsure about his path. He is a questioner of the Council and Obi-Wan is not. Obi-Wan is struggling with Qui-Gon as a Master, because Qui-Gon teaches in a way that does not make sense to Obi-Wan. By the end of the book, they are finally on the same page and they have become more in sync as Master and Padawan. Similarly, Reath’s growth, and that of Cohmac and Orla is what really propels Into the Dark. Their actions and internal monologues greatly improve our knowledge of the Jedi, our knowledge of the Order and our knowledge of the Force. Claudia Gray’s Into the Dark has a fantastic message—to follow your instincts, to examine and reexamine your beliefs, to dedicate yourself to what the Force has in store for you. I can’t wait to see where Claudia Gray, and The High Republic, brings us next.


[1] Claudia Gray, Into the Dark. California: Disney Lucasfilm Press, 2021. pg 26.

[2] Gray, Into the Dark, pg 39.

[3] Gray, Into the Dark, pg 39.

[4] Gray, Into the Dark, pg. 393.

[5] Gray, Into the Dark, pg. 128.

[6] Gray, Into the Dark, pg. 190.

[7] Gray, Into the Dark, pg. 7.

[8] Gray, Into the Dark, pg. 7-8.

[9] Gray, Into the Dark, pg. 8.