Justina Ireland brings us Out of the Shadows, the second young adult title in the High Republic series from Star Wars. This book is a bridge between the events of the Republic Fair on Valo (as detailed in the adult novel The Rising Storm) and whatever is coming in the third wave of The High Republic books—and make no mistake about it, something is definitely coming.
Due to its transitional nature, it’s possible not everyone will love Out of the Shadows, but the story is fantastic. It highlights the evolving relationships between the Jedi, the Republic, and the Nihil, which I feel is important in the overall arc of The High Republic.
I was excited to see that Vernestra Rwoh and her padawan Imri Cantaros (introduced in Justina Ireland’s middle grade novel A Test of Courage, part of the first wave) play a large role in this story. They are still negotiating their new relationship as master and apprentice, in addition to navigating parallel changes in their relationships with the Force. Each has a special, unusual skill, and each struggles to manage it. Additionally, Vernestra grapples against preconceived notions about her ability to complete her mission due to her age and level of experience.
Master Cohmac Vitus and Padawan Reath Silas, from Claudia Gray’s young adult novel Into the Dark, also return in Out of the Shadows. Reath plays a larger role than his master in this book, in part due to his age relative to Vernestra’s and the other main characters in the novel. In other words, all my favorite High Republic era Jedi come together, and I am thrilled.
Another through-line between previous High Republic books and this one was how so many characters question the Jedi Order’s trajectory and their relationship to the Republic. Vernestra, Cohmac, and Reath all express concerns. This exchange between Vernestra and Reath is one of my favorites in the book:
“…I have felt a sense of apprehension from so many of the Jedi lately, especially the more we go up against the Nihil. Is it the right thing to seek them out and destroy them before they claim more lives? … I can’t see how they’ll be any less dangerous if we leave them be.”
“But that feels like it goes against the Order and the balance in the Force,” Reath said. Nothing Vernestra was saying was alarming. He’d had the same thoughts on more than one occasion, and it always came back to his faith that the Force was guiding him on the path best suited for him.
“Exactly. And so I end where I began, questioning if I am doing as the Force wills or as I want…” Vernestra said (p. 79).[i]
It couples well with an exchange between Cohmac and Vernestra, where Cohmac states, “The Jedi have a duty to protect life and maintain balance, so working with the Republic government is a given. But the Jedi follow the Force. We are the light, and we cannot blindly follow any other edict but that one. We go where we can best chase away the darkness in the galaxy, and we must not serve any other cause but that. Historically, fighting the Republic’s battles hasn’t always gone well for the Order (pp. 111-112).”
Where will all this pondering lead, and how will the Jedi Order will evolve as their battles with the Nihil continue? We’ll have to keep reading to find out!
Out of the Shadows is a relatively Nihil-light book. We see the return of Into the Dark’s Nan, who is not your run-of-the-mill Nihil. I don’t want to spoil her role in the book, but I am interested to see where she goes next. She has future big baddie vibes.
Finally, we come to Sylvestri Yarrow, the lynchpin of Out of the Shadows. She is one of the most unique main characters in The High Republic books. As a “regular” person in the galaxy, she gives us a unique perspective on politics, the Nihil, and the Jedi. I sympathized and identified with her quickly and completely because of her equal strength and vulnerability.
Sylvestri is also a member of the BIPOC and LBGTQIA+ communities, and having that representation in Star Wars, especially in a main character, is thrilling. I sincerely hope we get to see more stories from Sylvestri’s perspective.
I have not spoken much as to the actual narrative in Out of the Shadows, on purpose. I want you, the reader, to discover it and enjoy the main plot without any specifics being spoiled. It’s worth it. And I hope a certain line on page 420 excites you as much as it excited me. You will know what I mean when you see it! May the Force be with you, always.
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[i] Source for quotes: Ireland, Justina. Out of the Shadows. Lucasfilm Press, Los Angeles, 2021.