Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · The High Republic

Star Wars: Into the Dark – Review

star-wars-the-high-republic-into-the-dark-by-claudia-gray-1There have been two books in The High Republic time period so far, both were released on the same day to kick off the series. Light of the Jedi was an adult novel and A Test of Courage was a middle-grade novel. Into the Dark is the first young-adult novel in the series from best-selling author Claudia Gray. The story follows a group of Jedi who have hired a ship to take them to Starlight Beacon for it’s opening. On the journey they are waylaid by the Emergences, causing them to fall out of hyperspace at an ancient space station that holds mysteries who’s uncovering might signal doom for more than just our intrepid crew.

Gray’s novel is character driven first and foremost. We are introduced to Padawan Reath Silas who is traveling to join his master Jora Malli, the recently named Jedi leader of Starlight Beacon. He’s joined by Jora’s former Padawan Dez Rydan, as well as Jedi Knight Orla Jareni and Jedi Master Cohmac Vitus. Jareni and Vitus have a history with the area of space around Starlight Beacon which Gray expounds upon through interludes that take place twenty-five years before the current story.

The absolute best thing about Gray’s book is how the story feels completely driven by the characters. This is a story about these Jedi in The High Republic, their insecurities, failings, fears, arrogance, compassion, love and struggles with what it means to be a Jedi. Gray really gives readers a taste of what it is like to be a Jedi in this era, how they are different that those we’ve seen before, yet she plants seeds that connect with what they will become.

One of the themes from the previous books was the idea, “We are all the Republic”. In, Into the Dark, Gray takes this theme and instead of just having the phrase said by a character, she shows readers what that looks like through the actions taken by the characters throughout the story. It’s an incredible example of thematic writing and one of the most important keys to writing which is, “show don’t tell”.

Into the Dark, chronologically takes place in the same time frame as Light of the Jedi. This allows the book to give us more detail on the Nihil while also introduce readers to a new villain, the Drengir. Coming into this book, I was not sure how they would make the Drengir work. From the information we’d been given before the book’s release, it just felt like a bridge too far for even Star Wars. Yet in Gray’s deft hands, it works! In fact, it fits perfectly with what we’ve already seen in a previous book, The Mighty Chewbacca and the Forest of Fear!

Into the Dark is the best book in The High Republic series so far. Claudia Gray will have you falling in love with the characters, which in turn helps root you in this era in a way that I personally hadn’t been able to do so far. I couldn’t put this book down. I hope that moving forward, The High Republic will take this story as touchstone and continue to craft stories from character arcs first. Regardless whether you have read the other two book, I highly recommend Into the Dark and it is rate 4 out of 5  stars.

This review was completed using a copy of Into the Dark provided by Disney Lucasfilm Press.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Book Reviews · Books · Uncategorized

Free Fall – Review

iuThe character of Poe Dameron was not supposed to live beyond his salvation of Finn at the beginning of The Force Awakens, yet J.J. Abrams was so taken with the character, he worked out a way for him to survive. Fast forward to 2019 where The Rise of Skywalker finally gave fans a peek behind the curtain of this hotheaded pilot’s history by introducing us to a mysterious spice runner from his past. Now author Alex Segura bring Poe’s story to life, letting readers experience the good, the bad and the ugly of his early life choices.

In the Shadows

Poe lost his mother, leading his father to become over-protective of his free spirited son who desires nothing but adventure and the thrill of flying. This thirst for excitement leads to Poe meeting Zorii at the local bar, who along with a crew of “smugglers”, needs a way off Yavin 4, Poe’s home. It’s this fateful encounter that will irrevocably change the course of Poe and Zorii’s life.

Both of them have grown up in the shadow of famous parents. Each one of them has been raised with certain values and a feeling of destiny about their future that feels inescapable. Their chance meeting leads them to question whether these destinies are truly what they want for their lives. Is Poe really cut out to be nothing but a farmer on a backwater planet? Is Zorii always going to be a spice runner? They both wrestle with the question of who they want to be when they grow up and by the end of the book they find their answers.

For Poe, this question is accentuated with another, even more important question; does he want to live life in a completely gray world? Is a life of crime really the best use of his talents? As Poe slides further into the world of a spice running, he is confronted with the classic Star Wars theme of whether to live the selfish life or the life of selflessness. The voice of his mother Shara Bey rings in his ears, “‘You should always make your own choices, Poe, We’ll never take that from you. But we will teach you enough so you’ll know how to choose the right path when the time comes.'”

Segura does a fantastic job with the “coming of age” story for Poe and Zorii, using them as mirrors for one another that reflect the difficulty of growing up and making the hard choices of who they’ll be and how to live. Star Wars has always been about rhyming and Poe’s tale feels reminiscent of Luke, Han and even a bit of Anakin, all in one.

The State of the Galaxy

One of the best parts of this book is just how well Segura is able to lay out the state of the Star Wars galaxy in this time period. The New Republic is stretched thin as it tries to subdue the last remnants of the Empire, leaving a power vacuum that is being filled by the criminal underworld. They are finding it much more difficult to manage the galaxy than they thought it would be. This perfectly captures the milieu that is ripe for the First Order to be able to gain a foothold. Honestly this book is everything that should have been released before The Force Awakens, to lead fans into the Sequel era.

Conclusion

Segura has perfectly captured the character of Poe and Star Wars storytelling. His work feels like Solo with a little bit of the Godfather sprinkled in for good measure. He truly adds to the understanding of the characters as well as the state of the galaxy, while at the same time using the classic themes of the Saga. This is tie-in fiction at its finest, something that changes the way you view the movies the next time you watch them. Free Fall is rated 4.5 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed using a copy of Free Fall provided by Disney Lucasfilm Press.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · Uncategorized

Force Collector – Review

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Don’t miss The 602 Club podcast review!

The Journey to The Rise of Skywalker continues with the young adult novel, Force Collector by Kevin Shinick. Imagine you’re growing up in the Star Wars universe sometime after the fall of the Empire. The Jedi are myths that have almost been forgotten. You have a strange ability to see visions when you touch certain objects, but the only one that believes you and tries to help you is your grandmother. This is Karr’s life. When his grandmother dies, it leads him on an adventure with his new friend Maize and his trusty droid, RZ-7 to uncover the history of the Jedi and his place in the story of the galaxy. In an echo of Lost Stars, Karr’s journey will allow him to experience important moments in the Jedi’s past, visit some of the most important places and become a historian of things that should not have been lost.

The Importance of History 

They say history is written by the victors and for the Jedi this means that the lies perpetrated through Palpatine’s propaganda have become what most of the citizens of the galaxy believe about the them. Karr’s journey leads him to discover the truth about the Jedi and their place in the galactic story. One of the beauties of this is how it reinforces the importance of history. And it’s not just history, but it’s the dedication to remembering and passing on the truth, the good and the bad. It’s only through the truth of the past that we can know what is important for the future.

This impact of history is not just about the vast movings of galactic empires and republics, but also the history of individuals. Karr is able to discover along the way, not just the history of the Jedi, but of himself as well, his family and the two things, when put together, help him find his place in the story of the galaxy. History helps give Karr the context to choose the wisest path for himself and how he can best help righting the narrative about the Jedi.

The Book

Shinick has a great style for Star Wars, his prose fits the sarcastic, serial dialogue of the series. His character of Karr, who’s power in the Force will remind readers of Quinlan Vos, is a very unique creation. It’s rare that Star Wars tells the story of a Force user that does not lead them to becoming a Jedi or Sith and because this is not where Karr’s story goes it makes him fascinating. There are so many ways this character could be used in The Rise of Skywalker and beyond and will leave readers hoping his story is not complete. Maize has the roguishness of Han Solo and the sarcasm. She’s a good foil for Karr, while Rz-7 is the classic droid sidekick that is a must for a Star Wars adventure.

I was surprised how much I loved this book. The way it dove into Jedi lore made me hungry for more. I hope that Kevin Shinick will be allowed to follow up on this character and allow him to interact with someone like Rey and other Force sensitives in the Sequel era. Force Collector is rated 4 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed using a copy of Force Collector provided by Disney Lucasfilm Press.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.