Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · The High Republic

Star Wars: Midnight Horizon – Review

the-high-republic-midnight-horizon-daniel-jose-older-39763112The Jedi on Corellia have been called away on an important diplomatic mission so when the Nihil are suspected of being on the planet, Starlight Beacon is contacted. Jedi Masters Cohmac Vitus and Kantam Sy, with Padawans Reath Silas and Ram Jomaram are sent to investigate. Could the Nihil have infiltrated a world as important as Corellia? Midnight Horizonis the young adult companion novel to The Fallen Star, giving fans some interesting surprises along the way.

One of the most interesting choices The High Republic series made when it started was to disseminate the story telling between adult, young adult, middle grade and comic books. So far readers have not had to read everything to feel like they understand what is going on, but Midnight Horizon changes that. If you have not kept up with all the comics you are likely to feel a bit lost in this book. A majority of the characters that are featured in this book are ones that have mostly been seen in The High Republic Adventure comic. I’ve not been able to keep up with the comics so this book was a frustrating experience.

Another issue I had with Midnight Horizon was the writing style. Older’s style just doesn’t flow well, especially in action scenes and it can be hard to follow what is happening. On top of that, the story itself is a very slow burn that doesn’t really get interesting until the book is about 4/5ths done. Much of the book feels like it’s killing time till the main thrust of the narrative finally kicks in. Once it does, the book is better. Sadly it can’t redeem the experience. Midnight Horizon is the weakest entry in The High Republic series so far and is rated 2 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed using a copy of Race to Crashpoint Tower provided by Disney Lucasfilm Press.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report

 

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · The High Republic

Star Wars: The Fallen Star – Review

“A flaw more and more common among Jedi.”

81jKM-zTF9LThe might of the Republic has been challenged twice. First it was the great hyperspace disaster, then it was the debacle of the Republic Fair and now the pride of the Republic, Starlight Beacon, is under siege. Will the Jedi be able to pull a miracle out of their hats or will Starlight be extinguished forever?

Pride Goes Before The Fall

Proverbs are such because of the truth held in them and none is more true of the Republic and the Jedi in The Fallen Star. The Republic, Jedi included, have become drunk on their own hype and because of that, they have underestimated the Nihil. One would have thought that after the hyperspace disaster and the Republic Fair fiasco, the Republic would have taken the threat of the Nihil much more seriously. To their detriment, they’ve trivialized the threat and Marchion Ro takes full advantage. He masterfully plays the Jedi, preying upon their hubris and compassion leading to the destruction of Starlight Beacon.

This theme of pride is echoed in a few different characters throughout the story to help drive the point home. It does seem a bit strange that this theme has already been covered in the Prequels and with this being set 200 years before that, you’d think that the Jedi would not be struggling with this so much already. It is a great theme to cover, but it doesn’t feel like new territory, which is frustrating.

The Book

I hate spoilers and for some inexplicable reason, the marketing for this book gave away that Starlight Beacon was going to be destroyed and that there were going to be quite a few deaths. This makes reading this book a strange experience since you’re never surprised when someone dies and knowing that Starlight is going to be stardust by the end takes a lot of investment out of the reading.

The deaths of major characters also lacked a lot of the punch that you’d hope for and this stems from a complaint I’ve had about the series since it started. There has been too much going on. The High Republic has felt like someone was creating a tree and started with the branches instead of the seed. With so many characters and storylines, happening in so many different places (comic, middle grade, young adult and adult books), it has been hard to connect emotionally to the characters. I’d love to say I was moved by any of the deaths, but I just wasn’t.

The most interesting thing about the book was the new threat that the Jedi face. Readers will know it as the Great  Leveler, which was first seen in The Rising StormIt feels like an ysalamiri, force-dementor, fear monster that preys upon Jedi, smothering their connection to the Force, paralyzing them with fear and turning them into husks. It is an interesting parallel that the Nihil started the series by disrupting hyperspace thereby throwing the Republic into chaos. Now, they threaten the very fabric of the universe and the Jedi by disrupting the Force. This new threat feels a little on the nose as the incarnation of “fear” itself, but it has potential, so only time will tell how well it works.

The Fallen Star benefits from Claudia Gray’s deft writing, this book breezes by, but it is not as polished as her previous work. There are some issues with the editing of the story and some logical issues with plot points along the way that pulled me out of the book. There were a few times when something happens and all I could think was, “Why didn’t they just do that earlier? More people would have been saved.”. The Fallen Star is a good read but unfortunately not great, it is rated 3 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed with a review copy of Star Wars: The Fallen Star from Del Rey Publishing.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars · The High Republic

Star Wars: Out of the Shadows – Review

81lx6QOO88LIt has been a year since the devastating Emergence hyperspace incident, but the Nihil continue to battle the forces of the Republic and the Jedi at every turn. In the aftermath of the attack on the Republic Fair on Valo, a new threat arises that could disrupt hyperspace travel in ways that make the Emergence disaster look like child’s play.

Out of the Shadows is Justina Ireland’s second book in The High Republic series. Her first book, A Test of Courage was a stand out for me with it’s focus on characters, more than big plot points. Her second effort continues her fantastic character work while at the same time actually using plot points from the series to bring an end to some mysteries, while also opening up doors for the forthcoming books. I cannot overstate how much I appreciated her focus on characters. Yes, there is a new protagonist introduced in the story, but she uses this book to focus on some characters that readers have previously been introduced in previous books.

The focus on Vernestra, Imri, Cormac and Reath as the main Jedi was exactly what this story needed. By not creating new Jedi, she added some much needed depth to these characters while expertly weaving the plot around the character development. This depth was not only given to the Jedi, but to character like Senator Starros, the San Tekkas, the politics of the Republic and the connections between the Nihil and high-ranking members of Republic society. Ireland has finally made things feel like things are coming together in this series.

Much has been made about this being the golden age of the Jedi, but in reality, this feels more like the silver age (especially if the Prequels are the bronze age). The Jedi are already struggling with their relationship with the Republic and to whom their allegiance should lie with. Should it be to the Republic or should their only focus be on the will of the Force? As we know from Qui-Got Qinn, “Your focus determines your reality”. With the Jedi Council not in complete agreement on the issue, it is no wonder that the rest of the Jedi are finding themselves divided on what is the best course to be taken with the Nihil and Drengir threats. Ireland does a wonderful job of portraying the political and moral quagmire that is forming on Coruscant with the Jedi stuck in the middle.

Out of the Shadows is my favorite book in The High Republic series so far. I hope that this focus on characters continues in future books, because when you care about the characters it makes the rest of the plot much more meaningful and engaging. The book is rated 4 out of five stars.

This review was completed using a copy of Out of the Shadows provided by Disney Lucasfilm Press.

This review first appeared on The Star Wars Report

Book Reviews · Books · Star Wars

Star Wars: The Rising Storm – Review

iu-3Your overconfidence is your weakness.” – Luke Skywalker

The Republic has launched Chancellor Soh’s first great work in the Starlight Beacon station. The Jedi have helped the Republic navigate “The Great Disaster” as well as worked to contain the Drengir threat. In light of these things, it’s time for Chancellor Soh’s next great work,  the Republic Fair which is to be held on the planet of Valo.

The Rising Storm picks up from the first phase of The High Republic. Chancellor Soh is keen to see the Republic Fair go forward, even with warnings that the Nihil could see this as a prime opportunity for attack. The theme of arrogance overshadows everything in this story. The Chancellor is a prime example, in not taking the threat of the Nihil seriously and thinking that the Jedi can handle them alone, even if they were to attack. The Jedi come face to face with their own arrogance. It’s been some time since anyone has challenged their power in the galaxy and they find themselves learning the foolishness of disregarding threats or thinking themselves powerful enough to handle anything.

The Jedi are also find themselves having their role in the Republic questioned. As the threats increase, are they enough to hold back the tide? The Jedi are peacekeepers, not soldiers. Therefore shouldn’t there be a defense force to help guard against threats to the Republic so that it is not solely relying on the them for everything in that regard? Plus, with the Jedi finding themselves in the role of soldier more and more, they are also finding the temptation of the Dark Side easier to give into, which will create a whole new set of problems.

The Rising Storm is one of the better books in The High Republic series. Cavan Scott’s writing is crisp and his character work, especially between the Jedi is great. The book does still suffer under the weight of having too much going on. The first half of the book is full of movement between characters and places that can leave the reader feeling a bit lost. The High Republic series has thrown so much at readers in the first phase plot wise, that it’s been hard to actually get invested in many of the character since there are just too many to keep track of. And in all honesty, splitting the series between adult, young adult, middle grade and comics has made it difficult to keep up with the story as a whole. Star Wars has done massive series before in literature and so far, The New Jedi Order was much more successful. One, because it was only in the adult novels and two, because the story was able to take its time building, using series within the series to focus on different characters or situations individually while still building the whole.

Ultimately, The High Republic has so much going on with the Nihil, the Drengir, the Jedi and the Republic that it just feels too scattered. Hopefully, as this second phase kicks off, the series will find more focus in the plot and invest in the characters, by spending time with fewer of them, allowing readers to connect more deeply. The Rising Storm is rated 3 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed using a copy of The Rising Storm provided by Del Rey Press.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

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.

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Star Wars: A Test of Courage – Review

star-wars-the-high-republic-a-test-of-courage-by-justina-ireland

The High Republic series continues in A Test of Courage by Justina Ireland. The book is not a direct sequel to Charles Soule’s Light of the Jedi, but more of a companion piece that chronologically takes place in the middle of that book. Venestra Rwoh is one of the youngest Jedi Knights at the age of sixteen. Her first assignment is to escort Avon, the twelve-year old daughter of Senator Ghirra Starros, to the dedication of the new deep space station, Starlight Beacon. They are joined by Avon’s opinionated droid J-6, a Jedi Master, his Padawan and an ambassadorial  delegation from the planet of Dalnan, who is contemplating Republic membership. Their journey is interrupted when bombs incapacitate and destroy their cruiser, allowing only enough time for Venestra, Avon, J-6, Jedi Padawan Imri and Honesty, son of the Dalnan ambassador to escape in a broken down shuttle. They are forced to land on a planet and try to survive till they can find a way to call for help.

A Test of Courage is a middle grade book, but that does not mean the story is watered down in any way. Ireland has done a marvelous job crafting a story that is in line with Lucas’ ideas of what Star Wars is meant to be, a way of helping teach young children about the morals of life. Venestra snuggles with the responsibility knighthood has brought, Honesty learns the foolishness of living life comparing oneself to others and Imri must learn to deal with loss and the anger that results. It is a strong collection of themes about the trials of growing up from multiple points of view.

Ireland is able to continue the work Soule did in building out The High Republic time period. Readers are given a further understanding of the Jedi, as well as the Republic, two hundred years before The Phantom Menace. She is also able to give more on the Nihil and their plans to disrupt the Republic’s expansion into the Outer Rim. Ireland also explores droid personalities in a way that’s only recently been seen in Solo with L3, to humorous effect.

 A Test of Courage is a fun, quick read that will leave you wanting more books in this time period. It fits nicely with Light of the Jedi in opening the series of The High Republic and is rated 3.5 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed using a copy of A Test of Courage provided by Disney Lucasfilm Press.

This review originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.

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Star Wars: Light of the Jedi – Review

This is a spoiler free review. Star Wars: Light of the Jedi will be released on January 5th, 2021. Don’t miss The 602 Club episode review!

For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times, before the Empire. – Obi-Wan Kenobi

In 2012 the Walt Disney Company bought Lucasfilm and one of their first acts was to mothball the Expanded Universe that had begun with Heir to the Empire in 1991. Since that time, the literature has been made canon but have stayed in the time periods of the Star Wars galaxy that have been seen onscreen. That has all changed now, with this quote from Obi-Wan as inspiration, the publishing arm of Star Wars is venturing into the unknown with The High Republic era. It is set two hundred years before the events of The Phantom Menace and is going to be seen in all print forms; adult novels, young adult, middle grade, young readers, picture books and comics.

For the first book in the series, Light of the JediDel Rey has turned to author Charle Soule for his first Star Wars book. Soule has written some of the best comics since Disney took over, with his Darth Vader run in contention for the best. His writing is crisp as one who has read his comic work would expect and his dialogue is snappy. Soule does an excellent job for setting the stage of what is to come in this era.

The Republic is at its height, as the title for the era would suggest. For those that know history, it feels akin to the golden age of Elizabethan England. Things are bright for the Republic as they look to open their first deep space station in the Outer Rim, the Starlight Beacon. Soule differentiates this version of the Republic from others we have seen through a motto of this iteration, “We are all the Republic”. The Jedi are at their height as well, serving the Republic, yet not officially as part of the government. This is a time period unencumbered by war. Everything seems to be perfect when a hyperspace incident causes a chain reaction that could threaten the very existence of the Republic.

The “villains” of the story, the Nihil also feel historically based. Anyone familiar with the vikings of the eighth to eleventh centuries will feel right at home with this group. These raiders are the antithesis to the Republic and only have their own interests in mind. Their goal is nothing more than plunder and pleasure.

The most exciting aspect of this series is the ability for it to do something new. Since it is two hundred years before The Phantom Menace there is not much the authors will be bound by, giving them freedom to create something all their own. There are a few characters that fans will know from the Prequel era but the majority of them are new. Soule’s also given readers some interesting relationships to follow in the stories to come. The book’s storyline feels timely and timeless, creating a sure foundation for the High Republic era. Light of the Jedi is rated 3.75 out of 5 stars.

This review was completed with a review copy of Star Wars: Light of the Jedi from Del Rey Publishing.

This post originally appeared on The Star Wars Report.