Into the Dark, by Claudia Gray Published 2/2/2021 by Disney Lucasfilm Press Finished Reading 2/24/2021
The High Republic #2-3, by Cavan Scott and Ario Anindito
The High Republic Adventures #1-2, by Daniel José Older and Harvey Tolibao
This is my second post on the Star Wars High Republic initiative, which I’m really enjoying quite a lot. This update covers one novel, two comics, and one children’s book.
We’ll start with the children’s book. The Great Jedi Rescue by Cavan Scott is for children 5-8 years old; it’s a picture book that I mostly read because I’m something of a completionist. I wouldn’t say it was a total waste of money, but its best audience is, shall we say, considerably younger than me. The Great Jedi Rescue essentially retells the story of the “Great Disaster,” which is given significantly more depth in Light of the Jedi. If you’re old enough to read the latter, I obviously recommend you do so, but if you’re just interested, The Great Jedi Rescue is a fun retelling. The most obvious benefit of reading is PICTURES! Yes, this is an illustrated book, and so you get plenty of images of the Jedi and their ships. I especially appreciated the latter — turns out my mental image of certain things was a bit off!
Pictures are a feature of the comics too, of course. There are two High Republic comic series running now; last time, I mentioned Star Wars: The High Republic, and you can now add Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures. As far as I understand it, the latter is for a slightly younger audience. The former tells the story of Jedi Keeve Trennis, who has recently been knighted and is on her first extended mission — one that intersects with a terrible evil growing in the galaxy. This series had been fun but not especially compelling, but the third issue — released today, March 2nd — is the best yet. It helps that the story is finally starting to cohere as we get a sense of just what enemy the Jedi are facing. Plus, there’s a fabulous moment featuring Jedi Master Avar Kriss that shows again just why she’s the best of the best.
The High Republic Adventures, meanwhile, primarily focuses on Jedi padawan Lula Talisola, who’s traveling with Yoda along with several other padawans on the cruiser Star Hopper. This series takes place in the aftermath of the Great Disaster, and the first arc so far has centered around a rescue effort in the Trymant system that’s complicated by the arrival of the Nihil. Just two issues are out so far, but already I’m enjoying the characters and, especially, the art, which is pleasantly detailed in that wimmelbilder way. The story is still in the setting-up stages, but still there are some affecting threads about found family and accepting yourself for who you are.
The main entry for this update is Into the Dark, a young adult novel by Claudia Gray. It takes place at roughly the same time as everything else so far, telling us about what was going on in a different corner of the galaxy while the other Jedi were handling the Great Disaster. The main character is Reath Silas, a padawan whose master is away when a ship Reath is on is forced to take a detour. They arrive at a strange place, a desolate space station, empty except for numerous plants and their robot guardians.
The first half of this book plays out a bit like a haunted house story, as Reath, a couple of other Jedi, and a handful of colorful characters investigate the station, attempting to uncover its secrets. Claudia Gray ably handles a fairly large cast; though I would ague Reath is at the center of the story, just about everyone gets POV chapters and an arc. The second half of the book is where the action kicks into high gear; while it may take a little patience to get there, everything is orchestrated with precision.
I really enjoyed Into the Dark – it might be my favorite High Republic story yet. All of the characters are great, distinct and compelling — Reath, for example, is a scholar who doesn’t want to leave Coruscant, but who comes to realize that when it’s time for action, he can do what needs to be done. On the other end of the spectrum is my other favorite character, Affie Hollow, whose adoptive mother is the head of the infamous Byne Guild. Affie, along with captain Leox Gyasi (another favorite) and Geode (a, um, rock), is helping transport the Jedi to the outer rim when the Great Disaster strikes. What she finds on the station will change how she thinks about the Byne Guild – and her mother. What all of them find is something dark and sinister – as soon as they arrive, the Jedi begin to sense the presence of the dark side.
Into the Dark is occasionally a bit messy – it almost feels like it’s trying to do too much, and the hard questions it asks about the Jedi order (for instance, about whether the Jedi are wrong to split the force into Light and Dark, or whether they are wrong to discourage emotion) aren’t truly resolved by the end. Still, the fact that Gray is willing to ask these questions at all means that the book has a rich subtext, something that’s always welcome in my Star Wars stories.
Overall, I can say that I’m still really enjoying the High Republic. Every new book I read is my new favorite, which speaks to the individual quality of each story but also points to how invested I am in the setting. The writers, working closely together, have fashioned a cohesive universe with many intersecting stories; in other words, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and the more I read the more enjoyable those parts become. It also means that, if you’re keeping up with literally everything High Republic, like I am, you’ll see plenty of names you recognize, places you’ve been before, and events told from other angles. (If you’ve read Light of the Jedi, for instance, you’ll also be waiting for a particularly heavy hammer to drop in Into the Dark, and let me tell you Gray doesn’t disappoint.) My point is that the High Republic is really working for me, and getting better as it goes along.
I’m not sure when my next update will be, but here’s a list of upcoming releases (dates from Wikipedia, subject to change):
- The Edge of Balance, by Justina Ireland, Shima Shinya, and Harvey Tolibao (Graphic Novel) — June 6
- Race to Crashpoint Tower, by Daniel José Older (Middle-Grade Novel) — June 29
- The Rising Storm, by Cavan Scott (Adult Novel) — July 6
- Untitled Young Reader Book — July 6
- Out of the Shadows, by Justina Ireland (Young Adult Novel) — July 27
- Issues of Star Wars: The High Republic and Star Wars: High Republic Adventures, beginning of every month
Writing these mega-posts where I combine reviews of several different texts is actually quite exhausting, so I definitely won’t wait until everything on this list comes out for my next update – so, maybe after Edge of Balance? We’ll see!
Next Time: Race the Sands, by Sarah Beth Durst