“You can do it, old gal,” she said, out loud. “We’re a couple of cranky old ladies and that’s for sure, but we’ve both got a lot of life to live. I’ve taken damn good care of you, and you know it. I won’t let you down if you won’t let me down.”
Hedda did not fail her ship.
It failed her.– Star Wars: Light of the Jedi – Chapter One
I have been waiting for something major to happen with the Star Wars books ever since I was blasted with the devastating news that The Sword of the Jedi trilogy had been cancelled and Disney stepped in as the new overlord of the franchise.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been a lot of great, and at worst, interesting books to read in the intervening years. I was a fan of A New Dawn, and Timothy Zahn impressed us all with the return of Thrawn, but none of these books served to carry the larger narrative beyond the pages of its own enclosed story.
Not since 2011’s conclusion to the Fate of the Jedi books has there been a large cohesive Star Wars series that would span multiple books, authors, and media.
When Project Luminous was announced, I was sold.
I didn’t know what it was or what it was going to be, but I knew it had multiple authors tied to it, and that meant a return to form for me.
So then, the background aside, let’s talk about the official launch novel that kicks off the entire High Republic Era.
My biggest descriptor for the entire book: Word Building.
The novel opens with the event that will likely play a role in every High Republic story for the foreseeable future. The pacing here is slow, a buildup to something that you know is coming, but aren’t quite sure when it will hit. I would compare much of the narrative to something like Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves.
With that frame in place, the author, Charles Soule, begins his work. The task of this novel isn’t just to tell a quick story. It doesn’t end when the reader closes the book. Instead, this is the appetizer at the start of a meal, the first bite of a delicious morsel that will be followed by bigger and even more savory food.
The pacing here is deliberate.
We’re treated to the edges of hyperspace lanes, where the disaster is imminent and deadly, the worlds beyond that rest in the path of an approaching doom, and places far and away that are safe from harm, but uncertain about how long that may last.
We’re given background as to how a single incident like this can have a lasting impact across the galaxy, such as planets that have become galactic-scale food manufacturers that could be wiped out in an instant, leaving the entire Republic in shortages.
On top of that, we’re shown the Republic in a time we have not yet seen. In older Star Wars works, the “Old Republic” was shown to be a time of turmoil. The Sith Empire always fighting, the Mandalorians in constant war with the Jedi. In the Prequel trilogy we were treated to a bloated bureaucratic mess, a dying government on its last legs as a predator eats it from the inside out.
Here, Charles gives us a Republic that you can really get behind. A strong force, moving throughout the galaxy with the intent to bring all of the darkest corners of civilization into the light. The Jedi are a mix of civilized teachers, and wild west cowboys, which I am curious to see more of as we move forward. The whole space western vibe, revived in the Mandalorian TV show, continues in this novel.
When it comes to characters, the novel has alot, there are a few I’m remembering, such as Avar Kriss, or Burryaga, or Bell Zettifar and his Jedi Master Loden Greatstorm. In fact, most of the characters that I recall burning themselves into my mind were all Jedi. There was a husband and wife duo that I particularly enjoyed, but I’ll be honest, I already flushed their names when I put down my finished book.
Lina Soh, the serving Supreme Chancellor of the Republic, is also an interesting character, in that she appears to be a truly benevolent ruler, as opposed to the standard flavor that Star Wars prefers. I imagine we shall see if that sticks in time, as I could see the continuing story push her to her limits.
Then we have the villains.
I won’t lie. I was super disappointed. I don’t know why, but I had it in my head that the Nihil were going to be something far more… satisfying. Don’t get me wrong, the villains we are introduced to have their moments, and I am genuinely interested in where their story goes, particularly so since their plot device is shockingly similar to my own ideas explored in The Hero of Hyla. I should add right here that no, I don’t think Star Wars stole my idea, and I also doubt that I’m the first person that thought of using space travel as some kind of cold war escalation point in Science Fiction.
To be frank, I was expecting something along the lines of the Yuuzhan Vong. I was expecting a sinister force more powerful than anything I had ever seen before. I thought that this force, whatever it might be, would be the force that rocked the Republic and knocked it off its proverbial high horse, thus paving the way for the Prequel movies.
While that’s not what I got, I can’t say that it won’t evolve into something along those lines.
All in all, I think the scope of the story that Charles Soule set out to achieve has been accomplished. I learned a lot about the state of the Jedi Order, the state of the Republic, the foundations of the Nihil, the importance of the Mid and Outer Rim planets, the dangers of Hyperspace travel, and just about everything in between. It was a satisfying tale, weaving in and out of the grounded narrative and into the larger goal of the series.
The ending left you wanting more, not because of a cliff hanger so much, but because you saw the direction the story is going and you realized you definitely wanted to get there sooner than later. The escalation through the novel peaked late in the final act, and knowing we have to wait until June 2021 to pick up the direct sequel leaves a little hole in the heart.
That doesn’t mean we can’t get more High Republic right now.
The young adult book, Trials of Courage and the children’s book The Great Jedi Rescue both launched on the same day as Light of the Jedi, so I am chewing through the YA book now and will pick up a copy of the children’s book for my kiddos as well.
There’s High Republic comics unfolding as well, but I’m not sure where I stand on comics and how to consume them properly, so I may be a bit delayed there.
So, with the review out of the way, how do I rate this one?
We’re leaning on an old system, one I had in place many moons ago when I was reviewing the Fate of the Jedi series.
Each book receives a rating of 1 to 5 stars… DEATHstars that is!
So, what’s my rating for Light of the Jedi?!
Four out of Five Deathstars.
The story flows, and where it stumbles it quickly corrects itself and carries on. It’s not the fastest pace, and there is a lot of time spent talking about the constructs of the Republic systems and Jedi organization, but all of this expands on a new era that has only just begun.