Colleen’s Book Corner: High Republic: Light of the Jedi
Author: Charles Soule
Published January 2021
Set c. 232 BBY
In the Beginning
Charles Soule is best known in the Star Wars universe as a comics writer, having produced some of the most compelling work on post-Return of the Jedi Darth Vader. To be the debut author for Disney’s ambitious multi-media High Republic era is quite a burden to bear. And also quite an achievement. Light of the Jedi was always going to be the novel that got the most scrutiny. It’s an adult novel, it’s the first in this run, and it’s attempting something that hasn’t been done in canon: showing a timeline hundreds of years before Anakin or Luke Skywalker are a twinkle in anyone’s eye. Soule does an admirable job introducing readers to a host of new characters and new worlds as well as winking at more diehard fans with clever easter eggs. I had high hopes for the book and was not let down.
Hyperspace is New?!
The novel begins with a galactic crisis in hyperspace, still somewhat of an unknown quantity in this time period. The Outer Rim remains remote, but even the Mid and Inner Rims aren’t well-traveled. Navigational droids are a rare enough commodity to become a problem needing to be solved. For god’s sake there’s an actual competent Chancellor! This is the galaxy far, far away that we know, and yet it’s still full of mystery and wonder. The hyperspace accident sets the pace for the entire book, with Part One taking place during three hours of nail-biting tension. Soule maneuvers the narrative through the accident’s fallout, bringing in some heroic everyday people as well as Jedi characters. The cast is expansive, but I never felt lost.
Who We Got?
Each character has a distinct voice, which is another accomplishment. None of them feel as though we’ve seen them before, although some of the Jedi made me smile, reminding me of other favorite Star Wars characters without copying their entire personalities. Early standouts include Avar Kriss, a Jedi who perceives the Force as music and conducts rescue and battle missions by mentally linking with other Jedi. Another favorite - I’m sure he’s on a lot of peoples’ favorite lists - is Twi’lek Jedi Loden Greatstorm. Besides the fantastic name, Loden is like Qui-Gon Jinn, humorous but also an effective teacher. As a friend of mine said, he and Albus Dumbledore would get along famously, particularly as teaching colleagues. Plus, THERE’S A DOG, Y’ALL.
Who Are the Baddies?
Soule also introduces the main villains of this era: The Nihil, a group of pirates who are more than they appear. If we thought Hondo was a huge problem during the Clone Wars, yikes, he has nothing on the Nihil. These marauders have no mercy, neither for their victims nor their fellow pirates. Set up like the galaxy’s worst pyramid scheme, new recruits can work their way up the ranks by showing just how efficient and despicable they are. The Nihil leadership characters are diverse and intriguing. I wasn’t sure how afraid to be of them at first, they are just pirates, and we’ve been conditioned by Pirates of the Caribbean that the East India Trading Company and other colonizers are worse than pirates. Well...that’s no longer the case. These people mean business, and the Jedi should be ready to fight wave after wave of them. Indeed, the entire project’s chief driving force was “what do the Jedi fear?” I have a bad feeling that we’re about to read how Chancellor Soh’s glorious Republic begins to fester and crumble. If the saga culminates with Leslye Headland’s The Acolyte, we may also get to see the rise of the Sith.
Part One Was the Strongest Section
One criticism would be that Parts Two and Three didn’t pop as well as that intense opening section. But watching a disaster unfold is also more exciting than seeing people deal with the fallout. There were enough surprises that the novel kept me reading, though a few spots weren’t as crisply written. Overall I’m excited to see where the High Republic will go from here.
Final Thoughts: 9/10 Lightsabers
So many fun easter eggs in this book, but my favorite was Jedi Master Jora Malli, a Togruta, has a white lightsaber. Like Ahsoka in the main timeline, Jora made her crystal by healing a crystal that she took from an ancient Sith lightspear.