Today is an exciting day for Star Wars fans. After a wait of almost two years, including a significant delay courtesy of COVID-19, the first books in the High Republic era are finally being published. Set around 200 years prior to the events of The Phantom Menace, The High Republic (initially code-named Project Luminous) includes multiple books and comics that will all work together to tell one cohesive story set when the Jedi Order and the Galactic Republic were both at the height of their power and prestige. Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule is an adult novel set in the outer rim where the Jedi are called upon to help in the wake of a terrible tragedy while a new threat brews in the background but closer to the surface than anyone realizes.
Please note: This post contains affiliate links.
Light of the Jedi is split into three parts and opens with Part One: The Great Disaster. Traveling along a hyperspace lane in the outer rim, The Legacy Run is ferrying refugees to new lives when disaster strikes and the ship encounters the impossible, an obstacle ahead of it in the lane. When the experienced captain attempts to maneuver and avoid a collision, the ship is torn apart into hundreds of fractured parts which begin to exit hyperspace—beginning in the agricultural system of Hetzal. Traveling at enormous speeds, these lethal pieces of debris are heading for populated worlds, potentially creating a disaster of unprecedented scale. Thankfully, a contingent of Jedi are close at hand, and together with the help of others, they begin to do what they can to save as many lives as possible, although they and the civilians they work with are quickly faced with dozens of impossible choices.
While Part One focuses on the Great Disaster itself, the rest of the book is occupied with its aftermath. Not only are parts of the debris still emerging from hyperspace seemingly at random, putting other systems and billions of lives at risk in what are termed “Emergences,” no one knows what happened to begin with. Is hyperspace still safe, was this an accident, and could it happen again? A team of Jedi and a handful of civilians who were deeply involved in the Great Disaster are assigned the task of determining the cause while also trying to predict and minimize the danger of future Emergences. At the same time, the Republic orders the temporary closure of all hyperspace lanes in the outer rim, locking down many systems and causing supply shortages. With tensions rising, the team must act quickly to allow the galaxy to reopen safely.
Meanwhile, a group of raiders known as the Nihil is growing in strength. The Nihil have gained themselves a terrifying reputation, appearing seemingly from nowhere to take what they want and destroy what remains. Their secret: a mysterious system of Paths that allow them to travel throughout the galaxy without using traditional hyperspace lanes. Soon, the Jedi and the Nihil are drawn together by the Great Disaster, but this story is only just beginning.
Let me kick off by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed Light of the Jedi. As someone who is deeply invested in the Skywalker Saga and who loves seeing how the latest books, TV shows, and comics tie themselves into the ongoing story (I absolutely loved The Mandalorian season two for those exact reasons), I was unsure of how much I would enjoy a story that was almost entirely new and removed from that original core plot, but I needn’t have worried at all. Another thing that concerned me prior to reading was the Nihil. Any time an established universe introduces a new villain that is, in the words of one of the authors, “unlike any villain we’ve seen.. before,” I worry about how they will fit in without being either derivative or so out of left-field that they don’t seem to belong in that universe at all. The Nihil managed to come across as unique and powerful but without too many plot-hole-inducing issues, although I’m already interested to see how their unique skill set will be removed from play as it is never seen in any of the subsequent stories.
Perhaps expectedly, as with any book that is the first in a new series, Light of the Jedi suffers at times with information overload. As one of the first High Republic-era stories to hit shelves, there are dozens of new characters to introduce here along with ships, organizations, planets, and other information, much of which is packed into the opening chapters. Personally, I found myself needing to flip back through the pages on occasion to remind myself of who was who, and with multiple plot lines occurring simultaneously in the latter half of the book, that complexity only grew. However, at no point did I found myself feeling overwhelmed, and each of the new characters (the Jedi in particular) quickly developed strong, defined personalities that helped them to mostly stand apart from one another.
This also meant that I quickly developed a handful of favorites among the new characters. The Master and Padawan team of Loden Greatstorm and Bell Zettifar gave me strong Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan vibes and put them instantly at the top of my list, along with Bell’s brilliant yet terrifying charhound Ember. Another immediate favorite was Elzar Mann, an eccentric Jedi who loves experimenting with using the Force in unusual ways that have the rest of the Order constantly questioning what in the galaxy he’s up to now. Away from the Jedi, I was delighted to see some LGBTQ representation in the form of two hyperspace experts whose names I won’t spoil here, while Keven Tarr—an adviser from Hetzal Prime’s Ministry of Technology—was another character I quickly grew to love for his intelligence and dedication, as well as his niggling and familiar sense of self-doubt.
While so much was new here, there was also just enough familiar Star Wars material to keep the High Republic offshoot firmly grounded in the galaxy far, far away that we all know and love. A few familiar planets put in appearances, like Coruscant (obviously) and Naboo, familiar species are represented (Twi’leks, Trandoshans, and even a Gungan), and there are even a few familiar names. Given the story is set two hundred years prior to The Phantom Menace, it should come as no surprise that Yoda is an established figure at the Jedi temple but I was thankful that he remained firmly in the background here and allowed the new characters to retain their temporary spotlight. A lesser-known but familiar surname also put in an appearance, which already has me curious about its connection to another pre-existing character. I was, however, exceedingly grateful to reach the end of the book without once reading the name Skywalker, no matter how attached I am to the original family of the saga.
Light of the Jedi ends with an obvious setup for more books yet to come but also has enough of a solid conclusion to not leave you feeling unsatisfied or frustrated. The final scene made me think back to some of the ideas covered in Dooku: Jedi Lost and I’m curious to see how those final moments will be responded to not only by the character who experienced them but by others around them as well.
All in all, Light of the Jedi has made me excited to read more from the High Republic era. I am particularly excited to pick up the YA High Republic novel Into the Dark by Claudia Gray (2nd Feb) who is one of my favorite Star Wars authors. Until then, I will certainly be reading the middle-grade story A Test of Courage by Justina Ireland and young readers’ title The Great Jedi Rescue by Cavan Scott, both of which also come out today.
GeekMom received a copy of this book for review purposes.