Back in January, the High Republic era of Star Wars launched with the release of Light of Jedi. Several more High Republic titles have come out in the interim but today sees the release of the direct follow-up to Light of the Jedi as author Cavan Scott takes the reins with The Rising Storm which is set just a few months after the events of the previous book.
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As The Rising Storm opens, Chancellor Lina Soh is getting ready to host The Republic Fair—”a showcase of the possibility and peace of the expanding Republic.” The fair is going ahead with the help of the Jedi despite warnings from Elzar Mann who saw visions of a great catastrophe on the planet Valo where it is scheduled to take place. Mann has now been stationed on Valo for some time and has grown complacent, as have many other Jedi, regarding their ability to keep the fair and its visitors safe.
Meanwhile, the Nihil—a group of marauders intent on sewing chaos in the expanding Republic—are biding their time at their hidden base. In-fighting between the factions of the group is growing with many among their number angry at what they see as hiding rather than taking the fight to the Jedi, and some are even thinking of mutiny against the Nihil’s leader—Marchion Ro. Ro, for his part, is focused entirely upon the experiments he and his sadistic doctor are performing upon Loden Greatstorm, the Jedi Master they captured at the end of the previous book, as he schemes toward a devastating blow for the Jedi.
As thousands of Jedi, politicians, diplomats, and civilians descend on Valo, so do the Nihil with nothing more on their minds than destroying the Spirit of Unity the fair is supposed to invoke. Can the Jedi put an end to the carnage or will the Nihil prove themselves a more formidable foe than even the Jedi at the height of their powers are capable of defeating?
The vast majority of The Rising Storm takes place on Valo around the beginning of the Republic Fair and the world-building around this event was second to none. The Republic Fair itself is clearly based on real events such as the World’s Fair and the descriptions of the dozens of pavilions filled with attractions including exotic wildlife, historical artifacts, cultural performances, and more, made me wish I could step through the page and visit more than almost any previous Star Wars content ever has. There is even an ongoing joke throughout the book about an attraction named United in Song that features an “unforgettable” melody sung by children from dozens of planets—a clear, good-natured jibe at It’s a Small World which debuted at the 1964 New York World’s Fair before moving to Disneyland.
I have to admit that I found the opening third of this book rather slow and not always easy to follow. In the beginning, every chapter introduced another character (or several) on another planet in another situation, and with so much going on, I struggled to keep track of who was where and doing what. This was especially noticeable because this is a sequel and so the recurring characters from the previous book get little to nothing in the way of introduction (I would highly suggest reading a recap of The Light of Jedi before diving into this one if your memory is anything like mine). However, once the story settled down and really got going, I genuinely fell in love with The Rising Storm.
Once again, Bell Zettifar was a stand-out character for me as we get to watch him work through his grief at the loss of his Master. These emotional scenes are also given extra emotional weight because we as readers know from the beginning that Master Greatstorm is still alive and being held in such a way that he is cut off from the Force. I do feel that some readers may be disappointed by how little Avar Kriss appears in this book given her importance in book one, but this allows two of her fellow Jedi Masters, Stellan Gios and Elzar Mann, to step forward into the spotlight and it is from their perspectives that we witness much of the events on Valo.
I found Mann to be especially interesting in The Rising Storm, as were many of the surprising and even shocking choices he makes throughout the book which are bound to have significant repercussions moving forwards into future High Republic books. Gios appealed less to me as a character, but I still appreciated his perspective and voice as a high-ranking Jedi in this era, and he had some truly standout moments, as did several other non-Jedi characters. I was also pleased that this story contained far fewer chapters from the perspectives of the Nihil characters who were my least favorite voices in Light of the Jedi, and as in that book, I was happy to spot some positive LGBTQ representation scattered throughout the pages as well.
Overall, The Rising Storm continues the core High Republic story in an exciting and dramatic style that balances character and plot-based elements very well. I felt like I got to know many of the characters much better in this latest addition and cared about them far more this time around, but there was also plenty of world-building and interesting plot development regarding the threat of the Nihil which I am looking forward to seeing continue in the next book. Although I found the beginning of this installment to be weaker than I would have hoped, the middle section was truly excellent and reminded me of classic adventure movies filled with unique action sequences and genuinely believable peril, keeping me on the edge of my seat for chapter after chapter.
I can’t see The Rising Storm winning over too many new readers who didn’t already like Light of the Jedi, but for those who did enjoy that first High Republic outing, this is a solid next step in the journey.