Disney officially kicked off its new Star Wars initiative, The High Republic, last week with the publication of Charles Soule’s Star Wars: Light of the Jedi. The novel takes place roughly 200 years before the events of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, with the Republic at the height of its power and the Jedi at the peak of their nobility.
Welcome to The High Republic
Light of the Jedi launches Phase I of The High Republic, which will run through 2021 and into 2022, consisting of interlinking novels, comics, and (at least one) television series.
While the story is mostly untethered from the more recognizable Skywalker Saga, there are links to characters, creatures, and locations from the classic Star Wars galaxy that help readers orient themselves during this exciting new adventure.
Aside from the occasional reference to Yoda or the inclusion of the San Tekkas (Lor San Tekka, played by Max von Sydow, appears briefly in The Force Awakens), however, Light of the Jedi is refreshingly new and inventive. Its cast is diverse and dynamic, featuring Jedi of every shade and shape, introducing the idealistic Chancellor Lina Soh, and other characters who will theoretically populate future works in this era.
Soule has given us new legends to love, new legions to fear, and crafted a mystery that will be a joy to unravel over the next several years.
Last Light of a Golden Age
The story focuses on a looming threat facing the Republic, as a group of marauders in the Outer Rim, known as the Nihil, begin using hyperspace in ill-advised ways and cause a freighter, the Legacy Run, to tear itself apart while en route to its destination.
The first third of the book revolves around a rescue team of Jedi and Republic officials attempting to avert disaster when the wreckage of that freighter begins exiting hyperspace and colliding with planets, space stations, etc. Their work is doubly complicated by the revelation that passengers from the freighter have survived the accident and are trapped within the debris hurtling through space, forcing the rescuers to find alternatives to blowing up the debris before it causes mass devastation.
After this first crisis is dealt with (referred to as an “Emergence” in-universe), identical catastrophes begin occurring throughout the Outer Rim as other pieces of the Legacy Run begin appearing at random throughout the galaxy.
Attempting to predict when, where, and why the wreckage appears is the driving force of the Republic’s side of the story for the next two-thirds of the novel, and draws in Jedi, Republic officials, and other, tangential residents of the galaxy far, far away. There are sub-conflicts within this, as our heroes engage the Nihil in skirmishes across the galaxy on land and in space.
The (Original) Phantom Menace
On the other side of the conflict, the Nihil are attempting to capitalize on the disaster, with their leader, Marchion Ro, using special hyperspace routes (called “Paths”) to give his raiders an advantage in their work. The source of the Paths, a mystery to the other Nihil, I won’t spoil, but is cool and weird in all the right ways for Star Wars.
Ro’s largely left a mystery in this book, but is ultimately revealed to be the primary antagonist of this era, as he transitions from a symbolic position of power (a role he inherited from his dead father) to the true ruler of the Nihil.
He consolidates his strength, and, as the book goes on, alludes to a greater purpose for himself and his crew, as well as a more nefarious past that will be explored in future High Republic installments.
The Nihil, wearing fearsome masks and relying on various forms of poison gas to aid them in their work, make for entertaining, effective villains. Due to the constraints of existing Star Wars canon, this era can’t have a Sith for its Big Bad (at least not openly), forcing Soule (and the other writers who helped develop The High Republic) to try something different here.
The results are positive, with the Nihil’s leadership presenting a legitimate threat to the galaxy while also having enough individual quirks and preferences to make following their misdeeds fun (my personal favorite is the Nihil leader who listens to “wreckpunk” to hype himself up for combat).
As a fan of Soule’s work in Star Wars comics, I was excited to see him tackle a prose novel in the galaxy far, far away, and he didn’t disappoint. Light of the Jedi is a thrilling calling card for the potential of the new High Republic era and is sure to excite fans and entertain newcomers to the wider world of Star Wars media that exists beyond the films.
This is a great jumping-on point for a journey that will unravel over several years and, hopefully, make a serious mark on the Star Wars mythos. I, for one, will be first in line to pick up a copy of the next book in this series, and in the meantime I’ll be coming up with really, truly godawful fan theories about Marchion Ro that the other nerds on Reddit can tear to pieces.
You can purchase a copy of Star Wars: Light of the Jedi here.
If you’re interested in the other books we’re geeking out over, check out Geek Guy Buys: Read!