Star Wars: The High Republic - LIGHT OF THE JEDI Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Star Wars: The High Republic - LIGHT OF THE JEDI Review

Alexander Wallace signs up for the future of Star Wars.
There’s a certain melancholy that comes from everything in the Star Wars franchise set before and up to Revenge of the Sith. The entire prequel era, barring the Old Republic components of the Legends canon (which I regret to say I am not terribly familiar with; you may revoke my Star Wars fan card now should you be so inclined), is a story about decline of a Republic and the decay of a democracy into something nightmarish. You watch or read all of this with the foregone conclusion that all the pomp of yesteryear will soon be one with whatever interstellar Nineveh and Tyre there may be in that universe.

Not so with The High Republic, Disney’s new initiative for the franchise. The sequel trilogy was entertaining but obviously something improvised film to film, and ultimately serves poorly as a springboard to the further adventures that we Star Wars fans love. It was a great pleasure to see that the Star Wars team has seemed to learn their lesson with The Mandalorian, and they have taken that lesson to heart with Light of the Jedi, the first adult novel in The High Republic.
For the first time in the new canon you see the Galactic Republic in its prime. This is not Rome under the First Triumvirate, or the Weimar Republic, or any other decaying regime propped up by rotting struts. This is a galaxy that can flourish in the Force’s blessing, one that is prosperous and governed by people who legitimately care for the popular good. The prequel trilogy, and the spinoff media that it spawned, were in the twilight of a golden age. This book succeeds wonderfully in portraying that golden age (and it’s not for nothing so much of The High Republic’s livery is in gold).

The broader conflict in Light of the Jedi feels different from either the Clone Wars or the Galactic Civil War or the conflict of the Sequel Trilogy; it is not a spacebound version of the American Civil War or the Vietnam War or the Soviet War in Afghanistan (to which I like to compare the sequels). This feels more like the Huns or the Mongols or the Timurids laying utter waste to settled empires. The book seems to be setting off a war between city-dweller and nomad; I think it’s not for nothing that the first thing these new villains attack is an agricultural system.

The action here is very good; I am tempted to compare Charles Soule’s efforts to those of Timothy Zahn, and the Star Wars fan will know that such a comparison is high praise. I won’t give too much away, but there is some truly terrifying carnage that is wrought on large scales in this novel that reminded me somewhat of the terrifying rampage of the ‘teardrop’ in Cixin Liu’s The Dark Forest. His space combat and land combat are also both good, ensuring that the novel is perfect in this regard.

Overall, I liked the characters within the pages of Light of the Jedi, who give a good overview of the sort of people The High Republic will portray. You have an actually benevolent chancellor, for one, and multiple Jedi masters who have force abilities never yet seen in the franchise and yet are completely believable. You have pilots and knights and padawans; there’s one master-student pair whose adventures felt the most quintessentially Star Wars; there is a great little sequence in the first third involving a challenge to use a lightsaber that could have been right out of the original trilogy. However, some of the characters aren’t developed enough to be truly interesting, rather than just circumstantially interesting; here it is clear that Soule is setting up a much broader series (a second book has already been announced and titled The Rising Storm, to be written by Cavan Scott), which led to the roster being a bit too cluttered. There are times that I would very much have appreciated a dramatis personae.

But the Galaxy Far, Far Away has always been vast. Light of the Jedi does a good job of showing you many different parts of the galaxy, and gives a lasting impression of the vastness inherent to the franchise. Overall, setting and character both, this book is absolutely engrossing. If this is the future of Star Wars, there is much to look forward to.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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