(There may be some spoilers for The Fallen Star in this post).
The Fallen Star, by Claudia Gray, is the third adult book in Phase One of The High Republic series, and it does a great job of wrapping up the “beginning of the end” of the the Jedi and The Republic at their very best.
This trilogy has shown the rise of the Nihil, a group of anarchist mauraders who take what they want, when they want, without regard to the lives of others. In Light of the Jedi, the Nihil cause the Great Disaster; in The Rising Storm, they attack the Republic Fair on Valo; and in this book, they insidiously attack the star of Chancellor Lina Soh’s Great Works, Starlight Beacon. Meant to be a light in the darkness of space across the Outer Rim, the state-of-the-art space station is home to a Jedi contingent, an advanced medical bay, and a place of refuge for people who need help.
Once again, the Republic and the Jedi believe the Nihil threat is nearly over, but they are wrong. They have no idea the Eye of the Nihil, their leader, is Marchion Ro, who has worked in the shadows, and who has sent a secret group of followers to the station to incapacitate it. They’ve also smuggled a creature onboard that somehow affects a Jedi’s connection to the Force. So when things start to go wrong, the Jedi are weakened.
Jedi Master Stellan Gios has stepped in as Marshall while Avar Kriss is on a mission to find Lourna Dee, who the Jedi believe is the Nihil leader. Elzar Mann, his good friend and fellow Jedi Master, has joined following a sabbatical after struggling with the dark side in the previous book. Elzar is accompanied by Orla Jareni, a Jedi who has become a Wayseeker, or one who explores the Force on their own, outside of the Order. Also on the station are Jedi Master Nib Assek and her Padawan, the Wookiee Burryaga, Jedi Master Indeera Stokes and her Padawan Bell Zettifar (along with his charhound, Ember, of course), and a Jedi we haven’t seen yet, Regald Coll (who happens to think he’s hilarious).
Also on board are pilots Affie Hollow, Leox Gyasi, and Geode from the Vessel (all were in Gray’s YA book Into the Dark); Nihil collaborators Chancey Yarrow and Nan, who were brought on board as prisoners; as well as several other pilots who happened to be on the station when things start to go wrong.
The Nihil saboteurs manage to sneak on board, cut communications, disable the escape pods and just about everything else; then blow up part of the station which causes them to move into the pull of the planet Eiram’s gravity (the station had been on a mission to help the planet after a devastating storm). So basically Starlight will eventually fall into the planet’s atmosphere and plummet to the surface, presumably killing all on board and a good portion of a coastal city on Eiram.
The Jedi begin a problem-solving mission, but their efforts are sabotaged by the mysterious creature that is roaming the station–one that instills crippling fear and paralysis in any Jedi who comes near, blocks their access to the Force, and that will literally suck the life out of them, reducing them to dry husks if they don’t get away. Several Jedi fall prey to this creature, whose description is deliberately vague, from the disoriented and terrified Jedi’s point of view.
The entire story takes place on the station (except for the few brief scenes with Marchion Ro on his ship), which leads to a kind of claustrophobic feeling, a feeling of urgency and anxiety.
The most interesting character arc in the book for me is Stellan’s–Stellan is a picture-perfect Jedi, the poster boy for the Jedi Order and the face of the Jedi for the Republic. Now, he’s cut off not only from the Order but from the Force itself, and Stellan is having an identity crisis. He doesn’t know who he is outside of the Order or without his connection to the Force, and it seriously affects his confidence. The very name of the book, in my opinion, not only refers to Starlight Beacon, but to Stellan himself. His friends, Elzar and Avar, had always referred to him as their “polestar,” a moral compass for them both. But now Stellan barely knows which way is up, lol.
Elzar, too, struggles in this story. When he is on retreat with Orla, he comes to realize his descent into dark-side emotions is a result of his denial of his feelings for Avar. Interestingly, I think Elzar is a foil to Anakin. Anakin struggles with similar emotions, and I think he would have done much better during the High Republic. First of all, when Elzar recognizes the dark side in his emotions and actions, he goes straight to his friends, confident that they will help him. And they do. He gets support, love, tears and hugs, special retreats. He’s taught to deal with these emotions, not bury them, not deny them. It’s a different situation, but I can’t help but think of Anakin’s mishandling when I read about Elzar.
Anyway, Elzar has decided to back off from the Force for awhile until he feels confident he’s dealt with these things properly, and as a result, doesn’t initially feel the disorientation the other Jedi feel on the station. This forces him to step up and become a leader when Stellan is out of commission, something he’s never felt comfortable with, and does a fine job. But Elzar isn’t completely out of the dark side woods yet.
I wish Avar were more a part of this story, but she’s been featured mostly in the comics, so even though she arrives on the station at some point, her part in this story is told in a comic. This frustrates me a bit–I want more of her, and of other characters that have been exclusively in the comics, like Keeve Trennis and Skkeer, but I can barely keep up with the books, never mind the comics (financially anyway, lol). I’m hoping for an omnibus of the High Republic comics soon, so I can get it all in one place, at once.
But that’s a minor complaint. It’s an excellent book, and ends this phase in a dramatic and foreboding way. I’m sad that we won’t see these characters again for awhile, as Phase Two is going even further back in time, to 150 years before this story. I’m disappointed about that, but have faith that the writers know what they’re doing. At least the next book in this wave is a YA book called Midnight Horizon by Daniel Jose Older, and focuses on Jedi I got to know in Gray’s Into the Dark, Master Cohmac Vitus and Padawan Reath Silas.
Have you read The Fallen Star? What did you think? Let me know in the comments and we’ll talk about it!