I don’t have a lot to report this week. I’ve been reading Mission to Disaster, by Justina Ireland, the middle-grade High Republic book recently out, and I’m almost done with it. I don’t usually do reviews for the middle grade books, but I might do so this time. It’s quite good.
Other than that, March is looking wide open as far as books and shows go. Moon Knight premieres on the 31st, but other than that, there’s no Star Wars or Marvel show that I can think of that will fill up the month. There’s also no big book releases. The months of April through August (at least) will keep me busy with a new book release per month, but March? Zip. What’s a Star Wars fan to do?
Well, catch up on other things, for one. I remembered I’d ordered Before the Awakening, by Greg Rucka, on my Kindle a while ago but never read for one reason or another. It’s a YA book (I think) that has some stories about Rey, Finn and Poe before the events of The Force Awakens. I’ll probably dig into that.
I’ve also ordered the combined comics of the Marvel High Republic series, as well as the High Republic Adventures. I’m pretty excited about this, as I’ve long wanted to read these comics. I’m not a huge comic fan, but I know that the story being told in the High Republic era encompasses both books and comics. There are characters that feature mainly in the comics (like Avar Kriss, Keeve Trennis, Skeer, and many others), as well as storylines that I feel are important to understand the totality of the High Republic era.
I also think that, with a storyline that has no live-action medium (or even an animation), the comics really fill in the look of the High Republic. What do these characters look like? What about the ships, and the droids, and other aspects of the High Republic that we’ve never seen before? The comics answer those questions and gives us a visual to latch onto. So yeah, I can’t wait to read these!
Oh, and by the way, we’ve got a cover for the YA book by Kiersten White about a young Obi-Wan Kenobi coming out on July 26th:
Obi-Wan looks pretty intense here, lol. Definitely on my pre-order list.
That’s really about it right now. What’s been entertaining you? Let me know in the comments and we’ll talk about it!
Daniel Jose Older’s YA novel Midnight Horizon is the third, and last YA offering in the first phase of the High Republic books, and it was an enjoyable read. It takes place just before and during the events of The Fallen Star, the adult novel by Claudia Gray that tells of the Nihil attack and destruction of Starlight Beacon.
The Nihil are also causing problems on Corellia (Han Solo’s home planet); while the marauders have long plagued the Outer Rim, most of the Inner Rim is complacent that they wouldn’t dare attack a Core world. They also believe that the Jedi and Republic forces have hunted down and destroyed most of the Nihil and that they’re not that big a problem anymore. Oh, how wrong they are.
Corellia is famous for its shipyards, and it makes sense that the Nihil would want to attempt to steal some ships for their own nefarious purposes. Their plan is surprisingly sophisticated, but it’s interrupted by a group of young people that include Jedi Padawans Reath Silas and Ram Jamoram (and their masters, Cohmac Vitus and Kantam Sy), and a young native with pink hair named Crash who runs a protection agency.
Most of the book is a slow burn of character development and setting up of events that lead to a huge, rather exciting climax in the last part of the book. I will admit that I wasn’t particularly wowed by the first part of the book, and Crash was not a character I found interesting in any way. I’m a little tired of brilliant adolescents who vacillate between teen angst and impossible feats of valor and wisdom. But that’s YA for you–I’m not the ideal reader.
The Jedi, of course, are exceptions to this very biased opinion of mine, lol. Reath Silas is my favorite High Republic Padawan, precisely because he originally was the bookish, studious type who, while quite skilled with the lightsaber, hoped that he never had to use it. He didn’t want adventures. He wanted to live in the Jedi Archives. And I could totally relate. But, over the course of several YA novels, he’s been forced into living a life of war with the Nihil, and it’s rather poignant to see him struggling with that transition. And I love seeing him mentor the younger Padawan Ram, who is also struggling with the transition. He just wants to tinker with machines.
Mostly I preferred the scenes with the older Jedi, Cohmac and Kantam. Until the very end of the book, they took a backseat to the younger characters, but they, too, had their own emotional struggles to deal with. Since Into the Dark, Cohmac has struggled with his emotions and the Jedi Order’s stance on how to deal with them (though the High Republic Jedi are still much more open with attachment and emotions than the prequel Jedi). Kantam Sy (a non-binary character) had even left the Order for a time when they were young, to explore their burgeoning need to explore life outside of the Jedi. They tell this story to Cohmac during some of their down times.
All the Jedi, Masters and Padawans alike, struggle with their emotions and their attachments to each other and others, as the story unfolds. Especially as they find out what’s happening to Starlight Beacon; they worry for their friends and struggle with rage against the Nihil.
Even Crash, who lost a good friend at the beginning of the book, struggles with attachment–she decides to distance herself from her other friends in order to prevent being hurt again in that way.
The end of the book was inarguably the best part, as it climaxes into a battle between the Jedi and their allies and the Nihil in the shipyards. And we get a surprise appearance from a familiar green friend, who has also figured into some of Kantam’s memories in the book.
In the end, this was a pretty good book, but I do prefer Claudia Gray’s Into the Dark, as far as YA High Republic novels go. I do like how we get to know Corellia a bit more during the High Republic, its politics and inner workings (and we get to see the Grindalids, the White Worm gangs that rule the sewers and underground passageways that we see in Solo: A Star Wars Story, and the book Most Wanted). And I finally got to see some of the characters from the comics, like Lula Talisola, Zeen Mrala, Krix, and others that Older created for his High Republic Adventures comics.
I would give Midnight Horizon 3.5 out of 5 lightsabers.
Have you read Midnight Horizon? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments and we’ll talk about it!
(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.
I would give The Fallen Star 4.5 out of 5 lightsabers.
Have you read The Fallen Star? What did you think? Let me know in the comments and we’ll talk about it!