High Republic Wednesday: My Ranking of the HR Books

It’s no secret that I LOVE the High Republic era of Star Wars. My favorite aspect of Star Wars has always been the Jedi, and the High Republic focuses on the Jedi of this time period–who they are and what makes them tick. It’s awesome.

Having said that, I do have favorites out of all the adult and young adult novels of Phase One that have come out this past year, and in this post I’m going to rank them and give my reasons for their position on the list.

I thought it would be fun to show the alternate covers of each book (if there are any), instead of the usual, often dorky, covers of Jedi holding lightsabers. Let’s get started!

  1. The Fallen Star, by Claudia Gray (Third adult novel)
The Fallen Star alternate cover. This is such a powerful image.

The Fallen Star is the third and final adult novel of Phase One, and it’s my favorite because 1. Claudia Gray is a fantastic storyteller, and 2. it’s a nail-biting, heartbreaking finale where the Jedi obviously lose in a big way, leaving you wondering where they’ll go from here. There are some painful deaths, a terrifying threat (to the Jedi themselves), some very sticky situations to get out of, and some really wonderful relationships that are explored. It’s truly a satisfying culmination to Phase One, while still leaving you breathless for more.

2. Into the Dark, by Claudia Gray (First YA novel)

I haven’t seen any alternate covers for Into the Dark.

Again, Claudia Gray is at the top of my list, because she just handles the characters and the story so well. It’s hard to impress me with a YA book, but she does so here. Maybe it’s because Reath Silas is my favorite Padawan, and he is heavily involved in the storyline in this book. It’s also the only book that deals directly with the Drengir (a threat that is mostly dealt with in the comics). The Drengir are carnivorous, evil tree-beings, and have the potential to be very silly (and hence work best in the comics), but she handles them well here, at least as well as they can be handled. She also introduces the Vessel crew in this book, and Leox and Geode are some of my favorite minor characters in the whole era.

3. Light of the Jedi, by Charles Soule (First adult novel)

Light of the Jedi alternate cover. I love how Ember is front and center.

The very first adult novel, and first High Republic book to come out, is a great read and does a fantastic job at introducing this new era and its Jedi. It’s clear we’re in a very different time period here, and have Jedi who are very different from the prequel Jedi; Soule does a wonderful job bringing them to life in this story. The book begins with the Great Disaster and the fallout from that event, as well as introduces the new villains, the Nihil.

4. The Rising Storm, by Cavan Scott (Second adult novel)

The Rising Storm alternate cover. Striking, but busy.

For some reason, it was hard for me to get into this book on my first read; but on my second read, I loved it. This book deals with the Nihil attack on the Republic Fair on the planet Valo. It’s executed quite well, and I love Elzar Mann’s story arc. There’s a lot going on here, with multiple points of view, but it all comes together wonderfully.

5. Midnight Horizon, by Daniel Jose Older (Third YA novel)

Midnight Horizon alternate cover. Not bad, but I think the original is way cooler.

I was excited for this book, as it starred Reath Silas again (among others), but I found it to be a slow start. It was well into the third act before it suddenly got very, very good. I suppose you could call it a slow burn leading up to the explosion, lol. It concerns Reath and his master, Cohmac Vitus, along with Jedi Master Kantam Sy and Padawan Ram Jomoram going to Corellia to investigate a possible Nihil threat there. One thing Older did very well is characterization, and the relationships between the characters. As throughout all of the High Republic stories, this one’s central theme is how the Jedi should deal with attachment and love, and their struggle with their emotions. Oh yeah, and the Nihil threat, lol. (Check out my review of the book here).

6. Out of the Shadows, by Justina Ireland (Second YA novel)

Out of the Shadows alternate cover, which shows some Nihil, in particular Lourna Dee, instead of the usual Jedi.

I had a hard time with this one. I’m guessing it’s because it didn’t mainly concern the Jedi; rather, it was about a young woman named Sylvestri Yarrow, a cargo pilot who lost her ship to the Nihil and who goes to Coruscant, first to tell the Republic about the Nihil activity, and second, to try to get her ship back. She gets pulled into a scheme involving a wealthy young man from the Graf family, a Nihil plot to create some kind of gravity weapon, and how her missing and presumed dead mother is involved in it all. The only interesting part was when she and Vernestra Rwoh run into Mari San Tekka, and the old woman gives Vernestra some coordinates that are still a mystery.

I’ve read the middle-grade books of Phase One–A Test of Courage, Race to Crashpoint Tower, and Mission to Disaster. They’re all quite good, but I don’t really have a favorite out of them. I’d rank them equally.

By the way, here’s a few more alternate covers I found:

The Rising Storm additional alternate cover. Again, I love Ember up on the rock! (But it’s still kind of dorky, lol).
Out of the Shadows additional alternate cover. More Nihil.

I can’t wait for Phase Two, which reportedly takes place 150 years before the events of this phase. It kind of threw me at first, but I’m confident the creators know what they’re doing and there’s a very good reason for this. I believe Phase Two starts in October of this year.

Thanks for reading. For light and life!

High Republic Wednesday: The Fallen Star Review

(There may be some spoilers for The Fallen Star in this post).

by Claudia Gray, PRINT ISBN: 9780593355398 E-TEXT ISBN: 9780593355404

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.

Padawan Burryaga helps during the crisis.

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.

Orla Jareni and her white double lightsaber.

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.

Leox Gyasi of the Vessel.

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.

Elzar Mann, reluctant leader.

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!

My Entertainment Weekend Update

Happy weekend, my friends!

So I FINALLY received The Fallen Star a week after it was released, and I’m loving everything about it so far. While Light of the Jedi focused on The Great Disaster, and The Rising Storm focused on the Nihil attack on the Republic Fair, this one deals with the insidious Nihil plot to take down Starlight Beacon. Not only do they cripple the station, but they smuggle something on board that affects a Jedi’s access to the Force. “Who will survive when the light of the Jedi goes dark?” I’m afraid to find out! I’ll write a review of the book once I’m done and post it here.

The Fallen Star alternate cover by Jama Jurabaev. It’s no secret the station is destroyed, so no spoilers here.

I just barely started the Wave 2 middle grade book Race to Crashpoint Tower, but since I received Fallen Star I haven’t been reading it. Once I’m done with Fallen Star I’ll get back to it, before the Wave 3 young adult novel Midnight Horizon comes out on Feb. 1. I’m in a High Republic tizzy!

This third wave of High Republic books concludes Phase One (Light of the Jedi) of the planned High Republic publishing initiative. Phase Two starts in the fall sometime, and it’s called Quest of the Jedi. I’ve heard that Phase two will take place 150 years prior to the setting of Phase one, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’m disappointed that we won’t be seeing most of the Jedi I’ve been reading about the past few months, and will have to start over with all new characters. One character in Phase one we’ll see in Phase 2 is Jedi Master Porter Engle, who is around 300 years old in the recent books, so he’ll be there 150 years ago. I imagine Yoda will be lurking around somewhere, too, though he hasn’t played a huge part in the High Republic yet (at least not in the novels). I’m just going to trust that the writers know what they’re doing, it’s all planned out, and every phase is going to connect with the others, and it’s going to be great. 🙂

Porter Engle, the “Blade of Bardotta.”

If you’re confused about the whole phase and wave stuff with the High Republic, here’s a handy chart:

  • Phase One: Light of the Jedi
    • Wave One: Light of the Jedi (Adult), Into the Dark (YA), A Test of Courage (MG)
    • Wave Two: The Rising Storm (Adult), Out of the Shadows (YA), Race to CrashpointTower (MG)
    • Wave Three: The Fallen Star (Adult), Midnight Horizon (YA), Mission to Disaster (MG)
  • Phase Two: Quest of the Jedi
  • Phase Three: Trials of the Jedi

I haven’t included the comics, in which a lot of events take place, too.

I enjoyed Episode Three of The Book of Boba Fett this past week, though there were some highs and some lows. If you’d like to read my review of the episode, go here.

In Marvel, I watched Eternals, and I really liked it. It felt kind of weird for a Marvel movie; it was just so different. I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy some new Marvel heroes, but since I fell in love with Shang Chi, I knew there was a good chance I’d accept them into the fold. I’m going to write a post on my thoughts on this movie for Monday, so stay tuned.

There’s a new (ancient) crew in town.

Speaking of Shang Chi, I watched Assembled: The Making of Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. I’ve enjoyed all the other making-of specials, and this one was no exception. I’m so amazed at this being Simu Liu’s first major film, and a Marvel film at that! What an amazing experience for him. And naturally since I watched the special, I wanted to rewatch Shang Chi itself, so I did. This is such a gorgeous movie with a profoundly moving family story. I especially enjoyed Ta Lo and the magical creatures there (that dragon!), and their Tai Chi-inspired fighting style is so beautiful and graceful. I just love everything about it!

That’s it this week. What’s been entertaining you? Let me know in the comments and we’ll talk about it!

My Entertainment Weekend Update

Happy Weekend my friends!

Last week, I wrote of my struggles to get through Ronin: A Star Wars Visions novel. I’m sad to report I haven’t made much progress on that book, but I still have hope I will finish it…someday.

In the meantime, I picked up Master & Apprentice, by Claudia Gray. It’s a re-read, but it’s one of my favorite SW canon books by one of my favorite SW authors. With the recent news that Hayden Christiansen will be in the Ahsoka series (OMG, yay!), it got me thinking about the upcoming Obi-Wan series, which naturally got me thinking about Obi-Wan himself, which led me to picking up this book. It’s a book about Padawan Obi-Wan and his relationship with Qui Gon Jinn, and an important mission, of course. I wrote about my thoughts on this book on my other blog The Star Wars Reader (which I’ve been shamefully neglecting lately), and you can read it here if you’d like.

This contains: Master & Apprentice (Star Wars)
This one’s definitely worth a reread.

On my Kindle, I’m still reading the middle-grade book Moving Target by Jason Fry and Cecil Castellucci, a story about Leia between Empire and Return of the Jedi. I’m enjoying it and will probably finish it this coming week and share more of my thoughts on it then.

In movies, continuing with the train of thought above with Obi-Wan, in reading Master & Apprentice I thought about The Phantom Menace, and so decided to watch it. Which naturally led to Attack of the Clones and then of course Revenge of the Sith. So there was an unplanned prequel marathon this week, and I keep thinking, How could I have not loved these back in the day? Lol. I was young and ignorant, prejudiced against anything new in Star Wars. I’m so glad I’ve seen the error of my ways. 🙂 I’ve learned, in my dotage, that I’m so happy with any kind of Star Wars that is offered, that they are gifts, and I am grateful, lol.

I will do what I must, and rewatch the prequels.

Anyway, in Marvel: I watched the 2015 version of Fantastic Four. I thought I’d check out this updated version, but I had a feeling I wouldn’t like it as much. And I was right. I guess this is supposed to be a more “woke” version, and Michael B. Jordan does add diversity to the group, while Sue Storm isn’t Reed’s romantic interest here, or as sexualized as Jessica Alba’s Sue was (yeah, I admit that was kind of cringy). But here’s the thing: the fun factor is absolute zero. There’s no chemistry whatsoever between the characters. And Dr. Doom’s madness stems more from a hatred of the world rather than a personal hatred of the F4, which makes him a bit…dull. The whole thing was dull, in fact, lol. I don’t see why it even had to be remade. I’m assuming it was kind of a flop, because there’s been no more movies with this crew, and I’m glad. I want a reunion with the original cast–now that would be fun!

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Not very fantastic.

That’s it this week. What’s been entertaining you lately? Let me know in the comments and we’ll talk about it!

A Star Wars Book Review Podcast: Bloodline

So here’s the podcast I’ve been yapping about lately. It’s short and sweet, basically just me reading off a tweaked hard copy of my review that I posted on The Star Wars Reader. I’m hoping to get better and a little more interesting as I go along, lol. Somehow.

Most Wanted, by Rae Carson The Star Wars Reader

I share my thoughts on the young adult novel Most Wanted, by Rae Carson. 
  1. Most Wanted, by Rae Carson
  2. Queen's Shadow, by E.K. Johnston
  3. Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel, by James Luceno
  4. Heir to the Jedi, by Kevin Hearne
  5. Kenobi, by John Jackson Miller

What do you think? Any advice for a newbie podcaster? Be honest, I can take it, lol.

Book Review: Bloodline

This is the first Star Wars canon novel I’ve read (besides the film novelizations), and I have to say, I’m impressed. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this book sucked me in like the sinking sands of Pasaana.

If you’ve ever wondered how the First Order came to power, how the New Republic failed and Leia came to lead the Resistance, this is the book for you.

It begins a few years before the events of The Force Awakens. Leia is a Senator in the New Republic at the capitol of Hosnian Prime. Han is running a ship-racing event in another system, and Ben is a teenager training with Luke at his Jedi Academy.

Mon Mothma is the Chancellor of the New Republic, but she’s absent due to illness and may never return. Without her clear guidance, the Senate has divided into two factions: the Populists, of which Leia is a member, and who believe individual worlds should mostly govern themselves; and the Centrists, who believe in a stronger galactic goverment and military.

These two factions bicker and blame each other in a way that is easily familiar to us, and just as frustrating. Leia stresses compromise to both factions, but no one wants to listen. The heroes of the Rebellion are still honored, but most have forgotten the pain and bloodshed of war; a great many weren’t even alive at the time, and tend to romanticize it. Leia senses trouble for the New Republic if they can’t bridge their differences.

After a statue dedication to Bail Organa, a Ryloth ambassador addresses the Senate and tells them that, after the fall of the Hutts, his people are now threatened by a new crime cartel led by the Niktos, led by Rinnrivin Di. Leia is concerned and volunteers to investigate the situation on Bastatha, but the Centrists decide to send one of their own with her, a young Senator named Ransolm Casterfo.

When she meets with him, Leia is horrified to find that Casterfo actually admires the Empire, and has a personal collection of artifacts in his office. Casterfo claims that he only admires the structure of the Empire, and not the Emperor who led it. As a Centrist, he believes in a strong central government, and that the “chaos” of a Populist government can help no one. They get into a testy debate, and she angrily leaves his office, convinced that their mission will be acutely uncomfortable.

She isn’t wrong, at first. But as they investigate the cartel and Rinnrivin Di, their mutual animosity turns to grudging respect, and as the book goes on, understanding and even friendship. That friendship, however, is tested, not only by politics, but by Leia’s very personal secret she’s kept from everyone for decades: that Vader is her father.

I love that this book explores Leia’s thoughts and feelings about her parentage, which we don’t hear too much about anywhere else. Not only about Anakin/Vader and Padme, but her adoptive parents, Bail and Breha Organa.

I love that, even though we don’t see Han Solo too much in the book, they share sweet intergalactic phone calls, with no hint of the bickering they’re famous for, or the eventual split caused by Ben’s turn. By this point, they have a mutual understanding of how their marriage works best, and the love between them is clear.

I love the references to past events, like Leia’s killing of Jabba (which turns out to be an important plot point here), or when Vader held her prisoner on the first Death Star and tortured her.

I love that, no matter which galaxy you’re in, politics and government are proven to be pretty much the same: a predictable shit-show.

Basically, I loved everything about this book. I would have loved to see and hear more of Ben, but I suppose that wasn’t the purpose of the book. Both Ben and Han are out of her reach most of the time, and it’s Leia’s story all the way.

Claudia Gray is a wonderful writer, and I highly recommend this book to any Star Wars fan who wants a little more insight into Leia and pre-TFA events.