I’ve been looking forward to this book for a long time now, the idea of the “High Republic Era” was fascinating to me. No Sith or Empire thanks to this being set 200 years before Phantom Menace, and therefore 800 years into the “it’s been 1,000 years since a Jedi has seen a Sith” line in the aforementioned film. Due to the complete lack of the Dark Side of the Force clouding any judgment the Jedi here are on a whole other level, but the villains of the piece shine as well, being quite unlike anything seen the long-running series before. Want to know more? Read on!
When a shocking catastrophe in hyperspace tears a ship to pieces, the flurry of shrapnel emerging from the disaster threatens an entire system. No sooner does the call for help go out than the Jedi race to the scene. The scope of the emergence, however, is enough to push even Jedi to their limit. As the sky breaks open and destruction rains down upon the peaceful alliance they helped to build, the Jedi must trust in the Force to see them through a day in which a single mistake could cost billions of lives.
Even as the Jedi battle valiantly against calamity, something truly deadly grows beyond the boundary of the Republic. The hyperspace disaster is far more sinister than the Jedi could ever suspect. A threat hides in the darkness, far from the light of the age, and harbors a secret that could strike fear into even a Jedi’s heart.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Avar Kriss, Elzar Mann, Loden Greatstorm and… that Wookie Padawan that I can’t remember the name of. … Hooray!
The first part of the book, subtitled “The Great Disaster”, is where the book shines brightest. A large ship called “The Legacy Run” is in hyperspace, which at this point was only available through certain specific lanes, and encounters an object in its path, something that’s supposed to be impossible. It tries to swerve but ends up breaking apart and each part of the ship is then fired out of hyperspace at crazy speeds and in seemingly random places, which soon puts a hell of a lot of people in danger. This is where we’re introduced to a lot of a Jedi characters that will be presumably filling the pages of the books and comics in the next few years. The main ones, at least for this book, are Avar Kriss, a female Jedi who perceives the Force as music and is extremely skilled at “conducting” it, Elzar Mann, a male Jedi who sees the Force as an endless ocean to explore and is considered a wild card by the Jedi council for his constant attempts to create new ways of using the Force, and Loden Greatstorm, a Twi’lek Master who has some unconventional teaching methods, and his Padawan Bell Zettifar, who … well, is a normal human male who is learning the ways of the Force. He has a good sarcastic personality though! They’re great fun to follow through the long story.
The Jedi, along with several non-Force using members of the High Republic navy, arrive at the Hetzal system when it calls for help as several large chunks of the Legacy Run were heading towards their planets and would most likely wipe them out entirely. Although some space stations worth of people and a few Jedi lose their lives, Avar manages to guide everyone into moving several of the pieces away, with the Jedi using their entirely Force-powered ships called Vectors, which frankly sound cool as hell. This leads to a bunch of chapters of people trying to find the cause and predict where the last few pieces will appear, and it’s here that we’re properly introduced to the Nihil. They’re a group of raiders who are organised with three head honchos called “Tempest Runners”, who each have “Storms” who govern over “Clouds” who govern over “Strikes”. Each of the three Runners pretty much operate independently from each other, but all three have to pay lip service to “The Eye”, who has the ability to see paths through hyperspace that the Republic have no idea about. The Eye is called Marchion Ro and he’s the lead antagonist here, looking down on his own Tempest Runners and clearly having far more to his backstory than “he has the ability to see the paths”, especially since he actually can’t create the paths and instead he has a woman named Mari San Tekka kept barely alive in his ship, the “Gaze Electric”, who does it for him.
Machiron Ro certainly ticks the “cool mask” requirement of most Star Wars antagonists, anyway!
Anyway, the Nihil come unstuck when Tempest Runner Kassav tries to extort a planet for money by offering to protect them from the Legacy Run remnants that were heading their way as they have knowledge on where they’re going to appear. It all goes a bit wrong, by which I mean a large portion of the planet system is destroyed and he runs, all while showing the Galaxy that the Nihil have the ability to predict where the pieces are going to appear. The raiders are then put even more on the radar of the Jedi when Tempest Runner Lourna Dee fails to collect the Legacy Run’s black box, which ends up telling the Republic that the Nihil were behind the whole Great Disaster in the first place, the object the ship nearly ran into being a Tempest Ship. During all this a smaller band of Nihil try to kidnap some wealthy people on the planet Elphrona but run into a Jedi outpost that had Loden Greatstorm and Bell Zattifar on it, as well as two others. They chase the Nihil across the planet and then into space, but during a daring rescue Loden is captured…
Machiron Ro then organises Kassav to pretty much be a scapegoat, his entire third of the Nihil are sacrificed in a large space battle with the High Republic and the Jedi to convince them that the whole of the Nihil had been destroyed. During the battle Ro demonstrates his control over the Path Engines that allow the raiders to travel so easily across hyperspace by intentionally high-speed ramming other Nihil ships into Republic ones by making them do tiny hyperspace jumps. Ro then gathered the rest of the Nihil, removed his helmet and promised that the new Nihil, led personally by him, would be better than the last, and would even strike at targets in the Galactic inner planets. He then visits Greatstorm, who he is keeping in place by having a bunch of innocent people randomly suffering around him to cloud his use of the Force, a method he learned from his father. Apparently his family has had dealings with the Jedi in the past… All very mysterious, but sets up the coming stories well.
The prose is good too, for the record, given it had to introduce a new… everything, it was easy to keep up with and epic in scope.
A nice bit of artwork based on the battle on Elphrona that I barely touched on (so as not to be here all day…)
Not really anything, it’s fresh feeling Star Wars, both with how the Jedi are presented, how the universe works and the Nihil are completely different to the Empire or its prequel and sequel equivalents.
That being said there was a character called “Peeples”, which just sounds… stupid. There was a character called Captain Bright though, which I will assume is a Gundam reference, though I guess it could be a coincidence… *shrugs*
A couple of Nihil. I tell ya, all this artwork / concept art at least made this book review more visually interesting!
The High Republic is off to a great start with Light of the Jedi. As mentioned in the paragraph above, it’s extremely fresh but also clearly Star Wars, and despite having so many new characters, ships and concepts it was easy to keep up with due to how clearly a mental image author Charles Soule painted of the world and its characters. I’m really interested in where they go with the Nihil, and seeing just how exactly the Jedi Order fell so much in 200 years…