The High Republic era continues (or continued at this point given how late this review is, but whatever…) as the next major novel arrives in “The Rising Storm”. It shifts focus away from the Beacon and some of the characters featured in “Light of the Jedi” and instead shows us a whole new crisis and focuses on some of the side characters from the previous novel alongside entirely new ones, overall expanding and fleshing out the cast as the story moves forward. Plus plenty more Nihil, which is always fun! So let’s take a closer look…
In the wake of the Great Disaster and the heroism of the Jedi, the Republic continues to grow, bringing more worlds together under a single unified banner. Led by Chancellor Lina Soh, the spirit of unity extends throughout the galaxy, with the Jedi and newly established Starlight Beacon station at the vanguard.
In celebration, the chancellor plans “The Republic Fair,” a showcase of the possibility and peace of the expanding Republic—a precept the Jedi hope to foster. Stellan Gios, Bell Zettifar, Elzar Mann, and others join the event as ambassadors of harmony. But as the eyes of the galaxy turn toward the Fair, so too does the fury of the Nihil. Their leader, Marchion Ro, is intent on destroying this spirit of unity. His storm descends on the pageantry and celebration, sowing chaos and exacting revenge.
As the Jedi struggle to curb the carnage of the rampaging Nihil, they come face to face with the true fear their enemy plans to unleash across the galaxy. The kind of fear that even the Force cannot shield them from.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Ty Yorrick, Stellan Gios and Bell Zattifar in the … I was going to say “flesh” but you know what I mean…
The book can pretty much be split into two halves: a long set up to the Republic Fair and then the Republic Fair itself. In the long set up we see a lot of little things that all end up coming together (almost as if the book was well structured or something!): Chancellor Lina Soh announces a galaxy-wide “Republic Fair” and Jedi Council member Stellan Gios is one of the core Jedi assigned to make sure her plan is a safe one. Elzar Mann, the friend of Light of the Jedi lead Avar Kriss who was referred to as untraditional in his use of the force is sent to oversee the Fair being put together on the planet Valo but is being haunted by visions of fire and death he has been having since the end of the previous book, made worse when Gios arrives instead of Kriss, upsetting him as she is normally a calming influence on him. Jedi Padawan Bell Zattifar along with his charhound Ember is having a hard time coping with the apparent loss of his Master Loden Greatstorm and even though his new Master Indeera Stokes is kind and knowledgeable she isn’t the same. The two take part in the battle in the lead up to the Fair as the Nihil attack the shipyard where the grand ship that is to be the centrepiece of the Fair is being built and Bell ends up impaled in his ship, only just hanging on long enough to be healed via the band new Bacta Tank technology.
Speaking of Loden he is still being frequently tortured by Nihil leader Machion Ro but is still not surrendering to the darkside, though he is starting to hear a voice in his head. Ro on the other hand spends the first half of the book on his home planet searching some hard-to-reach ice caves for an ancient bestial force that he collects using equally ancient technology then has to sort out further in-fighting between his Tempest Runners (the highest rank in the Nihil, apart from Ro himself, naturally) specifically Pan Eyta, who sees himself more worthy of the title of Eye than Machion. Pan is given a near-deadly shock by Ro’s helmet as a show of dominance, which he is unsurprisingly not to thrilled about. Fellow Tempest Runner Lourna Dee helps him to his feet, the two seemingly sharing the same viewpoint but both know better than to act on it for now. In terms of pre-Fair the only other important thing is new character Ty Yorrick, a “sword for hire” who was a former Jedi before leaving the order. She ends up on Valo when her latest contract needs a meeting there but the meeting goes south, made worse when a pair of Jedi intervene in Mann and Gios, the former taking her Lightsaber. The night before the Fair Elzar Mann ends up sleeping with Samera Ra-oon, a Valo diplomat who helped plan the event. While this isn’t up to the prequel era “immediately expelled from the Order” sized mistake in this era it is still clearly frowned upon and it makes him later for the Fair’s opening ceremony to top it all off…
As the Fair kicks off is grandiose fashion the Nihil attack en masse, specifically the entirety of Pan and Lourna’s forces, plus Ro’s Capital ship the Gaze Electric hovering in the skies above the planet. The massive Republic capital ship is shot down, the levitating platforms representing the worlds of the Republic fall to the floor and all hell breaks loose. Stellan Gios tries to protect the Chancellor by escaping on a new Walker but has to face Lourna one on one, among many other Nihil raiders, and in the end his survives but the leader of the Republic is injured. A jelly-like alien Jedi in a special suit fights off some Nihil in the Jedi temple display while Bell searches for the children of high-ranking members in the crashed ship and Ty escapes from her prison cell but instead of escaping off-world she hunts for her Lightsaber. Ty eventually comes across Elzar and takes her Saber back by force (as in against his will, not using the Force…) and leaves him at the mercy of a wild beast… but then has a change of heart and comes back to help him. The two work together and form a close bond, riding dragon-like creatures to fight Nihil ships but things eventually turn bad and Elzar ends up tapping into the Darkside to save a bunch of people, much to his and Ty’s distress.
The Republic Fair in all its glory…
Finally Bell and Indeera manage to board the Gaze Electric and it’s here where young Bell feels the presence of his old Master and so heads off to rescue him, at the same time the feelings of his former Padawan revives Loden Greatstorm a tad and he breaks free from his prison and tries to escape. Machion does his best to stop his old prisoner but fails as Bell, Loden and Indeera escape the ship and Ro gets a Jedi ship’s blaster in the face as he stood on the open bay doors. As the fighting on the planet’s surface begins to swing in the Jedi’s favour after the arrival of an allied planet’s armada Ro unleashes his captured ancient force on Bell and Loden, a force known as “The Great Leveller”. Bell is filled with so much negative Force energy that he ends up curled in a ball muttering to himself and Loden is mysteriously turned to stone, crumbling to dust when touched by Stellan. With the last laugh his Machion Ro leaves the area alongside Pan and an injured but alive Lourna. The whole Fair incident lasts a good half of the book and is told through the eyes of multiple characters. It’s great stuff, really gets you hooked.
The last few chapters deal with not only the fallout from the Fair, where the Chancellor and Stellan pretty much agree to unite with other worlds and directly fight the Nihil, something the Jedi feel uneasy about (that will change quite quickly! Well, in two hundred years it’ll have changed anyway…) and Pan once again decides he is more worthy of being leader of the Nihil due to his amazing handling of the Valo raid but is nearly poisoned to death by Machion for it… Lourna saves him and together they decide to go against Ro’s orders and attack a second Republic location straight away, but in reality he arrives with his fleet to find a large Republic Force waiting for him and no Lourna to back him up. Pan escapes in a pod, injured and still poisoned, heading to him home planet while Lourna is happy with another Tempest Runner out of the picture.
The Jedi are in a dark place for the first time in a long time (assuming everything has been pretty much peachy since ridding themselves of the Sith 800 years prior) and I can’t see it going much better from here on out. Again I can’t stress how refreshing it is to have a large Jedi Order fighting an entirely new kind of threat. Really feels like Star Wars but not any kind of Star Wars I’ve ever experienced before.
It’s the Target exclusive cover! … Honestly? It’s a bit crap, though at least it has Elzar Mann on it, I guess…
I will say that the first bunch of chapters are very slow going. If you’re not a quick reader (or only read for half an hour before bed each day like myself…) it can seem like nothing it happening for a long time, but I can promise you it does all pay off rather spectacularly. So stick with it, even if you’re having a hard timer to begin with.
I was disappointed that the artistic interpretation of the Force each Jedi had in the previous book turns out to be a flair of author Charles Soule rather than something that is going to be frequently featured, as it’s entirely absent from Cavan Scott’s writing here. Still a great book, but I really enjoyed that aspect of “Light of the Jedi”.
“The Rising Storm” is a masterclass is slow tension building and a great example of getting across a major disaster from many different angles through prose. The second High Republic novel and the second home run, I’m really loving this era. Knowing the next book is the last in the first phase of three phases worth of High Republic stories has me excited to see where we’re going from here…