Star Wars: The High Republic – Light of the Jedi, written by Charles Soule and published by Del Rey, kickstarts a brand new era in the Star Wars galaxy. The High Republic is a publishing initiative which tells multiple stories 100 years prior to Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, showing readers the Jedi during their heyday – looking after a relatively peaceful galaxy. These stories, which are being told through different companies such as Del Rey/Marvel/Disney Publishing, focus on how the Republic attempts to expand into the outer-rim – while facing a disaster hyperspace event and a new mysterious threat – the Nihil.
Light of the Jedi has a lot hinging on its success. As the first novel in this brand new period, I don’t envy Charles Soule’s task of introducing readers to this new set of characters & context for the galaxy in general. Thankfully, much like Soule’s work on other Star Wars properties (Marvel’s Star Wars, Lando, Darth Vader, etc), he manages to succeed and leave you desperate to read more about this period. The novel has an explosive opening that sets up the bulk of the problem that the Jedi have to face in the story, in fact, it felt almost like a Bond movie – with a pre-credits scene introducing how deadly these baddies can be.
Soule spends a good amount of time throughout the novel introducing this brand new age of Jedi, who resemble the noble keepers of the peace far more than the Jedi we see in the Prequel Trilogy (although one or two of those Jedi make appearances here). Reading about this diverse group of individuals who devote themselves to helping others just because it was the kind/right thing to do was actually really refreshing to read at the end of 2020, and no doubt a great way to kickstart off the new year. Of course, this is merely just coincidental – it was still uplifting to see how a galaxy could work together. It’s also an interesting reflection of the Jedi in Episodes 1-3, who feel very distant and distrustful of the politics of the Chancellor, whereas we see a more positive – almost symbiotic relationship between the Republic and these peaceful negotiators. Soule also introduces concepts very relatable to the prequel trilogy too, particularly regarding Avar Kriss and Elzar Mann, which is intriguing – especially if these enticing seeds plant into something bigger down the line.
The novel also sets up the villains of this new era, the Nihil – who feel very much like the pirates/highwaymen of the galaxy, with a post-apocalyptic twist that I’m sure would please George Miller. Much like the heroes of the story, Soule really diversifies these villains – they’re from different walks of life, class, species, but all with the joint goal of taking whatever they want, regardless of the consequences. In terms of criticism, you could argue that the Nihil feel very scattered and that their ramshackle existence feels very different to the specific goals of villains we’re used to like The Empire. However, I think that Light of the Jedi also acts as an origin for these villains as well – providing some extra context and fuel for later appearances. Thankfully, this story should grip you enough to follow through these other mediums/stories to find out what damage they will go on to cause.
I will admit that personally, I was very cautiously apprehensive about this new storytelling initiative. I love the storytellers chosen to bring these books and comics to life, but I wasn’t certain that I would enjoy the pre-skywalker saga stories. I can say without a single doubt, Light of the Jedi has removed all of these worries and I can’t wait to read more about these characters and their journey through the galaxy. Charles Soule writes an awe-inspiring entry that makes you fall in love with new protagonists, fear the new villains, and leaves you on the edge of your seat. I very much recommend picking up this book!
Star Wars: The High Republic – The Light of the Jedi will be released on January 5th, 2021 by Del Rey Publishing.