It’s fair to say that Star Wars’ new multi-pronged literary initiative, Star Wars: The High Republic, got off to a good start. Charles Soule’s Light of the Jedi soared to the summit of The New York Times Best Sellers list with a #1 debut and the accompanying material of Young Adult and Junior novels and comics were met with adoration from fans around the world. With readers of all ages eagerly anticipating this new era of storytelling, it certainly meant a lot was riding on the second wave of High Republic stories. Luckily, Star Wars: The High Republic – The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott (published by Del Rey) delivers on every possible front.
Following the events of Light of the Jedi, The Rising Storm does what all great second installments accomplish by deepening the characters and raising the stakes to a devasting degree. It is incredibly difficult to encapsulate what The Rising Storm accomplishes concisely. When I try to speak about my experience with it, several emotions and feelings rush to the tip of my tongue. Captivating. Inspiring. Brutal. Spiritual. Sensual. Debilitating. The main takeaway is that any reader ready to take the plunge into this novel should be prepared to FEEL because Scott hits you at the same level General Veers hit Echo Base’s shield generator: Maximum Firepower.
Light of the Jedi was a triumphant read, both emotionally and in terms of plot. However, by the end, Soule really lays some groundwork for the darkness that is to come, and after reading that playbook, Scott comes in and executes in the Rising Storm. This novel is Darkness. A horrible, rumbling, foreboding sense of evil on the rise that is not looking to relent. Scott achieves this storytelling primarily by focusing on several characters who are really getting to shine for the first time in this era. I would say the standouts are Elzar Mann, Ty Yorrick, and Stellan Gios because they are characters who complicate the narrative of who we believe heroes are in this era. Mann continues to struggle with a vision of doom he feels powerless to stop and plays in emotional areas we have never really seen a Jedi navigate. Yorrick is essentially, if you’ll allow a reference to another fictional universe, a Force-sensitive Witcher whose path has been guided by who is offering the highest number of credits. Gios holds the morality of a vintage Jedi hero and certainly appears the part.
You rarely find yourself rooting against him, but Stellan’s complications come from the future he is symbolizing. Knowing what we know about the role of the Jedi Order in the Prequel era, he appears to be one of the first steps toward the clouded, politically-minded Jedi. His new responsibilities as a Council member have him working in conjunction with the Chancellor more often and you can begin to track how the Order came to be the home of the Prequel Jedi we know and love who were so blinded by the machinations of the Senate (and of a Sith Lord, to be fair) that they could not prevent their own downfall. These three imperfect heroes end up being the perfect lenses through which to show a galaxy that appeared to be in its zenith but is truly teetering on its breaking point.
Of course, the story is not complete without observing the main antagonists assaulting that galactic breaking point. The Nihil continue to develop into a ruthless foe, united in their hate for the Republic and the Jedi but riddled with the distrust and back-stabbing power struggles you would expect to come from a society with no real moral center. While entrusting the responsibilities of fighting the Republic to his Tempest Runners, resulting in the incredibly epic, action-packed attack on the Republic Fair, Nihil leader Marchion Ro delves into a long-lost galactic secret that is in equal parts awe-inspiring and horrifying. By the novel’s end, you truly wish some secrets had remained hidden. The increasingly unstable Ro is determined to inflict tragedy upon the heroes of the Republic and through his actions, we truly begin to see what is at stake in this phase of the conflict.
Which, much to the terror of all readers, is where this novel ends. Cavan Scott leaves us with the cliffhanger of our nightmares. One final twist of the knife before he thanks us for reading his novel. It is simply one of the most sadistically brilliant endings to any installment of a Star Wars story and it propels this first phase of High Republic storytelling into its final wave. What awaits in Wave 3 and then eventually Phase 2 has fans of the era in a feverish state, and anyone curious about what kind of power The High Republic can wield needs to get on board with this novel.
If you have yet to read any of Cavan’s work, the prowess of his craft is so evident in this book and he really shows why he has been entrusted to be on the creative Dream Team for this initiative. Earlier I said it was hard to concisely encapsulate or explain what this story accomplishes, but it took me several hundred words to realize that might not be true. Simply put, this novel is pure, unchained brilliance. Anyone who loves emotionally impactful storytelling, let alone Star Wars, will find it to be a vital piece of art.
Star Wars: The High Republic – The Rising Storm is available to purchase at all bookstores.