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Star Wars: The High Republic - Light of the Jedi Review: A Bold Welcome To A New Era


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Charles Soule's new Star Wars novel, Light of the Jedi, is a delight to read - and successfully introduces readers to The High Republic Era. The Star Wars franchise is changing shape after the completion of the third movie trilogy in the Skywalker Saga, with Lucasfilm Publishing once again blazing the trail. They're preparing to launch one of the most ambitious transmedia initiatives in the history of Star Wars, introducing readers to The High Republic era - a time period 200 years before the events of Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.

In the original 1977 Star Wars film, Obi-Wan Kenobi described a lightsaber as "an elegant weapon for a more civilized age." The High Republic is the time, an age before the shroud of the dark side fell upon the galaxy and the Sith ascended. The Jedi of The High Republic are essentially the Knights of Camelot, legends whose tales will be told for generations to come. The Sith still exist, but they are operating in the shadows, wary of tipping their hand. Instead, the villains of The High Republic Era are a new group known as the Nihil. In Light of the Jedi, it falls to writer Charles Soule to introduce readers to The High Republic, to its greatest heroes, and to the Nihil.

The basics of Soule's story have already been revealed, with Lucasfilm publishing the first eight chapters online in an ebook sampler. The plot kicks off with an incident involving a starship breaking apart while travelling in Hyperspace. Chunks of debris come raining down on the Hetzal system; each of the pieces is moving at just under lightspeed, meaning anything they impact is utterly destroyed. The scale of the disaster is potentially apocalyptic, but fortunately a group of Jedi arrive on the scene to help. And that is just the beginning of an epic tale that soon threatens to consume the galaxy.

 

The Jedi stand at the center of Charles Soule's story. But the Jedi of The High Republic Era are very different to those of the prequel movie trilogy. As Soule explained at The High Republic panel at New York Comic Con 2020, this is a time before Yoda's interpretation of the Force became dominant. In this more individualistic age, every Jedi is encouraged to interpret the Force for themselves. The main character is Avar Kriss, a Jedi Master who experiences the Force as music, and this understanding allows her to perform feats greater than anything seen in the Disney era of Star Wars to date. Soule is a veteran Star Wars writer, having written some of the best Marvel Star Wars comics, and his understanding of Jedi and the Force allows him to capture these feats in prose. The action is breathtaking, and the power on display is remarkable. Soule fulfils his promise to redefine the Force, and it will be thrilling to see what other writers can contribute to the Star Wars High Republic lore.

The Nihil have been advertised as "space Vikings" with a philosophy of theft, but that's frankly an oversimplification. They're a lot more complex than that, with a well-crafted society and culture all of their own. While the Nihil appear to be functionally extinct by the time of the all too familiar Skywalker saga, they do have an unexpected legacy; there's a subtle link between their origin and the sequel trilogy, of all things, which is cool but feels a little strained. One of their devices, a mysterious technology described as a "Path Engine," is driving the plot right now in Simon Spurrier's Doctor Aphra series, so you might find a few clues in that book.

There's a lot of pressure riding upon Charles Soule's Light of the Jedi. It falls to Soule to introduce a whole new time period, one Lucasfilm is so confident of they've already committed to a tie-in Disney+ TV series, Acolyte. Fortunately Soule is a skilled writer, and he pulls it off perfectly. The galaxy he introduces feels familiar and yet different, gripping in a way that's absolutely thrilling. The Jedi are a true force for good, and it's delightful to understand how they came to be revered, but the stakes are real because they can still be beaten. Light of the Jedi ends with a coda that will leave every Star Wars fan eager for more, as one Jedi realizes just how dangerous the Nihil could be...

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