Light of the Jedi,Charles Soule’s introductory volume to the new Star Wars: The High Republic series of books and comics, takes us back a couple of centuries before the events of the movie Episode I — The Phantom Menace to a time when the Jedi Order and the Galactic Republic are both in their prime and more in sync than we’ve ever seen them. There are no Sith in sight (although that may change in the upcoming Disney+ TV series The Acolyte, which hints at dark side dealings at the end of the High Republic era, which technically extends to just 50 years before The Phantom Menace).
But an apparent lack of dark side doings doesn’t mean there are no dastardly threats brewing amid this galactic renaissance worth of the moniker “Star Wars.” Even as the Republic expands and attempts to bring order to the chaotic Outer Rim — which may be familiar as the setting of twin-sunned Tatooine in the movies — a cunning band of masked marauders are setting their own plans for supremacy in the shadows. And their actions will complicate life in a galaxy dependent upon an ever-growing network of hyperspace lanes.
The Emergences, a great disaster that threatens many of the Republic’s worlds, take all of the skill and creativity the Jedi of the High Republic, along with their government and military liaisons, can muster if they are going to save countless lives.
As this galaxy-spanning relief campaign unfolds, a kidnapping on a dusty world challenges a Jedi Padawan and his cohorts as the masked, marauding Nihil seek to score an Alderaanian ransom while the authorities are distracted — but there may be even more sinister motives behind the strike on Elphrona that will separate a master from his apprentice.
Fans of James S.A. Corey’s Expanse will find a lot to like here in the detailed rescue operations and space battles, which can be famously hard to re-create on the printed page in an engaging way that doesn’t drag on; Soule pulls it off here, along with all the political and (dare I utter it?) trade ramifications and machinations. This Republic is a political beast just as cutthroat as the one Palpatine will seize and pervert centuries later, and the massive organs of commerce here are just as powerful as those that will make up the Trade Federation and fuel the growth of the Empire and First Order.
The introduction of the hyperspace pioneer San Tekka family here — a connection to the late Max von Sydow’s character Lor from Episode VII — The Force Awakens — makes it clear that this is going to be an intricate saga of powerful clans with powerful secrets just as much as it is a sweeping epic of space and lightsaber combat. (Sounds like quintessential Star Wars to me!)
Although The High Republic series (once code-named Project Luminous) has been in planning since before the global pandemic, it definitely touches on themes that will strike a chord with readers in the COVID era — strict travel lockdowns imposed on large swathes of territory as fragments of a shattered starship emerge randomly from hyperspace to cause untold chaos, and arguments about “the cure being worse than the disease” as selfish government officials urge reopening and “getting back to normal” before it’s objectively safe to do so.
With the High Republic saga set to span three phases, and the first Light of the Jedi phase reportedly going into 2022, this is going to be a big part of the Star Wars universe for the foreseeable future. It will be intriguing to see how it may connect to the rise of a certain Sith Lord in Disney+’s Acolyte as well as other corners of the Star Wars canon universe like video and roleplaying games, but it’s just as thrilling to see Jedi Knights acting as the guardians of peace and justice in a shining Republic embracing all the possibilities of unity before the dark times inevitably descend. Light of the Jedi sets this mission on the path of a very auspicious beginning.
A copy of the book was provided for review by the publisher.