Review: Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule Ushers In The High Republic Era of Star Wars With A Bang
Star Wars officially has a new Expanded Universe, with the launch of The High Republic. This new era kicks off with the first adult fiction novel by Charles Soule – Light of the Jedi . So what does Light of the Jedi bring to the Star Wars universe? And how does it work as a novel, all on its own? Let’s dig into these questions in our review of Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule, and see what this new era of Star Wars has in store for us.
Image via Lucasfilm
Light of the Jedi: A Galaxy At Peace And Unprepared For Disaster
The High Republic is a massive undertaking with dozens of authors writing new stories and characters in a brand new era of Star Wars. Set approximately 200-300 years before The Phantom Menace, this new era shows a Star Wars galaxy in peacetime. The Jedi Order is immensely powerful and wise, working as peacekeepers and diplomats. There are no Sith lurking in the wings (yet) to tear them down. The disparate worlds are in relative harmony. Characters regularly recite the phrase “We are all the Republic,” to reinforce their unity.
There is a Chancellor of the Republic – Lina Soh – who wants to create a number of ‘Great Works’ to leave a lasting legacy. One of these projects is a massive space station on the Outer Rim called The Starlight Beacon. This station will be fundamental to the core plot of many books set in The High Republic. However, Light of the Jedi doesn’t spend much time there. Instead the book focuses in on a number of diverse planets, but we spend the majority of time in space or traversing strange new lanes in hyperspace.
Achieving Impossible Feats With The Force In Light of the Jedi
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Light of the Jedi opens with a major catastrophe that will later be known as “The Great Disaster.” A ship traveling through hyperspace unexpectedly encounters an obstacle in their path. The captain of the ship pulls a risky maneuver in effort to save her passengers. This leads to the destruction of the spaceship, and pieces of the wreckage start flying out of hyperspace at warp speed. Unfortunately there are planets full of people in the way of the space debris. And the velocity at which the objects are traveling lead to major death and destruction.
Fortunately the Jedi are nearby, at least for the first Emergence of the ship’s wreckage. The Jedi of The High Republic are far more powerful than the Jedi even of the prequels, or later eras. They work together in efforts to save the passengers (who are somehow still alive) of the ship. They do this while simultaneously trying to save an entire planet from destruction.
The first section of the novel shows us some truly awesome Force abilities, and what can happen when a large number of Jedi work together. In fact, Light of the Jedi starts off like any good Star Wars film should. It jumps right into the action and then slowly reveals the universe. The beginning of the novel is essentially a disaster movie. There are a lot of explosions and high-stakes situations. It is fast-paced and exciting. It is also the best part of the book.
Light of the Jedi Introduces A Dizzying Cast of New Characters
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As the title suggests, there is a heavy focus on the Jedi in this novel. I don’t think I could count the number of Jedi who are named in this book. But Light of the Jedi tries to focus in on several of the major players, despite the fact that none of them could really be considered the protagonist of the novel.
First we have Jedi Master Avar Kriss. She interprets the Force as music and has a special ability that allows her to connect Jedi telepathically and amplify their powers. Master Kriss also has a more than friendly relationship with one of her fellow Jedi – Elzar Mann. The book very subtly indicates their romantic feelings towards one another that they cannot act on. Kriss might be as close as we come to a primary protagonist in Light of the Jedi, but I found myself wishing for a deeper exploration of both her skills and her relationship with Elzar. This is something that Star Wars has never fully explored, and it is a story I want to read.
Star Wars The High Republic: A Focus On The Jedi
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Next up we have the best Jedi name in the galaxy – Loden Greatstorm. A Twi’lek Jedi Master who has a sense of humor, and some seriously impressive Force capabilities. He spends much of the novel training his young padawan Bell Zettifar, who struggles to master the seemingly basic Force ability of falling from great heights and landing safely. Both of these characters are interesting, but neither gets enough characterization to be truly compelling.
There are many other Jedi who are introduced in this novel that don’t get much time or attention paid to them. And yet, despite all of the characters crammed into this book there are still a number of major characters who are not included. The announcement for The High Republic last year gave us several names to look out for; Stellan Gios, Keeve Trennis, Vern Rwoh, Reath Silas, and more. Somehow these characters don’t actually appear in this book, except in vague references. I know that they will have their own novels to star in as The High Republic continues. But it was still strange to be overwhelmed by the number of characters who don’t even appear to be the major players.
Light of the Jedi – Star Wars: A Disappointing Villain Reveal
Going into The High Republic, details on the big bad of this era were scarce. We only knew that they were called the Nihil, and I (incorrectly) assumed this was a new alien race. Unfortunately, the Nihil are not as interesting as all that. They are just space pirates, and not even the fun kind. We know that they are bad because they do drugs, drink alcohol, and live a hedonistic lifestyle. And I find these tropes to be rather tired.
More interesting is the ostensible leader of the Nihil, a character named Marchion Ro. He has led his band of marauders to victory and riches because he has a secret weapon. Marchion Ro knows alternate paths through hyperspace, and utilizes them to raid and plunder. But the only reason he has this knowledge is because his family abducted an explorer who can somehow “see” the alternate routes. In the end, Ro’s potential as a villain is reduced to a boring revenge plot. He hates the Jedi and wants to see them pay for some perceived failure or slight.
Exploring Hyperspace In A New Way in Light of the Jedi – Star Wars
Image via Lucasfilm
I do have to say that the hyperspace exploration was very interesting in Light of the Jedi. We tend to take hyperspace for granted in science fiction, either it is overly explained or just accepted as part of the universe. In Star Wars we know that hyperspace travel is real, and we know some of its rules. But we don’t really know what it is, or how it works. Light of Jedi does some work in attempting to explore the very concept of hyperspace, and how it is used. But with everything else happening in the book, these details are easily lost on the reader.
It is entirely possible that future High Republic novels will explore this idea further, and I hope they do. Of all the new elements introduced to the Star Wars universe in this book, the hyperspace stuff was by far the most interesting and impactful on the galaxy as a whole.
Light of the Jedi Tries Too Hard To Do Too Much
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Before Light of the Jedi, I had never read any work by Charles Soule. He has a couple of sci-fi novels published, and has worked on various comics in the Star Wars universe. Unfortunately, I do not think he was the best choice for introduction to this new era of Star Wars. I was not a fan of his writing style, although I know that others might find it more approachable.
His focus on unnecessary details – rather than the larger plot and character development – was off-putting to me as a long-time reader of epic fantasy. For example: Soule has a tendency to introduce every character by identifying their race, which is fine in concept. However, that meant that he tried to fit as many alien races into the book as he possibly could, and spent entire paragraphs describing their appearance. But appearance does not equal characterization, and as a result many of these characters felt flat on the page.
Due to the massive nature of The High Republic project, there are a ton of new characters to be introduced. In Light of the Jedi, we meet many of the essential Jedi who will be major players in the stories to come. Unfortunately, the book tries to cram way too many characters into one story. There is no clear protagonist in Light of the Jedi, no typical Star Wars hero to root for. Instead we get a surface level introduction to at least a dozen different Jedi. This makes for thin characterization, and an overstuffed novel with erratic pacing as we constantly jump between a dozen different characters.
The Light of the Jedi May Satisfy A Need For New Content
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Despite my gripes with the novel’s structure and style, there are some truly enjoyable parts of Light of the Jedi. The first third of the book is genuinely exciting as the Jedi band together to deal with the first Emergence. There are also humorous moments, and glimmers of great characters in Avar Kriss and Loden Greatstorm – who will hopefully get their due in future novels. The hyperspace stuff is super interesting in theory. And I’m also intrigued by the immense Force powers that the Jedi hold in this era, and curious to see how these powers diminish over time. We are also of course waiting to see how all of this ties into the upcoming Disney+ show The Acolyte, that will take place towards the end of The High Republic era.
If you are a Star Wars fan who is hungry for new content, then be sure to pick of Light of the Jedi and let us know what you think about this new era of The High Republic.
Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.