We close out our High Republic preview with a young adult novel written by fan favourite author Claudia Gray. I remember hearing about her book Lost Stars on Collider’s Jedi Council and figured, if they like it, maybe I should pick it up. And I’m so glad I did. Gray has become one of my favourite Star Wars authors working today, from my personal favourite of hers, Bloodline to the riveting Leia: Princess of Alderaan novel. This is why it was a bit of a surprise reading Star Wars The High Republic: Into The Dark and finding it didn’t really resonate with me personally.
Into The Dark more or less takes place at the same time as Charles Soule’s Light of the Jedi and even features some crossover characters from that novel. A minor character in that tale was Jedi Master Jora Malli and in Into the Dark, we follow her padawan, Reath Silas, who is reassigned to the Republic’s new Starlight Beacon out in the frontiers of space in order to get away from the archives, which is his domain. Reath is a bit of a bookworm and an oddity among the other Jedi, which is a refreshing change for a Jedi hero after they were reassigned as Generals in the Clone Wars. Thanks to passage from a ragtag crew who operate a shipping vessel called…wait for it, Vessel, Reath and three other Jedi make their way towards Starlight, only to fly into The Great Disaster and be flung out of hyperspace, forcing them to take refuge on an abandoned space station once the lanes are shutdown.
Now don’t get me wrong, a lot happens in this book and most of it landed for me. I enjoyed how the Jedi, out of their element in frontier space, have to work with other refugees who aren’t part of the Republic and see them as colonizers, taking away their freedoms. Likewise, the crew of the Vessel are an interesting lot. It’s captained by Leox Gyasi, a heavy consumer of spice and member of the Byrne Guild. The ship is also the home of Geode, a sentient and silent boulder creature whom Gray has given the best reactionary writing in the entire story. Then there’s Affie, the adopted daughter of Scorver Byrne, the leader of the Byrne Guild. Affie is an interesting character, but I found the story derailed a bit when it focused too much on her and her mission. That said, the dynamic between Affie and Leox proved to be more compelling to me than the interactions between the supporting Jedi characters in this story.
Pacing is probably the biggest issue I had with this tale. It’s over 400 pages long and the first half, in particular, dragged for me. Likewise, there are a few flashback chapters scattered here and there and I too found them a bit jarring. We’re in a new era of Star Wars with new characters, seeing events never before seen. To suddenly take me out of that time and focus on a different mission 25 years prior threw me out of the moment. Also, there are nowhere near as many characters as Light of the Jedi but I found the junior novel A Test of Courage balanced its characters and the pacing better. Likewise, the new foes of the High Republic era, the Nihil, could have had more of a presence. They’re an important part of the story in the previous two books, but are almost absent from the plot of this tale.
That said, the first act of the novel, set within the confines of the abandoned station without any answers and a growing mystery, reminded me a bit of the early moments of Ridley Scott’s Alien. Maybe that’s just me, but the slower pace, the uncertainty and the hallways all painted that visual for me. Some people will LOVE that. But I’ve always been more of a fan of James Cameron’s Aliens. Ironically, a secondary threat other than the Nihil, the new enemy of the Republic and the Jedi established in this timeline, definitely gave me some spooky alien vibes, but that’s as much as I’ll reveal.
That said, Gray doesn’t dumb down the book because it’s written at the YA level. There are a lot of dark and adult themes in this tale and Gray once again knows how to balance a tough situation with human emotions. Likewise, the novel continues the trend of showcasing new and exciting types of Jedi, ones who haven’t exactly been duelling with anyone in centuries. These Jedi are peacekeepers, scholars, frontiersmen etc, not warriors and seeing how the Jedi think and tackle tricky situations in this timeline is interesting. While the Sith are in hiding in this timeline, the Dark Side does linger over the plot of this book and it does make me want to dive even further back in time. I will say that while the Force was insanely powerful in Light of the Jedi and A Test of Courage showcased a new lightsaber variant, Into the Dark didn’t really push any new envelopes, opting instead to focus on character. For context, Light was heavy on plot and Courage was somewhere in the middle.
I’d say if you’re a fan of Claudia Gray’s work and can appreciate a slowburn story, Jedi focused story that explores the unknown, the dark side and Jedi out of their element, this is definitely going to be a must-buy for that crowd. It works well on its own, but you should certainly be reading Light of the Jedi as it’s the core novel with the biggest developments and this book definitely operates around the events of that book. Into the Dark was good for me, and I’m glad I read it, but I gravitated towards the other High Republic novels more and Gray’s previous Star Wars offerings.
Into the Dark will be available on February 2nd, 2021. Also, there’s going to be a livestream event on January 4th on YouTube and starwars.com, where “fans can look forward to fresh insights into the characters and events of The High Republic, along with new announcements and reveals of what’s to come.”
Check out our review of Star Wars The High Republic: A Test of Courage.
Check out our review of Star Wars The High Republic: Light of the Jedi.