Lots of spoilers for Star Wars The High Republic: Light of the Jedi but the revelation about the Marchion Ro at the end of the book will remain a secret.
Star Wars has recently launched a brand new era in their latest publishing effort, dubbed The High Republic, which is set some 200 years before the events of The Phantom Menace. As such, the galaxy is in relative peace and the Republic is expanding towards the Outer Rim. The Jedi are the most ideal version of themselves that we’ve ever seen, but they’ve not been in a lightsaber duel with a foe in centuries. That’s because, at this time, the Sith are in hiding still, meaning the High Republic needs a new, non-Sith-y antagonist. Enter the Nihil.
Unlike the ancient Sith species from Legends, the Nihil are more of a creed than anything. The Nihil are made up of countless different species from all over the galaxy. At the most surface level, the Nihil are marauders, pirates or space Vikings, who pillage and steal to their heart’s content. They live in the most chaotic version of freedom possible, living free of the fear of consequence. Killing and stealing are just part of everyday life for them, as are recreational drugs and other vices when they party in their downtime. In other words, they’re anarchists driven by greed.
The society of the Nihil are represented by storm iconography. There are three tempests within the organization, each with its own leader, or Tempest Runner. Within each Tempest, there are the ranks of Storms, Clouds and Strikes. Each Tempest, however, all must give a cut of their profits to the Eye of the Nihil, who in this case, is the wonderfully fascinating Marchion Ro. What’s interesting here is that even though Ro is in a position of power and guides the Nihil through the storm, he isn’t per se the leader and doesn’t have a vote, but part of the spoils of any raid go to him. This puts his position at odds with the other Tempests, who see him as a bit of dead weight, if not for his ability (or at least, what they perceive to be his ability). Ro’s father kidnapped Mari San Tekka, who had the ability to find these unique paths in hyperspace, was kept in a type of stasis to prolong her life and to exploit her ability to navigate the paths. To the rest of the Nihil, this power is unique to Ro, but they don’t know it’s actually someone else’s power, which makes his position in the organization vulnerable at best. These paths would then be passed to the Eye, who would direct the Tempests where to raid next without being discovered by the Republic or whomever they were attacking. While in the middle of a raid, the Nihil would don gas masks and unleash toxins on their victims, neutralizing them and using fear tactics to achieve success.
But things would get much more serious during the events of Light of the Jedi, which is largely about The Great Disaster, the catalyst for the new High Republic publishing initiative, which can be seen in all three novels we’ve read so far, including A Test of Courage and Into the Dark. The event saw a passenger cruiser travelling in hyperspace intersect with a Nihil Stormship using a path. Because hyperspace lanes should be linear without obstacles, tragedy struck as the ship was ultimately ripped apart while attempted a split-second maneuver, causing debris to be hurled through the lane and ultimately landing in various moons and planets, killing millions. As such, the Republic had no choice but to close the hyperspace lanes, as the debris would break out at random as Emergences throughout the sector, threatening catastrophic damage. However, the lane closure also meant trade was disrupted and food shortages suddenly became very real.
However, Marchio Ro has other plans on his agenda that we’ll likely see unfold in Cavan Scott’s upcoming novel, The Rising Storm. While the Nihil are all about raids and pillaging, Ro has something else on his mind: vengeance and he’s willing to use some nefarious tactics to achieve it, which are revealed by the book’s finale. But his goal, and his unique weapon, sure make me want the sequel to this book sooner rather than later, and thankfully, we don’t have to wait long, as it’s set to come out on June 29th, 2021.
The Nihil get plenty of time to develop in Light of the Jedi but play minor roles in the other books. That said, Light of the Jedi paints them as fascinating and original foes, ones that aren’t Force-sensitive or who wield lightsabers, but fanatical anarchists driven by greed and even revenge. Time will ultimately tell what impact they have on the Republic and the Jedi Order, but I think that even though they won’t be around by the time the prequels hit, their impact will still be felt in some way shape or form, perhaps setting the Jedi down the path to their own destruction many years later.
Star Wars Light of the Jedi and A Test of Courage are out now, while Into the Dark will be out on February 2nd, 2021.
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