In many respects, Star Wars The High Republic: Out of the Shadow feels like a coda or epilogue to all the stories that have come out so far while also leaving enough intrigue to keep us excited for the next wave. Written by Justina Ireland, who wrote the junior novel A Test of Courage, Out of the Shadows pulls elements and characters from many of the books so far and puts them together as an awesome and unexpected team-up story.
This young adult book, set a few months after the events of The Rising Storm, moves at a much slower pace than both of the adult novels that have been released thus far, which gives us some time to slow down and take a breath after all the chaos that’s happened so far. While that novel focused heavily on plot, this novel is all about character and intrigue.
There’s a lot of anger, confusion and grief in the air since the attack on Valo. The Jedi and Republic have since put all their efforts into stopping the Nihil attacks by any means necessary, turning the once peaceful Jedi into warriors for the first time since the Sith Wars. As all of this goes on, we follow a few distinct point of view characters. A few we’ve met before, such Vernestra Rwoh, the teenage Jedi Knight from Ireland’s A Test of Courage, her padawan Imri and Reath from Claudia Gray’s Into the Dark. Joining them is newcomer Syl Yarrow, a teenaged orphan up to her neck in debt who finds herself in the middle of a mystery that involves an investigation into a disputed territory of space, and Nan, the Nihil infiltrator who came face to face with Reath in Gray’s novel.
I must say that this is quite a good read. By focusing on a smaller cast of characters than The Rising Storm did, Ireland is granted ample opportunity to develop them fully. Rwoh continues to be a wonderful character, who now has young Imri under her tutelage and must-see for herself if she was promoted to the rank of Knight at too young an age. She may be wise beyond her years when it comes to the Force, but may lack knowledge in how people, both friend and foe, react to and manipulate those around them.
Syl is also an interesting character. The co-lead with Rwoh, she’s the exact opposite of a Jedi. Orphaned after her mother was killed by the Nihil, Syl is dead broke and desperate for cash. This desire for credits actually makes her an easy mark for the wealthy Graf clan, who need Syl to answer a mystery about the Nihil’s purpose in a remote part of space. Despite being wary of the proposition, Syl’s greed for money takes her down the rabbit hole. When faced with the Jedi later on in the novel and the glitz of Coruscant, Syl finds herself yearning for crappy food and the discomforts of the frontier, where wealth isn’t a status symbol.
What’s more, is that we stay with these characters for enough time without zipping through the chaos. Light of the Jedi and The Rising Storm were largely about plot and as such, gave us an insane amount of action as we focused on particular events, zipping us through the chaos from multiple points of views rapidly. It makes for an entertaining and exciting thrill ride, but this tale doesn’t do that and lets us linger with the cast much longer, allowing us to get to know them while they get to know each other.
The novel has great pacing, with enough action peppered in to satisfy that itch. But this novel is ultimately about character and uses a nice combination of familiar faces and new ones to tell an engaging and complex story. This is a great way to wrap up the current wave and leaves me anxiously awaiting Justina Ireland’s next offering in the High Republic line.
Out of the Shadows will be available as of July 27th, 2021.