t first, there was a word.
For months following the announcement of the mystery publishing project, the Star Wars community questioned what it could possibly mean.
Is this all about Force ghosts?
Is this an Avengers situation?
Will Yoda be involved?
Is all of Legends Canon now?
On and on the conversations rambled as every single possibility was mentioned until all of our assumptions were laid to rest one fateful February evening.
A press event was called.
A livestream was convened.
The High Republic was coming.
And just like that, the speculation started anew! Sure, we had concept art, creator reveals, character names, villain descriptions, and even whispers of a Starlight Beacon...but we had somehow only scratched the surface. The following months brought new details including which projects would be attached to which writers, and it looked like August of 2020 would finally usher in a brand new era of Star Wars.
2020 had other ideas.
The official launch was delayed because of the incredible hit that the COVID-19 pandemic delivered on the publishing world. But now...the waiting is finally over. Years of anticipation and secrecy have led to the release of the first official title from The High Republic era of Star Wars.
Charles Soule’s Light of the Jedi delivers the framework of everything the High Republic will mean to Star Wars fans. He has also possibly delivered the greatest Star Wars book of all time.
Light of the Jedi holds nothing back as we witness the fabled Great Disaster within the book’s opening chapters. This mysterious tragedy frames the entire story by introducing us to each faction through their respective reactions to the near-instantaneous death of billions.
Hell of a way to say hello, right?
The rest of Jedi’s plot represents the galaxy’s attempt to discover what caused such a horrendous event. Soule also uses this crisis to introduce us to new politicians, scientists, villains, and, of course...Jedi.
Soule’s decision to intertwine all of the character dynamics within the plot of the story causes Light of the Jedi to avoid the trap of momentum-killing exposition. While there is an entire era of characters, factions, laws, and planets to set up, all of that information is drizzled amongst the story, itself, and that conscious effort propels the story throughout.
Multiple story arcs compose the general plot of Light of the Jedi, and somehow, Soule manages to make them all equally compelling. Jedi masters are attempting to discover the cause of the Great Disaster alongside the most brilliant scientists the galaxy has to offer. The Chancellor is maintaining control over the panic of the galactic masses while simultaneously promoting the opening of the newly constructed Starlight Beacon. Mysteries of hyperspace are being revealed through the knowledge of a family ever so slightly familiar to our ears.
And that’s not even mentioning the Nihil.
Yes. The Nihil. The villains tasked with supplying an enemy formidable enough to withstand the might of the Jedi, the Republic, and the ridiculous expectations of publishing fanatics ready to dismiss anything that doesn’t hold a red lightsaber.
A Herculean task to say the least.
But the Nihil somehow conquer it with ease. These are not mindless bounty hunters or pirates dispatched without a second thought to the hero of the day. They have structure, they have plans, and they harness a sense of unfiltered brutality that is witnessed a number of times throughout the story.
While some books occasionally present a slight dip in quality when it comes to “villain chapters,” Soule creates such a fascinating community within the Nihil that you’ll ravenously devour those chapters just as eagerly as those concerning the Jedi.
There are so many twists, turns, reveals, and shockers throughout Light of the Jedi that a true plot synopsis would be a disservice to the experience of reading or listening to this book. Just know that Charles Soule crafts an epic tale of destruction, grief, hope, and vengeance on par with any cinematic experience you could hope to gain from a brand new era of Star Wars.
And now...the stars of the show.
It is not rare for Star Wars books to create memorable characters. Most EU novels present at least a few new creations that instantly captivate the minds of readers, and sometimes, these original characters can eclipse the medium to appear right alongside film favorites in the hearts of fans everywhere.
When I think back to these types of introductions, certain names jump out instantaneously. Grand Admiral Thrawn. Prince Xizor. Captain Cardinal. Yrica Quell. The list goes on and on.
However, I cannot remember the last time that nearly every single character in a brand new novel jumped off the page with such vibrance.
Because of the ensemble nature of Light of the Jedi, you couldn’t blame Charles Soule if he had chosen to simply prioritize quantity over quality when it came to the first characters we would ever see in the High Republic. After all, within this single book, he had to set up an entire universe, establish cultural norms and traditions, reintroduce us to the heroes of our childhood...it would be understandable if we weren’t blown away by every character.
That is not the case.
Whether a character appears for four pages or forty chapters, Soule treats them with the love and respect of a cherished family member. Every Jedi, scientist, farmer, and even Nihil is presented as a fully formed person with a past, present, and if they’re truly lucky, a future.
Within the new ranks of the legendary Jedi, we meet some instantaneous favorites like Avar Kriss, Bell Zettifar, Elzar Mann, and (somehow even cooler than his name) Loden Greatstorm. Soule introduces every one of these Jedi alongside their superheroic brethren, brilliantly setting them apart in the eyes of the reader.
They all view the Force differently.
This connection is most vividly expressed within the mind of Avar Kriss. To her, the Force is a song, a symphony of music that swirls throughout every living being, and whether she’s employing intense battle meditation or searching for a soul thought lost from the galaxy, we get to witness her experience of that song’s ebbs and flows.
Every other Jedi introduced amongst these pages reacts to the Force in their own unique way, and whether they view the Force as an ocean, a forest, or a fire, each interpretation does more work for their character evolution than I ever thought imaginable.
Outside of the massively powerful connections that they have with the Force, these Jedi are also just plain fun. The master-apprentice banter between Loden and Bell provides a particular highlight as they evoke some of the best memories of Obi-Wan and Anakin, and the old friendship dynamic between Avar and Elzar proves that the “rules of attachment” within the Jedi Order were always on the verge of breaking.
In direct contrast to these bastions of light and justice, we of course have the Nihil. As stated previously, Soule does a marvelous job establishing the hierarchy and ranks of the vicious marauders, but more than that, he creates some of the most fascinating villains the Star Wars franchise has seen in years.
Chief among these standout villains is Marchion Ro, the Eye of the Nihil, and arguably the most fascinating addition to the Star Wars mythos this book has to offer. There is no way we will spoil Marchion’s journey throughout Light of the Jedi, but not since Killmonger in the MCU’s Black Panther has a villain taken such an interesting voyage to a place of power.
To name every other fascinating character in Light of the Jedi would be near impossible while also robbing readers of the book’s thrilling reveals. If pressed to find a slight detriment to the character work, we would only wish for the book to be two or three times as long so more time could be spent with every single one.
Luckily, the story of the High Republic is only just beginning.
One of the most exciting parts about diving into a new Star Wars novel is the marvelous amount of tie-in possibility. After all, who doesn’t love seeing their favorite ship model, blaster type, or alien species splash across the page?
So what do you do when you’re creating an entirely new era? Do you rely on technically futuristic nostalgia or do you blow the doors off the building by creating something new?
If you picked door number 2 in that convoluted metaphor, you’re in luck, because Light of the Jedi is brimming with fresh creations that will come to define this era of Star Wars, and it all feels...right. There has always been some sort of intangible metric when it comes to Star Wars lore -- something can just feel like Star Wars, and it’s not always possible to explain why. Fortunately, despite those impossible parameters, Soule is able to establish a brand new era of our favorite galaxy that fits perfectly into the established mythos.
Most obvious of these new innovations are the various ship designs that appear in the opening chapters of the novel and continue to be heavily featured throughout. The Jedi Vectors were a particular favorite of the team with their sleek design and the inability to be flown by anyone other than the mystical Force-users, and even though the function of their weapons weren’t 100% adored by all, you can’t deny that Soule wasn’t afraid to swing big.
This leads to another innovation by the entire High Republic publishing team regarding the technology and lore of the High Republic: connection. The Jedi of this era are not only bound to the Force but are connected to their weapons, their ships, and their companions in equal measure. This combination of universal factors not only makes the world feel more vibrant and alive, but it also adds to the perceived disconnect of the Jedi we witness in the Prequel Era.
Through differences in the way the Jedi conduct their affairs and even the way that ships move throughout the galaxy, Light of the Jedi creates a commentary on the High Republic era as well as the eras that succeed it. Soule writes his political and technological feats with such specificity and vibrancy that you can’t help but formulate hundreds of questions about the Star Wars we already know.
What happened to the Vectors?
Could the later Jedi even form Drifts?
Has forbidden love ever actually worked out in the Jedi Order?
Thoughts like these can only be created because of the astounding level of validity Soule’s writing brings to the new structures and foundations of the High Republic. Even just one book into the initiative, the High Republic already feels like it’s always been here.
While Charles Soule has written a number of original novels outside of a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars readers have known him over the past few years as one of the best comic writers that Marvel has to offer.
With such hits as The Rise of Kylo Ren, Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith, Poe Dameron, and the mainline Star Wars series to his credit, Soule’s reputation leading up to Light of the Jedi’s release was stellar to say the least.
After Light of the Jedi, it’s safe to say that his reputation has been further cemented.
This entire review up to this point has been filled with Soule’s praises, and rightly so. None of the plot intricacies, character work, or original concepts would be as effective if the prose behind them was lackluster, and with his first Canon novel, Charles Soule composes a series of chapters that are marvelously engaging and completely tailored to his personal style.
Fans of his previous work with comics will know Soule’s talent at creating one liners that stick with you days after completing his stories, and Light of the Jedi proudly carries on that tradition. The number of statements that punch you in the gut or elicit raucous laughter are far too many to list (and it doesn’t hurt that a lion’s share of them are courtesy of the legendary Loden Greatstorm).
Just as Star Wars movies and television shows are renowned for their ability to mix spectacle with drama, so too do Soule’s words create wondrously visual events purely through the power of this text. His occasional use of abbreviated sentence structure adds a sense of immediacy that guides you through the adrenaline fueled moments on the page, and the formatting of the prose itself has a way of taking you on a mental journey no less intense than that of the characters you’re growing to love in the interim.
Occasional modern syntax may be a surprise for readers of more classic Star Wars novels, and there are surely some descriptors like space wizards and laser swords that will find their effectiveness based on personal taste, but if you’re able to put this book down more than once without saying “Just one more chapter…” your efforts are to be lauded.
Perhaps the only concept more amazing than the idea that you lived up until this point without the knowledge of Loden Greatstorm’s existence is the fact that Light of the Jedi truly is Charles Soule’s first Star Wars novel.
It will not be the last.
THIS BOOK IS SO MUCH FUN!
Okay. Now that we have that out of the way…
While Light of the Jedi is filled with wonderful emotional beats and fascinating world building, this novel is also packed to the brim with throw-your-arms-up-and-scream moments as well as moments that make you cackle as wildly as Palpatine having a power trip (A wonderfully apt descriptor from our very own Jared Mayes).
One particular moment involving Loden Greatstorm and a steele somehow eclipses the coolness of Legolas jumping onto Gimli’s horse in The Two Towers, and nearly every major character participates in a similar event that quite simply takes your breath away. For all of the fascinating political intrigue, lore expansion, and faction creation that this book expertly provides...above all, it elicits absolute joy.
When you think about your favorite Star Wars films to see in the theater, it’s easy to imagine the giant bucket of popcorn, the ridiculously overpriced soda, and the lights going down as you see “A long time ago in a galaxy far far away….” appear in an auditorium full of anticipation. The fanfare begins, the crawl appears, and you know you’re in for the ride of your life.
That’s what Light of the Jedi is. This book creates the next chapter in the epic we all love, and the pure entertainment value is enough to lighten the darkest days and provide that movie theater thrill as we close out our first year without a Star Wars theatrical release in quite some time. Within these pages, you’ll find the highs, the lows, the cheers, and the woes of the very same blockbusters that made us all pick up these books in the first place.
The expectations for The High Republic were unreasonably high.
Once the project was officially announced, it was no secret that this was going to represent the future of Star Wars publishing. Not only that, but with no additional Star Wars films confirmed at the time, it was quite possible that The High Republic would have carried the baton for the entirety of the franchise for years to come.
The pressure was high. The stakes were higher. And they have all been wonderfully surpassed.
The Youtini staff unanimously considers Light of the Jedi to be one of the best books to pass our eyes in quite some time, and if Del Rey and Disney put all their chips on one novel to jumpstart years of storytelling...they hit the absolute jackpot.
Go meet your new favorite characters. Go explore this vast new universe. Go bathe yourself fully in the Light of the Jedi.