REVIEW: Star Wars – The High Republic – Out of the Shadows (2021)

A Book by Justina Ireland

Star Wars – The High Republic – Out of the Shadows is an interesting book due to basically bridging the plots and main characters found in both Test of Courage and Into the Dark, two previous installments in this series. The author, Justina Ireland, continues the story of Vernestra Rwoh, a character that she created, alongside her new Padawan Imri Cantaros. I have found the story of Vernestra pretty engaging, and generally like everything I’ve read her in so far. The pair has their relationship fleshed out a bit more than what we saw in the previous book, which was a “middle grade” adventure, thus lacking the depth of a more detailed story. A handful of new characters are peppered in for a book that, for better or worse, is quite different than its predecessors in just about every way.

“Sylvestri Yarrow is on a streak of bad luck with no end of sight. She’s been doing her best to keep the family cargo business going after her mom’s death, but between mounting debt and increasing attacks by the Nihil on unsuspecting ships, Syl is in danger of losing all she has left of her mother. She heads to the galactic capital of Coruscant for help, but gets sidetracked when she’s drawn into a squabble between two of the Republic’s most powerful families over a patch of space on the frontier. Tangled up in familial politics is the last place Syl wants to be, but the promise of a big payoff is enough to keep her interested…

Meanwhile, Jedi Knight Vernestra Rwoh has been summoned to Coruscant, but with no idea of why or by whom. She and her Padawan Imri Cantaros arrive at the capital along with Jedi Master Cohmac Vitus and his Padawan, Reath Silas―and are asked to assist with the property dispute on the frontier. But why? What is so important about an empty patch of space? The answer will lead Vernestra to a new understanding of her abilities, and take Syl back to the past…and to truths that will finally come out of the shadows.”

Vernestra Rwoh

I say “for better or for worse” because I am definitely not the target audience for this, but I won’t dogpile it because it is very much a book written for the “young adult” market. Much of this book basically sets the entire war between The Republic and The Nihil aside and concentrates on inter-personal relationships and a romance story between a young shipping guild member, Sylvestri Yarrow, and her ex-girlfriend Jordanna Sparkburn, a notable member of the San Tekka Clan. This angsty love story occupies the bulk of the second and third acts of the book, and much in the same way I have avoided books such as The Twilight Saga, it was not really for me.

Before anyone gets mad at me – I’ve seen folks online whining that the story was between two female characters which, to me, makes no difference. In fact, the more the merrier, I’m all for inclusion here and welcome different experiences for characters. I just don’t read romance novels.

Imri Cantaros

That said, there’s some interesting stuff here, making this book somewhat important for the overall plot of The High Republic. We get a decent amount of information on the history of The Galaxy’s reliance on hyperspace – discussing some of the background and interesting tidbits about a so-called “Hyperspace Rush” that happened some 100 or so years before this book. With Phase two of The High Republic focusing on an “age of exploration”, I wonder if this was not planting the seeds for that storyline. We also see the young Padawan Imri begin to mature in his relationship with the force in a way that is quite different than most Jedi. It seems Imri is some sort of adept at empathy and sensing emotions, not unlike Councilor Troi from Star Trek, and allusion I make to annoy any fans that might get upset by such a comparison.

The “main characters” are all plotted well, and the important ones move forward with just a handful being left in the tracks a bit. I honestly felt that a character named Xylan Graf, for example, was somewhat underused after being a huge focus of the story in the first act. Towards the end he becomes somewhat of an afterthought, almost as if his role in the story was changed considerably at one point. If anything, I am most interested to see how and when these characters pop back up in the overall High Republic narrative.

Overall, this was an enjoyable book, but far from my favorite in the line. I enjoyed the characters and how they were fleshed out but felt there were a few missed opportunities and squandered potentials in the story. I specifically liked some of the world building here and feel that it makes this book somewhat important even though many will likely pass it over due to it being a “Young adult” book. It is largely a romance book, a fact that is the main reason this is not a glowing endorsement from me, but for fans of YA novels, this should feel right at home, and hats off to the author for handling inclusion in a way that was neither ham-fisted nor preachy. The High Republic continues its trend of creating quality Star Wars books for a wide range of fans, something that I respect a lot.

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