A Book by Claudia Gray
It definitely took a while, but I am FINALLY close to “catching up” on Star Wars – The High Republic, that is, just in time for an entirely new wave of these books to come out this fall. To date, I have just two books left in the initiative (one a young adult book and one middle grade book). My plan is to then power through some of the comics I have missed, so be prepared for that on the horizon if you follow my reviews in any way. Fallen Star is, for all intents and purposes, the “season finale” of this present storyline, with the final two books being side-stories of sorts. If one were only looking at “important books” in the series, this one is right up there with Light of the Jedi in terms on how much it impacts the whole timeline. For me, there is no better author to take on such an important book than Claudia Gray, who is perhaps the best Star Wars author working today. I was happy to see her characters of Leox Gyasi, Geode, and Affie Hollow return – which are easily three of the more fleshed-out characters in these books so far. I was excited to finally read this, and it was definitely worth the wait.
“Time and again, the vicious raiders known as the Nihil have sought to bring the golden age of the High Republic to a fiery end. Time and again, the High Republic has emerged battered and weary but victorious thanks to its Jedi protectors—and there is no monument to their cause grander than the Starlight Beacon. Hanging like a jewel in the Outer Rim, the Beacon embodies the High Republic at the apex of its aspirations: a hub of culture and knowledge, a bright torch against the darkness of the unknown, and an extended hand of welcome to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. As survivors and refugees flee the Nihil’s attacks, the Beacon and its crew stand ready to shelter and heal. The grateful Knights and Padawans of the Jedi Order stationed there finally have a chance to recover—from the pain of their injuries and the grief of their losses. But the storm they thought had passed still rages; they are simply caught in its eye. Marchion Ro, the true mastermind of the Nihil, is preparing his most daring attack yet—one designed to snuff out the light of the Jedi.”
Much like with Light of the Jedi, the plot of this book could be summarized as being a disaster story, albeit this being more akin to something like The Poseidon Adventure. if one would simply replace a colossal ocean liner with a space station, Starlight Beacon, one gets a good idea of what will be happening in this book. The good news is that by the time we get to this book, there is not very much need to introduce new characters, so anyone involved has the adequate time to breathe a little bit despite the relative chaos going on. There are a few new additions including a couple of Nihil infiltrators, a character so annoyingly stupid you can’t wait until his death, and a vague notion of a villain not yet fully realized for storyline reasons, the enigmatic “nameless” or “Levelers”. These are creatures that not only can disrupt the force, but render their victims to chalky husks upon their demise. Terrifying stuff, and their existence outside of what the book fully reveals to the reader, as if they aren’t supposed to be seen, adds to their unsettling nature.
Much like with her previous novels, Claudia Gray writes some of the better paced books in this series. There’s room for exposition, character building, and intrigue without the whole thing feeling rushed or crowded. I did like that this book was somewhat straightforward rather than doing a dual storyline of jumping between the past and present, which is a writing style Gray has used in a number of books I’ve read now including Master and Apprentice and Into the Dark. Claudia excels at character building, so much that one of the more endearing characters is literally a large rock named Geode that just stands there doing things a rock would do as others remark about his personality. It doesn’t sound like it should work, but there it is, and Geode is easily one of my favorite characters of this entire run. I know some people that make Star Wars YouTube videos are appalled by the character (or at least pretend to be in order to make money), but the Geode fan club is the hill that I am prepared to die on.
I do think, however, that Gray had her hands tied a bit with the narrative in a couple of regards. Most notably, I talked about Marchion Ro’s deployment of the ancient “super weapon” “The Leveler” or “The Nameless” being pretty vague for storyline reasons. Perhaps it was in order to make them scarier, or she was not allowed to “go too far” in explaining them due to a future plan by another author, but it somehow made their inclusion feel somewhat tacked-on, even anemic at points.
I think the only real moment we get a good idea about what is actually going on is a scene wherein Elzar Mann almost sees one in an elevator while he is moving from one area to another in the failing Starlight Beacon. He never gets a real good grasp of what he sees, nearly loses consciousness by seeing it, forgets what he is doing, and only vaguely takes note of the creature’s shape. It’s an interesting idea, but never elaborated on. My main question is – are they dead now? Did Marchion destroy his super-weapon for one attack? I guess time will tell how they elaborate on this.
Overall, this was yet another win for this young multimedia initiative. with a few exceptions, I have really enjoyed The High Republic so far, and feel that the next wave of books in this time period ought to be interesting. Now the authors know what worked and what did not, and they can concentrate on the Republic’s reaction to such a vile terrorist attack. It will be interesting that Phase two will be a whole different group of writers and a different setting, probably to give these writers a chance to keep up with writing more books, so I hope the continuation of THIS storyline comes sooner than later. if you have been enjoying these so far, this book is one of the better ones, but I would not recommend trying to read this without reading at least the last two “adult” novels from the series, as I’d imagine this would be a baffling book otherwise. Stay tuned for the last few books in the series, and hopefully a timely review of the next phase as it is released this time!