A Book by Justina Ireland
After feeling like Justina Ireland’s previous book, Out of the Shadows, somewhat fell on its face in the final act, she gets back in the saddle and delivers a book just as good as her first, A Test of Courage. This book is another junior novel that continues the story of characters Jedi Vernestra Rwoh, her Padawan, Imri Cantaros, and their engineer friend Avon Starros. Starros takes center stage for once, as she has been kidnapped along with a cadre of children by The Nihil in order to replenish their dwindling ranks. We see in other books, specifically the comics, where The Nihil will generally kill everyone in an area they take, but save children to become more nihil or aid the cause. Hiding with an assumed name due to her status as the daughter of a Galactic Senator, Avon makes a few escape attempts and is noticed for her tinkering abilities. She is put in a situation where she is forced to work alongside a Nihil scientist named Dr. Mkampa to create weapons for them. Trying to stay alive, and perhaps slowing the Nihil down, she works from the inside to save herself alongside the other children until help can arrive.
“Centuries before the events of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, in the era of the glorious High Republic, the Jedi are the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy! Jedi Knight prodigy Vernestra Rwoh and her Padawan Imri Cantaros find themselves – and their friends – in over their heads when they come face to face with the nefarious Nihil! The New York Times best-selling series continues…. For light and life!”
Being a middle grade novel, don’t go into this expecting it to be as detailed or “fleshed-out” as the adult market novels. This is a short book made for older kids and young teenagers, for the most part, and is written as such. I did appreciate that, unlike some previous books of the type, this was perfectly readable as a non-child, and entertaining nonetheless. Rather than try to fill gaps in as some of these have done, this book stands on it’s own with a story that gives more depth to a fan-favorite character that has generally been in the background for a few books. It has a satisfying conclusion and makes me optimistic that these characters are in good hands. We still get YET MORE new characters in Yacek Sparkburn, Lyssa Votz and Nyla Quinn. I probably seem exasperated, because there have been so many characters introduced in phase one that I can hardly keep everyone straight, but these new ones are somewhat in the background so there is that.
Overall, this may just be Justina Ireland’s strongest Star Wars novel yet. She gets time to revisit the characters she has created, and fleshed out so well, and finishes their side of the final arc of phase one. This takes place somewhat before Fallen Star, so I’m not sure why a lot of guides online suggested to read it last or close to last, but I would at least read Ireland’s three books in publication order to get a good grasp of where everyone came from. Now all I have to do is try to finish some of the comics up before phase two starts and I will be all set!