6 Thoughts on Star Wars: Light of the Jedi (Book Review)
Once upon a time, in my youth, I read a bunch of Star Wars Expanded Universe novels. I loved the X-Wing series starring Rogue and Wraith squadrons, and I read all manner of New Jedi Order, Darth Maul and other stories. I have started reading Star Wars books again in the pandemic, and I just finished the launching point of the new High Republic era: Star Wars: Light of the Jedi. Since this is the internet, this seems like a good place to tell you my thoughts on something Star Wars-related.
Book Rating: 6/10 – Pretty Good.
So the High Republic. I didn’t have many thoughts on the subject when it was first announced, but I was looking for a new book to read and decided to give Light of the Jedi a try. The book is written by Charles Soule, whose comic work I adore, and I figured it might be fun to get in on this new initiative. I’ve also read a couple of the High Republic comics, but none of the Young Adult novels. And suffice to say, I am not impressed. The High Republic, so far, is largely just fine. I suppose it has potential, but I didn’t see much of that in Light of the Jedi.
Join me after the jump for my thoughts and review of Star Wars: Light of the Jedi. Expect MINOR SPOILERS for the book and the new initiative.
Premise: So what is the High Republic? In the big picture, the High Republic is a new publishing initiative for Star Wars fiction to get away from the movies, TV shows and the Skywalkers in general. So far, the High Republic is focusing on novels and comics. In terms of the Star Wars timeline, the High Republic is set about 200 years before the Empire. The idea is that this time period is the height of both the Republic and the Jedi Order. There’s no Sith, there’s no decline, there’s no petty politics, there’s no Chosen One; it’s the Republic and the Jedi at their fullest and brightest.
In Light of the Jedi, a large galactic disaster occurs at the start of the novel, requiring both the Republic and the Jedi to respond, save lives and, ultimately, figure out what happened and how to stop it from ever happening again. Playing a mysterious role in the disaster are the Nihil, a band of raiders in the Outer Rim who have a few tricks up their sleeve. Over the course of the novel, we’re introduced to many Jedi, many Nihil and several storylines that will continue as the High Republic moves forward.
Now on to my review.
6. It’s largely just fine
I just didn’t find anything particularly exciting about Light of the Jedi. It all feels very standard, very straight forward. None of the characters stand out as particularly interesting on their own, and none of the storylines really caught my attention. The opening disaster is pretty creative, and there are some neat ideas here and there. But overall, I found the whole thing kind of dull.
The book is not bad. Far from it. The writing is fine, the action is delivered clearly, and I was never confused. There’s plenty of activity, and some tension here and there. All of the characters are written solidly. There’s plenty of Jedi and more than enough uses of the Force, if that interests people. It’s all very competent. It’s just that I didn’t find anything particularly exciting or interesting in this first book. Simple as that. It’s all very plainly presented, obviously because this is the kick off to a larger story, but we’ll get to that in a second.
One thing that I didn’t particularly care for in Light of the Jedi is how the chapters kept skipping around just as they were getting good. The storylines didn’t play out per chapter, you’d only get a bit at a time — kind of like a TV show cutting between different stories. Maybe I’m just not used to reading chapter books anymore, but I was more annoyed than intrigued that the book would cut away from an interesting story just as the action was ramping up.
I don’t have too many nitpicks about this individual book. It’s really just a generally fine story. There are some creative ideas here and there, and some potentially interesting characters, but Light of the Jedi has too much else going on to really focus on something great.
5. Clearly just a beginning
I think the problem is that Light of the Jedi is just the start of a big picture narrative. The High Republic books are going to last a couple years, and I’m sure a lot has already been planned out. So rather than tell us a complete story in one book, Light of the Jedi is really here to introduce everything and set up some status quos. The book has a beginning, middle and end, but so much is left hanging to continue down the line. The Republic and Jedi have barely scratched the surface of the Nihil, and a lot is kept from the reader as well. Jedi characters are only just beginning their potential journeys in Light of the Jedi. Where will some of them end up? Who knows! This is only the beginning, and it’s just not much of a beginning.
Because I think there’s on glaring problem at the heart of Star Wars…
4. The Jedi are boring
As a great philosopher once said: “When everyone’s super, no one will be.” And that might be the major problem with the High Republic. Everybody is a Jedi. And they’re all Jedi at their most basic. Think about the Jedi that we actually know and love. Luke Skywalker being a Jedi is awesome, because in the original trilogy, he’s essentially the only one. He’s this unique lightsaber in a world of blasters. Obi-Wan is cool because he’s the traditional mentor figure, and Yoda is great because he so completely upends our beliefs on what a Jedi can be. And those were the only three Jedi that we knew until the prequels, and those movies are about the fall of the Jedi Order, so there’s a lot of interesting drama going around. The prequels introduced so many cool new concepts, like padawans and the Jedi Council. We saw all these cool new alien Jedi. We saw them fight against the Sith, essentially the evil Jedi, with a bunch of cool lightsaber fights. And we had Anakin Skywalker at the center, who had a lot of emotional conflict with which to tell a story.
There’s none of that in High Republic.
There’s no tension or drama in the Jedi Order. It’s all working as its supposed to. There’s the Council, there are masters, knights and padawans. Everybody follows the Force and has a lightsaber and they all want to do good. There are no moral conundrums. No threats of the Dark Side. No conflicts between the members. Nobody is secretly hiding things from the Jedi Order. They’re all just good guys being Zen monks and fighting some petty crime.
Another great philosopher once said, “When you do things right, people won’t be sure if you’ve done anything at all.” And that’s the era of Jedi we’re in.
3. The villains are a little less boring
So the Nihil are a weird choice for villain, but I think they’re an OK choice. I don’t think they can sustain being the only villains/threats over the course of the entire High Republic era, but they work as immediate villains. They’re this large raider collective, thousands strong, whose entire guiding principle is that they do whatever they want and take whatever they want. They’re known for being especially ruthless, and wearing crazy masks. They have an established hierarchy to keep everyone in their place, but no one is particularly loyal to anyone else.
The one really great thing the Nihil have going for them — and one of the only new and interesting ideas in Light of the Jedi — is that they possess this almost magical ability to manipulate hyperspace. I won’t go into spoilers how, but they can use it to essentially teleport. We see hyperspace a lot in the Star Wars movies, you essentially go light speed from one place to another in a straight line. Well the Nihil can use hyperspace like the Wonkavator: sideways and slantways and longways and backways and squareways and frontways and any other ways that you can think of.
The Nihil do get a pretty interesting storyline across the novel, specifically one of the main characters, Marchion Ro. Again, I don’t want to spoil, but he has a legit arc in the book and he’s set up as a potentially awesome villain going forward. So at least Light of the Jedi has him.
2. The comics aren’t anything special either
Once I finished Light of the Jedi, I went back and read the High Republic comics coming out of Marvel. There are only a few issues so far, and they aren’t anything special either. The first issue of the main series — Star Wars: The High Republic — was shorter than I expected, and the second issue was a little better. There’s also The High Republic Adventures, which seems to tell some more anthology-like stories. Either way, there wasn’t anything all that special in the comics issues I’ve read so far. A lot of my same complaints about Light of the Jedi seem to carry over into the comics.
Though the main comic series does focus more on the one Jedi I’m interested in: Jedi Master Sskeer, a Trandoshan Jedi! I love it when Star Wars takes one of their classic alien races and makes them into a Jedi. And so, for the first time, we meet a Jedi from Bossk’s species. Sskeer has a minor role in Light of the Jedi, but he gets a padawan and possibly a storyarc in the High Republic comic. So I’m going to watch that closely to see if he becomes a fun character.
1. I’ll probably try out more High Republic stuff
Yeah, I’m probably going to keep reading High Republic stuff. I’m trying to read more books these days, so it’s no great cost to buy the next novel, The Rising Storm, when it comes out in July. And there aren’t so many comics that I’ll go poor by buying and reading them all, so I might as well. And that’s pretty much my thoughts on the whole things: I might as well. There’s potential. I enjoy Star Wars. Sskeer exists. There are more reasons for me to stick with it than there are reasons for me to just drop it.
So you’ve suckered me in, Star Wars! I’ll let you know if it gets any better.
Posted on February 17, 2021, in Books, Lists of Six!, Reviews, Star Wars and tagged Light of the Jedi, Sskeer, Star Wars: The High Republic, The High Republic. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.