Light of the Jedi: A Bright and Fresh Look at the Light Side of the Force

Star Wars: The High Republic – Light of the Jedi
by Charles Soule
Review by Matthew Boccia

When first hearing about the new series of projects that would focus on the High Republic era, there was excitement just for the chance to explore that portion of the Star Wars galaxy’s timeline. What was unknown, however, was how the Jedi would be portrayed in this era, and how closely connected they were with the Republic. Charles Soule not only answers this question in the novel The High Republic: Light of the Jedi, but also creates a very clear image of what the Jedi are supposed to be.

With so much Jedi related content amidst the Skywalker Saga, The Clone Wars, and even Rebels– it is very easy to take those snapshots of intense moments in the galaxy’s history as a full picture. The problem is that some of the earliest canon stories that exist about the Jedi only detail them at their height of confidence and being manipulated into a war, their fall and executions, and then their slow comeback. There has not even been an opportunity within the current canon to see what a new Jedi order looks like. All that’s really known is that Luke Skywalker was beginning to start a new order, and everything was destroyed, followed by some lessons from Yoda about the sacred texts and mistakes of the previous Jedi order. Yet- what about before the Clone Wars? What was it like when the Jedi were a large source of light and protection for the galaxy without as many political complexities? The High Republic seeks to provide answers.

Minor Spoilers Below

The novels begins with a major emergency situation about to take place, and various characters being introduced during the crisis. What’s amazing here is that even with the onrush of new names, species, and dynamics- we get a real sense of what the Jedi are like during this time. They are focused on more spiritual, force-connected perspectives, only pulling out their lightsabers when given no other choice, seeking to protect an innocent. The image of what a Jedi is supposed to be is displayed in full effect, and it would even be safe to say that it takes more center stage that the oncoming threat itself. Though the circumstances and origins of the “emergence” that kicks off the story remain a mystery for a good while, the first event is wrapped up spectacularly. The miraculous abilities and possibilities that could be achieved by a large amount of Jedi- even from a distance, and working together- is incredible. The moments Soule creates rivals the final battle in Avengers: Endgame. The only drawback is that we just met these characters, so it’s not as gratifying of a moment, but it is touching just the same.

 Avar Kriss, a human female Jedi, is one of the main characters readers follow throughout the story, and it’s easy to see why. She is a leader, intelligent, and strong in the force. Most of all, however, she is a prime example of the Jedi way.

“”But I will say that every one of those lives is as important as any life on this world or any other. We must begin by believing it is possible to save everyone. If the will of the Force is otherwise, so be it, but I will not accept the idea of abandoning them without trying.”

– Avar Kriss

Jedi Master Loden Greatstorm is a Rutian male Twi’lek who wields a yellow lightsaber, and though seen as wise and powerful, also has a sense of humor. His padawan, Bell Zettifar is a human male who befriends a charhound named Ember. The dynamic between master and apprentice here is wonderful, showing a determined yet reserved apprentice with an impulsive, ‘I’m going to jump off the ship now’ master, flipping the roles seen by fans before. It’s also worth noting that this is the first time in a very long time there is a lead Black character who is a Jedi, and we get to see him as an apprentice. While fans may be hoping for a story like this involving a well-known character such as Mace Windu, it’s an incredible thing to be filling out the galaxy with new stories and characters. This includes Keeve Trennis, a black female Jedi Knight, wielding a double-bladed green lightsaber, struggling with her confidence while walking alongside legends in the Jedi order.

The story and threat, going by the name of “The Nihil”, bring to mind some Star Wars Legends stories involving the Yuuzhan Vong in terms of the mystery and oncoming danger. However, there’s one thing Soule does a wonderful job reminding the reader and the Jedi protagonists- sometimes evil looks just a fellow child of the force, who for reasons of their own, have chosen to way of darkness. It doesn’t take a Sith to commit acts of evil, and that lessons makes itself loud and clear. The Great Sith War is briefly mentioned in the novel, possibly hinting at future stories that are yet to be added to the canon timeline. Exploring that era may eventually give new depth and meaning to the High Republic era, just as this era is doing for the prequel era. The biggest takeaway is that the idea of the Jedi order becoming stagnant, battle hungry, or soldiers is something that happened over hundreds of years of keeping the peace and then being manipulated while in a state of comfort and false security. Light of the Jedi shows the Jedi order at their height of heroism and being one with the force, reigniting faith in the light.

Purchase a copy of Charles Soule’s The High Republic: Light of the Jedi here!

Cover of Light of the Jedi

Victory’s Price: A Climactic Finale to an Exciting Ride

Alphabet Squadron: Victory’s Price
by Alexander Freed
Review by Matthew Boccia

Alexander Freed’s Alphabet Squadron trilogy concludes with Victory’s Price, the latest addition to the line of Star Wars novels filling in the gaps between the events of the films. The series has been a fantastic look at the complexities of fighting during the tail-end of a war, with characters from each side questioning their past and present decisions.

Freed doesn’t hold back from focusing on the fact that fighting from spaceships just complicates things even more- creating a disconnectedness that causes a conflict of emotions in each character. Fighting on the ground makes war intensely personal. So what about an ongoing war fought in space where you may never even see the face of your enemy? Yrica Quell is one of the best examples of this struggle because of her history with the Empire.

Her involvement with Operation Cinder was both an active decision and an emotional break with her status quo afterward. It’s a defining moment that resulted in her helping the New Republic. This makes the idea of her going back to the Empire so believable to those still a part of the remnants. The beauty of Yrica’s story arc, of course, is that she has grown as a character. She is using her past and how people view her (even in negative ways) to help the New Republic at the detriment to her own life and standing with her now ex-squadron.

Just like the two previous novels, each character has a chance to shine and display their emotional journeys throughout the story. Hera Syndulla still has a large role in this novel as a mentor and guiding force, which makes it fantastic to see her role expanded in the Star Wars lore. All of the squadron members- Chass, Kairos, Wyl and Nath-are trying to balance their job while also making sense of what they believe is a betrayal by Yrica. Having the plot unfold with the heroes not knowing the full truth is both tragic and tense, making one want to jump into the pages of the book and tell them everything so they can work as a team again. For that alone, Freed excels in creating a compelling plot.

While the first two novels dealt more with forming the squadron and then facing an opposing team, the final chapter highlights each character defining themselves. Though each of the heroes may have been defined by their trauma and pain at the start, it’s satisfying to see them break past that into a new phase of who they are. In a larger story about New Republic pilots forming a crack team to take down the remnants of the Empire, Victory’s Price is the Avengers: Endgame of the trilogy. Shadow Wing is a menacing threat that is willing to destroy and kill just for the sake of it. They encompass everything evil about the Empire, and the Alphabet Squadron is the quintessential team to embody the spirit of rebellion. Freed hits a home run with this final installment and keeps the question asked- what is the price of victory?

Victory Price cover

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Shadow Fall: A Squad Divided

This review contains minor spoilers for Star Wars: Shadow Fall, an Alphabet Squadron novel by Alexander Freed. Reader be warned!

Alphabet Squadron: Shadow Fall by Alexander M. Freed

Alphabet Squadron: Shadow Fall
By Alexander Freed

Review by Matthew Boccia

Following the events of the first novel, Alphabet Squadron, author Alexander Freed takes readers deeper into the minds of the New Republic’s secret fighter squad in Shadow Fall. The rivalry between the Alphabet Squad and the Imperial remnant’s “Shadow Wing” is at the center of the story and drives each character on their journey.

While the first novel focused on setting up the timeline, characters and circumstances, this follow up allows a more character driven entry into the series. Juggling an ensemble of characters that are completely new to readers is not an easy task. There is something refreshing about finishing that introduction and getting to know each of them individually, and this novel does just that.

As leader of the squad, Yrica Quell is probably the character readers have gotten to know the most, and yet who becomes more complex the more information is revealed. Author Alexander Freed takes a very grounded approach to the inner workings of Quell’s mental and emotional state following the events of the first novel, in addition to the course of her life that brought her to the present. While dealing with guilt, anger, fear, and a lot of denial, Quell is trying to figure out how to be a leader and check in on her team. This is incredibly difficult when she’s not taking proper care of herself, and there remains the lingering secret of her involvement with Operation Cinder still hanging above her head. It’s also noted, as she opens up to an IT-O interrogator droid, that one of the moments that shaped her was her involvement with another female who had left the Empire while Quell had stayed. While this is a moment that is pivotal in helping explain Quell’s character and adds another layer to who she is, it’s worth nothing that it’s not used as a commodity. The big reveal is that Quell was in love at all, and had decided to stay where she was under Imperial service- not who she was involved with. This not only adds a more diverse and inclusive element to the Star Wars universe, but does so seamlessly.

Chass na Chadic, known to have a love of action and a lack of trust in others also gets a deeper backstory. We discover her past involvement with a cult that seemingly said all the right things but manipulated and controlled their members. When she finds herself stranded in the middle of another cult with a member of Shadow Wing, things get very complicated. Kairos is aloof as always, hiding her true appearance, and with a determined taste for fighting. Yrica is even tasked with a heads up to check in on her team, especially the enigma Kairos. Her connection with Caern Adan is a strong one, as he is the one who recruited her, as is her fierce determination to take down Shadow Wing.

Wyl Lark and Nath Tensent remain on the heels of Shadow Wing, measuring out a plan of taking them on the ground before they can get their ships in air. Both struggle with learning how to lead, and the uncertainty of the fates of their teammates who they lose contact with as the story progresses. Their struggle is a fantastic look at a journey from angry recruit to determined (albeit unwilling) leader. War is not without losses, and the author does a wonderful job of putting the reader in the heads of each character and how they are viewing everything around them: wins, losses, death, uncertainty.

Freed also gives an insight into the enemy, giving readers the viewpoint of Soran Keize, who is helping lead Shadow Wing. Hearing a villain’s perspective on events is always interesting, but even more so when it comes to war. On the one hand, the reader can almost understand why they feel the way they do, but it falls apart when set against the atrocities their side
has committed. Yet, it still feels genuine not a caricature of a “bad guy.” While reading the thoughts inside Soran’s head, it’s easy to feel like this is a real person in the world.

Shadow Fall is a perfect follow up in the Alphabet Squadron series and follows the tradition of Star Wars sequels. The characters are seperated, in dire circumstances, and the villains are hitting back as hard as they can. If Alphabet Squadron was a taste of the world being created, then this novel is the main course. With characters who feel like people that have crossed your path in real life, Shadow Fall will have you questioning the same complexities of life that they do, and coming out even stronger for it.

Click here to learn how to buy a copy of Star Wars: Shadow Fall by Alexander freed!

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