Star Wars: the Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule is the first in a new multimedia project set in the Star Wars universe known as the High Republic. Taking place roughly 300 years before the events of the original movies, the High Republic Era is one of unparalleled peace and prosperity. The Jedi are at the height of their influence and with no major conflicts the Galactic Republic is poised to expand its influence to the far reaches of the galaxy. However, this period of tranquility is shattered when a crisis of galactic proportions threatens to throw the entire Republic into chaos.
When a transport freighter traveling through hyperspace is destroyed upon colliding with a mysterious vessel, wreckage from the crash is set on a collision course with Hetzal Prime, one of the main sources of agriculture for the entire Outer Rim Territories. Jedi and Republic forces are able to narrowly avert the disaster but there are still more pieces of the ship hurtling through hyperspace. With the Supreme Chancellor forbidding hyperspace travel across the Outer Rim until the cause of the collision can be ascertained the race is on to find a way to predict where the next hyperspace emergence will strike and unravel the mystery of who is responsible.
The story begins by throwing the reader headfirst into the action with numerous character introductions and explanations as multiple groups scramble to prevent loss of life. With so much happening at once it’s a little hard to sort out who’s who and what details are important but the story does a good job of showing just how much teamwork and sacrifice is required to conduct a rescue on a galactic scale. After the initial crisis is over, focus shifts from a big ensemble to a core group of characters across different locations as the Republic deals with the fallout from the disaster. Once the story settles into the mystery the characters begin to take form and the greater plot begins to emerge. There is a group of roving bandits known as the Nihil that possesses the mysterious ability to navigate secret paths through hyperspace. While the Nihil themselves are little more than a chaotic rabble, their enigmatic figurehead, Marchion Ro, has a plan to put an end to the Republic and the Jedi once and for all.
Even though the book opens with a big exciting action set piece it’s the quieter moments that tend to be more engaging. The High Republic is perhaps the most hopeful and optimistic era in Star Wars history so the anarchy of the Nihil makes for a fitting challenge to Republic’s ideals. While the clash between the Jedi and the Nihil may be the main focus of the High Republic brand as a whole, Light of the Jedi is mostly concerned with setting the stage for the opening salvos. There are certainly plenty of great moments throughout but the real excitement is in the promises of things to come. Readers should be prepared to stick around past the opening credits because the movie is just beginning.
Reviewed by Evan J