Max delves into Justina Ireland’s A Test Of Courage and discovers a story strong with the force.
A Test of Courage by Justina Ireland is the book on the lowest “tier” of The High Republic book hierarchy. Light of the Jedi is an adult novel, Into the Dark is a young adult and this one is what is called a middle-grade reader. Because of that, you’d expect it to be the weakest in terms of literary value. Well, that is dead wrong. In my opinion, it is the strongest of the three pilot novels of The High Republic and I highly recommend NOT skipping it, as I was inclined to.
Star Wars: The High Republic – A Test Of Courage | Justina Ireland
The book starts from the point of view of two Nihil who are just two despicable beings. The Nihil are scum. They attract the cockroaches of the galaxy, and I hope they get their comeuppance. This tale takes place after the initial disaster, and the hyperspace quarantine, so it’s a tale about a bunch of senators and representatives going on a journey to try and sway a system to join the Republic.
On the mission is an extremely precocious Jedi Knight named Vernesta Rwoh or Vern for short. She is a 16-year old Mirilian that is gifted in the Force and so centered in the Force that she is one of the youngest Padawans promoted to Knighthood in generations. The ship they are on is pretty fancy, and the Jedi Master “supervising” is named Douglass. Huh? Douglass? That sounds a little too “earthy” for Star Wars. However, that is the only thing I find wrong with it.
Action And Adventure
The story gets right into the action, and the children soon find themselves stranded on a jungle moon. All the adults are dead. Now, the strength of this book isn’t the survival story. It’s the range of emotion Justina Ireland has conjured up. Loss and grief, especially for a child are long-lasting and palpable and Ireland captures it perfectly.
When one of the boys falls asleep, he wakes up and it hits him all over again. Dad is dead. Gone. The anguish is so realistic. Also, the rage and thirst for vengeance at those who killed your loved ones are super intense and understandable. The Jedi are hypocrites. They expect padawans to form a close bond with their masters, and then, just “let it go” should they die. They also insist everything is the will of the Force and that being one with it is comforting. Yet, in canon lore, there is no true afterlife so I don’t think celebrating a loss of anonymity and consciousness is very reassuring.
Now for the kids themselves. Vernesta is a hippy-dippy drag that I don’t like and Avon is too smart for her own good. She lacks social skills and can be very insensitive to others. Yet, the boys are very relatable and likable characters. Imri, the Jedi padawan, and Honesty the politician’s son. Both experience Anakin Skywalker-Esque’s “pain, terrible pain” and want to exact their revenge when they find out the Nihil are responsible for their loved one’s deaths. Also, there is an added element of jealousy for Imri as Vernesta is so far ahead of him. Imri makes a lot of mistakes and has to turn back from going down a dark path.
I almost think this book is too deep and dark for kids and the age group is wrong. However, I love a classic light and dark story. It’s pure Star Wars. A+.
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Max Nocerino is a regular Staff Writer for The Future of the Force. He is a passionate Star Wars fan and loves the literature of the galaxy far, far away. Follow him on Twitter where he shares his love of the Force frequently!