In Into The Dark, Max discovers an unchartered depth to Claudia Gray’s atmospheric new story from The High Republic
Into the Dark is a tale that bisects Light of the Jedi and we see the full view of the Togruta Master Jora Malli, and also her bookish apprentice, Reath Silas. We only saw a spattering of Jora throughout Light of the Jedi, but the focus is mainly on Silas. I can relate to him, as he loves studying in the Jedi archives and I am currently studying to be a librarian.
Star Wars: The High Republic – Into the Dark | Claudia Gray
Jora volunteers (as readers of the Light of the Jedi know) to lead Starlight Beacon and fully expects Reath to follow her to the frontier. No, it isn’t a request; it’s an order and Reath is very distraught to leave Coruscant as he does not want to not be in the archives. He is like a spoiled city kid that doesn’t want to get sent to the “farm” for the summer.
Anyway, Silas will meet his master after he travels on a ship crewed by a nutty pilot named Leox who Reath correctly predicts is on spice. Leox is a very strange character, but he does grow on you as the tale progresses. Alongside Leox on the crew is a spunky young girl named Affie Hollow and a rock alien named Geode. Claudia Gray (the author) was trying to be creative with the whole living rock motif, but it doesn’t do it for me.
Reath is accompanied by 3 more Jedi, including the former apprentice of Jora Malli. His name is Dez and he is a generally likable character and like a big brother to Reath. The transit is rudely interrupted by the Great Disaster, and they are forced out of hyperspace into an abandoned system containing a mysterious space station. Being stranded sucks, and they have no choice but to board the station along with several other travelers. Tensions, quickly run high and the Jedi need to impose order on the unruly refugees. Reath even has to learn a difficult first lesson about why a lightsaber is not a wonderful magic glowstick. It is a deadly weapon and the damage it evokes can be irreversible.
Claudia connects this book to the novel Bloodline, as this station they are on is of Armaxine origin and the Armaxines are mentioned in the book that takes place centuries later. It’s fine; nothing wrong with expanding your universe with the stuff you create. Yet, I must voice that even though fans are very receptive to Claudia Gray; I am not one of those people. She is a good writer but sometimes her stories tend to drag and lackluster.
Also, Into the Dark, and almost all her other novels have to include a mention of sex. I don’t mean to be a prude but I just feel sex and Star Wars really should not intersect. It can be hinted at, by Gray just goes at it like with a sledgehammer and it puts a bad taste in my mouth.
The Armaxine station has a dark secret and is strangely overrun by vegetation that is cultivated by gardening droids. The droids remind me of Huey, Louey, and Douey from the sci-fi classic that predates even Star Wars itself; Silent Running. The novel also does its own flashback parallel story, and I found myself a little impatient with getting through it. It tries to let readers learn the backstory of Cohmac Vitus, the no-nonsense Senior Jedi accompanying Reath. I like Vitus because his emotions are much stronger and struggle to remain detached.
The Jedi of this era are too indoctrinated in this hippy-dippy non-emotion and overreliance on the Force, which I addressed in my A Test of Courage review. This has solidified my belief that the best Jedi Order is NO Jedi Order. Leox quickly turns into a character who is refreshingly wise and unpredictable and Cohmac wisely thinks it is foolish to not understand the Dark Side. They are my favorite characters, and I often look at this story through their lens.
The station contains a dark power like the cave on Dagobah. The Jedi think it’s concentrated, the power that is, in these strange idols on the station. So they do some ritual (like the Wall of Light) to contain it and then remove them. D’oh. Big mistake. It isn’t exactly what they intended, and that’s what turned the book around for me. The Nihil are also a threat, but there are other surprises as well. Concurrent with the Jedi investigation, Affie is also puzzling over the mystery as to why people from her Guild (the one she flies for) are using the station. Her step-mom is the Guild Leader and she feels obligated to find out why.
I liked how Cohmac gets angry at the Council, and do not show enough sorrow for the death of their own. He’s a very “human” human and a perfect example of why the Jedi Order does things wrong. Just as in A Test of Courage, how do they expect Jedi padawans to form bonds and then not become sad if they are severed. Some more parallels to the COVID-19 pandemic were appreciated, as hospitals were facing overcrowding due to the Disaster. The High Republic team is certainly writing from a 2020 point of view. Anyway, Claudia is not my cup of tea as a writer. But this book did surprise me several times and it had some good perspectives and plot points. I say B-.
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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!