Book Review | Star Wars: The Fallen Star (The High Republic)
“I just LOVED Claudia Gray’s The Fallen Star, and I feel it’s not just mandatory reading for fans of The High Republic, but Star Wars fans as a whole”
2022 begins with the end of the first wave of the Star Wars: The High Republic initiative. The High Republic was launched in 2020, telling the story of the Jedi two centuries before The Phantom Menace.
The project congregated some incredibly talented writers. Charles Soule, Claudia Gray; Justina Ireland; Daniel Jose Older, and Cavan Scott have been on hand to create books, comics, short stories, and graphic novels detailing this era of Star Wars history. It is unknown how long this project but last. But I am betting based on Star Wars’ style, that we are looking at 2 more waves before this initiative is over.
THE FALLEN STAR
2022 is off to a strong start with Claudia Gray’s The Fallen Star. The novel picks up a few months after The Rising Storm (Cavan Scott) and the Nihil attack on Valo. For those of you living under a rock, the Nihil is the latest terror the Jedi must face. Space pirates who are, well, nihilistic, run by a cold and calculating psychopath named Marchion Ro. Before beginning this novel, it would be prudent to read The Rising Storm AND perhaps Out of the Shadows. So you won’t feel lost as the story begins. However, I will of course give a summary.
SETTING THE TONE
The Jedi are trying to root out the Nihil who appear to be on the run. All the while, Jedi Master Avar Kriss is hunting the leader of the Nihil, the Eye who is presumed to be the homicidal Twi’lek Lourna Dee. However, Lourna is a red herring and Avar is completely wasting her time because the real leader lurks in the Shadows. And he is planning something so horrendous and insidious. He wants to bring the Jedi to their knees, and his target is the magnificent space station that was supposed to usher in a new expansion of the Galactic Republic. Starlight Beacon.
This novel is expertly written, and I have completely put my reservations about Claudia Gray as a storyteller aside. This was an exceptional tale, told through the eyes of many characters. And all interwoven much better than any Star Wars story I’ve seen in the new era. I don’t like flashbacks or interludes, as I feel it bores and distracts me from the main story. Gray doesn’t do this, and everything flows quite smoothly.
The Jedi of this era are in their prime, and you would expect them to be all zen and centered. However, this is not the case. Being a Jedi in this time pushes all Jedi characters to their limits. And many give in to grief, anger, and fear throughout the story. Elzar Mann is particularly susceptible to these “dark” emotions. And after the events of the last book, has decided to take a much-needed break from the Order. And he meditates on a distant ocean world to get his emotions back into check. It amazes me that Jedi are expected to form bonds with all living things. But if those bonds are strengthened or even severed, they must disengage for fear of turning to the dark side.
I feel this system does not work, and unless you are a droid, you cannot stop these emotions from arising. I like the Jedi Padawan Bell Zettifar. He is a young human male who recently lost his Master to the horrific Leveler that Ro controls and is struggling with grief. His feelings are so raw and real, and you can’t help but empathize with him, as he tries to move on.
His Wookiee friend, Burryaga tries to help him, and Bell also has a new Master whom he wants to connect to. Grief is a weird beast, and if you are saddened by loss and death, this book may not be for you. A lot of the story takes place on Starlight, which Marchion has brilliantly decided to sabotage from the inside. The Jedi are blind to the deception, and soon it becomes a fight to survive and escape.
In addition to the Jedi perspective, Claudia gives us great examples of points of view from the Nihil, and regular people like the crew of the Vessel, Affie Hollow, Leox, and Geode. They also find themselves stuck on the station with the Jedi, and it’s nice to switch back and forth between their stories. Claudia Gray succeeds where her colleague Daniel Jose Older fails, in dealing with alien dialogue. Older finds it to be necessary to give us tedious gibberish words to read. But when dealing with Burryaga, Grey just translates it seamlessly. That’s the way it should be. However, Gray’s annoying habit of bringing sex into Star Wars is still too ever-present, and I feel that it just doesn’t belong in the story except for brief implications.
SEX IN STAR WARS?
Sex motivates a lot of characters in this book and that’s something George Lucas never intended to happen back in 1977. Despite this, I was super impressed with Claudia’s story as it was complex and multi-faceted enough to stimulate your mind. But also not so indecipherable that you find yourself lost while reading.
Something is lurking on this station. Something that kills Jedi, and it reminded me a little of a horror movie where you don’t get a good look at the monster; in a vein of like Signs or A Quiet Place. The thing (or things) on the station is presumably the Leveler or its offspring. But I’ll leave it for the readers to discover.
I once again found parallels to the COVID-19 pandemic in this initiative. And this story could be seen as a representation of the phase of the pandemic, where everyone has thought the danger has passed, but in reality, has just begun. It is unknown if the writer intended to do this on purpose, but it’s fun to use a real-world lens when you read something. I feel that the main character in the book is Elzar Mann, as his growth and fall and growth in this story shape the narrative as a whole.
I just LOVED this book, and I feel it is not just mandatory reading for fans of The High Republic, but Star Wars fans as a whole. Not to be a gatekeeper, but YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK. My highest praise goes to Claudia, and I will be contemplating her future titles with much more interest going forward. I cannot wait for the rest of the end of wave one and can only grasp at straws at what this initiative’s conclusion will be.
Star Wars: The High Republic – The Fallen Star by Claudia Gray is published by Del Rey and is available to order from Amazon now.
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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!