Book Review | Star Wars: The High Republic Cataclysm
“Aside from a few technical details, Star Wars: The High Republic Cataclysm was extremely well-written and executed. I was on the edge of my seat!”
Star Wars: The High Republic is going strong in Phase II by throwing us a brilliant (yet familiar) curveball and going back 100 years before Phase I to tell the story of how Phase I came to be. I heavily approve of this storytelling method as it is basically in the vein of Lucas himself when he turned back the clock on his classic Trilogy to give us the story of how his vision started.
Convergence was a very interesting book. It is the prequel to Cataclysm. And while I loved the world-building of the double-warring planets of Eiram and E’ronoh, I felt the story was lackluster and didn’t really interest me in terms of importance. Star Wars is known for its exciting, multi-faceted plot locations. But most of the action of Convergence took place in the desert of E’ronoh and didn’t have the big impact that you see in stories that take place in space. YES, I am very all for the art of telling a story in a one-star system (Alexander Freed). But I just felt no pull to this adventure. It was boring and uni-dimensional and while I enjoyed watching the characters interact, I felt it was a drag to finish. Now we get to Cataclysm.
The story of the war between Eiram and its twin world E’ronoh is re-ignited by the insidious meddling of the Path of the Open Hand as they lay a trap on the moon in between the planets as they plan to poison Eiram’s oceans with a bacterium and blame it on the E’ronohi. Even though the heirs of both worlds have wed and a treaty was to be signed, the Path derailed this as well with the Battle of Jedha. And it doesn’t take much kindling to restart the conflagration between worlds. Axel Greylark, the Chancellor’s spoiled adult son has been imprisoned for his actions on behalf of the Hand and Jedi Gella Nattai is reeling from his betrayal.
Yet the Path’s amoral leader The Mother has more use for Greylark and engineers his escape. The Jedi are uncovering clues and decide to infiltrate the Path on their homeworld of Dalna to discover why they are bent on restarting the war. And what role they have in the chaos in the galaxy. However, this plan turns into poodoo with lethal consequences for beings on all sides.
I like how this book played out as it really captured religious idealism and war politics very well. The Path is an excellent representation of extremist Islam terrorism because they feel that their view of the Force is the correct one. And all those who use the Force directly are vermin and need to be eliminated. The tensions between the double worlds are also an excellent metaphor for the semi-Cold War America has between the other two superpowers China and Russia. There is much distrust on all sides. And many of the conflicts we face with them are politically and monetarily motivated. The Path’s reason for prolonging the war seems pointless. But the Mother’s agenda seems to be the eradication of the Jedi and wrestling control of the Republic from the Co-Chancellors.
The Mother is quite a nasty piece of work and we’ll get to that shortly. When the Jedi infiltrate the Path, they discover the Mother’s secret weapon and then are drawn into a massive conflict that kills hundreds. The Path like to come off like an Amish society. But they have tons of Enforcer droids and missile launchers and the Jedi find themselves pushed to the edge fighting them. One of the very words in the title of this franchise is Wars. And this book presented one of the most intense war sequences I’ve ever read in a Star Wars book.
It was a bloodbath that seemed to have no end. And I felt the character’s exhaustion and frustration as they fought the seemingly never-ending numbers of the Path. War ain’t pretty and battles last far too long. Something The High Republic has captured to perfection.
I also loved seeing the characters of this novel develop like Axel Greylark and his mother, the Chancellor. Axel is a selfish-spoiled late twenty-some-early thirty-some man who was put in prison for his actions on the double worlds. He seems very sorry for the havoc he caused, but he does willingly jump ship when the Path comes for him. I also enjoyed Chancellor Greylark dropping the pomp and circumstance and learning to care for and worry about her son again.
The Mother is an amoral being. That’s the conclusion I’ve come to. Palpatine was evil because he was sadistic and enjoyed people’s suffering. But the Mother is slightly different. She appears to have no moral compass as she is willing to kill without hesitation. However, she genuinely seems to value her “religion” and if she’s not a true psychopath like Palps, I don’t know what to make of her.
Some of the new characters were also enjoyable to fathom such as Benoit, the Mirilian convert of the Path who has a past friendship with Axel. He seems to have some affection for Axel. But he is also cold and callous and makes it subtly clear that he will kill Axel if Axel does not perform the way he should. I kept scratching my head with him as well because I couldn’t psychologically classify him. Maybe this is the religious fanaticism taking the reins, which author Lydia Kang was just perfect at capturing.
FORTE & CREIGHTON
Aida Forte and Creighton Sun return from the previous novels. And while they are a bit more static in terms of character development, I did see Creighton become slightly more aggressive when he has to deal with the brunt of what the Force can throw at you. However, the best characterization was Axel. This is because while at first, he comes off as a narcissistic opportunist, he really does have a conscience. And I loved it as he learned the error of his ways and take responsibility for his actions. It was very realistic and speaks volumes about how complex real people are. Lastly, I also enjoyed the fleshing out of Yaddle who has recently been given the spotlight in Star Wars storytelling. She is a bit of a stickler but I find her teaching style to be pretty sound.
One of the only things I had a problem with in this novel is the seemingly never-ending numbers of the Path. They seemed to almost respawn instantly from the caves of their compound on Dalna. And it is slightly unrealistic to have converted so many members to this tiny religion in such a short time. Based on my reading, I have to assume there are over 10,000 Path members on Dalna, and with the Enforcer droids added, even the Jedi have quite a lot on their plates.
The Path began to change its name towards the end to the Path of the Closed Fist. And I don’t know why, but that seemed a bit corny to me. Lastly, when the novel wraps up I felt uncertain about the Mother’s next step in her crusade against the Jedi. What is she planning now? We don’t see much of her during the battle and unless it was intentional, Kang seemed to have left out an important puzzle piece.
I also don’t get why Yaddle dragged that Arkanian youngling Cippa to Dalna. Yeah, I get that she is gifted and is training her. But I believe it was too dangerous and unnecessary for Yaddle to do. Also, why Yaddle speaks normally (as opposed to Yoda) was a decision made by Dave Filoni and y don’t like this change. In Star Wars Legends, she spoke just like Yoda. Why was this changed?!
Aside from a few technical details, this book was extremely well-written. I will confess I was on the edge of my seat multiple times as “The Battle of Dalna” unfolded. I love the politics of war and the religious analogies. It felt like a real thing happening somewhere out in the universe and I hope to see more of the Double Worlds in the future. I also enjoyed reading about Axel as he saw the light and returned to the side of good and mended his damaged relationship with Gella. There are a ton of other characters I didn’t mention, but for this The High Republic adventure – I want the readers to find out themselves.
This latest volume from The High Republic has many gems and they are best uncovered on their own. Excellent work Mrs. Kang. Solid A!
Star Wars: The High Republic: Cataclysm is available to order 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!