October 3, 2023
Book Review | Star Wars: The High Republic: Tales of Light and Life

Max dives into the series of short stories found within the pages of STAR WARS: THE HIGH REPUBLIC – Tales of Light and Life. But is this anthology of stories full of Force? 

It’s time to return to THE HIGH REPUBLIC era in STAR WARS: THE HIGH REPUBLIC – TALES OF LIGHT AND LIFE. The latest volume from Lucasfilm’s world-building initiative. One of the best things about a short story anthology is that there is a multitude of different writing styles to sample compare and contrast. And boy are these writers varied in both skill and style.


The High Republic is returning for its third and final Phase. This will presumably wrap up the pseudo-war between the Jedi and the evil Nihil space pirates, and give us some possible final insight on the Nameless and their ability to kill Force-users with just a touch. In the meantime, this Anthology acts as a bridge between all three Phases. And it offers some insights into your favorite character’s actions at the end of some of the novels in the initiative.

I love behind-the-scenes tales or fleshing-out background characters. And while I admit, Star Wars: Legends did it better, there is still tons of fun to be had in reading the Canon backstories. There are 9 tales in this anthology, much lighter than the Certain Point of View roster. However, these 9 tales are considerably longer than the FACOPV tales. And I think a lot of them had the potential to be even longer. The inherent weakness in some of the stories is that they were built up so well, but ended so quickly.

But more on that in a bit. I will be individually reviewing each tale (due to the shortness) and I was very intrigued that some tales I loved, while others I completely abhorred. I will also be continuing my Force Facts segment at the end of the review. This will encapsulate all stories, with no barriers to which fact was in each story. Sorry in advance.

Star Wars: The High Republic: Tales of Light and Life

The Queen’s Bloom

We start strong with the first tale, written by the very talented Zoraida Cordova, who wrote the novel Convergence in Phase II. I very much enjoyed Convergence, and this story lived up to its potential. It gave us an interesting look into the late teens of Axel Greylark, a polarizing pseudo-protagonist in some of the Phase II novels. Axel is 17 in this tale, and his mother is not yet Chancellor of the Republic (but she is campaigning to be so). Axel’s father Lexxir is alive and is also a Senator. It’s interesting to see the dynamic between Axel and Lexxir and as I personally just lost my father; I am nostalgic for the times of my youth when we had a strong bond.

In the main novels, Axel is close to 30 and his father’s death has left a bitter imprint on him. Which is why he may have veered towards the Dark Side in the first place. In the novel, Axel is a spoiled, Wisenheimer-rich kid attending school at a private university. He is trouble for the Deans, but she can’t complain as his grades are in the second to highest, he’s on the debate team, and he’s a star team athlete. He also has a girlfriend and a rival and are all the traits of people I hated in high school. Cocky, arrogant, and believe that they are the best at everything both academic and “cool.”

The tale is very well written and I enjoyed the plot. It didn’t build too many expectations that would only work for a longer tale, and the ending was sufficiently satisfying. I have nothing bad to say about this story.

A Closed Fist with No Claws

Next up is Tessa Gratton’s The High Republic tale. Tessa is the co-author of Path of Deceit (which also happens to be my favorite High Republic novel) with seasoned pro, Justina Ireland. And the collaboration delivers another tale that I highly enjoyed. In my humble opinion, it may be the best of the anthology. So I guess the adage, saved the best for last doesn’t exist in this book. This tale is written from the first-hand account of Marda Ro, after the events of the end of Phase II. Marda has become the leader of the Path of the Open Hand, and she’s gone COMPLETELY insane.

Gone is the compassionate tender woman. She sacrifices Force-users to the never-ending hunger of her Nameless with cold and emotionless cruelty. And she even uses blood to paint a picture of a rising sun on her ship. She’s bonkers. The events of Phase II have turned her into a monster. And it’s super intriguing to see the Path shift from religious zealots into the murderous hedonists that will eventually become the Nihil. I also was chilled by Marda’s serial killer-like tendency to seek out other members of her race and the resulting problems that arise because of it. I also think this tale is the most well-written of all of them as well, and look forward to seeing Tessa’s work in Star Wars, in the future.

Shield of the Jedi

Story 3 is from George Mann, and I have recently started to appreciate this author for his skill. He was chosen to write the Star Wars Myths and Fables books and Dark Legends, so I am not surprised that he crafted, a whimsical, almost pure-fantasy genre tale around the Padawan Rooper Nitani. Rooper is apprenticed to Silandra Sho, an unorthodox Jedi who carries a Kyber shield in addition to a lightsaber.

Silandra has decided Rooper is ready for Knighthood, and her Trials are simple. Find her shield. Yet, this is much harder than it seems. Rooper must learn to trust her instincts and embarks on a fairy tale complete with “dragons” and rustic townsfolk on Batuu. Normally, I tend to err on the Sci-fi side of Star Wars, but I felt this story taught a good lesson and was well-written. I also very much like the character of Rooper as she is pure-hearted but also spunky and sarcastic when need be. She perceives the Force as color, and I will be touching on that briefly in Force Facts.

The Lonely Traveler is Home

Tale 5. If you are having fun so far, it’s now time to turn up the diarrhea dial with this one written by Daniel Jose Older. I have nothing against Older as a person; I just don’t like his writing style. At all. His character dialogue is atrocious and the way he writes is just awful. This tale was a complete waste of my time because the plot was so juvenile and unimportant. Padawan Ram Jomaram feels that his friend on Starlight Beacon is homesick. So he intends to throw her a surprise party to cheer her up. Huh? Am I reading Marvin Redpost?! How could they think this could pass as a Star Wars story? It’s almost insulting.

Yes, The High Republic is aimed at young people, but this is just unacceptable. Everything about this story made me bored and annoyed and I almost feel that you should just skip it. The only credibility I will give the writing is that I interpret Ram as an autistic individual. I have long since been speculated to be on the Autism Spectrum and Ram seems to check all the boxes for that type of neurodivergence. I don’t know if this was Older’s intention when writing him. But I sincerely hope it is or Older just doesn’t know how to write teenagers.

The High Republic Wave 3

After the Fall

The diarrhea dial is still on. This tale by Claudia Gray is as odious as her predecessor and I have to be honest. Many people laud Gray as the best author to come to Star Wars in a long time. She has a dedicated fanbase and I understand where the appeal comes from. However, I have been exposed to so many good writers over the last couple of years, and I feel Gray pales in comparison to them. Mainly because I find her diction tripe and unsuccessful. Besides the fact that the story is also super boring, Gray tries to achieve a kind of deepness with her characters that fall flat.

I don’t buy how caring and ethical Affie is. Her crewmate Leox is written to be this deep philosophical guardian. But every time he opens his mouth, I want to slug him. He is a pretentious know-it-all that says nothing. And while you would think having such a negative reaction to a character is also a sign of good writing, I know this wasn’t Grays’s intention. The plot is boring and predictable from start to finish. And like Older, I simply do not like Gray’s style of writing. Also, Geode is NOT an example of a quirky, creative alien character. It fails. He is a boring, cliche plot point and needs to be dropped into the bottom of the Mariana Trench ASAP.

I do not have any ill feelings towards Daniel Jose Older and Claudia Gray and respect them as writers and people.

The Force Provides

Lucky number 7? You would think so because it is penned by Justina Ireland (a prodigiously talented writer and previously my first pick for strongest The High Republic writer). I expected it to be no exception in quality. Yet, this is where the whole too-long but not long enough problem starts to show up in the anthology. Justina paints a vibrant canvas in terms of a plot and the build-up is strong. It just wraps up too easily and neatly that you feel deflated and looking for more when it’s over.

I DO admire that Vernestra Rwoh, (the main focus character) is a sort of a child prodigy Jedi and is good at saving the day. Yet a lot of what happens is quickly resolved and wholly predictable. I can see this story being very successful if it was longer, but in its current state, it’s a disappointment.

All Jedi Walk Their Own Path

This tale was also a disappointment. It was written by another talented writer, Charles Soule. He wrote the pilot take-off novel for this initiative and is beloved (with good reason) for his Darth Vader comics. Yet, this story is just silly. It takes place in the aftermath of the destruction of Starlight Beacon where Padawan Bell Zettifar holds on to the hope that his Wookiee Jedi friend Burry is still alive. The tale alternates from present-day to a time when Bell’s Master Lodem was alive. And while Lodem is a boss; I feel that much like Claudia, the effect that Soule tries to create, falls flat.

You expect me to believe that the audience was supposed to question if Burry was dead and that Loden could change an entire PLANET’s war by just helping ONE village?! It’s like me going to a village in China and helping improve it, so things will trickle down to Iran, Russia, and North Korea. Ridiculous.

The High Republic

The Light in the Darkness

The penultimate story is written by Cavan Scott, who I like as a writer. It’s good that he is rounding up the end. Mainly because you need something positive to make up for the horrors we’ve been subjected to. His tale has almost an “ethnic” feel as it tells the tale of two alien siblings living on a world enslaved by the Hutts after the Nihil drove them out. The sister Kian holds onto the hope that the Jedi will arrive to save them. But her younger brother Hoi is a pessimist. They have lost their father to the evil Hutts and steal food from a Hutt dreadnaught to feed what remains of their village.

Hoi has a right to be angry. He lost his parent and the Jedi are nowhere to be found to help them. Much like the Jews during the Holocaust, many question their belief in God (in this case the Jedi) as their calls for help are unanswered. Yet, Kian holds faith in the Jedi. And she learns that her little brother is just as scared as she is (behind the brave, angry face he puts up.) When the Jedi did arrive, I was cheering with them as it felt like American soldiers coming to a remote village during a war. I also like the Jedi who saved them as she is totally honest with them.

They were too late and Hutts could come back. Yet, she truly means it when she says she will do whatever is in her power to make sure they remain safe. Woo Hoo. Go, Cavan!

The Call of Coruscant

The last tale by Lydia Kang is very anti-climactic when compared to the previous adventure. And it ends The High Republic anthology on a bland note. I am a fan of Kang. But this story felt like an episode of 90210 or some other late-night show. One detailing the social lives of people in their early to mid-20s. Jedi Amadeo Azzazzo is constantly on the move with his master Mirro Lox, visiting different planets, and participating in all sorts of wild missions in the Outer Rim. He longs to stay in one place for a little longer than a hot second and experience what it feels like to sit down and have dinner with people over several days.

I get what he’s feeling as with my father being gone, I long for those days when we all sat down to eat as a family. Starlight Beacon falls (which has become The High Republic’s 9/11 unfortunately) and Lox and Amadeo are recalled to Coruscant. Kang tries to present the whole country-boy-in-the-big-city type effect with Amadeo as he sees the glittering ecumenopolis for the first time. And he feels a pull to explore the city. It’s semi-successful. But the tale just shows an awkward kid mingling with young city folk who are aspiring to be hip and with it and finding each other irresistibly unique. Amadeo meets a spunky, pretty Tholothian girl who wants him to run away from his life with the Jedi and live in the undercities of Coruscant.

Sex in Star Wars

It’s a little hard to believe she only knows this guy for a day and expects him to forsake all he knows for her (what is she on Spice?). It’s a little odd that the reader is made to believe Amadeo is considering it. Like Ireland’s tale, so much is built up so fast, only to be resolved incredibly quickly. It didn’t feel like Star Wars for me. More like an episode of Broad City and it left a sour taste in my mouth. Also, was there an unwelcome implication of sex?! Lydia?! That’s usually Claudia’s plot point.

 Star Wars: The High Republic: Tales of Light and Life


I can’t grade The High Republic anthology as a whole. There are so many varying degrees of quality between stories. I’ll grade each individually by order of my review.


Star Wars The High Republic – Tales of Light and Life is available to order now.








Now for some Force Facts. This is where I explore the culture, science, tech, and philosophy of the beauty of Star Wars worldbuilding. So buckle up and jump to lightspeed!

  1. When the medical droid takes Axel’s temperature, she is ultra-precise stating it is 38.8889 degrees. Talk about accuracy. But wait, 38 degrees?! What is Axel, a fish? No. Star Wars apparently uses the Celsius scale to measure temperature (like most of the world) and as an American, I am so ingrained with the Fahrenheit measurement that I got confused for a second. For those like me, Axel measures a 102-degree temperature which is well into fever territory.

  2. In order to jack up his temperature, Axel eats 5 Guiji peppers which are like the Star Wars version of ghost peppers. I love spicy food, the hotter the better, and I foolishly (on 2 occasions) ate a whole hot pepper. Did not turn out well for me.

  3. The medical droid thinks Axel has Malongo pox, which is a new original Star Wars ailment introduced in this book. The symptoms seem mild and that of a flu or common cold but the droid wants Axel to sleep it off to treat it. Pretty archaic medicine for a rich Core World private school. You measure a temperature to the most precise degree but you want him to take a sedative? Have they heard of antibiotics? Hmmm. Also, if that doesn’t work, the next symptom will be pus-filled blisters. Yikes! What do they do if that happens? Good thing Axel was faking…

  4. Some scholars think the Queens Bloom Phenomenon may be connected to the Force. Hmmmm. It’s possible. The Force works in tandem with life and the phenomenon is quite strange; the whole planet’s flowers bloom with phosphorescent light at the same time. That seems like it could be Force-related. I love it when science and the Force are mixed. It makes a lot of sense that scientists in that world. Thats what would be happening if the Force was real and it is akin to us speculating about dark matter or dark energy here on Earth

  5. Rooper sees the Force as color. Fascinating. That is very similar to the real-world phenomenon of synesthesia, where certain individuals see numbers as color. It sounds fake but it’s real! The Force apparently manifests for every Jedi and Sith differently, and while this was not unheard of in Legends; it has been much expounded on in new Canon.

  6. I notice that in Star Wars one of the most consistent things is that for all their technology, every species seems to age and become old and feeble like they do on the Earth in 2023. Why haven’t they cracked the secret to anti-aging yet? The Mandalorian spoke about how genetic engineering was illegal during the New Republic Era, and this is High Republic (over 200 years prior) but it sucks that you can fly FTL and fire lasers, but you still get arthritis and gray hair.

  7. Also, why does almost every Outer Rim planet have its inhabitants live like feudal era peasants and farmers? They can make fusion generators the size of a lantern but they can’t make life better for everyone with tech that is so cheap and accessible?!

  8. Science is light-years ahead in some areas, but very similar to present-day 2023 Earth in others. The marshes of planet Miekos are a mystery in that they don’t know about the landmass underneath supporting all the water. They use ultrasonic scanners to take a closer look but still, they haven’t truly gone there yet.

  9. The population of the galaxy is said to be trillions among trillions. This seems highly accurate. In comparison, the Jedi Knights number only in the thousands during The High Republic era. This is consistent with the count of approximately 10,000 Jedi by the beginning of the Clone Wars. It’s really a rare, exclusive club!

Once again, Star Wars The High Republic – Tales of Light and Life is available to order now.







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