Into the Dark by Claudia Gray is an entry in the Star Wars The High Republic multimedia project. The story follows padawan Reath Silas and several other Jedi as they deal with the aftermath of a hyperspace tragedy and get stranded in an abandoned space station that happens to be home to an ancient evil.
4 out of 5 stars. See the full review below.
Into the Dark begins with padawan Reath Silas lamenting over his new assignment of going to the outer rim. He would much rather stay in the archives of Coruscant’s Jedi Temple than have adventures on the frontier, but his master has taken an assignment at Starlight Beacon in the Outer Rim where Reath must go meet her to continue his training. As he makes his way to Starlight Beacon accompanied by his master’s former apprentice, two Jedi masters, and the crew of the transport, disaster strikes the galaxy when a tragedy occurs in hyperspace causing Reath and his companions to get stranded at an ancient, abandoned space station. However, they are not the only ship stranded in this sector of space and must share their refuge with a wide variety of alien species that are not very friendly. Warring between the factions breaks out and it takes force from the Jedi to keep things under control. As they wait for the mess in hyperspace to be cleaned up, the Jedi encounter an old presence on the station that is deeply rooted in the dark side of the force and attempt to keep it from spreading to consume the galaxy.
Overall, I really like this book, and I found the characters to be incredibly relatable. I absolutely adore Reath Silas. I saw a lot of myself in him and enjoyed getting to see his growth throughout the book from someone who only goes on adventures through reading to becoming more capable of using his Jedi skills to navigate complicated situations in unknown territory. Although, I love that he is still a bookworm at heart even if he is a little more comfortable with adventures now. I look forward to seeing what comes next for the character. If Reath started as a bookworm, his master’s old apprentice Dez Rydan began as the exact opposite, someone who loves and craves excitement and adventure too much. He also experienced an interesting story arc that mirrored Reath’s in many ways. The Jedi masters Cohmac and Orla were both haunted by past mistakes that we get to see through flashbacks throughout the book. I liked the flashbacks, but I think there could have been less of them as their presence sometimes distracted from the story. They both had to work to overcome their fears of repeating their mistakes, and I enjoyed this very human take on the inner workings of a Jedi Master.
The breakout star of this book was Geode! I was thrown off a bit by his introduction, but as the book progressed, I became obsessed with him. I would have never guessed a rock could be such a great character, and it is really a credit to Claudia Gray’s writing that she was able to make him such a memorable character. The rest of the Vessel crew was also interesting and provided a lot of great humor and dialogue to the book. I enjoyed the subplot with Affie discovering information about the guild the pilots worked for and its ties to the abandoned space station. However, that particular subplot seemed to be expendable.
In addition to many of the characters, I also enjoyed the themes presented in the book. As mentioned previously, Orla and Cohmac had to face their fears of repeating past mistakes and work through them to successfully navigate the challenges they faced during the book. There was also a deep emphasis on grief throughout this novel. It explored how to process and cope with loss by showing how the different characters successfully, and unsuccessfully, accomplish that for themselves. Most powerfully, this story demonstrated the difference between accepting your emotions and being ruled by them. I thought the story of Cohmac, especially, showed this particular distinction quite well.
Of course, there were many cool things related to the Star Wars universe and the Jedi in the novel. I enjoyed the re-canonization of one particular fact about the Jedi temple. The philosophical debates about what it means to be a Jedi and the role of the dark side were also very interesting to ponder. The concept of the Wayseeker is an interesting one, as well, and I’m looking forward to seeing what is done with it in future works.
Even though there were many things I enjoyed about the book, there were some things lacking. For example, the new villains, the Drengir, were laughably bad. It was weird that they spoke Basic and were portrayed in a goofy ‘I must feed’ manner. I think there was a lot of potential for them that was squandered, and I hope another author gets the chance to do more with them. The Nihil were in the book, as well, but they felt almost like an afterthought. It seemed like they were included only because they are the big villain of this multimedia project. Finally, the amount of characters was problematic at times. The narrative shifted through so many different perspectives and flashbacks it was jarring at times. I think this book handled this more successfully than some other High Republic books (here’s looking at you Light of the Jedi), but it was still a problem that made reading the book a little less enjoyable. In my opinion, a greater focus on fewer characters would have improved the book and deepened the good things about the characterizations even more.
All in all, Into the Dark is a good read. It has relatable characters who grapple with some incredibly powerful issues, including grief, acceptance of emotions without being ruled by them, and overcoming guilt about past mistakes. It also provides some interesting new insights into the Jedi order and philosophy. Therefore, despite its flaws and underwhelming villains, I believe there is enough good here to rate the book 4 out of 5 stars and recommend anyone interested in this era of Star Wars to give it a read.