Author: Cavan Scott
Publication Date: June 29, 2021
Print Length: 448 pages
Read Date(s): July 21, 2021 – July 24, 2021
The heroes of the High Republic era return to face a shattered peace and a fearsome foe, following the dramatic events of Light of the Jedi.
In the wake of the Great Hyperspace Disaster and the heroism of the Jedi, the Republic continues to grow, bringing more worlds together under a single unified banner. Under the leadership of Chancellor Lina Soh, the spirit of unity extends throughout the galaxy, with the Jedi and the newly established Starlight Beacon station at the vanguard.
In celebration, the chancellor plans The Republic Fair, a showcase of the possibilities and the peace of the expanding Republic—a peace the Jedi hope to foster. Stellan Gios, Bell Zettifar, Elzar Mann, and others join the event as ambassadors of harmony. But as the eyes of the galaxy turn toward the Fair, so too does the fury of the Nihil. Their leader, Marchion Ro, is intent on destroying this unity. His storm descends on the pageantry and celebration, sowing chaos and exacting revenge.
As the Jedi struggle to curb the carnage of the rampaging Nihil, they come face-to-face with the true fear their enemy plans to unleash across the galaxy—the kind of fear from which even the Force cannot shield them.
Going into reading this book, I was somewhat skeptical about it because of the setting being a Republic Fair. My initial reaction when I found out was one of disbelief that the writers would choose to follow up the massive hyperspace disaster of the first book, The Light of the Jedi, with something so innocuous and hokey. I went into the book thinking the story would probably be smaller in scope and subpar to the first book. Boy was I wrong.
The story picked up approximately one year after The Light of the Jedi and the cataclysm in hyperspace that killed so many people. The Republic officials were planning a massive fair to celebrate unity and expansion into the Outer Rim. They believed the Nihil threat was contained and continued to move forward with the Chancellor’s Great Works as if the crisis was behind them. Unfortunately for them, the Nihil were using the time to rebuild and waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. What ensued was another massive disaster that felt even more impactful than the hyperspace fiasco because of its symbolism and effects on characters central to the ongoing story.
The first half of this book was a bit slow. It focused heavily on preparations for the fair and laying the groundwork for the catastrophe to come. Despite being relatively dull on the action, this part of the book gave some great insight into the politics of the time and thought-provoking information about the philosophy of the Jedi alive during this period. It was interesting to note the differences between the way the Jedi acted here compared to the prequel era, which makes me wonder how they fell so far between the High Republic and the time of the movies. The first half of the book also enriched the mystery of Marchion Ro and his master plan, which was incredibly intriguing. The author did a great job adding to the lore of this time period while also striking a tone that kept me engaged by consistently hinting something horrible was about to happen.
The second half of this book was a wild ride of absolute horror. I read the last 250 or so pages in one sitting because I just could not put the book down. The fun fair that honestly sounded like it would be a blast to visit quickly devolved into a blood bath. Imagining the Jedi in this debacle was a lot of fun, especially since the author did such a great job of bringing the brutality of the fight to life. The feats they accomplish were truly amazing and spectacular to read. I kept thinking I’d love to see these characters do something similar in a movie because it would be astounding to watch on the big screen. The ending left me feeling cheated, yet astonished, because of the insane cliffhanger. It also made me feel as though the rest of the book was filler to set up the last 30 pages or so, but I’m not mad about it because of how ridiculously good the filler was.
The number of characters and things happening in this book was both a strength and a weakness. Just as in The Light of the Jedi, this book has a ridiculous amount of characters and plot lines. There were times when the rotating POVs felt like whiplash and others when it kept the story moving forward in its slower moments. I enjoyed the multiple POVs during the battle because they allowed the ability to see what was happening at different places during the fighting, but there were so many that I found myself wanting to get back quicker to the ones I cared about the most. So, at times it was annoying but also helped to build the suspense.
The diversity of the characters was great. I loved getting to read about all the new and returning species. I just wish the author had put a bit more detail into the descriptions of each character. There were so many species and races that I had difficulty imagining each of them. I also loved the small, yet significant, MM romance subplot in this book. It created some adorable moments and made same-sex relationships in this universe feel like a normal thing that is accepted.
I enjoyed the characters in this book more than in The Light of the Jedi. The characterization felt richer, and I walked away from this story caring deeply about many of the main protagonists. It made the injuries and deaths in this book much more impactful than the ones from the last book. My favorite characters were Elzar Mann, Stellan Gios, and Bell Zettifar. Elzar’s struggle with darkness reminded me of Anakin, but the way he handled his emotions and the temptation of the dark were starkly different. Bell’s journey of dealing with his grief deepened his character considerably compared to the last book, and Stellan’s arc of coming to terms with being in the limelight as the newest member of the Jedi Council was engaging. There were so many other notable characters, as well, but I’d end up writing a book of my own talking about each one.
The last major thing to note about this book is that it is a middle piece of an overall larger story. It had a multitude of connections to other works, including the YA and children’s books and comic books. It was an exciting read in its own right, but I don’t think someone who hasn’t read the other works will get near as much enjoyment out of the book. I recommend at least reading The Light of the Jedi first, but I think the full experience does require immersing yourself in all the other stories of the High Republic, as well.
Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot. It had its flaws, but the interesting information about the Jedi, good character arcs, and compelling action made this my favorite entry of the High Republic, so far. Therefore, I rate it 5 out of 5 stars.