Book Review – Star Wars: The High Republic: Out of the Shadows

Author: Justina Ireland

Publication Date: July 27, 2021

Print Length: 352 pages

Read Date(s): September 19, 2021 – September 22, 2021

⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Synopsis

The darkest secrets are the hardest to bring to light….

Sylvestri Yarrow is on a streak of bad luck with no end of sight. She’s been doing her best to keep the family cargo business going after her mom’s death, but between mounting debt and increasing attacks by the Nihil on unsuspecting ships, Syl is in danger of losing all she has left of her mother. She heads to the galactic capital of Coruscant for help, but gets sidetracked when she’s drawn into a squabble between two of the Republic’s most powerful families over a patch of space on the frontier. Tangled up in familial politics is the last place Syl wants to be, but the promise of a big payoff is enough to keep her interested…

Meanwhile, Jedi Knight Vernestra Rwoh has been summoned to Coruscant, but with no idea of why or by whom. She and her Padawan Imri Cantaros arrive at the capital along with Jedi Master Cohmac Vitus and his Padawan, Reath Silas–and are asked to assist with the property dispute on the frontier. But why? What is so important about an empty patch of space? The answer will lead Vernestra to a new understanding of her abilities, and take Syl back to the past…and to truths that will finally come out of the shadows.

My Review

I have really mixed feelings about this book, hence the three star rating. I was very excited to read it because it includes some of my favorite characters from the first wave of High Republic books, Reath Silas and Vernestra Rwoh. I was also anxious to see the aftermath of the bloodbath that happened in The Rising Storm. I did get all of that from this book, I just didn’t really care for how it was conveyed. This was one of those instances where many of the things I liked about the book were linked to the things I didn’t, sometimes as the direct result of them. So, a mixed bag is really the best way I can describe it.

First, I loved all the political intrigue and plotting that took place. I enjoyed getting to see all the conspiracies unfold involving the Republic senators, the Jedi, the business owners, and the Nihil. I am a sucker for an interesting conspiracy, and this book delivered on that while also adding to the world-building of this time period. The main problem is that almost the entire book focused on unraveling the conspiracy EXTREMELY slowly. Most of the book was the characters traveling or participating in meetings, which left the pacing of the book feeling glacial and got boring after a while. The action that the book did have was good. It just needed more of it to keep things moving along. Then after all the traveling and talking, the action at the end of the book was very rushed and most of it happened outside of the narrative itself, which was disappointing.

Second, there was a ton of information given about the Jedi and the Force in this book. It introduced at least two cool new Force powers, which I’m sure will play a large role moving forward in the other stories from this time period. It also explored the role of the Force in traveling through hyperspace, which was fascinating and provided links to other works like the Thrawn books and some of the animated shows. I’m very curious to see exactly where they are taking that particular thread of the story. The philosophical debates of the Jedi were also interesting, especially the ones related to how to handle the Nihil threat and whether the Jedi should go on the offensive to protect the Republic. Based on the state of the Jedi Order in this book, I believe the outcome of this conflict will likely be tied directly to the fall of the Jedi and rampant militarization of the Order seen in the prequels. So, seeing the beginnings of the changes that could pave the way for future disaster was enlightening.

Third, I loved all the interconnections with other works present in this book. It relied heavily on the previous books in the High Republic series, and the Star Wars nerd in me loved seeing so many characters and stories continued here. However, I also think this was a major weakness of this book and the series as a whole. The books do not stand on their own, at all. You really must read all the novels (middle grade, YA, and adult) to fully understand the complexities of the story. I love that because I consume pretty much everything Star Wars creators put out. Casual fans will probably not appreciate it as much and may even be confused by the intricacies of the stories, especially this one with all of its political intrigue and Jedi lore that relied heavily on previous knowledge.

Fourth, the character work in this novel was a bit hit or miss. As I mentioned earlier, Reath and Vern are two of my favorite characters from this time period, and I didn’t really care for how either of them were treated here. Reath grew a lot in Into the Dark, and I was happy to see that the growth he experienced remained consistent here with him continuing to be more adventurous and engaging in new things. However, he was largely a side note in this book, which left me somewhat disappointed. Vern was such an interesting character, and it was nice to see her struggle with her place in the Order and her relationship with her padawan. There’s nothing more boring than a protagonist with no flaws, and she exhibited many here that made her relatable. However, because of how much her flaws and struggles were emphasized, I was left with the impression that maybe she wasn’t actually mature enough for the responsibility of being a Knight or, especially, the master of her padawan. Speaking of her padawan, I enjoyed Imri’s journey in the book of learning to master emotions, even though it was slightly overshadowed by everything else going on. The force powers of Imri and Vern were both fascinating, and I’m very curious to see exactly where their story goes next.

The new characters in this book were not my favorite. I found Sylvestri to be outright annoying for most of the novel. She was the avatar for a lot of the messaging in this book, especially related to the poor vs. rich theme. The juxtaposition of her character alongside that of her rich benefactor was interesting to see at first and highlighted true problems with end stage capitalism, but it quickly grew stale due to her repetition and preachy tone. Her relationship with her girlfriend was well-written, but I couldn’t help but find the fact they found each other the way they did to be pretty unbelievable.

Overall, there were things I really liked about the book and others I didn’t. It definitely added some interesting information to this story, especially related to the Jedi and hyperspace, and moved the story forward more than I expected from one of the YA entries. If you’ve read the other High Republic novels, then I definitely recommend reading this one so you don’t miss out on key details, but expect that it will be slow, especially if you’re not a fan of political intrigue. I rate this book 3 out of 5 stars.

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