Update: 2021 Reading Challenge

As part of starting this blog, I decided to increase my reading goal to 100 books for this year. For the past few years, I have typically averaged between 15 and 30 books per year. So, this new goal is a huge step up from my past reading habits. As of today, I have finished 25 books so far this year, which I consider to be a huge accomplishment. Overall, I’ve enjoyed reading them all, and I’m excited to recap some of my favorites from before I started reviewing my reads on the blog.

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell

⭐⭐⭐⭐

I really enjoyed this follow up book to Carry On. It was refreshing to see what happens after the hero wins the day, and I liked its exploration of what the ‘chosen one’ does after he is no longer so special. I also loved the LGBT representation in this book. It was a great read to start the year!

The Accursed Kings Series by Maurice Druon

This series is an historical fiction tale describing the fall of the Capetian French dynasty and the beginning of the Hundred Years War. It is a fantastic tale of kings, queens, and nobles filled with intrigue, murder, and political plotting. I started reading the series because I wanted to learn more about French history after learning some details about my own French ancestry. I enjoyed the series immensely as a whole, but some of the books were better than others. The writing style changed abruptly for the last book, and it was a struggle to get through it. It seemed almost superfluous to the story. However, the rest of the series was well done and told a very engaging story while providing interesting info about French history. The books in the series are

  • The Iron King ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • The Strangled Queen ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • The Poisoned Crown ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • The Royal Succession ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • The She Wolf ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • The Lily and the Lion ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • The King Without a Kingdom ⭐⭐⭐

Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule

⭐⭐⭐⭐

I think this was a good first entry to the High Republic crossover event. It set up many characters, and the disaster that starts the book off was interesting. I found the particulars of the disaster and hyperspace to be somewhat confusing, but it didn’t impact my enjoyment of the story. I enjoyed seeing the Jedi order and Republic in action during a different time period, and I am looking forward to seeing how this golden age turns into the corruption of the Senate and deterioration of the Jedi order seen in the prequel movies. The villains were intriguing but not up to par with the threat of the Sith. However, the book made it seemed as if there is still more to them than we know. Overall, I think it was a good introduction to this time period.

A Test of Courage by Justina Ireland

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I loved this book, which was a pleasant surprise. I bought it so I wouldn’t miss out on parts of the High Republic story, but I didn’t expect much from it since it is a children’s book. However, the story was really good and tackled some deep themes well, especially coping with loss and grief. It ended up being my favorite of the first wave of High Republic books. If you were thinking of skipping it…don’t!

He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not by Carrie Thompson

⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is one of the first audio dramas in the Time Lord Victorious multimedia event. It is a Western story set on an alien planet. It was fun, and I enjoyed the introduction of Brian the Ood. I didn’t see how it would relate to the overall event at the time, but it sets up some things that become relevant in later stories.

I look forward to seeing what is in store in the next 75 books throughout this year. As always, I will keep you all posted. What are some of your favorite reads so far this year?

Book Review – Star Wars The High Republic: Into the Dark

Goodreads Synopsis

Not everyone who hears the call to adventure wants to answer it….

Jedi Padawan Reath Silas loves adventure—reading about it, that is, not living it. Content to spend hours browsing the Jedi Archives on Coruscant, Reath dreams of being one of the great scholars of the Jedi Order. But Reath’s master, the well-respected and virtuous Jora Malli, has other plans: she’s taken a post at Starlight Beacon, the Republic’s shining new outpost on the edge of known space. As her Padawan, Reath must join her, whether he likes the idea or not. (And he most definitely does not.)

So Reath reluctantly boards the ship that will take him and a few other Jedi to the dedication of Starlight Beacon, where Master Jora waits for him to start their new adventurous life on the frontier. But trouble in hyperspace leaves the ship and other nearby vessels stranded, with only an eerie abandoned space station reachable for shelter. And the secrets hidden there will not only bring Reath to a crossroads but, if left unchecked, could plunge the entire galaxy into darkness….

My Review

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.