Greetings ladies and gentlemen, and our readers! Welcome back to another H.A.R. of Star Wars: The High Republic with the latest and final installment of Phase 1 and the first offering of Wave 3, The Fallen Star. As this is the conclusion of Phase 1, author Claudia Gray has the job of wrapping up major storylines and leaving the audience wanting more.
The Jedi and Republic believe they’ve got the Nihil on the run and all but finished; however, the Eye of the Nihil, Marchion Ro, has other plans. With the relief effort focused on and through Starlight Beacon as the symbol of The Great Works, it becomes the main target for the evil machinations of the Eye and nothing will ever be the same!
Bottle Episode. So hear me out. I know plenty of people that frown on a bottle episode, but if it’s done correctly it can be very effective. Having nearly all of the novel set on Starlight Beacon helps with the rising tension and allows the reader to get an ever better understanding of the station itself. As it has appeared in previous novels and comics it really brings the backdrop to the forefront. Being this contained also has the effect of providing a feeling of claustrophobia which adds to the tension of the story.
Elzar and the Jedi. I’ve written about this character in my previous two High Republic reviews and this one is no different. We get to really dive into a Jedi character really struggling and coming to terms with the darkness inside him. We’re taken on his journey from recovery and acceptance to having to deal with his darkness head-on and lead. The best part is it’s a level of depth into a character’s struggles that I feel we haven’t got to witness before. However, it is not just Elzar that we take a journey with. All of our Jedi characters, from Stellan to Orla, show us a complex range of Jedi struggling with their confusion in the Force and coming to terms with not having as much power as before. Furthermore, we as the reader have to watch our characters continually make the wrong decision and “live” with the consequences.
Trilogy. The Fallen Star marks the end of the Light of the Jedi trilogy of adult novels. As well as being the backbone of Phase 1, these three also have the responsibility of introducing a whole new unexplored era in the Canon. I feel like it has been a resounding success. I’ve taken to most of the characters and desperately want to know what comes next!
The Mixed Bag:
Diminishing Cast. Much like the bottle episode trope this book leans heavily into the familiar method of introducing and eliminating the cast as the tension and events proceed. It is effective because once it begins and you, as the reader, realize it is happening you begin to hope that whomever is your favorite doesn’t meet that fateful end. The reason this is partially in the “Bad” category is that we are introduced to brand new characters not previously shown in any of the other material and they get equally knocked off so any emotional investment is minor and their death comes across as not being earned.
Dramatis Personae. Yes, I’ve written about this in both of my High Republic reviews. Yes, it might be an annoying gripe by this point but I will continue to speak about it. After a year of adult novels, YA novels, middle grade books, and comics there have been characters introduced in every release, so much so that there are times when it becomes difficult to remember who is who. In fact, upon starting this book there were some that I had trouble recalling.
Multimodal Narrative. Previously this has been placed in the “Good” section, however, here I have the opposite feeling. There is a portion of this book that feels purposely left out as if it might be covered elsewhere. Now, this has happened with other releases in Phase 1, but here it feels as if a vital chunk of the story is reserved for release in another medium. If said story was released concurrently this might not be an issue. Another aspect of this is publishing issues. The middle grade book, with events that directly precede this story, has had its physical release delayed until March. There is information contained within that book that relates to a character's affiliation that when read here comes as a shock and makes you feel like you really missed something or are questioning your memory. It is possible to read this story if you purchase the ebook, but with it being very short and such a quick read it does not make financial sense to buy it if you intend to get the physical copy for your collection.
The Future. With the middle grade being set prior to this novel and the YA release (coming in February) taking place on another planet concurrent to this story, the ending of The Fallen Star leaves us on a cliffhanger of sorts. However, the beginning of Phase 2 later this year starts a prequel storyline set 150 before the start of Phase 1 and Light of the Jedi. I’m not saying they are going to be bad stories or not serve a purpose to the overall narrative, but we won’t be getting forward progression. That is why I have an “Ugly” category entry for the first time.
The Fallen Star takes a minute to get going but then holds us on a knife’s edge until the end. Despite my gripes it is a satisfying conclusion to the narrative presented in Phase 1. More than ever I feel privileged to be a Star Wars literature fan as I feel like I’m back in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s with great EU storylines that tell actual events with consequences for all characters involved.