'Star Wars: Out Of The Shadows' Review: The 'High Republic' Storyline Continues With Another Strong Adventure

This review contains minor spoilers.

Author Justina Ireland brings us the next installment of Star Wars: The High Republic with the young adult novel Out of the Shadows. Taking place a short time after the events of Cavan Scott's novel The Rising Storm, Out of the Shadows deals with some of the emotional and political repercussions of the Nihil's attack on the Republic Fair on Valo. The book centers on new and recurring characters starting with Sylvestri Yarrow, a young woman who is trying to make it on her own in the galaxy in a crumbling ship after he mother was killed by the Nihil. The other primary character is Vernestra Rwoh, one of the youngest Jedi Knights to ever attain the rank. She's 17, and has graduated from the middle grade books. She's got her padawan learner now, Imri, and has to deal with the politics of being a Jedi in a time of turmoil, train an apprentice only a couple of years younger than her, and compete with the naïveté of her age.

The book unravels mysteries about the Nihil and what they're working on, winding the seemingly unrelated stories of Syl and Vern into a complex and connected tapestry.

Sylvestri loses her ship to the Nihil, who have managed to somehow pull it out of hyperspace. She goes on a quest to let the Republic know about the dangers in that particular sector and finds herself on Coruscant, pleading to those who don't care. She finds one sympathetic voice in Xylan Graf, a young and arrogant noble from an impossibly wealthy family. His family made their fortunes prospecting hyperspace routes and were the chief competition of the San Tekka family. Vernestra Rwoh gets involved when she's assigned to accompany Graf and Sylvestri to an out of the way sector of space where the Nihil might be operating.

One of the biggest revelations the book has is the way it changes the stakes for the Nihil and how they operate. Over the last few books, we've learned more and more about the mysterious "Oracle" they use to chart previously unknown or dangerous "paths" through hyperspace. This is how the Nihil achieve superiority in their attacks: through unpredictability. The Oracle is Mari San Tekka, a long lost child of the San Tekka family, a woman who could see the flows of hyperspace through the Force. It turns out she was abducted by the Nihil as a child and forced to provide information to them. But after a series of strange visions, Vernestra is able to find Mari San Tekka and set her free of her bonds. With the Oracle dead, the Nihil will have to find other ways to wage their war on the Jedi.

The book itself has a number of interesting ideas, references, and cameos in it. Justina Ireland is an entertaining author, rivaling the consistent quality of Claudia Gray in her Star Wars work. Sylvestri and Vernestra are terrific characters and they're handled well in a huge cast where everyone feels fascinating. It's a truly wonderful and diverse group in a galaxy far, far away.

One of the most interesting ideas found in the book is the use of hyperspace lanes themselves and how they seem to mirror the way highways could make or break towns based on their location. Tikkae is a small planet at the edge of an old hyperspace lane, a dusty old western town forgotten by newer routes, just like the way towns could disappear when Route 66 was supplanted by the updated highway system. It's a smart concept to explore in a galaxy that feels like that American expansion of the '50s and '60s that brought so much scientific optimism.

Perhaps the best cameo in the book is Jedi Master Yaddle. Yaddle was a member of the Jedi council during the events of The Phantom Menace. As only the second known member of the species Yoda belongs to (Grogu being the third), there are a lot of interesting questions about Yaddle and not much known about her in the new canon. Here, we see her training younglings, much the same as Yoda. It's interesting to note that she doesn't speak in the same backwards manner that Yoda does, making one wonder if his speech pattern is an anomaly.

Another cameo that's hinted at is the appearance of Maz Kanata. Characters are sent off toward Takodana at the end of the book to meet up with Maz, lending credence to Han Solo's claim in The Force Awakens that she's been running her watering hole for a thousand years.

One point that will be written about quite a bit from this book is the Force spirit of Mari San Tekka. Mari San Tekka, as she transforms into the Force, appears to Vernestra Rwoh in two forms: as she was and as she imagined herself to be with her spirit. This offers a definitive, in-universe explanation for why Anakin Skywalker took his younger form as a spirit of the Force. The change was one of the best and most moving changes in George Lucas's changes to Return of the Jedi and its nice to see that work honored here.

The book is one that you'll want to read if you're keeping up on The High Republic. It further explores Verenstra Rwoh who is the most interesting character in this era, and advances the overall narrative of the troubles in the Republic forward. Ireland weaves such an entertaining yarn that reading it is nothing but a pleasure. The action is tight and the characters are just so fun to read and spend time with. It's not one to miss, though nothing in the High Republic era has been one to miss. Doubly so when Vernestra Rwoh is involved.


Star Wars: The High Republic – Out of the Shadows is available now wherever books are sold.