Star Wars: The High Republic - The Fallen Star Review: The High Republic Gets Its Empire Strikes Back

The latest installment of "Star Wars: The High Republic" has been released. Written by Claudia Gray, "The Fallen Star" takes the next leap forward in the narrative timeline of the High Republic Era. Centered around the Jedi and their Starlight Beacon, the book moves beyond the events of the attack on the Republic Fair on Valo. Determined to strike at the heart of the Jedi and the Republic and to prove that the outer rim belongs solely to the Nihil, Marchion Ro has devised a plan to destroy the Starlight Beacon while the galaxy watches. As the plan slowly unfolds and the sabotage is made clear, a number of Jedi, including Stellan Gios, Elzar Mann, Burryaga the Wookiee, Bell Zettifar, and others work to contain the destruction. A number of civilians, both familiar and new, are trapped on the station as well, all trying to get out. These include the crew of the Vessel (first introduced in Claudia Gray's "Into the Dark") Leox Gyasi, Affie Hollow, and fan-favorite Geode, as well as Chancey Yarrow, one of the sinister forces from Justina Ireland's "Out of the Shadows."

More complicated than the destruction being wrought: there is a mysterious entity aboard the station, turning the Jedi into dusty husks, killing them via their connection to the Force, filling every Jedi on the station with a sense of fear and dread.

Will the Jedi save the Starlight Beacon? Or will Marchion Ro and the Nihil destroy this symbol of hope for the people of the Outer Rim?

Huge Stakes, Huge Emotions

Claudia Gray is able to navigate these questions in a very breezy, cinematic style. The book is equal parts fun and tense, reading very much like a disaster escape movie from the '70s, like "The Poseidon Adventure." Except in space. With Jedi. It's got a great pulse to it and you'll want to read it for the quality entertainment value alone.

For folks who are interested in keeping up with the story of the High Republic, this book is one of the anchors you will need to read to understand the shifting nature of the galaxy. The Starlight Beacon was opened in the initial spate of High Republic books. It was meant to be a base for the Jedi to help the folks of the Outer Rim and connect them to the Republic and to each other, serving as a communications beacon as well as an operating station. Naturally, the Nihil, the pirates who operated in the Outer Rim with impunity, did not like the increased presence of Jedi and it became an obvious target.

Sacrifices are made and there are characters that have been around since the beginning of the High Republic who give their lives to save others and Claudia Gray fashions them into tear-jerking moments. There were more than a few times when this book left me in shocked tears.

The book connects in smaller ways to the future stories of "Star Wars" as well. The two biggest might be the use of a thermal detonator and rathtars. Thermal detonators were first seen in "Return of the Jedi" when Leia (dressed as Bouush) threatened Jabba the Hutt with one. Rathtars were an invention of "The Force Awakens," and the big, tentacly creatures were let loose aboard Han Solo's ship, the "Erevana."

More and more, the High Republic depends on knowledge from previous installments. This book references Cavan Scott's "Tempest Runner" audio drama, the Marvel Comic book series, and a number of the other books. Wookieepedia will be your friend as you navigate through the increasing depth of this era. But don't let the sheer volume of High Republic content scare you from diving in. Even if all you read is an occasional book in the series, they leave enough context for you to follow the story. It would not take much more context than watching "A New Hope" for the first time. There are definitely things that might go over your head, but the ride is worth it.

The Right Kind of Silly

More will be said after this book about the character named Geode. A silent, stone-faced Vintian, Geode is essentially a sentient rock. He has an even larger role in this story than in previous installments, including a subplot involving a love triangle and a pilot jealous of Geode flirting with his wife. Some fans were angered by Geode's presence in "Star Wars," calling him ridiculous, but for me, he's exactly the sort of ridiculous I want in "Star Wars." And Claudia Gray writes him in such a funny way — he's a helpful counterpoint to the darkness permeating the rest of the book. It's charming and doesn't take itself too seriously, which is what "Star Wars" needs more of.

The biggest mystery left by the end of this book, though, are the mysterious creatures that cause so much fear in the Jedi and diminish their ability to use the Force. Based on language in the prequel films, the Dark Side has the ability to diminish the ability of the Jedi to use the Force, but it doesn't necessarily create the sense of dread these new creatures are able to instill in the Jedi. That hopelessness is something they've never encountered before or since, so seeing this group of Jedi navigate the problem and solve it is going to continue to be fascinating. Watching this problem unfold before them is going to be tragic as we move forward and I shudder to think how many more Jedi of this era, especially those who have become favorites of mine, will die to put down the threat once and for all.

"Star Wars: The High Republic – The Fallen Star" is available now wherever books are sold.