As time marches on, so does The High Republic, which is the latest series of books and comics released for the Star Wars franchise. Set 200 years before any of the movies, The High Republic is the newest publishing initiative focusing on the Jedi of old, before the rot of Palpatine was able to set in. Having started out in January of 2021 with the release of Light of the Jedi, the story has steadily progressed through time in the Star Wars universe.
The series is being released in a series of phases, with the current phase, Phase 1, being called Light of the Jedi. Within each phase are waves of releases. The current wave is Wave 2, spearheaded by the adult novel The Rising Storm. Along with the adult novel has been a middle-grade reader, Race to Crashpoint Tower, as well as the young adult novel Out of the Shadows.
Out of the Shadows by Justina Ireland is the most recent novel released for The High Republic, and very much acts as a follow up not only to The Rising Storm, as well as the previous Young Adult novel, Into the Dark, but also the first middle grade novel A Test of Courage, which was also written by Ireland. Justina Ireland has also penned the young adult novels Lando’s Luck and Spark of Resistance within the Star Wars universe.
Out of the Shadows is set a few weeks after the events of The Rising Storm, where the Nihil launched a full-scale attack on the Republic at the Republic Fair on Valo. Following the attack, the Jedi are on the offensive, trying to rout out the Nihil and defeat them once and for all. Meanwhile, the Jedi are still reeling from the Valo attack, not knowing how to handle such death and destruction. From this there are rumors of a secret Nihil weapon. A device that is able to mimic mass gravity shadows essentially being able to pull vehicles out of hyperspace where ever they want. The Republic, curious and dubious that such a device even exists, sends a group which include some Jedi, a San Tekka, and a member of the Graf family, who organized the whole venture, out to check on it.
The story collects people from various other High Republic stories and also sprinkles some new ones into the mix. Our primary lead character is Vernestra Rwoh, one of the youngest Jedi to ever be knighted, as well as her padawan, Imri Cantaros. Along with them are Jedi Master Cohmac Vitus and his padawan Reath Silas. All four of them have been featured in previous The High Republic stories. New to the mix are Sylvestri Yarrow, a cargo hauler who lost her mother to a Nihil attack a few months ago; Jordanna Sparkburn, a relative of the San Tekka family of hyperspace explorers; and Xylan Graf, member of another hyperspace exploring family, the Grafs, competitors of the San Tekka.
This group of intrepid explorers is tasked to discover whether the rumors of a hyperspace weapon are real or not by the urging of Xylan, who has interest in the sector for his own personal reasons. This is at least the cover story that he is playing up. His interests and motives are fluid throughout most of the book, making the reader and the other characters consistently doubt anything that he is saying, regardless of how plausible it sounds.
Although the story is set up as a mystery, there are many other mysteries at play in the story, and the way that they interweave and connect are absolutely riveting throughout the book, to the point that I hated to stop reading throughout the second half of the book. I actually wish this book was much longer and continued on because of how well written it was and how the interpersonal relationships just worked for the story.
All of the characters have issues, which is one of the reasons that The High Republic time period has been so interesting to me — the Jedi have flaws. They are not the noble knights we have been led to believe they were. The have urges and doubts. They have insecurities and sometimes they have anger issues. They are far from perfect and they are the more fascinating for it. And the doubts and insecurities make sense in the context of the story.
Vernestra doubts her abilities, and as someone who was extremely young to be knighted and then granted a padawan, these doubts make sense. We find out much more about Imri, who has an overabundance of empathic abilities, to the point that it frequently overwhelms him. Reath may be a bit smitten with Vernestra. And there’s more. A lot more. They are well-rounded characters and interesting ones to boot.
Our book is also front-lined by Sylvestri Yarrow, AKA Syl, who takes the pivotal point on the dust jacket. Syl is just trying to make her way in the universe, while perhaps taking advantage of Xylan, who seems to have too deep of pockets and not enough sense. Then throw in her former girlfriend and member of Xylan arch-rival family, Jordana into the mix, and things get interesting real fast without feeling too over the top. Ireland mixes in the personal relationships with the plots of the story to provide a very well balance experience.
I do not want to get into too many of the plot points here to avoid spoiling the story, but needless to say there are many plot twists and turns as well as other characters who show back up from within the High Republic era. And although the book is over 400 pages long (a YA 400 pages, which is a bit shorter than 400 pages in adult novel formatting), the story feels short. It flies by and I am left want more, much more, by the end of it.
I experienced this story via audiobook, narrated by Keylor Leigh, and while at times some of her vocal performances seemed stilted, most of them on purpose in the case of the droids, once the book kicked into full gear I had zero problems with the presentation that was given and I could listen without issue.
Overall, this book is absolutely fantastic. I am actually surprised by some of the plot points that come up at the end of the story because they are significant to the overall High Republic series, and typically plot points like this are not left to the Young Adult novels to be revealed. This story also does not overlap with the adult novel of the wave, a story direction that is different from the first wave, making this a must read for The High Republic era. The characters and the story had me riveted and the way that Justina writes it just felt smooth from start to finish. This is currently my favorite book in the whole The High Republic series and I absolutely cannot wait for Justina’s next book Mission to Disaster, set to come out early 2022.
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