Continuing the story of Star Wars: The High Republic, set 200 years before any of the movies, is Star Wars: Tempest Runner by Cavan Scott. Tempest Runner is the first High Republic audio drama, and only the third audio drama released for the new canon (after Scott’s own Dooku: Jedi Lost and Doctor Aphra).
Tempest Runner is set three months after the events of The Rising Storm, also another Scott novel, and only a month or so after the events of Out of the Shadows, Justina Ireland’s latest book and the most recent book release of The High Republic time period. Publishing wise, we are still solidly within the second wave of Phase 1, which is titled “Light of the Jedi” after the book that kicked off the whole time period. Wave 3 of Phase 1 will kick off in January of next year (2022) with the release of the next adult novel written by Claudia Gray, The Fallen Star.
Tempest Runner explores the character of Lourna Dee, one of the Tempest Runners of the band of Nihil, the big bads of the High Republic time period. The three Tempest Runners are only second in command to the leader of the Nihil known as the Eye, Marchion Ro. When the story starts, the Jedi are in hot pursuit of Dee, thinking that she is the Eye, the leader of the Nihil, and they are pulling out all of the stops to capture her.
Before I go into the details of the story, of which I can’t get into without major spoilers for the series, let’s first discuss the format of this audio drama. Audio dramas are a unique method of storytelling that came about in the days of radio, where an entire story is told from the perspective of the characters. There is rarely a narrator describing the events, leaving it up to the characters to describe nearly everything they are doing. A character stating a phrase such as “I am opening the door now and creeping into the room” would not be out of place within an audio drama; this makes writing a good audio drama a notoriously difficult thing to do because it is very easy to make it sound overly cheesy with the characters hamming it up for the audience.
Having written Dooku: Jedi Lost before, Scott has some audio drama writing experience going into this project, and it shows. While the Dooku book did have some issues, many of them seemed to have been ironed out within this one. The cast of characters, almost entirely played by unique actors for each part, are fairly vast across the project. There are numerous parts and most of the time, they are easily identifiable. This is something that is very important for an audio drama because you don’t have the advantage of a novel with phrases like “Lorna said …”. The writer and the voice actor need to make sure the audience is never lost on who is talking when and to whom.
The process of making sure the audience is never lost went over fairly smoothly. The most difficult aspect of this in the script was the frequent jumping back and forth in time throughout the story. However, Scott accomplished a resetting of the time period fairly quickly and efficiently with Lourna Dee going by different pseudonyms in different time periods. So a drop of her name for that time period allowed the listener to understand what time period we had shifted to.
As a listener, I did get lost keeping track of who was who at times because many of the female actor voices sounded enough alike to each other to my ears that until I was given an audio queue as to who they were I often couldn’t figure it out. But I also have significant hearing loss where subtleties in different voices are lost on me. So it could be an entirely “me problem”.
As to the story, I will make a disclaimer that beyond this point spoilers will be mentioned. I will try and keep them to a minimum but several can’t be skipped over to just describe the story as a whole.
SPOILERS AHEAD for Star Wars: Tempest Runner!
The story kicks off with the capture of Lourna Dee, although she is supposedly killed in the attack, making the Republic think she is dead essentially from this point going forward. This is a story point brought up in the recent High Republic comic, where they make a note that she is theoretically dead. Although she is not killed, she is captured and sent to a prison ship under an alias that she concocted to protect her identity. An alias that works for the most part, since most of the galaxy hasn’t seen her real face behind her mask, and neither have most Nihil. However, there are a few Nihil who know who she is, making her life … difficult … to say the least.
But along with Lourna we are reintroduced to a character that we thought had been killed off in a previous novel, one of the other previous Tempest Runners, Pan Eyta. The author left the identity of Pan as a mystery for the entirety of the first part of the story, however anyone who listens to the audiobooks would know who Pan was immediately, since the voice actor was the same with the same modulations, so although it was spoiled for me, it was only a minor spoiler since it was announced who he was fairly early in the story.
The story bounces back and fourth between how Lourna got to her position as a Tempest Runner from her childhood on Aaloth to the ‘present day’ aboard the prison ship. And although the plot was sometimes difficult to follow, I felt that the story was fun. It provided us with a much-needed backstory for Lourna, who up until this point, had been not much in the series. She had been there, but we never really got to know her like we knew Kassav (another Tempest Runner) and Pan. This story allowed us, as the audience, to get inside Lourna’s head. She went from being just a “bad guy”, to someone that we could feel sympathetically towards. She had been betrayed in the worst kind of way. And although she never really redeems herself from being one of the “bad guys”, she does try, and her actions are understandable. She becomes someone that we could root for.
I think my biggest problem with the story is that it doesn’t really advance the narrative. It seems like it was written as if people might not listen to this one, since it is a different medium. At the beginning Pan is assumed dead and Lourna is very much alive. By the end, although the Republic may think she is dead, Lourna is still alive and Pan is once again presumed dead. Pan’s demise at the end, though, is apparently up for debate among the fan community since he had proven so difficult to kill in the past, and even during this story. Besides Lourna getting a new ship, a thing that can be mentioned as a passing sentence in a future work, there is nothing here that has really changed.
Overall, Star Wars: Tempest Runner is a fun but not pivotal story. The voice acting in general is amazing and fun. And the story is a fun listen to that I recommend for anyone who wants to find out more about Lourna. But in order to understand what is happening during the High Republic time period, this story is not essential.
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