As the final book in Phase 1 of The High Republic, Midnight Horizon ends what has become more than a year filled with novels and comics dedicated to this new time period set 200 years before any of the movies. Phase 1 of The High Republic was broken up into three different release waves, with each wave being anchored by an adult novel, a YA (young adult) novel, and a middle grade novel, as well as numerous comics and other media (such as an audiodrama) mixed in.
Written by Daniel José Older, Midnight Horizon is the YA novel for Wave 3 of Phase 1. The story takes place just before and during the events of the headliner adult novel for this wave, The Fallen Star, and shows us events outside of Starlight Beacon, mainly focused on the characters from the Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures comic series by IDW as well as some of the other middle grade and YA books previously released.
Jedi Masters Cohmac Vitus and Kantam Sy, along with padawans Reath Silas and Ram Jomaram, are sent to Coruscant to investigate potential Nihil activity while getting mixed up with a local security firm headed by Crash. Meanwhile, in a parallel storyline, other familiar Jedi are sent to apprehend Krix from the Nihil, who had been leading raids against the Republic.
Over the course of the novel, the Krix storyline is wrapped up rather quickly and for anyone reading the Star Wars Adventures comic series, it is really just a rehash of the final few issues, which I found to be a weird decision. Through much of The High Republic materials, we have seen the same events from multiple perspectives but this was less of a different perspective and more of a slight fleshing out of a previously/concurrently told story. It seemed unneeded in a story that could have much more focused on different elements of The High Republic era.
It also makes the reader feel like to best understand this part of the story you need to be well acquainted with the comic series, almost to the point that it is a requirement for the book. And while many of the stories in THR are tied together, none, up to this point, have made me feel I needed to read a different medium to understand what I was actively reading.
The other part of the story focused mainly on padawans Reath and Ram, and definitely ended up being the bulk of the story. Through a series of misadventures, the pair gets roped into working for and with the previously mentioned security firm, but mainly for the head of the firm, Crash, who becomes a primary character in the book. They even managed to wrap in Zeen Mrala, who is also a pivotal character from the comics. This part of the story manages to not only be better than the Krix storyline, but it is rather enjoyable to boot. I enjoyed learning about these characters and seeing Reath and Ram grow as padawans. To see them struggle with their Jedi powers and how best to move forward seems to be the crux of the story and helps the reader get invested in these characters.
One of the comments that I had seen about the book is that there might not be a hetero-normative coupling throughout the entire book and I am 100% on board with that. It never felt out of place and all the characters felt like they were being true to character with all manners of sexual identities and genders (both binary and non-binary) being explored.
However, the tone of the book is rather odd for me. It was released as a YA book, however the feel of the story varies wildly from much more like Older’s previous THR book, the middle grade Race to Crashpoint Tower, also staring Ram, but then the pendulum will swing back the other way and feel more akin to the more adult content of Claudia Gray’s THR YA novel Into the Dark or Justina Ireland’s THR YA novel Out of the Shadows. It is a mixture of blood, guts, and brain matter with more child-friendly humor that is sometimes off-putting.
The audiobook is narrated by Todd Haberkorn, who also did Older’s Race to Crashpoint Tower, and while his “happy go lucky” audio presentation is a little off-putting at first he does a good job of keeping the action adventure of the story light and it feels appropriate for the story being told.
Overall, this book is a mixed bag. While the characters and plot of the main story were exciting and riveting, the fluctuating tone felt inconsistent. If the story was committed to one tone or the other I could much more get behind it. Also the feeling that you need to be caught up on the comics to understand much of where these characters are coming from or even what this storyline that they are following comes from made it feel more like homework to read and less the fun story it should have been. But the heart of the characters and the inclusive feel of the story sets it apart from much of the other Star Wars fiction out there (minus many of THR entries). If you know what you are getting into and you enjoyed Race to Crashpoint Tower, then you will definitely enjoy this one.
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