REVIEW: ‘Star Wars: The High Republic: The Fallen Star’

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Fallen Star - But Why Tho

Taking place 200 years before the events of the Skywalker Saga, Star Wars: The High Republic: The Fallen Star is written by Claudia Gray. Gray’s first adult novel set in the High Republic era, marks nearing the end of Phase 1 of this monumental project.  To bring her words to life, the audiobook is narrated by Marc Thompson and published by Penguin Random House Audio.

Over the past year, fans have been able to see the golden era of not only the Republic but also a Jedi Order who are seemingly at the height of its mission to be a beacon for all of the hope of the galaxy. Through various comics and novels, the Republic and the Jedi have shown they are a match for the new villains present in this time period. However, as stories progress and more tragedies are adverted, it was clear that this golden era is not without its faults.

Slowly but surely, the Jedi have begun to erode under the immense pressures of fighting the dreaded, hive-minded Drengir and the merciless  Nihil. Where once stood a united front embodying both light and life at the end of Light of the Jedi, now stands a Jedi Order where even the most stalwart Jedi Masters of this time are questioning themselves by the start of The Fallen Star. 

As the number of publications grows for the High Republic, the more that the preceding stories start to become more and more important. The Fallen Star picks up shortly after the events of Cavan Scott’s The Rising Storm, where the Jedi achieved a hollow victory that saw the Nihil unleash the power of the Great Leveler upon the Jedi. This frightening creature had reduced one of the premier Jedi Masters of the era to a husk devoid of all life. While not required reading for The Fallen Star, writer Scott’s recent comic issues of The High Republic follows the immediate aftermath of these events and shows the Nihil is not done using this power, rendering it utterly useless against its power.

While the Jedi pursue a false leader of the Nihil, its true leader Marchion Ro plans his next blow against the Republic by making an example of the so-called hope for the galaxy, the Jedi. Like many of the other novelizations and comics, Ro’s character does not get a lot of page time but his presence is felt now more than ever.  If The Rising Storm has shown fans anything, it is that none of our heroes are safe in this era Just when you think the Nihil has destroyed and pillaged the Republic in all ways imaginable, The Fallen Star shows that Marchion Ro’s cunning and ruthlessness has no bounds.

Unlike other novels and comics in phase 1 of the High Republic, the majority of The Fallen Star takes place on Starlight Beacon. In this way, much of the story reminded me of a series of episodes from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. This felt intentional. The world of this time period has been fleshed out very well over the last year and The Fallen Star gave me a much more intimate feeling as many of our heroes are back to being face to face to combat the looming threat present in the novel. For the first time, it really seems like the Jedi Order of this era are feeling negative the effects of their powerful attachments and feelings that would be foreign to the Jedi Order of the recent films.

Additionally, writer Gray has brought in secondary characters introduced in other novels and comics to emphasize that the Jedi are not the only ones feeling the effects of the Nihil but also that those individuals are just as capable of doing their part to combat the Nihil.  The number of characters in The Fallen Star can feel jarring but they all feel supremely necessary by stories end. “We are the Republic” has been a line that has been uttered throughout the last year in High Republic publications but by the time we get to The Fallen Star, the Jedi have taken it upon themselves to solve all of the issues of the galaxy running them thin and drained to fend off all threats to hope.

As true with most of the Star Wars properties, hope all ways looms as the end all be all for the heroes of the story. However, it is often delivered as just a one-word way to inspire faith in the cause. However, The Fallen Star gave me one of the best outlooks on hope despite the nearly impossible odds the heroes of the High Republic face story after story.

This is what hope is. It isn’t pretending nothing will go wrong if only we try hard enough. It’s looking squarely at all the obstacles in the way, knowing our own limits of our own power and the possibility of failure, and moving ahead anyway. That is how we must proceed. With hope. -Jedi Master Stellan Gios

After seeing former Marshal of Starlight Beacon Avar Kriss falter in her duty to the wishes of the Jedi Council in High Republic #12, I was worried that the Jedi Order would crumble much faster than I thought. However, this line delivered by Gios highlights the efforts of not only the Jedi in The Fallen Star but the other members of the galaxy, regardless of their affiliation to the Republic, as well. There are very few good things that happen to our heroes in The Fallen Star. That much is given by the ominousness of the novel’s blurb and the trajectory of the stories up to this point. However, it truly is this beacon of hope that gives me pause in thinking the Nihil threat isn’t as insurmountable it seems.

Admittedly, I am a huge fan of Claudia Gray’s other works in the Star Wars universe. Gray has delivered time and time again by giving fans perspective on characters we thought we knew as fans. Whether it is General Leia Organa, Qui-Gon Jinn, or even the Empire, Gray pushes the boundaries of our understanding of characters that have existed for decades. Gray brings that same expert storytelling to characters introduced a year ago. She blurs the lines of how the Jedi of the era should act and how truly helpless even then the most powerful Jedi can feel when stacked against truly a terrifying enemy. In The Fallen Star, we see the Jedi as we have never seen them before, fearing to their core that there is no hope.

To really drive home the overall dread that permeates throughout The Fallen Star, narrator Marc Thompson delivers possibly my favorite performance of any audiobook. Thompson, who is no stranger to the franchise, has a masterful ability to give each character, no matter how small in the larger scheme of the story giving every character that Gray introduces feels significant. Thompson delivers the extensional pressure that is bearing in on the Jedi in a way that I do not think I would have gotten if I just read the words myself.  Further, the background ambiance and various sounds for emphasis that are synonymous with Star Wars audiobooks make The Fallen Star feel like the closest thing to experiencing this era on screen.

The Fallen Star exudes helplessness and just the smallest sliver of hope that rivals The Empire Strikes Back. As a fan, I am not sure where the story goes from here. That is true now as it was a year ago when this journey began. I believe that speaks to the level of thought and care that has gone into the development of Project Luminous. Despite the numerous authors and mediums of storytelling, the story of the era feels coherent and one worth telling even though we all know what happens 200 years later. I am just as excited now as I was a year ago and I believe that is the moniker of a great future for the High Republic era.

Star Wars: The High Republic: The Fallen Star is available January 4, 2022.


Star Wars: The High Republic: The Fallen Star
5

TL;DR

The Fallen Star exudes helplessness and just the smallest sliver of hope that rivals The Empire Strikes Back. As a fan, I am not sure where the story goes from here. That is true now as it was a year ago when this journey began. I believe that speaks to the level of thought and care that has gone into the development of Project Luminous