By George Bate
The flagship novel in the second wave of The High Republic projects brilliantly follows Charles Soule’s Light of the Jedi in delivering a novel with unique worldbuilding, intriguing twists and turns, and, perhaps most of all, an array of compelling protagonists to root for. Author Cavan Scott’s The Rising Storm sees Chancellor Lina Soh’s grand plans for the Republic Fair disrupted by the insidious Nihil and their leader Marchion Ro. In response, Jedi Stellan Gios, Bell Zettifar, Elzar Mann, and more set out to preserve the symbol of unity that is the Republic Fair and offset the damage fostered by the Nihil’s carnage.
While the first phase of High Republic novels were all centered around the events of the Great Hyperspace Disaster, this second phase adopts a similar approach in focusing on the Republic Fair. Broadly speaking, grounding these different tales around a common event allows for plenty of the worldbuilding and interconnectivity we all love about Star Wars. Offering different looks at the same event across projects adds a sense of purpose and stakes to the events in The Rising Storm that is gripping from beginning to end.
Now that the first phase of novels have plummeted viewers into this new era in Star Wars lore, Scott takes full advantage of this opportunity. The Rising Storm is very much a sequel to Light of the Jedi, making it difficult, if not impossible, to leap into this novel without at least some exposure to the events and characters in Soule’s novel. This level of interconnectivity may be off-putting or daunting for some, but The Rising Storm excels as a story unto itself. Yes, reading other phase two novels like Out of the Shadows or Race to Crashpoint Tower will further your appreciation of the events that unfold in The Rising Storm. But, ultimately, enjoyment of Scott’s novel isn’t reliant upon the works of others.
The Rising Storm largely adopts a similar narrative structure to that of its predecessor Light of the Jedi. There’s a fair bit of jumping from character to character initially as different Jedi are introduced and the Republic Fair begins, before the threats emerge and all-out action ensues. At times, this array of introductions feels a little overwhelming, but it doesn’t take long to settle into the story and welcome the frequent shifts in focus throughout. This ‘calm before the storm’ approach to storytelling benefited Light of the Jedi and definitely benefits The Rising Storm here. Especially with a novel full of so many different characters to keep track of, it’s approachable for a reader to progress through a story that spends ample time setting up the threats.
The threats I refer to here are the Nihil, who once again are an ominous and mysterious presence throughout the novel. Light of the Jedi spent a lot of time constructing the mythology of the Nihil, depicting their organizational hierarchy, rules, brutality, and more. Scott takes full advantage of Soule’s work on these antagonists by expanding on them in unique and unexpected ways. A concern heading into the High Republic era, overall, was that this is meant to be a period of peace in the galaxy, making us question what sort of formidable threat could our heroes face in these novels. Scott, once again, disspells any of these initial concerns by delicately navigating the era in which his book is set in. It’s really interesting to see what the galaxy is like under the rule of an ambitious and well-intentioned, yet somewhat naive and over-confident Republic.
It was a difficult task to follow the excellent Light of the Jedi, but author Cavan Scott triumphs here. Fans of Soule’s novel will enjoy its follow-up and its similar approach to tension-building and character development. The Jedi all feel like unique, fleshed out individuals, the Nihil continue to be an interesting and formidable threat, and the novel leaves us with a painfully menacing cliffhanger that will have us counting our days to the next adventure in the High Republic.
STAR WARS: THE HIGH REPUBLIC: THE RISING STORM is on sale 6/29/21
Image courtesy of Del Rey