By George Bate
A warning to those preparing to read The High Republic: The Fallen Star – you will likely need tissues to soak up tears and plenty of time after reading to process the grand narrative you’ve just experienced. It seems like yesterday that the multimedia publishing initiative of The High Republic kicked off with Light of the Jedi and a slew of other releases. But, before we knew it, Claudia Gray’s The Fallen Star debuts and serves as an epic, intricately written, and emotional culmination of tales in the High Republic era so far.
The Fallen Star follows its predecessors Light of the Jedi and The Rising Storm, in addition to a variety of other High Republic stories, as the Jedi continue to reign as guardians of peace for the ever-growing Republic. Starlight Beacon serves as one of Chancellor Soh’s Great Works, a symbol of the greatness of the Republic. Unfortunately, the Nihil, led by the insidious Marchion Ro, have constructed a plan that aims to take Starlight Beacon down and bring an end to the light of the Jedi.
The Fallen Star follows a narrative structure very similar to Light of the Jedi and The Rising Storm. There is a central event the novel revolves around. With Light of the Jedi, it was the Hyperspace Disaster. With The Rising Storm, it was the Republic Fair on Valo. And, fittingly for the conclusion of the High Republic’s Phase 1, it is an attack on Starlight Beacon with The Rising Storm. Also akin to its predecessors, The Fallen Star features a sizable host of characters, opting against positioning a sole person in the spotlight in favor of a circulation of characters with smaller roles who all collectively contribute to the grander plot. Fans of this narrative structure in Light of the Jedi and The Rising Storm will welcome the storytelling on display in The Fallen Star. While, at times, it can feel slightly overwhelming to track a narrative through the eyes of so many characters, The Fallen Star ultimately benefits from this approach. Not only are we given plenty of time to become emotionally invested in an array of characters, but this structure also fosters an ominous tone that dictates the book’s first half and feels gratifying as the novel progresses and character’s journeys converge.
Ominous is a perfect word to describe The Fallen Star. Since The High Republic era kicked off, Starlight Beacon has been a monument of the Republic’s power and unity, but also surely an inevitable target for the Nihil. Especially in the novel’s first act, as a reader, you are keenly aware that something is off, but, like the main characters, can’t put your finger on it. The Fallen Star also benefits in this regard by being a mostly contained story in terms of location, unlike Light of the Jedi and The Rising Storm. The Fallen Star almost exclusively takes place on Starlight Beacon, positioning the readers alongside the characters as they navigate the Nihil’s scheme.
As The High Republic is a sprawling intersection of stories told across various mediums, The Fallen Star is ripe with references to other High Republic stories. Avar Kriss’ adventures in Cavan Scott’s The High Republic comic series play a part in The Fallen Star. Emerick Caphtor, the Jedi Investigator in Daniel Jose Older’s Trail of Shadows series, is name-dropped. Nan, from Into the Dark and Out of the Shadows, is an integral character in The Fallen Star. Outside of Light of the Jedi and The Rising Storm, none of these other High Republic projects are necessary reading before diving into The Fallen Star. Nonetheless, engagement with previous High Republic stories will likely deepen your experience with and enjoyment of Claudia Gray’s newest novel.
The Fallen Star features a fair share of emotional and unexpected moments and author Claudia Gray somehow manages to execute every single one with a characteristically deft hand. The twists, turns, and moments of heartbreak keep coming at you until the very end of this novel, but always feel well-earned and natural to the story being told.
The same can be said for Gray’s handling of the aforementioned array of characters featured in The Rising Storm. Elzar Mann’s lean into the dark side in The Rising Storm is addressed head on in The Fallen Star. The emotions and responsibilities surrounding Stellan Gios’ new-ound role as marshall of Starlight Beacon are explored throughout. Each and every character has an individual arc in this novel and feels like a fleshed-out, real person, rather than a mere name in a book. Bell Zettifar, Elzar Mann, and two former Nihil members who are incarcerated aboard Starlight Beacon have perhaps the most interesting journeys in The Fallen Star. Also of note is the High Republic’s big bad Marchion Ro. He plays a small, yet pivotal, role in this novel that is comparable to how the character was used in Light of the Jedi and The Rising Storm. That being said, with every subsequent appearance, Marchion Ro becomes a more intimidating and villainous threat. All in all, Ro is quickly moving up our ranking of favorite Star Wars villains.
The Fallen Star is yet another win for the High Republic publishing initiative and accomplished author Claudia Gray. Serving as a poetic culmination of the High Republic’s Phase 1, The Fallen Star is a story of promise, unity, and loss with enriching character work and a nail-biting central plot. Gray delicately strikes an ominous tone that resonates throughout her work. The stakes are felt, the emotional moments hit hard, and the novel never ceases to excite and surprise. The Fallen Star is a must-read for Star Wars fans and a terrific way to kick off 2022 in a galaxy far, far away.
Images courtesy of Del Rey