The HoloFiles

BOOK REVIEW: The High Republic: Tales of Enlightenment

By George & Josh Bate

Tales of Enlightenment High Republic review

Cantinas and bars have been ever-present fixtures of the Star Wars universe ever since 1977. Whether it be the iconic Mos Eisley Cantina scene or Oga’s Cantina at Galaxy’s Edge or even a cantina/bar in the trailer for the new series The Acolyte, it wouldn’t be Star Wars without a cantina. Taking a look back to the original Star Wars highlights why cantinas in a galaxy far, far away remain so interesting. In the Mos Eisley Cantina scene of A New Hope, Luke Skywalker and Ben Kenobi enter what Ben has called “a hive of scum and villainy.” Inside, Luke (and the audience) walks into an environment like no other – one that feels vibrant and lived-in despite only just stepping foot inside. A Devaronian looking like something straight out of a horror film sits ominously with menacing eyes looking to his left. A Gotal whispers a joke to another patron. A Bith musician plays music with his band. All of the characters in the bar have a story and, even if these stories aren’t explicitly told to the audience, their presence and interactions with one another make cantinas come alive and feel like actual places. Author George Mann continues Star Wars’ enduring history of cantinas and tapbars with a collection of short stories set during the High Republic era revolving around a tapbar called Enlightenment.

Six original short stories, five of which published in past issues of Star Wars Insider, comprise this latest release from Titan Magazines. Each of the short stories in this release center around Enlightenment, a tapbar located on Jedha, which is a planet first seen in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Jedha not only plays a significant role in Rogue One, but also in the High Republic era as it serves as the location warring planets Eiram and E’ronoh decided to sign a peace treaty on. The Path of the Open Hand, a group that believe the Force is not something that should be used, thwarted this peace treaty in a plot to cause chaos and portray the Jedi in a poor light in George Mann’s audiodrama-turned-script The High Republic: The Battle of Jedha. 

Mann’s The High Republic: The Battle of Jedha is an integral piece of the High Republic’s Phase II as it is a culmination of the conflict between the planets Eiram and E’ronoh and sets the stage for what’s to come in The High Republic: Cataclysm by Lydia Kang. Despite Mann writing both this new short story collection and The Battle of Jedha, the two aren’t inextricable from one another. Unlike The Battle of Jedha, which serves as a piece of a larger narrative that arguably began with The High Republic: Convergence by Zoraida Córdova and concluded with Kang’s Cataclysm, Tales of Enlightenment can be enjoyed largely in isolation of other Star Wars stories. Important events that occur during the High Republic’s Phase II (which, by the way, is chronologically the earliest setting in current Star Wars canon) are referenced, with some stories like ‘A Different Perspective’ dealing particularly with the Path of the Open Hand and Phase II’s core conflict.

However, that connection to broader storytelling is neither the focus nor purpose of Tales of Enlightenment. The Battle of Jedha served as a piece of a larger story, but Tales of Enlightenment includes stories that are more slice-of-life focused. In other terms, the stories in Tales of Enlightenment don’t necessarily add much to canon, but they are fascinating in their ability to allow the reader to step into the shoes of different people living their life in a galaxy far, far away. They provide a glimpse into the lives of people who come to this particular tapbar and make Jedha feel more lived-in and real than ever.

There’s something quite interesting seeing these six stories all linked by their connection to Enlightenment, a tap bar in Jedha City. Characters and plot threads from one story can bleed into the next, which collectively tell somewhat of a cohesive story. But, ultimately, these short stories are best enjoyed as opportunities to look into the lives of individuals living in Jedha City at this tumultuous time. It would be fascinating if George Mann or another author did something similar to Tales of Enlightenment with the Mos Eisley Cantina, offering glimpses into characters during a particular time in canon all centered around a single location. Regardless, High Republic completionists will love the way in which the stories of Tales of Enlightenment add nuance and context to Phase II, while newcomers can also enjoy them as they do not overly rely on knowledge derived from other stories. 

In addition to featuring six enthralling Star Wars stories, The High Republic: Tales of Enlightenment is also worth taking a look at for its other features: interviews with the High Republic writing team, a complete compendium to Phase II of the High Republic, and a full chronological reading guide for Phases I and II. 

The interviews provide some insight in the writing team’s creative process, including how they map out overlapping stories with one another, how working on High Republic projects differs from other Star Wars stories, which is their favorite Phase I story and character, and how their work continues to show Star Wars’ commitment to championing inclusivity and diversity. 

The Phase II compendium, meanwhile, features a detailed walkthrough of each of the stories of Phase II. This can be used to help one decide which stories they wish to read, white the complete chronological reading guide for Phases I and II is a great resource for fans looking to start reading tales set during the High Republic era.

VERDICT:

The High Republic: Tales of Enlightenment collects five short stories previously published in Star Wars Insider and includes a brand new short story exclusive to this collection. The stories aren’t integral pieces to any broader narrative, but they excel as insightful slices-of-life for patrons of a particular cantina and in adding nuance and context to other Phase II stories. Tales of Enlightenment also includes interviews with Star Wars authors, which provide a glimpse into their creative process in crafting their stories. The collection also features a complete compendium for Phase II and a full chronological reading guide for Phase I and II, making this collection not only the home to six enthralling short stories, but also a valuable resource for those wishing to begin reading High Republic stories.

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