Review: ‘Light of the Jedi’ by Charles Soule

January 7, 2021 at 6:59 am | Posted in Books, Random House, Reviews, Star Wars, Star Wars Books | Leave a comment
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Light of the Jedi is a first taste of The High Republic, the new publishing initiative from Disney and Lucasfilm. The project spans several multimedia forms, including novels, comics, and the upcoming Disney Plus scripted program The Acolyte. The High Republic brings up to a time period previously unexplored by any Star Wars literature, including the non-canon Expanded Universe – 200 years before the events of the Skywalker Saga. A Star Wars publishing project of this magnitude has not been attempted since the days of the New Jedi Order – the early 2000’s. Thankfully, Light of the Jedi is a solid introduction to a new era of Star Wars, and captures everything that made us fall in love with the Jedi.

This inaugural adult novel is penned by Charles Soule, known for his acclaimed runs on Marvel’s Darth Vader and Daredevil series. Light of the Jedi marks his third venture into prose, following his novels The Oracle Year and Anyone. Sole’s transition from comics is clear: he brings his superheroic tendefictionncies to the Star Wars galaxy. Gone are the morally ambiguous dregs of the prequel era Jedi Order and the shroud of the dark side clouding all. Soule’s Jedi characters are presented in a mythic and uber positive manner in a way that invokes the golden age of superheroes. These are the real guardians of peace and justice of the Old Republic, not the reluctant soldiers they were forced to become by the time of Attack of the Clones

This new take on the Jedi Order brings an insanely huge ensemble cast. Master Avar Kriss sees the Force as a “song” and uses its supposed structure to influence her strategies. Elzar Mann easily grows bored and vows to never use the Force the same way twice. Renowned chef and master sword fighter Porter Engle is bound to become a fan favorite. Each Jedi Knight brings their own perspective of the Force to the table in a manner not too dissimilar to the idea of “superpowers”. There are so many new characters brought to the table; in fact, this might be a problem, due to the sheer amount of characters who are introduced (some of which are abruptly killed off) being hard to follow. Lucasfilm recently released a picture graphic of every new Jedi being introduced during The High Republic and their relationships with other characters to make it easier- they are probably aware. That goes without saying that the huge ensemble cast will probably be a huge draw for continuity and lore lovers: they are getting plenty here.

That’s without even bringing up the Nihil, the main antagonists of this new initiative (at least, at the moment). They’re led by a mysterious masked man named Marchion Ro, and have been compared to the Vikings by Lucasfilm. As a film fan, one might compare them to the army of Immortan Joe from Mad Max Fury Road, or Top Dollar’s crew of criminals from The Crow. They’re a thrill seeking, drug taking band of marauders and punk rockers (yes, punk rock music is now canon in the Star Wars galaxy in the form of “wreck punk”). They’re an interesting enough group by the time the novel ends, but one might think (or hope) that they’re more of a red herring over being the true villains of this franchise. 

Charles Soule makes the conflict between the Jedi and the Nihil interesting enough – a lot goes on concurrently throughout the three hundred and thirty six pages (think different perspectives in the conflict in the vein of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire), and we have some thrilling action, genuine intrigue surrounding the ins and outs of how hyperspace actually works in this universe, and solid setup for further entries that will probably keep readers invested. Also, Light of the Jedi couldn’t be any more timely, with talks of lockdowns and economic stimuli and so many other buzzwords related to the COVID epidemic (I can’t tell if this was already on the page or thrown in by Soule after the book’s delay). One might be disappointed that important events, character send offs, and other key elements of the plot happen off page, and that interesting characters who are introduced are just as quickly dropped or put off for a sequel. 

But Charles Soule had the insurmountable task of determining the course of future Star Wars publishing – and he has succeeded. I’m sure the hardcore Star Wars lore hounds will eat up everything presented in these pages, and a lot of it brings together new ideas with stuff we knew and loved in the old Expanded Universe. And since the High Republic is covering new ground, it won’t step on the toes of or contradict much from the EU. 

Between stuff like this novel, the Disney Plus shows, and EA’s newfound confidence in their games, I can’t help escape the feeling that the overarching Star Wars brand has escaped the shadow of the movies and has become more akin to what it was in the 90’s/2000’s. Here’s to hoping that, like The Mandalorian, Light of the Jedi will be something any Star Wars fan can get behind.

Reviewed by Doug McCausland for Roqoo Depot.

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