Maybe because of the massive global pandemic, Star Wars: The High Republic slipped past my notice. But once The Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule was in my hands I was excited to escape a bit into a period of Star Wars I had no knowledge of. To be entirely upfront, I have not read any extraneous Star Wars novel since maybe the late 1990s and only loosely know the previous canon before the Disney purchase. That’s why I wanted to try The Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule in the first place. Part of Stars Wars: The High Republic line of stories (which include novels, comics, and other media), The Light of the Jedi is not bogged down by the galaxy’s history in The Skywalker Saga, as it takes place hundreds of years before those events. I was familiar with Charles Soule’s work in comic books, which I’ve always thought were well-written even if I didn’t agree with choices he made for certain characters. This book has the benefit of having no characters I am familiar with, so Soule can shape their journeys without a lengthy continuity weighing down on him.
The book starts off, like any Star Wars movie, with an opening crawl setting us up for what the galaxy is like in the High Republic and a slow intro before disaster strikes. The first hundred and fifteen pages are some of the best use of Jedi as peacekeepers of the galaxy I’ve ever read. Once the ball got rolling, I could not stop reading as Soule made excellent use of a ticking clock scenario that had me on edge, turning pages. Soule gives each Jedi he writes a unique perspective on the Force and new Force powers I have not seen, read, or heard of before that had me desperately wishing I could see it in action. Jedi Masters Loden Greatsword, a Twi’lek, and Avar Kriss, a human, are two of the standout Jedi of this book.
The antagonists of the book, the Nihil, are a gang of plunderers and marauders. While having the upper hand most of the book, I was always reassured as soon as the Republic and the Jedi caught up with them, they didn’t stand a chance. As baddies, I found them refreshing that they were not Sith who simply wished to rule the galaxy but were basically just clever, cruel, and greedy bastards. Towards the end of the book, I became slightly worried that this was indeed heading in the Sith direction, with the Nihil leader, Malchion Ro, known as the Eye of the Nihil, coming off as very Sith final boss-like in his final appearances in the book. However, what they have foreshadowed with him going forward is far away enough from the Sith and built him up as a much more significant threat than just being the head of a marauder gang that I’m interested in what happens next.
This is essentially a popcorn book, leaning more towards action and plot than character development. Still, the central characters are all given enough time to shine so that not only do I like them, but I want to know more about them. Even the Republic’s politics, which I have found exceedingly dull in the past, are exciting and never outstays their welcome. I would recommend this Star Wars book for the first hundred pages alone, but the fallout that happens afterward is so thrilling that it makes me want more.
If you’re not into Star Wars, this isn’t suddenly going to make you a fan. Still, suppose you’re a casual fan of Star Wars. In that case, you don’t have to worry about not knowing individual races, planets, history, or people. Everything is given the context that any reader can easily read the clues of and appreciate. It’s just science fiction done well without over-complication.
It’s simply fun. Hey, remember when Star Wars was fun? Without years and years of continuity to uphold, The Light of the Jedi is a fun read. It’s a science fiction adventure with space wizards, which if they weren’t canonically called that before they are in this book. It’s okay to just let entertainment be entertainment and Charles Soule has made an entertaining foray into the High Republic with this first book in a series.