by @holocronGeorge for @sw_holocron
THIS IS AN ADVANCED REVIEW. STAR WARS THE HIGH REPUBLIC: INTO THE DARK RELEASES ON FEBRUARY 2, 2021
The adventures in the High Republic era continue with Into the Dark, a new young adult novel written by Star Wars veteran Claudia Gray. Gray has delivered some of the best YA novels in canon so far with Lost Stars and Leia, Princess of Alderaan, not to mention her brilliant work with Bloodline and Master & Apprentice. For the most part, this trend continues in a mostly entertaining and intriguing tale.
Into the Dark follows young Reath Silas, a bookworm Jedi Padawan who aspires to be a great scholar, rather than a great warrior. Much to his dismay, Reath is dragged along by three older Jedi on a journey to Starlight Beacon, a new Republic outpost that is also integral to Justina Ireland’s A Test of Courage novel. The journey does not go to plan, however, as their transport is stranded and they are forced to take shelter in a mysterious nearby space station.
Gray made a series of bold decisions in conceptualizing Into the Dark and one’s enjoyment of the novel will, in large part, be determined by how one takes these decisions. For starters, the protagonist Reath is not your typical Star Wars hero. One of the most interesting things about Star Wars adventures has been their ability to carve out intriguing, unique backgrounds for each character. It’s not that all Jedi are the same, but, rather, there is a lot of variability that makes each Jedi feel like their own individual. This is a pattern we’ve seen with Kanan in Rebels, Ahsoka in The Clone Wars, Luke in The Last Jedi, and we also see it now with Reath in Into the Dark. The issue, however, is that Reath is somewhat of a dry protagonist. The scholarly interests of the Padawan add a certain authenticity or grounding to the character, but also result in him being a rather uninteresting lead at times. As the novel progresses, Reath further develops, but, ultimately, I was a little disappointed with this character, however likable he may be.
Nonetheless, Into the Dark is backed up by a series of great side characters. Particular highlights included a pilot named Affie and her mentor Leox. The novel also focuses on the older Jedi masters in this journey, Orla and Cohmac. Their friendship is touching and flashbacks to a previous mission were always a point of intrigue. The High Republic era’s villains, the Niihl, are also present, as are a mysterious new enemy.
Another bold decision Gray makes really pays off in the novel and that is to make Into the Dark a contained thriller. After the novel’s rather slow beginning, the action kicks into gear when the crew is stranded on the ancient Amaxine space station. From here on out, the story plays out interestingly, with all the twists and turns of the space station gradually being revealed. Certain parts of the novel really felt like they were influenced by the Indiana Jones films, which was a nice touch to see.
As we noted in our review for A Test of Courage, one of the most intriguing things about the High Republic publishing initiative was the potential to explore an entirely new era in the Star Wars canon. And, similar to A Test of Courage, Into the Dark offers a really entertaining story, but doesn’t quite delve into the new era as much as we would like. This is somewhat of a harsh criticism to lodge given that we are only three books into the High Republic and there are a vast array of projects to come. However, it would have been nice to see just a little more time spent on fleshing this era out as distinct from the rest. We’re given a lot of details through narrations or dialogue, but this information, for the most part, is rather surface level. I anticipate this is me being a little eager to really wrap my head around this era and, in that sense, I’m absolutely sure that subsequent projects will begin to dive into what makes the High Republic interesting more.
Overall, Into the Dark has a lot for Star Wars fans to feast on. The third novel in the High Republic era introduces some unique characters in a contained thriller that sets the stage nicely for inevitable sequels to come. The somewhat lightweight world-building in Gray’s novel is offset by an engaging adventure with unpredictable twists and threatening villains.
Image courtesy of Disney-Lucasfilm Press