When Lucasfilm first announced they were blowing open the timeline of Star Wars with the introduction of a whole new time period, their ambition was large. The High Republic is set approximately 200 years before the events of The Phantom Menace. A time when the Galactic Republic and the Jedi Order were humming with benevolent efficiency, content and sure of their good intentions and incorruptibility. The LucasBooks department promised novels and comics for all ages that would immerse fans in a whole new era of Star Wars to explore.
They weren’t kidding around. In January 2021, the first three novels set during Star Wars: The High Republic will be released. Light Of The Jedi by Charles Soul is the introduction novel for adults, Into The Dark by Claudia Gray is for the YA crowd, and A Test Of Courage by author Justina Ireland and illustrator Petur Antonsson aims for middle-grade readers. I was fortunate enough to receive advanced copies of all three ahead of release and it’s clear Lucasfilm has done its due diligence. All three books are interconnected in ways that enhance each other without being critical to understanding the other two. All three are bursting with lore and a large ensemble cast that breathes instant life into a setting that is both familiar and alien at the same time. Even if someone would normally shirk from reading books labeled for children, both Into The Dark and A Test Of Courage are entertaining and well-written enough for adult audiences.
The trio of books enters The High Republic within weeks of each other, during a critical moment in the Galactic Republic. When a hyperspace anomaly causes a disaster that threatens the food basket of the Outer Rim, the delicate diplomacy between the Republic and the Frontier territories – basically anything from the Inner Rim to the Outer Rim — threatens to unravel. Seen from the perspective of dozens of sentient species across the galaxy, The High Republic wastes no time in showcasing the scope of its story via the “Legacy Run incident” and its ramifications throughout the galaxy, especially in the Hetzel system. An agrarian solar system with technologically-enhanced growing seasons, every surface of every planet and moon in Hetzel is optimized to feed the trillions of lifeforms in the Outer Rim. Hetzel scientists also work on cutting-edge biotechnology, such as the emerging uses of the bacta algae.
Without spoilers, below is a primer for many of the main movers and shakers in a galaxy far, far away during a time when Master Yoda did not yet sit on the High Council and Anakin Skywalker was but a gauzy prophecy in a musty Jedi archive. Several of these characters could make appearances on Disney+ with the recent announcement of The Acolyte, a live-action series set during the end of the High Republic. A new era has begun.
JEDI MASTER AVAR KRISS
A human female Jedi in her 30s, Master Avar Kriss is one of the main characters of Light Of The Jedi. Wielding a gorgeous white electrum lightsaber inlaid with green filigree to give it the appearance of a rapier, the embellishments match the green hue of her kyber crystal. Gifted with a rare Force talent that allows Master Kriss to connect with other Jedi, she works as a switchboard of sorts to keep everyone’s mind linked during battle. Avar calls it listening to the “song” of the Force. It is a taxing skill that makes her an invaluable member of the team during the Legacy Run crisis.
JEDI MASTER JORA MALLI
As a member of the Jedi Council, Master Jora Malli’s presence is felt throughout all three books. The Togruta woman is connected to nearly every other Jedi on the list, whether through personal or professional connections. As The High Republic begins, Jora Malli finds herself at a crossroads; about to resign from the Jedi Council in order to take over management of the Jedi Order’s facilities on the Republic’s new “great work” — the Starlight Beacon. A long-gestating undertaking in the Outer Rim, the Starlight Beacon represents the future, a massive space station meant to bring stability and hope to the edges of the known galaxy. On the eve of its grand dedication, the Republic hangs their hopes on this project; if it succeeds, more Beacons will spread across the Outer Rim until the galaxy is all under one banner. If it fails? Decades of diplomatic work will be undone, perhaps permanently.
JEDI MASTER DOUGLAS SUNVALE
With a twinkle in his eye, a great black, bushy beard, and his penchant for wearing leathers instead of Jedi robes, Master Douglas Sunvale is a bit of an odd duck. Stationed on Port Haileap, a last stop to refuel before heading out of “civilization” and towards the Rim, Master Sunvale has the latitude and lack of oversight to help his shy empath Padawan Irmi come into his own. Showing his compassionate nature elsewhere, Sunvale also took in young Avon, a senator’s daughter shipped off by her absentee mother and seemingly forgotten about prior to A Test Of Courage. Affable and protective, Master Sunvale is a natural parental figure.
JEDI MASTER LODEN GREATSTORM
A dark blue Twi’lek Master Jedi with a green-bladed lightsaber, Loden Greatstorm loves his calling. When disaster strikes the Hetzel system in Light Of The Jedi, he and his Padawan are among the first to respond. Using a blend of physical might and benevolent compassion, Greatstorm uses every opportunity to teach his teenage charge the best way to help people is to understand what drives them. Love and fear. Hope and anger. Sussing out a person or a group’s motivations can de-escalate most situations. Most.
JEDI MASTER COHMAC VITUS
When Jedi think “unparalleled scholar and mystic,” they think of Master Cohmac Vitus. A slim human man with black hair to his shoulders, Master Vitus has dedicated his life to the ancient histories and folklore of species across the known galaxy. Adept with his blue-bladed lightsaber, Cohmac prefers to use logic and mathematical probability to attack problems. Especially after the events twenty-five years before Into The Dark, when a series of rash decisions as a Padawan left scars on Master Vitus that can’t be seen. Now? He returns to the Outer Rim, Starlight Beacon…and the place that set him on his life’s path so many years ago.
JEDI MASTER ELZAR MANN
An eccentric human Jedi, Elzar Mann’s life philosophy is “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.” Contemporaries and friends with Master Avar Kriss and Master Stellan Gios, Master Mann finds himself assisting over fifty of his Jedi colleagues in the Hetzel system during Light Of The Jedi. While his esoteric approach to the Force gives many pause, Elzar shrugs off their concerns. He does not try to tell anyone the path they have taken to enlightenment is wrong; therefore, the opinions of others on his path matter not.
JEDI MASTER STELLAN GIOS
During their days as Padawans, Stellan Gios played the role of reason with Jora Malli and Elzar Mann. Now a Jedi Master in his own right, Gios finds himself stationed on Caragon-Viner. A natural optimist, Master Gios is known as the former teacher of Jedi Knight Vernestra Rwoh, a Force-sensitive prodigy and Stellan’s former Padawan. He is also known for his unique lightsaber. While it houses an ordinary blue kyber crystal, Master Gios created an ingenious golden crossguard that extends when the lightsaber is ignited. Stella will appear in the upcoming comic Star Wars: The High Republic and the novel The Rising Storm.
JEDI MASTER YODA
Around 700 years old during The High Republic, Master Yoda is well-respected amongst his peers as a Jedi of extraordinary “luminescence.” His power in the Force shines forth even from halfway across the galaxy. Not yet a member of the High Council, Master Yoda spends his days with the younglings, teaching them the basics on how to become instruments for the light.
JEDI WAYSEEKER ORLA JARENI
After declaring herself a Wayseeker, the Umbaran Jedi known as Orla Jareni feels adrift. Now on a solitary path — having amicably broken up with the institution that raised her — Orla feels compelled to return to the Outer Rim in Into The Dark. The Force calls to her and she listens, bringing only the clothes on her back, the credits in her account, and her double-bladed lightsaber that, when ignited, glows white. Luckily, her old friend Master Cohmac Vitus is also headed to the edge of the galaxy. The two shared a life-altering trauma in the Outer Rim as Padawans. Perhaps now they will also find a shared peace.
JEDI KNIGHT VERNESTRA RWOH
Raised at the Jedi Temple on Hynestia, Mirialan Vernestra Rwoh is the youngest Jedi to obtain the rank of Knight in modern times in A Test Of Courage. Encouraged by her human Master, the human Stellan Gios, Vernestra underwent the Jedi Trials at the age of fifteen…and passed on her first try. Now, a year later, she has been assigned to guard Avon Starros, the young daughter of a Galactic Senator, as a delegation of ambassadors from the Dalna Sector travels to begin negotiations to join the Republic. Rather than a sense of pride or arrogance, Vernestra feels only the great weight of responsibility and is determined to show the Jedi Council that she is worthy of the historical honor she earned. But Vernestra has her secrets; the Force calls to her, compelling her to convert her purple-bladed lightsaber into a rare and difficult to master lightwhip.
JEDI KNIGHT DEZ RYDAN
The former human Padawan of Master Jora Malli of the High Council, Dez Rydan is a bit of a legend and a role model to the younger students. Receiving his Jedi Knight status only eight years prior to the start of Into The Dark, Rydan’s adventurous nature has led him everywhere from Christophsis to Zeitooine. With a shock of black hair and golden skin, he looks more like a dashing holovid star than a wizard-monk. But behind his charming smile roils uncertainty. As he boards the Vessel headed towards Starlight Beacon, he finds himself hoping his new adventure will calm the uncertainty and self-doubt that plagues him.
JEDI KNIGHT KEEVE TRENNIS
Living during a time period that will go on to inspire legends and myths for centuries can be thrilling…or daunting. Newly-minted Jedi Knight Keeve Trennis falls into the latter category. Assigned to Starlight Beacon mere weeks after her promotion from Padawan, the dark-skinned human female finds herself intimated to be working alongside living legends such as Master Jora Malli. Despite being a great Jedi in her own right, Keeve struggles to not compare herself to those who have had decades more experience. Her story will unfold in the comic book Star Wars: The High Republic.
JEDI KNIGHT TE’AMI
A Duros Jedi called to assist during the Legacy Run disaster in Light Of The Jedi. As the leader of a small task force, Te’Ami finds herself with a cascade of deadly problems and no time to weigh her options. She trusts in the Force entirely to guide her and her team to the correct action.
JEDI KNIGHT MIKKEL SUTMANI
Mikkel Sutmani is an Ithorian Jedi that is part of Te’Ami’s team as Light Of The Jedi begins. He communicates with his fellow pilots using a translator, as his species is incapable of speaking Basic.
JEDI KNIGHT NIB ASSEK
Nib Assek is a human Jedi assigned to Te’Ami’s group of fighter pilots during the Legacy Run disaster at the beginning of Light Of The Jedi.
PADAWAN LULA TALISOLA
A young Padawan under the direct tutelage of Master Yoda, Lula Talisola has a secret. She and her two friends, Qort and Farzala, just happen to be traveling with the diminutive Jedi when the Legacy Run disaster occurs. While most Jedi are drawn towards the heavily populated Hetzel system, Lula and others are the only Jedi near Trymant IV to assist. The only problem? Lula seems to know that their mission will fail. Does she have the gift of foresight? The comic Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures will hopefully shed some light on her sense of foreboding.
PADAWAN REATH SILAS
At seventeen, the current human Padawan of High Council member Jora Malli knows that he is average in his connection to the Force. To compensate, and to make himself worthy of being chosen by such a revered Jedi Master, Reath Silas works twice as hard as his fellow students. But his real love is the Jedi Archives on Coruscant. While other Padawans work on their lightsaber forms, Silas dedicates all of his spare time to studying the holocrons of ancient history and lore. While competent with his green-hued lightsaber, Silas prefers intellectual missions. So when Master Jora informs him they will be leaving Coruscant for Starlight Beacon on the Outer Rim, the brown-haired boy is devastated to say good-bye to everything he has ever known for a space station beyond the edge of civilization. Silas finds himself heading Into The Dark.
PADAWAN IRMI CANTAROS
Built more like a farmhand than a Jedi, human Padawan Irmi Cantaros is blonde and stocky. At fourteen, he is grateful to be under the tutelage of Master Douglas Sunvale as A Test Of Courage begins. A natural empath, Irmi diminishes his own talent as mere gifts of observation instead of Force-given skills. Instead, he focuses on his painful shyness and awkwardness in social situations. At times, he struggles with jealousy of Vernestra but knows he will find his own path in his own time. If only he could reconstruct his lightsaber properly during meditation, so the blue kyber crystal within could shine with more than a weak light, he knows he will find the clarity of purpose he so desperately craves.
PADAWAN BELL ZETTIFAR
The human Padawan of Master Loden Greatstone, eighteen-year-old Bell Zettifar loves flying. He loves to feel the wind in his dreadlocks. He loves helping people. He loves using his lightsaber to defend the innocent and disarm the wicked. Now, if only he could learn to concentrate on the moment, to use the Force as naturally and as well as he swings his blade in Light Of The Jedi.
PADAWAN BURRYAGA AGABURRY
The Wookiee Padawan of Jedi Knight Nib Assek, who learned Shyriiwook specifically so she could take him on as her apprentice. Assigned to Te’Ami during the Legacy Run disaster in Light Of The Jedi, Burryaga Agaburry demonstrates a natural gift for picking up on the life signatures of those in danger and broadcasting it to other nearby Jedi.
THE GALACTIC REPUBLIC
CHANCELLOR LINA SOH
The leader of the Galactic Republic during The High Republic. A diminutive human female, Chancellor Lina Soh appears delicate, even fragile. It is an illusion. During her tenure as Chancellor, Lina Soh has hammered the Core and the Colonies into a collective whole. Her motto for the galaxy is “We are all the Republic.” A visionary with plans for numerous Great Works in the frontier — the Inner Rim, the Mid Rim, and the Outer Rim — Chancellor Soh appears to have the galaxy’s best interests at heart. But do those that live Rimward want the Republic bringing “civilization” to their region? Or is this merely colonialism by another name?
One of the highest commanding officers in the Republic Fleet, the human Admiral Kronara finds himself working with Master Avar Kriss in the opening of Light Of The Jedi. Respected colleagues, Kriss and Kronara work in tandem as the fight against time and physics to save billions of lives in the Hetzel system.
Having reached the age of twelve, Honesty Weft of Dalna wishes he was undergoing his culture’s tradition of Metamorphosis. A series of trials that help his terrestrial people determine their path in life. Honesty has spent his young life dreaming of joining the ranks of the Dalnan military. But his parents insist he accompany his father — the human Ambassador from Dalna — to the Starlight Beacon with the rest of the delegation in A Test Of Courage. A dutiful son, Honesty complies, though he makes it well-known he believes this to be a waste of his time that merely sets him back from his peers, each of which will have completed their Metamorphosis by the time the delegation is set to return.
Tech genius. Scientific mind of her age. Senator’s daughter. Twelve. All of these describe Avon Starros, a human girl accompanied by an assassin droid turned nanny named Jay-Six. Packed off to the edge of civilized space by her exasperated and absentee mother, Avon spends her days running wild. Her mother hasn’t called in a month, and the teacher she was sent to live with was gone by the time Avon and Jay arrived. Luckily, Jedi Knight Vernestra Rwoh and Jedi Master Douglas Sunvale keep an eye on her, especially now that Senator Starros has ordered her daughter to accompany the Dalna ambassadors to Starlight Beacon in A Test Of Courage.
The minister in charge of the Hetzel sector in Light Of The Jedi. A True Believer, Ecka refuses to abandon his people to their fate, staying behind to lead the coordinated effort to save billions of lifeforms across the solar system; they are his responsibility and he takes it seriously.
A young up-and-coming human male from the Ministry of Tech, Keven Tarr is a technology virtuoso. Assigned to Minister Ecka’s team prior to Light Of The Jedi, his ambition burns bright. Using his considerable skill, Tarr is able to coax information from satellites and other equipment when everyone else has failed.
Part of the Byrne Guild that runs transport vessels all over the Outer Rim, seventeen-year-old Affie Hollow loves her life. A tan, brunette human, Affie co-pilots the Vessel on behalf of her adopted mother — and idol — Scover Byrne. When Into The Dark begins, Affie finds herself on a mission to Coruscant to pick up a group of Jedi. For someone who grew up in the outer reaches of the frontier, both the planet and the wizard monks are little more than myths. Affie finds herself initially unimpressed by either.
In another time and place, Leox Gyasi would be colloquially known as “a dirty hippie.” The pilot of the Vessel has skills that one might call preternatural, his ropes of mystical beads hanging from his cockpit and his person, visible against his flesh (since he keeps his shirt open to the waist at all times). With messy dark-blonde hair and a spice stick (still legal, for now) always nearby, Leox subscribes to a laissez-faire attitude towards life; just like, enjoy the ride, man….you know? While the Jedi in Into The Dark aren’t sure what to make of Leox, his co-pilot Affie knows he is a trustworthy man to have in your corner.
A Vintian, Geode appears to be a human-sized series of rocks. Rounded boulders with flakes of flint, Geode runs navigation for the Vessel in Into The Dark. He doesn’t talk. He has no eyes or mouth. He moves, but never when anyone is looking. But Leox and Affie swear he is a “wild guy” and an old friend.
NAN & HAGUE
A diminutive human girl from the Outer Rim with blue streaks in her hair and a dress as patched as the ship she travels in, Nan finds herself in a spot of trouble in the aftermath of the Legacy Run disaster. Along with her companion and protector, an elderly pale Zabrak known as Hague, Nan finds her path intertwined with those of the Vessel in Into The Dark.
CAPTAIN HEDDA CASSET
After decades of military service, human Hedda Casset runs her transport and cargo ship like she never left. It makes her a valuable member of the Byrne Guild and a respected Captain up and down the Outer Rim. Now in her 60s, Captain Casset loves her ship, the Legacy Run, and the sense of purpose it gives her.
A mysterious Lasat working with the Hutts, Lord Isamer belongs to the underworld group known as the Directorate. A stable Galactic Republic is bad for business. Twenty-five years prior to the events of Into The Dark, Lord Isamer launched a scheme to destabilize the Outer Rim for years, sowing distrust in the Jedi and the Senate and allowing the cartels to seep into the fissures created therein.
Monsters. Myths. Reavers. No one knows where the Nihil came from, what they want, or who their leadership is. Made up of a mix of species from across the known galaxy, the Nihil share one thing in common: a love of chaos. Brutal pirates, they appear like ghosts to attack the Outer Rim in cities and in space, rural farmland and remote outposts. Covered in Strike tattoos to denote their rank and accomplishments, pierced and wired with body modification, the Nihil strike terror into the hearts of Outer Rim colonists. Their spiky, bulky ships appearing on the horizon spell death… if you are lucky.