Light of the Jedi is the perfect example of the potential still inherent in the Star Wars concept even 40 years later.
George Lucas introduced the world to the concept of the Jedi in 1977’s Star Wars. Described as “the guardians of peace and justice for a thousand generations in the Old Republic,” by the time of the events of A New Hope, the Jedi were all but extinct, having been executed galaxy-wide by the Empire several years before for treason. The forward thrust of Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy was driven by the idea that the Jedi could and should return to the galaxy with Luke Skywalker, the son of a famous Jedi Knight, leading the way.
The Jedi in a new refreshing light
Lucas’ original description of the Jedi Knights and the mythology built around them through the Skywalker Saga allude to a unique class of superhero in the Star Wars universe unlike anything we’ve seen before. Though we have yet to see the Jedi Order return to the galaxy post-Skywalker Saga, Charles Soule’s new novel, Light of the Jedi, the introduction to The High Republic era of Star Wars storytelling, delivers on the concept of the Jedi originally alluded to in A New Hope in a beautiful way.
When a ship known as the Legacy Run is torn apart in hyperspace in an attempt to avoid a collision with another ship, the debris from the disaster threatens to destroy an entire planetary system. The Jedi, the highly respected and strongly united order of Force-sensitive peacekeepers in the galaxy, are called upon to save as many lives as possible.
A galaxy in danger
What becomes immediately apparent is that this is a serious historical moment in the Star Wars timeline. The Legacy Run disaster doesn’t just threaten lives; it takes many and has the potential to destroy a large portion of the galaxy. And the Jedi are the only force capable of keeping this impossible tragedy from doing its worst.
Leading the charge is Avar Kriss, a compassionate and skilled Jedi Knight who hears the Force as a song. Avar’s Force ability gives her a unique connection to all the other Jedi, allowing her to strengthen the bond that ties all of them together in the Force to give them the power to do extraordinary things we’ve never encountered from the Jedi before. Soule’s characterization of Avar is subtle throughout in that you get the sense that there’s much more to her than is initially revealed. She’s strong and wise, but she’s not all-powerful.
The story also follows Jedi Padawan Bell Zettifar and his master Loden Greatstorm. The interaction between these two characters is the kind of master and apprentice interplay we’ve been waiting to see for years, free of the intense conflict at the heart of the Skywalker Saga. Bell’s training is fun to watch, and though he struggles in some areas, you get the sense that Loden genuinely believes in him, and their combined skills are put to the test when the conflict of the Legacy Run disaster is layered with the introduction to a new enemy in the Star Wars universe: the Nihil.
A new villain worthy of a conflict with the Jedi
The Nihil are a chaotic band of space pirates who take without remorse. But what makes them particularly terrifying is their access to a supposedly impossible technological ability that puts the whole galaxy in danger. The Nihil are led by a mysterious figure known as Marchion Ro, who harbors a hatred for the Jedi and carries a ruthless desire for galactic domination. The concept of the Nihil didn’t seem that interesting at first, but Soule’s storytelling is more than convincing. From power struggles to deception to pure heartbreak, Soule paints the Nihil as a villain worthy of taking on the Jedi at the height of their power.
The benefit of Soule’s approach to storytelling
Light of the Jedi also benefits simply from Soule’s approach to writing. If you’ve ever read his novels Oracle Year or Anyone, you know that Soule has a knack for ratcheting up tension, creating clever misdirection, revealing subtle and enlightening world-building, and creating deep, emotional connections to the characters. This didn’t just feel like a solid Star Wars novel; it felt like another solid Charles Soule novel.
The superheroes of the Star Wars universe
I heard someone mention the Jedi as superheroes after reading Light of the Jedi, and it’s an apt description. The pace of the story is non-stop from beginning to end, and the characterization of the Jedi makes you forget that they’re going to create their own extinction in 200 years. There’s even a nod to the idea of the Jedi getting involved in a military situation, alluding to the future Clone Wars. This truly is the Jedi at their height, and when I closed the book after the last page, I couldn’t help but wish I had the next book in my hand at that moment.
Light of the Jedi is a fun novel, an exciting Star Wars story, and a symbol of hope for the Star Wars franchise moving forward.