Star Wars is making quick work of building an entirely new galactic era, and the newest offering, The High Republic: Into the Dark, is a fun, angsty, charming addition to the High Republic slate.
Claudia Gray’s Into the Dark is the second major High Republic book to be published in the last two months. There are also two ongoing comic series and several children’s books to get fans hooked on the new era.
Gray is a veteran Star Wars author whose notable work includes novels following Leia, the relationship between Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi and the wildly popular epic story Lost Stars. Fans of Gray’s Star Wars books had been looking forward to Into the Dark for quite some time, but the book was worth the wait. It’s indicative of Gray’s knack for fleshing out complex characters and letting them tell their own stories. Even with a character-heavy book such as Into the Dark, Gray’s writing ensures readers never lose sight of the experiences and emotions that tie them all together.
Into the Dark chiefly follows Reath Silas, a Jedi padawan who would rather while away hours in the Jedi Archives studying history than embark on off-world assignments. This is a Star Wars novel, however, so of course, it has several exciting — and dangerous — adventures.
The book follows Reath and several other Jedi featured in Charles Soule’s Light of the Jedi, which was published in January. Into the Dark is a bit of a spinoff sequel to Light of the Jedi but easily stands alone in the High Republic slate. You don’t have to read Light of the Jedi before reading Into the Dark, but it does help for world-building purposes.
It’s set during and just after the Great Disaster (see Light of the Jedi and other High Republic literature) and follows Reath as he reluctantly embarks on an assignment to the Starlight Beacon in the Outer Rim. When he leaves Coruscant to meet his master at the Beacon, his ship is knocked out of hyperspace because of the events of the Great Disaster and he and other ships have to take refuge on an abandoned space station.
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That’s when the real, dangerous fun begins. Reath, his fellow passengers on the Vessel, and occupants of other ships soon realize the space station isn’t exactly uninhabited. At first, it appears it’s just full of old droids tending to a mysterious garden. But the Jedi quickly sense deep, debilitating darkness on the station they have to contend with while trying to keep the peace amongst the various ships’ crews.
Reath and the other Jedi have to deal with Dark Side carnivorous plants called the Drengir, the legacy of the ancient Amaxine warriors and what they left behind on the station and eventually the Nihil space pirates.
Like Gray’s other Star Wars novels, Into the Dark is chock full of complex, relatable characters. And though Reath is the least compelling as the main character, his passions give us many chances to dig deeper into the Drengir, the Amaxine warriors and even the history of the revered Jedi Temple on Coruscant. Reath also becomes the key to surviving on the station and saving others because of his knack for historical research.
Though Reath lacks that teen angst and laissez-faire attitude, he really shines as a character when he’s learning to confront and manage grief — an emotion central to the plot of Into the Dark. And, he’s not the only Jedi struggling to understand and express grief without it turning into anger and fear.
Besides grief, Into the Dark showcases how the Jedi contend with their own emotions and flaws and the complex, challenging relationships between masters, knights, apprentices and the Jedi Council. The book is an epic adventure story overall, but its take on the dangers of suppressing grief and anger is beautifully human.
Like Light of the Jedi, Into the Dark also drops a spaceship-load of themes and characters at the beginning of the book without much breathing room to let it all sink in. Though the tone of the book is adventurous character building, it takes a while to get to the main story arcs. Like Reath, the book becomes more confident in itself as the story moves along.
Overall, Into the Dark is a charming, epic tale that brings even more life to the High Republic collection. It features so many new characters we can’t wait to see again in future stories and builds on the foreboding mystery the Jedi face in the 200 years before The Phantom Menace.