Review: The Jedi and High Republic are brought to their knees in Star Wars: The Fallen Star

Claudia Gray’s The Fallen Star cover. Photo:
Claudia Gray’s The Fallen Star cover. Photo: /

We knew the hits were coming in Star Wars: The Fallen Star, but that doesn’t make the losses hurt any less. In the brutal yet superb conclusion to phase 1 of the High Republic era, author Claudia Gray deals devastating but necessary blows to the Jedi and the Republic at large.

The release of The Fallen Star marks one year since the launch of Star Wars’ High Republic Initiative with Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule. For the past year, fans have been treated to two each of adult novels, YA books, middle grade and children’s offerings and a slew of High Republic-set comic series.

It’s Star Wars’ most ambitious literary publishing campaign yet — one that has successfully carved out a fascinating era of the timeline and filled it with loveable and dynamic people, places and creatures. The High Republic era is also one of inclusion and representation in every story it tells, making it the most diverse (and its characters some of the most relatable) slice of the Star Wars pie.

But whereas it all started with the fast-paced and illuminating Light of the Jedi, the High Republic stories shine the brightest when they put their Golden Age Jedi to the test. That’s where the villains of our story come in.

The Nihil have wreaked havoc throughout the Outer Rim of the Star Wars galaxy and landed on the Republic’s radar when they caused the Hyperspace Disaster (Light of the Jedi). Then, they committed their most heinous crime yet with the chaotic and violent attack on the Republic Fair (Cavan Scott’s The Rising Storm).

And in The Fallen Star, the mercurial Eye of the Nihil, Marchion Ro, pushes the Jedi of Starlight Beacon until they bend and break.

**Spoilers ahead for The Fallen Star**

It’s almost impossible to review The Fallen Star without mentioning key plot details. Spoilers from here on out, so turn away if you haven’t yet read the book.

Like many of the other High Republic offerings, Gray takes an ensemble approach to this story — bouncing between Jedi having crises of faith and Force, padawans and other young characters bringing much-needed levity and optimism, and the cold and calculated Nihil. Each one brings their own unique perspective and motivations to the table, and Gray balances the need for individual context and clarity with necessary pacing to drive the overall story forward.

While The Fallen Star seamlessly hops around to hear from nearly a dozen different characters through its 345 pages, the “stars” of this show are Elzar Mann, Stellan Gios and Bell Zetifar.

When the novel begins, Elzar is still struggling with his connection to the light side of the Force after his (necessary) use of the dark side during the Republic Fair attack. With the help of Stellan and Jedi Wayseeker Orla Jareni, he’s in a much better place but is still hesitant to reconnect to the Force.

Stellan, meanwhile, is the new marshal of Starlight Beacon and continually grapples with his own trauma and the ongoing conflict he has with Avar Kriss, who is largely absent from The Fallen Star due to her (self-righteous and personal) mission to capture Lourna Dee, who the Jedi believe is the Eye of the Nihil.

The High Republic authors have teased the dynamic before, but Gray leans more into the “constellation” relationship between Elzar, Stellan and Avar. It’s a really beautiful and heartbreaking analogy, especially considering how the novel ends. For a Jedi brimming with loyalty and dedication to the Force and the Order that parallel Obi-Wan Kenobi, Stellan had a compelling and bittersweet story arc in The Fallen Star and in the High Republic at large.

Speaking of analogies and arcs, the “fallen star” of the novel is more than just Starlight Beacon. Going into the finale of Phase 1, we knew there were going to be casualties of both sentients and space stations. But the losses were much higher and more devastating than anticipated.

In the grand scheme of the High Republic, Stellan’s loss will likely drive forward Elzar’s evolution and bring a new dynamic to his and Avar’s fraught relationship. But it also felt like Stellan’s story arc was just beginning, and we haven’t yet gotten more of the juicy details of this trio’s past — as was promised.

Other characters lost in The Fallen Star seem to have been just introduced without much context beyond their relation to the main players, but their losses help expose the Jedi’s weaknesses and their overreliance on the supposedly immutable Force.

While The Fallen Star is largely a book of devastation, disaster and death, there are a few moments of levity and hope — in particular, with Burryaga. The Wookiee Jedi padawan is all but confirmed to be dead, but Bell is determined to either find his body or rescue his best friend.

Wookiees are made of strong stuff, and it’s certainly possible for Burryaga to still be alive. But Bell’s determination stems from his feelings of failure in trying to find and rescue his first master, Loden Greatstorm, who had been alive and tortured by the Nihil and whose horrific death concluded The Rising Storm.

Bell has been through so much already, and we hope this mission to find Burryaga doesn’t turn into another devastating loss for the padawan.

When it comes to non-Jedi characters, it was a breath of fresh air to get more time with the crew of the Vessel — Affie, Leox and Geode. It was also nice to get a bit more page time with the antagonists of Out of the Shadows, Nan and Chancey Yarrow, as they grapple with being “not Nihil” and make us more interested in what exactly their boss Lourna Dee wants to do with them and Chancey’s gravity well projector.

Where the Nihil are concerned, these villainous space pirates are largely absent from The Fallen Star. The only Nihil we see are Marchion Ro and Thaya Ferr, who has taken Nan’s place as a dedicated assistant and confidante to the Eye. There’s also a quite interesting revelation about Senator Ghirra Starros’ relationship with Marchion Ro and her role as a government spy for the Nihil. But despite their business and pleasure-based arrangement, Marchion Ro clearly only cares about power.

We will likely (and hopefully) finally see more of Marchion Ro’s past and present when Soule’s comic series Eye of the Storm releases.

For fans being imbedded in the High Republic for the last year, it’s easy to pick up The Fallen Star and run with its characters and storylines. But there are moments in The Fallen Star and other books where it can feel like you’re missing out on an inside joke but you haven’t read or aren’t caught up with X comic series or can’t remember why so-and-so is so important. Rereads are becoming necessary, but we are OK with that.

Overall, The Fallen Star is everything we could’ve wanted and more from both Gray and the High Republic’s first phase. Gray is one of the best Star Wars authors out there and brings her signature combination of high stakes, heart and humor in a beautifully devastating finale.

The Fallen Star is a tense page-turner from start to finish, delivering an impactful climax built up over the last year and setting the stage for more action and adventure to come.

Star Wars: The High Republic: The Fallen Star is available now from Del Rey.

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