Review: Star Wars: Midnight Horizon is as soulful as it is action-packed

Daniel José Older’s Midnight Horizon. Photo:
Daniel José Older’s Midnight Horizon. Photo: /

In Star Wars: Midnight Horizon, Daniel José Older brings the best, brightest and most beloved characters from his The High Republic Adventures IDW comic run to the pages of a YA novel. Midnight Horizon burns slowly at first before flaring to life with a lengthy, climactic battle and some of the most touching, relatable soul-searching we’ve seen thus far in The High Republic.

Jedi Padawans are often the most relatable in the Star Wars universe. Typically teenagers, and like real-world teens, Padawans are still full of body- and mind-changing hormones, pent-up energy and tumultuous feelings. As Jedi in training, their teen years can be that much harder as they learn the ways of the Force — understanding and channeling their emotions without letting them consume them and understanding the boundary between compassion and love and obsession and control.

If you’ve read Older’s THR Adventures, you’ll recognize most of Midnight Horizon’s dramatis personae and their unique personalities. Older brings even more depth and complexity to these characters in Midnight Horizon, and it’s clear on every single page just how much he loves his Jedi, their Padawans and the dynamic he built among them over the last year.

The key to the likeability of The High Republic Padawans (and their masters) is that they stand out from most of the other Jedi we’ve grown up with. Sure, the adult Jedi of The High Republic are fantastically written and offer unique perspectives, but the Padawans are still young and malleable.

And as adults (Jedi or not) quickly learn, many teens are wise beyond their years and offer fresh perspectives on stale traditions. Older’s Padawans, especially in Midnight Horizon, offer ample opportunity to question and poke holes in many of the stagnant but closely-held beliefs of the Jedi.

In Midnight Horizon, we chiefly follow Padawans Reath Silas and Ram Jomaram, young Force-sensitive Zeen Mrala and Masters Cohmac Vitus and Kantam Sy. There are also brief appearances by Kantam’s Padawan Lula Talisola.

The main non-Jedi character is Alys “Crash” Ongwa — a brash young woman who owns and operates a security business for wealthy clients on Corella. It’s on that planet — the galaxy’s ship manufacturing hub and home planet of Han Solo — that worlds collide and chaos ensues.

Largely set before the events of Claudia Gray’s The Fallen Star, Midnight Horizon sees Reath, Ram, Cohmac and Kantam sent to Corellia to investigate reports of Nihil activity on the planet. The Nihil being on the Core planet is a terrifying thought as the ruthless marauders have largely stuck to terrorizing the Outer Rim so far.

While the Jedi Masters try to pursue leads the diplomatic, old-fashioned way, the Padawans team up with Crash — whose employee and friend was the victim of a Nihil attack — to infiltrate the leaders and wealthy denizens of Corellia through several dangerous and a tad comedic missions involving lots of makeup and glitter. Zeen also comes to help her friends and gets roped into playing a dazzling up-and-coming pop star.

Midnight Horizon showcases glimpses of Corellia’s glitz and glamor, but Older’s story shines the brightest when it focuses on the dynamics and harsh juxtapositions between the capital Coronet City’s upper and lower corridors. The grime and fervor of the city’s not-so-wealthy contrast brilliantly with the city’s elite — showing a Gotham-esque vibe to the whole thing.

If you loved Corellia in Solo: A Star Wars Story, you’ll love it even more in Midnight Horizon. The novel is chock full of details about the inner workings of the city and the story’s characters — from the “City Fathers” and the security professionals of Crash’s outfit to the famous Grindalid worms.

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m now fascinated with the familial structure of these giant space sewer worms.

While Midnight Horizon burns a bit slow at first, taking plenty of time to make sure we know who is who and what their deal is, the action and intensity ramp up 100-fold in the book’s latter half.

At this point in The High Republic (the end of Phase I), the Jedi and the Republic are still reeling from too many losses. From the Great Disaster and the attack on the Republic Fair on Valo to the horrific death of a beloved Jedi Master, the weary Jedi are spread thin. And all of these tragedies are the fault of the Nihil, whom the Republic believes it finally has on the run.

And while this wave of The High Republic concludes with the destruction of Starlight Beacon (The Fallen Star), we don’t see those events play out in Midnight Horizon. The book’s Jedi feel the pain and terror of its loss, however, as they uncover what Corellia has to do with the space station’s demise and what the Nihil have planned for the future as they creep their way into the Core.

The verdict: Star Wars: Midnight Horizon

As with all High Republic books, Midnight Horizon‘s best parts have to do not with pushing the storyline along, but with its character studies. Specifically, the Master-Padawan relationships and the beautiful connection between Zeen and Lula — something we’ve seen slowly building since The High Republic Adventures #1.

Their relationship is both star-crossed and something that can’t be defined with terms like “love” and “soulmates.” There’s a bit of an Anakin-Padme dynamic to them as Lula is passionate about and dedicated to studying the Force while Zeen is not technically a Jedi but is a powerful Force user. Even separate for most of Midnight Horizon, their connection transcends lightyears.

I don’t think, however, that Zeen and Lula will go the tragic way of Anakin and Padme even as they grapple with the Jedi way of “no attachments.” The Jedi of The High Republic seem a teeny bit more open to the idea of Jedi exploring romance and physical connections, but I also don’t expect them to welcome open and active dating among the Padawans anytime soon.

Midnight Horizon also includes a beautiful backstory for Kantam Sy — a non-binary Jedi and Lula’s master, who has always seemed so self-assured and wise in their knowledge of the Force and of themself. But key flashbacks show Kantam, too, struggling with their emotions and feelings of purpose in the Jedi Order as we see them running off to join the circus after falling in love with a performer.

There are also heartwarming scenes of Kantam first meeting Lula, learning the “lesson of Younglings and Padawans” from their Master Yoda and reuniting the little green Jedi himself.

All this only skims the surface of what’s packed into Midnight Horizon. I could probably write an entirely separate review of the book just talking about Ram’s epic philosophical journey. The quirky, mechanical-obsessed Padawan kicks ass, takes names and learns to find balance — all while executing some pretty wizard tricks.

And while Midnight Horizon is one book that’s a better read after catching up on The High Republic Adventures, it’s a beautifully-wrought conclusion to the first phase of the Star Wars era — with an excellent cliffhanger teasing what’s coming next.

Quotes & Notes

Some of the scenes and quotes that made me pause, made me cry and have been running through my head ever since:

  • Yoda’s lesson: “The lesson of Younglings we take on is one of the hardest ones for most Jedi to learn. To let go.”
  • Reath’s Knighting scene: “By the right of the Council…By the will of the Force…We name thee…Jedi…Knight of the Republic.”
  • Lady Proxima: Speaking of Grindalids, the future Lady Proxima of Solo fame makes a brief cameo in the latter quarter of the novel.
  • Zeen’s admission: “…the way she felt about Lula was a physical presence in her body, like the Force. It was gigantic, bigger than Zeen herself. Zeen wasn’t sure how she could encompass such a feeling.”

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

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