This is another reminder to not sleep on the junior novels of The High Republic era. That’s especially true for the new high-stakes trilogy-ender that is Star Wars: Mission to Disaster by Justina Ireland.
The first phase of The High Republic publishing initiative is all about trilogies — this is Star Wars, after all. So, there are three trilogies so far — a trio each of adult novels, YA and middle-grade/junior books. With Claudia Gray’s The Fallen Star and Daniel Jose Older’s Midnight Horizon concluding the adult and YA offerings, it was up to Ireland to close out the junior novel trilogy and Phase I overall.
Because of print publishing issues, Mission to Disaster’s publication date moved to March 1. But the ebook and audiobook versions have been available since the original Jan. 4 release date. Now that all versions are available, it’s time to talk about the high-stakes, lore-filled adventure that is Mission to Disaster.
*Spoilers ahead for Star Wars: Mission to Disaster*
Like the other stories concluding the first phase of The High Republic, Mission to Disaster occurs before the events of The Fallen Star.
The two key points of the junior novel are: raising the stakes again between the young Jedi of The High Republic and the era’s main villains, the Nihil; building some lore to tease to the next phase of The High Republic, Quest of the Jedi, which is set 150 years in the past.
Mission to Disaster puts the planet Dalna and young scientist Avon Starros center stage, fleshing out more of the early science behind Kyber crystals while showing the ongoing conflict between the Republic Jedi and the Nihil marauders. Setting the stage is a Nihil attack at Port Hailep, where the villains kidnap Avon and use her and other children in their next secretive sinister plan.
Elsewhere, Jedi Knight Vernestra Roh and her Padawan Imri Cantarros hear of the attack and the kidnapping of their friend Avon (see Ireland’s A Test of Courage and Out of the Shadows) and leave their training sessions to rescue her and investigate what exactly the Nihil are doing on Dalna.
Horrifyingly, it has to do with kidnapping and enslavement, researching the weaponizing capabilities of Kyber crystals, and utilizing Dalna’s volcanic geography.
Mission to Disaster showcases the depths of Avon’s young genius as well as the balance between her dedication to scientific progress and the love she has for her friends. She’s a very young character but one whose story fits so well in the junior novel and even YA format. And, her motivations and conflicts are things people of any age can relate to.
The other side of Mission to Disaster is exploring the evolving relationship between master and Padawan — Vernestra and Imri. Vernestra isn’t that much older than Imri, and she’s the youngest Knighted Jedi the Order had seen at the time. Their connection is like an older sister-younger brother relationship, and it’s been fraught with self-doubt — mostly from Vernestra.
Mission to Disaster showcases these two at their best and brightest, even if that’s at the expense of key development points in their journeys. For Vernestra, a defining characteristic has been her uncertainty — about her ability to be a good teacher to Imri, about being good enough to be a Knight, and even her decision to fashion her lightsaber into a whip.
In Mission to Disaster, Vernestra’s confidence has grown, and many of her insecurities and issues we saw in Out of the Shadows are no longer mountains to conquer. Not as much time is spent exploring inner conflict and decision-making. But that could just be the nature of middle-grade novels — these aren’t 300-plus-page sagas; they’re geared toward a younger audience.
Still, the brightest spots in Mission to Disaster are the hints to the history of Dalna and the planet’s infamous “Night of Sorrow,” which happened 150 years prior. Because of this event, the people of Dalna do not trust the Jedi, and it’s likely we will learn why when Phase II of The High Republic ventures into the past.
The novel also reveals that the Nihil are trying to utilize Dalna’s volatile capabilities to destroy it — another thing we don’t really get a “why” for in Mission to Disaster, but likely will in Phase II.
Overall, The High Republic Phase I has done an excellent job building out what is essentially a brand new galaxy while also connecting that time period to the saga we’re all familiar with. The High Republic is just as much about expanding the Star Wars universe with new stories for fans of all ages to love, as it is about showcasing key events that led to the downfall of the Jedi Order and the Republic.
Mission to Disaster puts another puzzle piece on the board that’s building a picture of the inner and outer conflicts that dimmed and eventually snuffed out the light of the Jedi. At the end of Phase I, that light has gone dark. In the next phase, we’re looking to the past to find out more reasons why.
Star Wars: The High Republic: Mission to Disaster is available now in print, ebook, and audiobook formats.
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