Review: Politics and religion collide in Star Wars: The Battle of Jedha audio original

Star Wars: The High Republic. Image courtesy
Star Wars: The High Republic. Image courtesy /

What do you get when you thrust together representatives from two long-warring planets, a sacred moon filled with a multitude of different religious sects, and beleaguered, well-intentioned Jedi? You get The Battle of Jedha by George Mann, the new audio original story, part of phase two of The High Republic era of Star Wars.

At its core, the audio original is an action-packed, sometimes shocking tale about attempts at peace and coexistence going terribly wrong.

The previous High Republic audio original, Tempest Runner by Cavan Scott, was a deep dive into the character and villainy of Nihil Lourna Dee. While it primarily focused on one character, The Battle of Jedha gives much time to a cast of new and familiar characters — all from phase 2 of The High Republic, which began in October.

The Battle of Jedha is a culmination — a convergence if you will — of characters and storylines introduced in the first three books of phase 2: Path of Deceit, Quest for the Hidden City, and especially Convergence.

Along for the roller coaster of a ride that is The Battle of Jedha are Jedi Master Creighton Sun and Jedi Knight Aida Forte, who have been tasked with helping oversee the signing of a peace treaty between long-warring planets Eiram and E’ronoh (see the love-filled war story Convergence).

Joining the Jedi is Master Silandra Sho (Quest for the Hidden City), who’s making a pilgrimage to the holy Pilgrim Moon but ends up in the middle of many warring parties. The story also introduces us to new representatives and ambassadors from Eiram and E’ronoh as well as supposedly impartial mediators of the peace treaty — a Graf and a San Tekka.

Star Wars fans will recognize those two surnames from previous High Republic books — the families are the two biggest hyperspace prospectors in galactic history. Fans will also recognize that these two families are fierce competitors with other vested interests beyond charting new hyperspace lanes.

Then there’s the Path of the Open Hand, a soon-to-be extremist Force cult introduced in Path of Deceit. Members of the Path believe the Force should be free — a.k.a. not used or manipulated like the cult believes the Jedi do.

The Path, including the Mother and Marda Ro (Path of Deceit), are on Jedha to forge a place among the many different Force religions on the moon as well as share their beliefs that the Force should be “free.”

While the Mother and Marda still operate mostly behind the scenes in The Battle of Jedha, their machinations continue to have devastating ripple effects throughout the audio original’s five hours. They and others in the Path despise the Jedi and its leaders are aiming to “level” the playing field of the Force.

Like with previous Star Wars audio originals, The Battle of Jedha (about 5 hours and 28 minutes) is a masterclass in full-production audio storytelling. The full cast of actors and stellar sound effects make these stories like movies in your ears.

And while Mann’s story is all dialogue, the author does a fantastic job of fleshing out characters and locales for a truly immersive story. Mann’s signature Star Wars work is lore-filled adventures (Myths & Fables, Quest for the Hidden City), and he brings those same vibes to a gripping story about politics and religion colliding.

What The Battle of Jedha does best is its ability to give voice (literally) to new and returning characters in an audibly enchanting package. There’s just something special about hearing a character’s voice and surrounding sound effects that makes them and the story that much more real.

The breakout stars in this tale include Creighton Sun, who becomes a bit of an Obi-Wan Kenobi at his prime-type character when the titular battle begins, and Keth Cerapath, who’s studying as an adjunct at the Church of the Force. There’s also a quirky droid named P3-7A — a sort of “church droid” who only speaks in religious verses.

The only downside to The Battle of Jedha, and other audio originals, is the lack of a physical script copy or dramatis personae to have in front of you while you listen. Audiobook reading isn’t for everyone, and having a physical copy to read while listening can help keep track of the characters and the flow of the story.

Luckily, the script book for The Battle of Jedha is due out next month, and I have no doubt more fans will pick it up for a fun tandem read.

While The Battle of Jedha may not present anything new to phase two of The High Republic, it does showcase a clash of characters and creeds at pivotal moments for the galaxy’s Outer Rim, the Republic, and the Jedi.

Throughout Star Wars history, the Jedi have been steadfast in their own neutrality and insistence on peace throughout the galaxy. But their efforts at aiding conflicting factions have repeatedly been interpreted as interfering and taking sides. The Battle of Jedha, in particular, does a great job of showing the consequences of merging religion and politics even with the best of intentions.

With those intentions thwarted at every turn, and talks of peace between Eiram and E’ronoh in shambles, The Battle of Jedha sets up a sure-to-be catastrophic and heartbreaking second half of phase two.

Review: The High Republic’s Convergence is a thrilling story of love and hope amidst worlds at war. light. Related Story

Star Wars: The High Republic: The Battle of Jedha releases on Jan. 3, 2023. The script book is expected to arrive on Feb. 14, 2023.