Review: Lydia Kang’s Cataclysm is an incredibly intense convergence of violence against the The High Republic Jedi

The High Republic: Cataclysm. Image courtesy
The High Republic: Cataclysm. Image courtesy /

As The High Republic phase two races toward an epic conclusion, author Lydia Kang delivers one of the most brutal and beautiful Star Wars books out there with Cataclysm.

Cataclysm, the last adult book in this phase, gave off the same vibes and energy as books like The Rising Storm, The Fallen Star, and even Revenge of the Sith. Something very bad was going to happen, and not everyone would make it out alive.

The novel plunges us right back into the action and mystery of phase two — the Jedi and warring planets Eiram and E’ronoh are reeling from the events of The Battle of Jedha and the failed peace accords. All signs are pointing to the planet Dalna and direct manipulation by the Path of the Open Hand.

The Path was introduced in Path of Deceit by Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland as a Force cult dedicated to the belief of a “free” and unabused Force. To them, the Jedi are Force abusers. By the time of Cataclysm, the distaste of the Jedi has ballooned into all-out hatred, with a huge chunk of the Path radicalized into religious terrorists.

It’s hard to explain what exactly the Path does and why in Cataclysm without giving away too much of the plot. But I will say that many questions posted throughout phase two are answered in this book — in particular, pivotal moments on the evolution journey from Path of the Open Hand to the ruthless Nihil of phase one.

Besides the Path’s POV, along for the cataclysmic ride are key Jedi and Republic characters from Convergence and The Battle of Jedha. With Jedi Gella Nattai on the cover of Convergence and space rake Axel Greylark on the cover of Cataclysm, the adult book duology gives the most page time to these enemies to friends to something more to enemies again.

The two are forced back together in Cataclysm, going on a harrowing emotional and self-reflective journey in the book. Axel is not a good man, even when he desperately wants to be and is given every chance to be. Gella is good but lacks confidence in her goodness. Their relationship and draw to one another is raw and real and so, so messy.

There’s also Xiri Albaran and Phan-tu Zenn, the newlywed heirs to E’ronoh and Eiram who struggle to figure out how to be married with split loyalties to their homeworlds. They do truly love each other, but their petty parents and escalating conflicts between their worlds, the Jedi, and the Path constantly keep them apart.

Also along for the ride are Republic chancellors Orlen Mollo and Kyong Greylark, who are both trying to help the situation between Eiram and E’ronoh and prevent all-out chaos and war between the planets, the Jedi, and the Path.

We get a bit more time with Kyong and her own perspective in Cataclysm, exploring the depth of her guilt when it comes to her son, Axel. It’s a fascinating perspective of a mother caught between duty to the people she serves and the one person she could never save — forcing a choice between the two.

Then there’s Master Yaddle, a more than welcome addition to the High Republic who desperately needed more page and screen time. In Cataclysm, she’s an incredibly powerful Jedi but is no match for a precocious youngling named Cippa.

And from Convergence and The Battle of Jedha comes Jedi Master Creighton Sun and Jedi Aida Forte, two leading figures in the tragic battle on the sacred moon. Creighton, understandably, has a really bad feeling about all this and voices his persistent worry throughout Cataclysm.

I couldn’t help but share that creeping sense of impending doom from page 1 of Cataclysm. It’s one of the most uneasy Star Wars reads with a hefty dose of helplessness.

The cherry on top of this bleak sundae is the deep-seated bigotry against the Jedi expressed by the Path. Their heated, hate-fueled exchanges and eventual fanatic violence toe the line of a desire for the genocide of both Jedi and those born with Force sensitivity.

But there is still beauty and hope between all this horror and heartbreak. One epic battle on Dalna may have ended, but the overarching war of phase two is far from over. Still, the High Republic Jedi refuse to see the light at the end of this dark, death-filled tunnel.

The ever-present optimism among the Jedi can sometimes be interpreted as naivety. But the Jedi of the High Republic (mostly) have a sense of self rooted in reality and desperation to prove they only and always come in peace.

It’s safe to say the Jedi hit a new low in Cataclysm. But with one more book still to come — Path of Vengeance — this phase of the High Republic is almost guaranteed to have a deeply heartbreaking finale.

With this being Kang’s first full-length Star Wars novel, she exceeds expectations when it comes to story pacing and juggling multiple POVs. The beginning kicks off immediately following the events of Convergence and The Battle of Jedha, deftly dropping in quick reminders of what just happened and to whom.

From there, the action and intensity keep escalating and don’t let up until the final few chapters. The structure and pacing of the chapters and vignettes left me breathless and unable to put the book down, staying up until the wee hours of the morning because I just had to know how it all ends.

While part of a larger story, Cataclysm has all the traits of the best Star Wars books — courageous Jedi, fearsome villains, and love powerful enough to change the fate of the galaxy.

Author Kang brings her expertise and experience as a medical doctor, a mother, and a daughter to a riveting and satisfying conclusion in Cataclysm.

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Star Wars: The High Republic: Cataclysm by Lydia Kang is available on April 4.