With a few months since the last High Republic book and a couple of months until the next one, Star Wars readers are missing the stories and characters of Phase 2 while also eagerly awaiting Phase 3. Thankfully, The High Republic: Tales of Light and Life fills in the gaps between all of the phases with short stories.
The new anthology arrives on Sept. 5, featuring nine new stories from nine different High Republic authors. There’s even a tenth story by Doctor Aphra writer Alyssa Wong in the Barnes & Noble exclusive edition.
The collection is a must-read for those who’ve been keeping up with The High Republic. However, unlike other High Republic reads, Tales of Light and Life comes with prerequisites, as the book contains massive spoilers for Phases 1 and 2.
The first three short stories take place during Phase 2 — 200 years before the events of Phase 1, and around 350 years before The Phantom Menace.
In “The Queen’s Bloom” by Zoraida Córdova, we get an Axel Greylark prequel that shows him on a misadventure during his university days that will change the course of his life.
My favorite story of the anthology, “A Closed Fist Has No Claws” by Tessa Gratton, followed Marda Ro after the events of Path of Vengeance.
It’s a dark and intense thriller that further connects the former Path of the Open Hand Force cult to its eventual evolution into the ruthless Nihil marauders. Out of all the stories in Tales of Light and Life, this is the one I never wanted to end.
Marda is one of my favorite characters in The High Republic and possibly all of Star Wars. There’s just something about women in their villain eras, and Marda’s post-Phase 2 story shows her taking a seriously dark turn.
The final Phase 2 story is “Shield of the Jedi” by George Mann, which follows Padawan Rooper Nitani in her final trial to become a Jedi Knight. Rooper and her master Silandra Sho didn’t have nearly enough page time in other Phase 2 books, so it was a delight to see them again.
Plus, this story adds some historical context to Silandra’s iconic Jedi shield.
The rest of Tales of Light and Life ventures back to the future with characters and stories from Phase 1.
The least interesting of the collection was, unfortunately, “The Lonely Traveler Is Home” by Daniel José Older. The story follows Ram Jomaram and some of the other High Republic Padawans as the Jedi tinkerer tries to plan a surprise party for a homesick friend on the soon-to-be doomed Starlight Beacon.
The Padawans are the stars of Older’s The High Republic Adventures and have made appearances throughout the books, including the author’s Midnight Horizon. While their stories are some of the best and brightest of the era, this one feels a bit too wholesome and inconsequential.
“After the Fall” by Claudia Gray, “The Force Provides” by Justina Ireland, and “All Jedi Walk Their Own Path” by Charles Soule are all beautifully heartbreaking tales set after the devastating fall of Starlight Beacon.
“After the Fall” follows Affie Hollow and the crew of the Vessel as they navigate helplessness amid so much tragedy. “The Force Provides” sees Jedi Knight Vernestra Rwoh at her lowest, having lost all confidence in herself after the fall of Starlight Beacon, where her Padawan Imri Cantaros went missing.
“All Jedi Walk Their Own Path” sees Bell Zettifar on a desperate mission to find his friend Burryaga. Most believe Burryaga to have perished aboard the falling space station, but Bell is convinced the Wookiee Jedi is still alive.
The final two stories by Cavan Scott and Lydia Kang feature key hints to what’s coming in Phase 3 — which arrives this fall with George Mann’s The Eye of Darkness.
“Light in the Darkness” follows a group of natives on an Outer Rim planet that’s been overrun by the Hutt Cartel. In the aftermath of Starlight Beacon’s demise, the Nihil have set up a nearly impenetrable Stormwall in the Outer Rim that bars exit and entry.
“The Call of Coruscant” features a new Padawan-Master duo who are called back to Coruscant after Starlight’s fall. The dual-POV story follows master Mirro Lox as he grapples with the recent tragedy and loss of his friends along with a bit of his Padawan’s struggles with his life as a Jedi learner.
Overall, Tales of Light and Life is a fun and fast-paced addition to The High Republic’s repertoire. Some stories are short and sweet, while others pack a gut punch with explorations of Jedi grief and guilt.
For High Republic completionists, it’s an essential read. But it’s also a delectable appetizer for the next phase of High Republic storytelling.
The High Republic: Tales of Light and Life is available now from Disney Books Publishing. The tenth story by Alyssa Wong can be found in the Barnes & Noble exclusive edition.