Review: Defy the Storm sets up the future of the High Republic

Defy the Storm is the first young adult novel in Phase III of the High Republic.

Star Wars The High Republic: Defy the Storm by Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland. Image Credit:
Star Wars The High Republic: Defy the Storm by Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland. Image Credit: /

Star Wars: The High Republic: Defy the Storm by Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland is the first young adult novel in Phase III of The High Republic. The story picks up about a year after Phase I, which concluded with the destruction of Starlight Beacon and the Nihil erecting a seemingly impenetrable barrier known as the Stormwall around a significant portion of the galaxy.

Defy the Storm follows a group of familiar Phase I characters struggling to navigate the fallout of these events, including Jedi Knight Vernestra Rwoh, budding scientist and inventor Avon Starros, former San Tekka deputy Jordanna Sparkburn, and the conniving and currently captive Xylan Graf.

Defy the Storm gets off to a strong start through Avon's perspective. Avon is not just dealing with the normal embarrassment and frustration a teenager feels toward their parents. Avon is dealing with the embarrassment and shame of her mother, Ghirra Starros. Using her political position to betray the Republic and countless others by aiding the Nihil, Ghirra has become a prominent member of their ranks and continues to stand by the side of their ruthless leader, Marchion Ro.

In spite of what her mother has done and how she has put Avon's life and future at risk, Avon must fight to reclaim her own agency, pursue her scientific dreams, and help those in need. Avon's journey is further complicated by the Nihil having stolen some of her scientific innovations and twisting them for nefarious purposes. Between these personal stakes and the galaxy-wide ramifications of her actions, Avon's chapters and her arc prove to be the most compelling.

After Avon, Vernestra has the best arc in Defy the Storm, working to find herself again after feeling lost in the wake of significant personal tragedy and self-doubt. She makes enormous strides, yet it only feels like the beginning of a much larger story, which is fitting given how important she will be to future Phase III stories, along with her confirmed role in the upcoming High Republic-era television series The Acolyte.

Those interested in the rival San Tekka and Graf families will enjoy reading more of Jordanna and Xylan's stories and the addition of a new character, Cair San Tekka. Reading chapters from Xylan's point of view gives him more nuance than he received in Out of the Shadows while still allowing him to continue to be plenty devious and chaotic.

Avon, Vernestra, Jordanna, and Xylan unite to infiltrate the Stormwall and get inside the Nihil-controlled Occlusion Zone. Once inside, they mostly go their separate ways, as they all have different missions they hope to achieve. While their various missions are somewhat connected, this narrative structure makes the story feel more disjointed and anticlimactic than other High Republic books that build to an overarching single event, like the destruction of Starlight Beacon or the Battle of Dalna.

It also means that the eclectic group of Avon, Vernestra, Jordanna, Xylan, and former Nihil Deva Lompop don't get to spend much time together. Some of the pairings on their various missions, such as Vernestra and Deva, are quite entertaining, but it feels like a missed opportunity not to have the full group together more.

Some of the novel's most intriguing parts don't occur until the final pages, which set up future Phase III stories, including Temptation of the Force by Gratton and Tears of the Nameless by George Mann. Defy the Storm features several developments important to The High Republic's future but leaves much of the payoff to the books still to come instead of delivering it here.

Those who enjoyed any or all of Ireland's Phase I novels – A Test of Courage, Out of the Shadows, and Mission to Disaster – are rewarded with a satisfying continuation of those stories and their central characters. Given how much Defy the Storm builds on what these characters have been through, it is not an ideal starting point to jump into The High Republic. Readers should also know that Defy the Storm references The Eye of Darkness ending several times, meaning The Eye of Darkness should definitely be read first.

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