Review: The Living Force is the ultimate Jedi Council story

"Help one person. A Jedi needs no permission for that." - Qui-Gon Jinn in The Living Force
Star Wars: The Living Force by John Jackson Miller. Image credit: Star
Star Wars: The Living Force by John Jackson Miller. Image credit: Star /

Set a year before the events of The Phantom Menace, Star Wars: The Living Force by John Jackson Miller is a fascinating look into the minds of all twelve members of the Jedi High Council, along with Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and Jedi Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi.

After Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan save refugees from a pirate attack and hear the refugees' concerns, it is clear that everyday people have lost faith in the Jedi. Such testimony affirms Qui-Gon's concerns about the Jedi having lost their way and their connection to the Living Force, which Qui-Gon relays to the Jedi Council.

This leads Qui-Gon to challenge the Jedi Council to step beyond the Jedi Temple and their meetings with Republic politicians on Coruscant so they can focus on helping at least one person in need. This challenge leads all twelve members of the Jedi Council, Qui-Gon, and Obi-Wan, to travel to the planet Kwenn.

While Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, and Jedi Council members Yoda and Mace Windu have been explored in many stories, The Living Force is a rare opportunity to get the points of view of the entire Jedi Council. Characters like Oppo Rancisis and Yarael Poof make brief appearances in various stories, but The Living Force takes the time to truly flesh out every Jedi Council member and make each individual feel distinct with their own personality, struggles, viewpoint of the Force, and philosophy of what it means to be a Jedi.

This is made possible by pairing up certain Jedi Council members for much of the story, including Yoda and Adi Gallia, Plo Koon and Saesee Tiin, and Poof and Ki-Adi-Mundi, the last of which is the buddy comedy we never knew we needed. Each individual Jedi point of view and their respective pairings are delightful, but Poof is arguably the standout with his sense of humor and relationship to the Force shaped by being on the Jedi Council for hundreds of years. His temperament is inspired by Poof's Robot Chicken appearances in a way that feels authentic without ever becoming absurd.

Watching the prequel trilogy, The Clone Wars, and Master Billaba's death in The Bad Batch series premiere will never be the same again after better understanding and getting invested in every member of the Jedi Council. This is also true of publishing, with Billaba's death in the Kanan Jarrus comics and Eeth Koth's death in Inquisitor: Rise of the Red Blade and the Darth Vader comics. It also makes Rancisis surviving Order 66 and what becomes of him no longer a fun fact but a story that needs to be told now.

The Living Force works well as a story exploring each member of the Jedi Council as they step outside their comfort zones and reconnect with what it means to be a Jedi. With so many characters to juggle, not all of them feel like they go through a complete arc, but many of them do, with Billaba and Koth having some of the best character development.

However, The Living Force is not as strong when it comes to the plot and its villains. The primary antagonist, the pirate Zilastra, has clear motivations behind her dastardly actions and her hatred of the Jedi. That being said, her point of view is unable to be as compelling as the Jedi perspectives, and she never feels like a truly genuine threat.

This is one of the challenges with the story taking place a year before The Phantom Menace. The Sith are still believed to have been extinct for a millennium and it will remain that way until Qui-Gon's duel with Darth Maul on Tatooine. There are a few moments, especially a surprising scene toward the end of The Living Force, foreshadowing the Sith's imminent reemergence, but of course, the Sith cannot be the villains of this story.

It's too soon for the Sith, and it's too close to The Phantom Menace, particularly for a standalone novel, to introduce a massive threat like the Nihil or the Nameless in The High Republic. With all this in mind, the dangers posed by Zilastra and the other pirates feel fleeting, even more so knowing that Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and every member of the Jedi Council is guaranteed to survive.

All the established main characters may be safe, but there are still plenty of other rewarding and surprising connections to other Star Wars stories, including The High Republic, a tragic character first introduced in Inquisitor: Rise of the Red Blade, and a young man who becomes a memorable Imperial in The Empire Strikes Back.

The Living Force brings the entire Jedi Council to life like no other Star Wars book has achieved. It is a fitting story for the 25th anniversary of The Phantom Menace and will be most adored by those who love the Jedi and the prequels.

John Jackson Miller discusses transition from EU to Disney. John Jackson Miller discusses transition from EU to Disney. dark. Next