200 years before the Skywalker Saga, the High Republic brings us to the golden age of the Jedi as they go up against the brutal marauders known as the Nihil. With the Nihil now nearly defeated and their supposed leader about to be captured, the Jedi begin to lower their guard as the Nihil launch their most devastating attack yet.
The Fallen Star, the third and final Del Rey novel in the first High Republic phase, is a grand culmination of everything that’s come before it that shakes the Star Wars Universe to its core. Those are some big statements I’m sure you’re tired of hearing at this point, but The Fallen Star absolutely delivers on them. Bringing together plot threads from across the High Republic initiative, especially Claudia Gray’s other work, it’s clear that this is truly the end of an era for the High Republic. All these seemingly unconnected characters and stories start to come together as the big picture unfolds. While most of the other High Republic projects so far have been working on continually expanding this era and filling it with new and interesting characters, The Fallen Star deals with a tight cast of characters who we mostly already know. And while the other books have tended to break their casts apart to all deal with different threats and situations, this is intimate and focused which serves the story perfectly.
The Fallen Star is, above all else, a horror story. If the closing chapters of Cavan Scott’s The Rising Storm left you terrified and dying for more, that’s the sort of vibe Claudia Gray brings to this entire book and it is terrifying. What begins with a general sense of dread gradually builds into pure fear as Gray pushes the Jedi of Starlight Beacon (and quite frankly, me) to their absolute limits. And once that horror reaches its peak, be prepared to have your heart ripped out. All those “who will survive” promotional pieces were not an exaggeration and every character’s death is truly heartbreaking. I’m not afraid to admit that I cried several times and had to take breaks to recover after certain moments.
The biggest strength of the High Republic has been its characters. The Project Luminous team have created a cast of fascinating characters unique from anything else in the Star Wars universe and The Fallen Star continues to grow the cast into some of my favorites. While every character was fantastic, Orla Jareni and the concept of Wayseekers continue to be one of the most interesting additions to the Star Wars universe and Elzar Mann has become one of my favorite characters not just in the High Republic, but Star Wars as a whole.
My big issue with The Fallen Star is one I think will be fixed upon revisiting in a few month’s time. While it is very much the grand finale of this phase of the High Republic, it’s very much only half of it. I don’t yet know where the second half will be told, although I suspect either Justina Ireland’s Mission to Disaster, which was intended to release at the same time before it was pushed back to March, or Cavan Scott’s ongoing High Republic comic for Marvel, that second half is really needed to provide closure on a few loose ends and some vague moments. It’s not the biggest issue but you can notice these cracks in the story as it is clearly waiting for another story to fill it and this holds The Fallen Star back from feeling like a fully complete finale to this phase. Based on Ireland and Scott’s previous High Republic work I have every confidence that once the entire wave is released the overall story will have come to a more satisfying conclusion, but to those who are only following the Del Rey books and not the comics or books for younger ages, I could see this being a bigger issue.
I’d also like to take a moment to praise the team behind the audiobook version of Fallen Star, and especially Marc Thompson, the narrator. There are some great audio gags in the audiobook that obviously wouldn’t work at all in the written version and the reuse of previous Star Wars scores really brings the whole production together. Thompson’s voice for Marchion Ro is so perfect it has become the voice in my head when I read his dialogue and the way his narration so casually switches from sinister to terrified enhances Claudia Gray’s writing perfectly.
An exciting, terrifying, and emotional journey, The Fallen Star takes Phase One of the High Republic out with a bang. Pulling in characters and story threads from all over the line so far, but especially Into the Dark, Out of the Shadows, Light of the Jedi, and The Rising Storm, it’s a true culmination of everything so far and leaves me even more excited for what’s to come in Phase Two, Quest of the Jedi.