Biweekly Book Review: The High Republic: Out of the Shadows

Just a note to say that this is a SPOILER-FILLED review. If you want Spoiler-Free, check out my review over at The Geeky Waffle here.

One thing I noticed in the last Wave that really got taken to new heights this time is just pattern of the High Republic waves. The Adult novel tells the story of The Event, whatever that big event might be. It is the driving force behind the conflict that will affect all subsequent stories within the wave. The Middle Grade book covers The Event as well, but on a smaller scale. Fewer characters, but with emotional stakes that are just as high.

Then we have the Young Adult novel. So far, in both waves, the Young Adult novel has come out a full month after the first two books, and I suspect this is for one major reason. For all that they tell you that you can pick and choose which “stream” they want you to read, the team behind THR wants to make sure that if you’re going to read everything, that you read the books about The Event first, before reading the YA.

Because the YA book is where everything changes.

In Out of the Shadows, the galaxy is still reeling from the violence and carnage at the Republic Fair. In their attempts to control the fallout, the stakes are changed irreversibly. It is no understatement to say that this book is a huge game changer. I sound like a broken record, I know, but if you’re not reading the whole thing you really should be!

The Story

Following the attack on the Republic Fair, and the subsequent raid on Nihil headquarters, the galaxy is on high alert. Everyone’s duties are being shuffled around, Jedi young and old are being pulled this way and that, and the one question on everyone’s mind is: what are the Nihil planning next?

Sylvestri Yarrow finds the answer to this question whether she wants it or not after her ship is pulled out of hyperspace by a gravity well. She finds herself face to face with a mysterious something, and the one thing she knows for sure is the Nihil have something to do with it. Fortunately for Syl, she manages to escape to Coruscant.

While there, she comes under the notice of the Grafs, a family of hyperspace prospectors who rival the San Tekkas. They’re interested in investigating the area of space where Syl encountered her troubles. To keep things fair, Chancellor Soh assigns not one but four Jedi to accompany them on their trip: Vernestra and her Padawan Imri, and Cohmac and his Padawan Reath. In typical Star Wars fashion, of course, the journey is never as straightforward as they think it’ll be.

Meanwhile on the Nihil side of things, they were absolutely behind the thing that pulled Syl out of hyperspace, and are looking to broaden their reach and influence in far more sophisticated ways, while receiving help from an unexpected source.

5 Things I Liked (and 1 I Wanted More Of)

1. Vernestra is in over her head

The one thing that I found curious and wanted to explore more post- A Test of Courage was the ramifications of Vernestra becoming a Jedi Knight so young, and then taking on a padawan who is almost her age.

It was hard to really examine in that book, because she is the oldest of the four point of view characters, but here in Out of the Shadows, she’s among her peers and among Jedi older than her as well. And WOW is she in over her head.

An unintentional skill she once had as a Padawan, which she thought had faded, has started to come back (and I’ll get more into that later)

Then there’s the matter of her Padawan, Imri. Imri is an empath, in the most literal sense. He can feel the emotions of those around him, and can alter them slightly – make them calm down, feel less anxious, etc. Things have gotten worse for him in the wake of the incident at the Republic Fair. People are sad, and frightened, and it’s overwhelming for him. Though the ability is rare, it’s not unheard of. It’s the type of thing a Jedi Master should guide their Padawan through, or at the very least help them find someone who can.

It’s not that Vernestra doesn’t care about Imri. You absolutely see that she does. But as Master Cohmac points out, being a Jedi Knight is about more than just ticking boxes and passing a test. People often become knights at an older age because they gain experience along the way, and gain wisdom from their own Masters that would be difficult to come by otherwise.

For as good as she is, Vernestra doesn’t have that experience and wisdom. Her decision making has a lot in common with the other teenagers of the Jedi Order, which absolutely makes sense. But she has much more of a burden of responsibility on her that they simply don’t.

Cohmac tells her that he isn’t sure Stellan did her any favours by pushing her to knighthood so quickly, and while she does take offence to that, I think it sets up an interesting dynamic between her and her former Master, which brings me to…

2. Vernestra and Stellan

I love a good master and apprentice dynamic. And although Vernestra isn’t Stellan’s student any longer, I feel like Jedi apprenticeship is so akin to a parent/child scenario that the dynamic never really changes.

It seems that Vernestra really loves and appreciates Stellan for all he taught her, and for helping her achieve so much at a young age, but there is an undercurrent of unease in their interactions that I hope we get more of as the books go on.

She doesn’t feel right addressing her concerns to him, such as with Imri, and part of me wonders if that’s because she doesn’t want to admit to him that she needs help. This might also be why she takes so much issue with Cohmac’s comment that Stellan pushed her to knighthood too fast. She doesn’t want to admit that maybe he’s right.

Then there is the fact that she modified her lightsaber to be a lightwhip as well…and she doesn’t tell him. She tells Avar, so at least someone knows, but I feel like she’s still very caught up in what her former master thinks of her. This makes sense, of course. We see that desire for validation in Anakin, and we also see it in Obi-Wan in Master and Apprentice. They want their parental figures to be proud of them. Of course they do. It’s the age.

What I’m saying is this is going to blow up in Vernestra’s face one day. And Stellan’s too. I just hope they come out OK on the other side.

3. Corporate Rivalry

I don’t trust the San Tekkas.

I get bad vibes from a family that would chart a path through the galaxy and somehow profit off of it. It’s like for-profit highways. The whole thing reeks of the worst kind of capitalism.

And what is capitalism, really, without a good old-fashioned corporate rivalry. Enter the Graff family. Though this is really a character piece over all, the family rivalry is the thing that drives the plot from point A to B.

We already get some hints that the San Tekkas manage things on a sort of feudal basis. The settlers they establish in their colonies are known as San Tekka vassals for crying out loud. I hope we see more of this as the books go on, and more about how these two families operate. I know there’s no right way to capitalism, but I’d be interested to see which of these families came out on top.

4. Nan!

Oh Nan. What a genuine surprise and delight to see Nan again. Yes, she’s there to provide some angst for Reath, and that’s cool. But she is also our Nihil POV for this book, which is great, because that’s not something any of the non-adult books have given us before.

Her role in this book is to provide the audience insight into the Nihil side of the central mystery, but you know what else she does (and yes this is completely shallow, leave me alone): she is there to validate what I have been saying all along.

Marchion Ro is hot.

And Nan has a crush on him. Like, she literally describes him as “deadly but beautiful.” Thanks to her we know Marchion has tattoos on his shoulders. On his broad, beautiful shoulders…

Ahem. Sorry.

She does end the book somewhat disillusioned by him and the Nihil, and agrees to choose herself and turn informant for the Graffs. But is she playing the long game, or is this sincere? Congratulations, Out of the Shadows, you’ve officially made Nan one of the more interesting Nihil to watch.

5. Mari and her Trances

You know who I wasn’t expecting to see here? Mari San Tekka.

You know what I really wasn’t expecting? For her to die by the end of the book.

That is a HUGE status quo change. Colossal. What’s going to happen to Marchion and his position now??

But dialling it back just a little, one of the most unexpected things about this book was not only seeing Mari again, but also learning exactly where she came from and when. Origins that had only been hinted at in Light of the Jedi are fully spelled out here. The only thing that remains a mystery is how exactly she detects and navigates the Paths. Force sensitivity is a nice catch-all, but it lacks the precision I’m looking for.

Interesting that…

The skill of Vernestra’s that I mentioned above, while not exactly the same as Mari’s, likely has something in common with the old lady’s trances. Vernestra has the ability while in hyperspace to have visions of elsewhere. Of real places and events that are either happening or about to happen. But only while in hyperspace. While Stellan encourages her to explore this skill, she would rather forget all about it.

It is these visions, however, that lead her to Mari when the crew is on the Nihil ship. More importantly, it’s this skill that I believe allowed Mari to “give” Vernestra her final Path before she dies.

I have several questions.

Is this Path she gave her the key to stopping the Nihil, or is it something else?

Did Mari start out like Vernestra before graduating to visions of paths through hyperspace?

Are the visions contagious? Is Vernestra about to have Path visions? Is she in danger?

See what I mean? HUGE status quo shift.

6. Krix

Zeen was in Crashpoint Tower, and now Krix is in this one! Granted he’s not in it much, just in one chapter told from Nan’s point of view.

I know Nan is our Nihil POV in this book, but we have 3 hero POVs, it could have been fun to follow Krix around the Gaze Electric. We don’t really get inside his head in the IDW comics – at least, not as of the time I’m writing this – and I think this could have been a fun look at the mentality of a new Nihil recruit.

Though maybe they’re saving it for a book where both he and Zeen are POV characters, for that angsty contrast?

Random Thoughts and Lingering Question

Apparently Master Cohmac is hot too, and I really cannot handle this. I cannot express to you enough how horny this book is (and The Rising Storm too, honestly. Looking at you Stellan and Elzar)

On a reread, I picked up more on the tension between Avar and Stellan (which we also see a bit in the Marvel comics) and I really need the story of what happened there. Did they have a thing behind Elzar’s back and catch feelings/feel bad about it? Yes, I have a one-track mind what of it?

Did Marchion and Lourna…you know…fuck? I feel like they did, the energy during their first conversation was CHARGED. I have a whole headcanon about this, ask me sometime.

Lourna Dee comes from money. I wonder if this will be explored at all in her audio drama? It has to be, right?

OK, now that we’re getting to the end of Wave Two – at least for now – I have a question about Marchion, and how the Nihil refer to him. In Light of the Jedi, it was “Marchion” or “the Eye”. In The Rising Storm, it’s “Ro” (and maybe “Lord Eye”? I don’t remember). And now in this, we’ve got people calling him Lord Ro. I don’t know where I’m going with this but it’s curious. (Also Lord Ro? Extremely sexy-sounding)

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