Biweekly Book Review: The High Republic: Tempest Runner

Just a note to say this is a SPOILER-FILLED review. If you want Spoiler-Free, check this one out instead.

And for more Tempest Runner, check out my Space Waffles episode on it here.

I love The High Republic. I love Star Wars audio dramas. So when they announced that we were getting a Star Wars audio drama set during the High Republic? And focused on the Nihil no less? I was over the moon.

Lourna Dee absolutely shines in this story, going from a character I was curious about, to one of my favourites. Every assumption I had about her was proved wrong in the absolute best way. Let’s not talk around it anymore, and let’s dive into Tempest Runner by Cavan Scott.

*Spoilers below. Big ones. You’ve been warned.*

The Story

Lourna Dee has a problem.

Sometime after the events of Out of the Shadows, the Nihil are still looking to strike at the Republic. Lourna leads a raid on a communications relay, and things immediately go to shit. Though her plan to fake her death goes well enough, she is still caught in the web of her own plan and is apprehended by Republic forces and sent to a correctional facility.

Serving time under the assumed name “Sal”, Lourna struggles to retain her identity and sense of self, even when the world around her would have her change who she is. From the fellow prisoners and even the “councillors” (read: the guards) who want her to realize she can do better, to others who force her to retain her violent ways, Lourna is constantly at war with herself and her own instincts.

Peppered throughout the story are flashbacks to Lourna’s life. From a childhood on Aaloth (a world that some readers may recognize from Life Day Treasury), to time spent serving in the military, and as a mercenary, to having her heart broken and dealing with the horrifically devastating fallout, Lourna’s life has been far from easy

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

1. Lourna Dee

Is this cheating considering it’s basically the Lourna Dee book? Yeah, maybe a little. But just because someone is the lead doesn’t mean they’re interesting by default. Fortunately that isn’t the case with Lourna. She’s extremely interesting.

In Out of the Shadows, we hear that when Lourna speaks, she sometimes lapses into a more formal way of speaking. The implication there was that she comes from money. That alone was enough to pique my interest: the spoiled heiress who had enough of a life of luxury and took off to run with the pirates? Sounds like fun.

Wow, was I wrong. Though she does come from money, she didn’t leave home by choice. She puts her trust in Bala, a young man she has a relationship with, hoping he can help her turn things around for the starving people on Aaloth. She isn’t particularly concerned with her actions being 100% above-board. All she knows is Ryloth and Coruscant take too much away from the colony and the people suffer. But in a horrific sequence of events, she’s betrayed by the boy she loves, witnesses her family murdered, and is sold to the Zyggerians.

And that’s just scratching the surface.

It is fascinating and heartbreaking to watch a character whose fundamental instinct is to help people, without constantly worrying about how she does it. The more she is betrayed, the more insular she becomes, trusting less and less, and becoming more and more the pirate we first meet in Light of the Jedi. Throughout this audio drama, we see her constantly at war with herself, fighting over whether or not to trust the people around her. Because she is so uncertain, we as readers are also just as uncertain.

I already thought she was interesting, but after this, she’s shot way up on my list of favourite High Republic characters.

2. Lourna’s Childhood

My favourite part of Lourna’s past – or one of them, anyway – was her childhood on Aaloth. As a kid, I had something of an interest in the Romanov family, not just the Anastasia cartoon, but the true story. Two of my most read books looked at the fall of the Russian Empire through the eyes of Anastasia herself. Where am I going with this?

Lourna is Anastasia.

She is hauled off by revolutionaries storming her home while her family is taken to another room and shot. That alone was an unexpectedly dark place for Tempest Runner to go as it is, but having it also be her fault that the revolutionaries got inside in the first place (no thanks to her terrible boyfriend Bala, the first of several men who thought he could use Lourna)? That just adds a whole extra level of guilt.

Weeks after the fact, and I still can’t stop thinking about this sequence.

3. The Narrative Style

All Star Wars audio dramas are faced with the same narrative question. If this isn’t a straightforward, linear, chronological story, how do you convey the back-and-forth narrative jump? Dooku: Jedi Lost did it via holographic messages and journal entries that Asajj was investigating. Doctor Aphra did it by having the titular doctor make note of the events of the story into her personal logs.

Tempest Runners skips all that by having the flashbacks be just that. Flashbacks. Either someone is telling someone else about Lourna (especially in the first part of the story) or Lourna is remembering an event from her life when something in the present day reminds her of it. I thought this approach was particularly effective because it doesn’t allow for any bullshit. There’s no filtering, the way someone might do in a holographic message, and there’s no bravado embellishment of a personal log. It’s the truth, warts and all, laid out for everyone to see and for Lourna to contend with.

Presenting it as simply as possible is the most emotionally effective way I can think to present Lourna Dee’s life. It makes it hurt all the more. Because Cavan Scott likes to hurt us.

4. Lourna’s Crew

When I say “Lourna’s crew” I don’t so much mean the actual Tempest she commands, but rather the characters she is surrounded by, particularly in the correctional facility. There’s Tasia, her cohort who is arrested with her, Sestin and Quin who she meets in the prison facility, and even Mulgan and Ola Hest who become reluctant allies. None of them have the same dynamic with Lourna, but somehow the push-pull of the behaviours they elicit in her just…works? It works from a character development standpoint, since they all feel like manifestations of different parts of herself that Lourna needs to contend with.

I hope they stick around for a future adventure, I would love to see more of this badass crew of ladies take on the galaxy.

5. Councilor Wittick

Let me be clear off the top that I am infinitely relieved that nothing happened between Lourna and Councilor Wittick while she was at the correctional facility. That would have been an unbelievable abuse of power.

However, I did really dig the strange sort of friendship they’d found by the end, with him encouraging her to examine the kind of person she wants to be, and her pushing back on his supposed selflessness. It was a fun dynamic, and one I would like to see more of.

True, it’s not clear whether or not he survived the final showdown on the correctional vessel, but I’d like to think he did. Knowing now that Lourna’s life wasn’t strictly dedicated to the Nihil means perhaps there’s a place for her and Wittick to run amok around the galaxy together. Or maybe they were ships passing in the night, never meant to be. Who knows? The possibilities are truly endless with this era of storytelling.

6. Glimpses into the Nihil

Ah yes. The Nihil. I’ve been saying for a while now that I would read an entire novel centred around and within the Nihil. While Tempest Runner came close, the space pirates are only a fraction of Lourna’s story, so I selfishly wish we’d gotten to spend more time within their structure.

But what time we did spend there was an absolute treat. This is the first in-story appearance of Marchion Ro’s father Asgar Ro, and you really do see why his son turned out the way he did, at least in part. I knew Marchion had daddy issues, I just knew it…

But in all seriousness, the Nihil have the scruples of pirates, but what seems like a stricter social hierarchy, and the contrast between the two is fascinating. I’m hoping this gets explored more down the line, but with the Nihil currently fracturing, I’m almost worried they’ll be over and done with before we really get the chance. I can’t tell you how much I hope I’m wrong.

And having Lourna be the one who actually killed Asgar? Because he saw her as a tool? As his “greatest work”? Yet another in a list of men who thought he could control her and learned he was wrong. I admit, I was surprised we got resolution to the “who killed Asgar” mystery so fast, but as for who did it? Not shocked, but a pleasant surprise.

Random Thoughts and Lingering Questions

I suppose my only lingering question is: what the hell happens next? Is Lourna taking on Marchion for leadership of the Nihil? Is she going to rejoin forces under new terms?

More importantly, this is the last non-comic story we’re getting until The Fallen Star in January. How much are the events of this book going to feed into the Nihil’s actions in that one? Is it January yet?

***

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