This review was originally posted on The Geeky Waffle and has been reposted here with permission.
*Light Spoilers Below*
A full year after the High Republic publishing initiative debuted to New York Times Bestsellers and wildly popular comic series, the first Phase has begun to wind down, with Claudia Gray’s The Fallen Star kicking off the third wave in gut-wrenching, tragic fashion.
A few months after the tragedy on Valo, Jedi Master, Council Member and Republic poster boy Stellan Gios has taken over as marshal of Starlight Becon, the Republic’s luxurious space station, in the absence of former marshall Avar Kriss. The Beacon and those aboard are preparing to wind down after flying to Eiram to aid the people dealing with a local crisis.
For her part, Kriss is off on a mission to hunt down and bring back Lourna Dee, who she believes to be the Eye of the Nihil, leader of the destructive band of marauders. She is mistaken in the assumption, and while she is off on a wild mynock chase, actual Nihil leader Marchion Ro is setting in motion an attack so devastating it will remove the galaxy’s ability to remain complacent and ignorant about just how powerful the Nihil have become.
Finales are not easy. And while The Fallen Star is one of three books and a handful of comics meant to close out Phasr One of the High Republic, it still feels very much like a finale. With the grand set piece of the whole first phase – the Starlight Beacon – crashing to the ground it’s absolutely a massive status quo change for everyone involved. The action scenes are appropriately high-stakes, and there is an undercurrent of tension present from almost the very first page.
Before I get into it, I want to state for the record that I did not dislike this book. There is plenty about it that I enjoyed. I found the chapters with Bell Zettifar and Burryaga to be some of the most enjoyable, I always love to see Stellan and Elzar together, and Fallen Star added Orla Jareni to shake up their dynamic for the more interesting, and I learned things about Marchion Ro that I never thought I would (though I definitely suspected).
All that said, despite being the shortest of the adult novels, it also felt the densest. Where Light of the Jedi and The Rising Storm function fairly well as two parts of a trilogy, Fallen Star feels more like a culmination of the Phase as a whole. Right down to the culmination-typical body count.
Characters appear in this book who were in neither of the previous adult novels and are given very little introduction. Highly specific references are made to the Trail of Shadows comic series, which is still ongoing. Avar Kriss’s absence from the Starlight Beacon is explained in the main Marvel run. These things weren’t an issue for me personally, as I’m on top of the books and comics.
But I couldn’t help but wonder about readers who aren’t caught up. Would they feel lost? Some, like a friend of mine, said they followed just fine and this intrigued them enough to catch up on the comics. So should the approach from the beginning have been to encourage people to read as much of this as possible? Once the current comic runs conclude in the early spring, the High Republic is on hiatus until October, which should give those curious enough plenty of time to catch up before Phase Two begins. And if this is any indication, they’re going to need to.
With so much going on in the novel, and with the pace driving it towards its inevitable end, I couldn’t help but wish that it was about 100 pages longer. The action and surrounding imagery came across really well. The parallels to the sinking of the Titanic begin early and continues throughout. The threat posed by the Nihil, too, was very well conveyed. It is mostly, if not entirely, responsible for that aforementioned undercurrent of tension throughout.
Where things felt rushed was with the character development. This is surprising coming from Claudia Gray, as her focus is generally on character first and foremost. There were many moments – particularly among the adults – where the scene felt like it should be building to an emotional resolution of some kind, or at the very least to the escalation of an emotional tension. Instead these moments were almost always interrupted by the physical danger that surrounds the characters.
This wouldn’t be so disappointing if I knew we were picking back up with these characters sooner rather than later. While Midnight Horizon will be out in a month, Fallen Star is still the last adult book we are getting until October. And with the news that Phase Two will be set some 150 years prior to this, if the phases are roughly equal in length its going to be a good two years at least before we revisit this time period.
As I said, I didn’t dislike The Fallen Star. It gave me plenty of time with my favourite characters and the action was enjoyable to watch unfold. It was gripping enough that I read through it all in a single sitting. It hasn’t put me off the High Republic as a whole, and I am very curious and interested to see what Claudia Gray is cooking up next.
I just wish that, if this is going to be the last we see of these characters for a while, that we’d been allowed to spend more time simply exisiting among them and watching how they interact with one another in peacetime, rather than just responding to disaster. A little more calm, a little less storm.
The Fallen Star is available now.
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