Audiobook Review: Star Wars: Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Media Tie-In
Series: Star Wars Canon, Star Wars: The High Republic
Publisher: Random House Audio (January 5, 2021)
Length: 13 hrs and 35 mins
Narrator: Marc Thompson
So, what is The High Republic? In publishing terms, it’s a new Star Wars franchise campaign spanning books, comics, and other print media exploring the stories set during the golden age of the Jedi. In the context of the Star Wars timeline, the period known as the High Republic occurred approximately 200 years before the “Skywalker saga” movies, a hopeful and optimistic time in which the galaxy experienced an idyllic epoch of relative peace and prosperity.
But not everyone is content with the way the Republic Senate governs, nor do they share the core worlds’ admiration of the Jedi, the renowned order of Force users who serve as their enforcers. As Star Wars: Light of the Jedi opens, the Republic’s influence is growing ever stronger, leading to the expansion of their hyperspace lanes into the Outer Rim, awakening a threat that has been slowly growing. When a deadly catastrophe tears a ship apart whilst in hyperspace, whole systems are put in danger as large pieces of debris are flung out almost at random across the galaxy, acting as explosive projectiles that can level whole worlds. Immediately, the Jedi are called upon to help. The establishment of a new Republic outpost in the Outer Rim hangs in the balance, and unless the situation is defused, billions would go without the benefits it could offer.
Enter the Nihil, a criminal organization of killers and raiders based in the Outer Rim territories who see themselves as the storm to withstand the intrusion of the Galactic Republic. Led by the mysterious Eye of the Nihil who has reason to see the Republic fail, this shadowy order has allied themselves with pirates and other gangsters to impinge rescue efforts and sabotage the mission of the Jedi while sowing more chaos and death across the galaxy.
For many reasons, Light of the Jedi is an important book. As the first novel of The High Republic, it needs to make the best impression possible. It’s also clear to see why the series creators have chosen this time period for the setting. Completely separate from any of the films or TV shows, the High Republic era provides a brand-new opportunity for innovative storytelling without the risk and hassle of tangling itself in any of the other timelines. And from a marketing perspective, it’s a chance to expand the Star War audience, or even introduce movies-only fans to the print medium.
But for those of us who have been reading Star Wars books for years—decades, even—the bar is admittedly set pretty high. For that reason, I wouldn’t say Light of the Jedi swept me off my feet, and if I’m to be completely honest, I would have expected a little more from a launch title. That said, I’ve read worse, and to the novel’s credit, it’s a decent opener. I think we can safely say the dark days of crappy tie-ins are behind us, as readers have come to be much less forgiving of bad writing and throwaway plotlines. Charles Soule, who made his name as a comic book writer before becoming a novelist, is one of the “top-tier, fan-favorite” authors tapped for this project, and kudos to him, he’s taken a “thriller” approach to writing this story, which I found refreshing.
However, this style also brings its own problems, mainly that it introduces a lot of viewpoints, some of them fleeting as multiple characters are used as plot fodder and then promptly thrown away. Scene transitions are also numerous as the storyline jumps around, following an ensemble cast. Personally, this was my biggest issue with the book. My favorite Star Wars novels tend to only revolve around one or two major principal characters, and if there are more, you’d better hope they’re all equally interesting and well-written. Unfortunately, Light of the Jedi stumbles in this area, throwing up a bunch of new characters, though none of them are really all that unique or completely developed. By the end of the book, the most memorable to me was the villain, because he was the only one to make a lasting impression.
Still, neither old fans nor prospective readers should write this one off just yet. I’ve enjoyed Soule’s writing in the past, and books like The Oracle Year and Anyone made me appreciate his imagination and wit. I think he brought some excellent ideas with him to the Star Wars universe, and while I might not have fared well with the storytelling style in Light of the Jedi, that doesn’t mean it won’t work for others. If you’ve ever wondered about the expanded world of Star Wars beyond the screen or been tempted to dip your toes into the franchise’s tie-in fiction, this is the most perfect chance you’ll ever get.
Audiobook Comments: Marc Thompson rocks! That is all. 😀