Star Wars: The Fallen Star offers what is indisputably the most pivotal chapter of the Star Wars: The High Republic Saga (so far). The Star Wars story team behind The High Republic was handed the challenge of creating a multimedia storyline that extends through novels and comics and offers readers both standalone thrills and the larger rewards of connective threads that enrich the experience for those who seek out all of The High Republic content. Author Claudia Gray arguably turned in the strongest High Republic installment with the first wave novel Into The Dark; with the new novel Star Wars: The Fallen Star, Gray once again offers a compelling story – one that is mostly successful in bringing individual pieces of The High Republic together into a thrilling whole.
The Fallen Star marks the third wave of Lucasfilm's High Republic storyline. The first wave saw the Jedi Order and Republic launch the orbital base known as Starlight Beacon – the Rebpulic's first real stride toward bringing civility to the Outer Rim territories. Starlight's inevitably also provoked a new wave of darkness in the Outer Rim, as the pirate clan known as the Nihil went to war with the Republic and Jedi, and the dark side plant monsters known as the Drengir were awakened and began to consume entire worlds. In the second wave of stories, The Jedi battled back against both the Nihil and Drengir, but at some great costs: The Republic was traumatized by the Nihil Massacre at the Republic Fair; and the dark side has crept into the Jedi Order via the Drengir's corrupting influence, as well as a mysterious Force-eating monster unleashed by Nihil leader, Marchion Ro.
With that premise behind it, the plotline for Star Wars: The Fallen Star is blessedly simple to follow: Marchion Ro launches a plot to strike at Starlight Beacon and show the entire galaxy the might of the Nihil is greater than that of both the Republic and Jedi. As you may surmise from the very title of the book, the Nihil's plan creates a dire threat that The Jedi and Republic must race against the clock to stop.
Claudia Gray is arguably one the most talented and effective writers in the Lucasfilm novel team when it comes to both making the material feel serious and sophisticated enough for a novel, while still padded with ample pulpy genre fun. That is a crucial combination of skills to have, as Fallen Star essentially functions like a high-production "event" episode of an acclaimed TV series. It's a nail-biting thriller, set against a dire ticking clock countdown; yet the main plot and various subplots are all managed in a way that pays ample service to a growing cast of main characters from the various High Republic comics and preceding books (Jedi protagonists such as Stellan Gios, Elzar Mann, Bell Zettifar, Orla Jareni, and Wookie Jedi Burryaga Agaburry – as well as smugglers Leox Gyasi, Affie Hollow and Geode). Gray also uses some classic Hitchcockian strategies to build dramatic tension and even a bit of fright early in the story, dangling doom over our heroes in plain sight, like an unavoidable car crash (only, you know, with a space station). No one is safe, and some truly surprising casualties (both physical and emotional) come out of this story. That said, Gray tends to inject the most heart, humor, and life into the characters of her Star Wars books, and much of what (or who) made her previous book, Into the Dark, a hit works even better in this installment.
For Star Wars fans who have kept up with all (or most) of the various High Republic works: Fallen Star is unabashedly a convergence of characters and events that pays back your commitment to the larger story with a lot of (if not all) rewards. That said, some standout characters of the High Republic don't make it into this particular book; there is also the continued issue of larger franchise universe obligations forcing awkward and obvious contrivances, which keep characters of other books or comics from being present or interacting with the main characters of this book.
More than anything, Star Wars: The Fallen Star is the strongest case study so far in the debate about whether novels can truly become like franchise universe TV shows and movies: offering readers only another piece of a serialized storytelling puzzle, which can't truly stand on its own. This book is no jumping-on point for new readers: if you haven't read quite a few of the preceding High Republic books and comics, you will likely have trouble connecting with or understanding Fallen Star. But then again, Lucasfilm can probably hedge safe bets that anyone seeking out this "event novel" has probably already been deeply invested in the High Republic content. New audiences not required.
Star Wars: The Fallen Star delivers the event-level reading experience that was promised. It is a page-turner that will likely keep fans buried in the text from start to finish, as the action and tension never really let up. By the end, the book opens some exciting new doors for the next phase of High Republic storytelling – while making fans feel some serious pains before they will get there.
Star Wars: The Fallen Star (The High Republic) can be purchased here.