Claudia Gray’s The Fallen Star wraps up the first wave of books in Disney’s Star Wars: The High Republic project–a multimedia initiative by multiple authors telling a story in the Star Wars universe set hundreds of years before the movies. Not only does The Fallen Star need to stand on its own, it has to keep the reader emotionally involved in the story, adhere to other author’s perceptions of characters, not accidentally retcon other stories’ plotlines, and still deliver a solid plot to keep the reader engaged! Gray had quite the challenge ahead of her.
The Chancellor of the not-quite-galaxy-wide Republic has commissioned several great works spanning multiple star systems as monuments to the strength and peace of her government. In the first book of this trilogy, Light of the Jedi, we were introduced to the crown jewel of these works: Starlight Beacon, a space station on the far edge of the galaxy, run by the ancient, noble keepers of the peace: the Jedi Order. This station is meant to be symbol of hope and refuge, projecting strength in the hopes that other planetary systems will be grateful enough to join the galactic Republic.
Naturally, every government has its dissidents, and villain Marchion Ro has been working in the background to take down the Republic and especially the Jedi. Here the story is weakened a bit from the nature of being part of an unfinished series written by multiple authors: the reader still doesn’t fully know Ro’s background or exactly why he wishes the Jedi dead. While his motivations were mysterious and intriguing in past novels and comics, in The Fallen Star he is simply a generic bad guy who sends a team of lackeys to sabotage the Starlight Beacon station, and then merely sits back to watch. We don’t get any more insight into his character and quite honestly, he could have disappeared from the story after his initial chapter where he dispatches his saboteurs and the plot would progress just the same. I understand he is getting his own comic series sometime in the near future, and Gray was probably unable to expand on Ro’ character so as not to spoil the comic’s plot, but those restrictions weaken his existence in The Fallen Star and leave non-comic readers a little underwhelmed.
The blossoming friendship between Jedi Padawan learners Burryaga and Bell Zettifar is the real highlight of The Fallen Star and plays immensely to Gray’s strengths as a young adult author, even though this novel is aimed at adults. Gray has fantastic insight to the thoughts and actions of teenagers of all species, portraying adolescent internal and external struggles with a respectfully realistic touch. Bell has seen quite a bit of loss in the past, and has been trying to reconcile his personal grief with the Jedi Order’s code of not becoming too attached to any one person or thing. Perhaps it’s the nature of the ongoing (at the time of this review) Covid-19 pandemic, but Bell’s words carry quite a bit of weight for people of all ages struggling with things they don’t have an answer to. “Acceptance was strength. It was being able to carry the weight of what had been, and what had not, through all the many days, months, years, and decades to follow.”
Acceptance was strength. It was being able to carry the weight of what had been, and what had not, through all the many days, months, years, and decades to follow.
These words apply to nearly every other protagonist in the novel: Jedi Master Stellan Gios struggles to accept his unwanted fame as the face of the Jedi Order, Jedi Elzar Mann struggles to accept both tapping into the selfish, anger-ridden “dark side” of the Force and his forbidden feelings for a fellow Jedi, and all struggle to accept the reality that if the saboteurs complete their mission, the glorious Starlight Beacon will crash into a nearby planet and be destroyed.
The previous overarching plot of The High Republic takes place over many locales, but The Fallen Star takes place almost solely on the Starlight Beacon space station. For a franchise based on tales from a galaxy far, far, away, The Fallen Star shrinks that galaxy quite a bit, offering a sort of quaint feel that doesn’t match either the intensity of the action or the vibe of the previous books and comics. I’m not opposed to a single locale if the story is also localized, but the implications of the events taking place on Starlight Beacon stretch from the center of the galaxy to the edge of known space. It feels like more people from all walks of the galaxy should have been more involved, somehow.
Regardless, The Fallen Star wraps up the initial phase of The High Republic stories in a neat little package, with the promise of many, many more gifts in the future. I’m eagerly awaiting the next installment.
Disclaimer: I bought e-book version on my own and read it on my 10th generation Kindle Oasis. I was not paid for this review, and all opinions are my own.
Title: Star Wars: The Fallen Star
Author: Claudia Gray
Publication date: 01 January 2022
Print Length: 352 pages
Marie’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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