*** This post includes minor spoilers for A Test of Courage***
A few days ago I reviewed the book that kicks off the massive High Republic publishing initiative, Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule, and it was fantastic! Today, let’s review A Test of Courage by Justina Ireland, the junior reader novel that continues on the start of this brand new era.
Simply put, it continues the tremendously strong start to the High Republic, albeit in a much different way.
Whereas Light of the Jedi felt like a galaxy-wide adventure that jumped around between a number of different characters and planets (establishing the setting of this new era), A Test of Courage follows a small group of people who all endure an adventure together. This isn’t a book that jumps all around the galaxy; it’s a much more personal story about four young people facing a huge tragedy and having to band together to survive.
This book is set within the very same timeframe as Light of the Jedi and the first issue of the High Republic comic, as it happens after the Great Disaster and before the dedication of the Starlight Beacon. It’s not really about the Great Disaster, but there are certainly plenty of references and allusions to it. And the Nihil show up and, though not especially prominent, they have a significant influence on certain things.
So this book is unmistakably set in this High Republic era, but the story itself feels like it could have been plucked from any era; it’s only the context that gives us grounding. And I don’t say that as a negative thing, because there are certain stories that will always be relevant no matter what era we’re exploring. This book is really about four young people finding their place in the galaxy:
There’s Vernestra Rwoh, a Mirialan Jedi Knight who attained Knighthood at just fifteen years of age, making her the youngest Jedi to become a Knight in a long time. As such, she’s viewed as very much of a prodigy in the Jedi Order.
There’s Imri Cantaros, a human Jedi Padawan, the apprentice to Jedi Master Douglas Sunvale. Though filled with potential, Imri lacks confidence in himself. Without getting too deep into spoilers, Imri is confronted with some very important choices as the book goes on.
There’s Avon Starros, the daughter of Republic Senator Ghirra Starros (and who seems to very likely be an ancestor of Sana Starros). The young girl is seen as a handful by some, but is an extremely curious individual who likes finding out how stuff works and wants to be an inventor.
And there’s Honesty Weft, the son of a Dalnan ambassador. He’s nearing the time for his “metamorphosis” (similar to the Jedi trials) and has been trained in a number of areas by his father in preparation for that.
These four are accompanied on their adventure by J-6, Avon’s droid that serves as a protector and friend to the young girl. Avon has worked to rewire J-6’s programming to make the droid a bit more autonomous than usual droids, giving it a different personality.
This crew winds up on a dangerous jungle world named Wevo and must survive, banding together to use their different strengths and weaknesses to survive. It’s an important story about how different people have different strengths and abilities, but just because you aren’t the same as someone else doesn’t mean you don’t matter or can’t contribute. Some characters learn this along the way about each other, and it’s a good lesson for readers to learn as well.
But an even stronger message that comes through the book is the importance of choosing what is right. This isn’t just a one-time choice that you make but rather a series of choices that you must make daily, to choose to do what is good and right. These characters are confronted with this repeatedly, and readers will come away having learned an important lesson. As one Jedi says near the end of the book, “Being a Jedi is about choosing the light over and over again.”
These heroes are personable and relatable, and Ireland makes the more or less endearing as the story goes on. This morning doesn’t have the massive galactic stakes that Light of the Jedi did, but it dives deeper into a more personal story about a group of people who experience tragedy and heartbreak, have to work together to survive, and are confronted with doing what is right even when it is hard. That’s a lesson that all people need to hear, but probably especially the younger audiences that this book is geared toward.
I thoroughly enjoyed this read, and if you’re interested in following along with the High Republic era and characters, I think you’ll find this a fun read. In my view, the High Republic era is two-for-two in their novels to kick this thing off.
My grade: 8.7/10