There’s a very simple axiom that may as well be started amongst Star Wars fans: if Claudia Gray writes it, it’s going to be great.
Gray’s first four Star Wars novels have all been fantastic and are, in my opinion, each among my very favorite books from the new canon: Lost Stars, Bloodline, Leia: Princess of Alderaan, and Master & Apprentice. And her most recent novel, Into the Dark, not only carries on her streak of tremendous Star Wars books but also continues the terrific start to the High Republic era.
This is the third book in the new publishing initiative, and it fits in incredibly well while telling a thoroughly enjoyable and compelling story in its own right.
Like the other stories, Into the Dark introduces us to a number of brand new main characters – and a menacing new villain.
The story centers around four new Jedi who travel aboard a ship named the Vessel, heading for the Starlight Beacon:
- Reath Silas – the current Jedi Padawan to Master Jora Malli, Reath loves spending his time in the Jedi Archives at the Temple on Coruscant and is therefore not too happy when his Master accepts a position aboard the Starlight Beacon, which forces the Padawan to travel away from the comfort of his books and to the dangerous frontier.
- Dez Rydan – the former Padawan to Jora Malli who, unlike Reath, craves adventure and excitement (maybe a bit too much). He willingly heads out to the frontier in search of just that.
- Orla Jareni – an Umbaran Jedi Knight who has recently declared herself a Wayseeker, a position within the Jedi Order that operated independently of the Jedi High Council.
- Cohmac Vitus – a Jedi Master haunted by a mission from his past 25 years ago (involving Orla as well), Cohmac heads off to the frontier, but doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with the Jedi Order.
The four Jedi are joined by the ship’s crew:
- Affie Hollow – a member of the Byne Guild and the foster daughter of Guild leader Scover Byne, Affie co-pilots the Vessel with Leox and Geode.
- Leox Gyasi – a pilot and smuggler working for the Byne Guild, Leox captains the Vessel and looks out for Affie.
- Geode – a Vintian who serves as the navigator for the Vessel, he is literally a rock – yet an important and beloved member of the crew.
The seven of them set out aboard the Vessel for the Starlight Beacon, but their journey is cut short by the Great Disaster. Of all the books so far, this one probably delves into the Great Disaster the least, but it’s nonetheless still very much present. It’s what cuts their journey short, forcing them to exit hyperspace and head for a nearby space station, belonging to the Amaxine warriors long before, filled with lush plant life. They are joined by a number of other ships seeking refuge on the station as well.
But all is not exactly well aboard the station. While some of the newcomers fight amongst each other, the crew of the Vessel all stumble on to far more sinister and nefarious things going on. Affie discovers haunting truths about the Byne Guild, while the Jedi discover the strong presence of the dark side – which is eventually revealed to be the drengir, plants strong in the dark side of the Force hungry for meat, who had been imprisoned on the station by the ancient Sith. Without knowing it or intending it, the Jedi set the drengir free, and that combined with the threat of the Nihil is enough to give any Jedi a lot of trouble.
I felt like this book took a little bit to find its footing, but once it did it hit the ground running and never looked back. Gray tells an interesting story that is filled with enough intrigue and tension to keep you wondering about what’s going on, and she pulls together the threads nicely. But in my opinion, this book’s strength is found in its characters, for all of them – including Geode – are very well-developed. These characters are especially interesting because they have doubts and weaknesses. The Jedi in particular each have doubts about certain aspects of the Order and its teachings. The High Republic has already established that Jedi don’t view the Force the same as each other, but this book explores further that not all Jedi even view some of the core tenants or principles of the Order the same way either. And that makes for some interesting discussions and thought-starters about who is right. Maybe it’s even giving us a few tiny hints already about the growing rigidity of the Jedi Order that will lead to their downfall a few centuries later?
So yes, overall, I loved this book. It not only tells a great story, but with the introduction of these characters and the drengir as well, it sets up future stories waiting to be told! In short, Claudia Gray does it again.
My grade: 9.4/10