This review will touch on some plot points that some readers may not want to know in advance. So consider this a minor spoiler warning.
Author Justina Ireland gives us the second installment of The High Republic with the utterly delightful book Star Wars: The High Republic – A Test of Courage.
Though it’s aimed at younger readers than the adult-oriented Light of the Jedi, people are going to find this book a lot of fun. It centers around Vernestra Rwoh, a Mirialan Jedi who, at only 16 years old, is one of the youngest Jedi in recent history to take on the trials and become a full-blown Jedi Knight. But she’s still only 16 and she’s doing her best to find her way in the galaxy all by herself. This book opens on one of her first solo missions, where she must supervise a precocious senator’s daughter, the 12-year-old Avon Starros (who seems to be related to Sana Starros from our more familiar timeline).
Thanks to the villainous Nihil, things go wrong and she finds herself shepherding, Imri, a padawan who has lost his master, and two other kids on a distant planet that wants to kill them. If the lethal acid rain wasn’t enough of a threat, the two Nihil shipwrecked on the planet with them will do the trick if given half the chance. Only by working together will they be able to defeat the Nihil and make it back to the Jedi and tell them what they know about the new Nihil threat.
But when Imri, the Jedi padawan, begins to seek vengeance for the loss of his master, things take a turn for the worst. Vernestra has to help the lost children survive the hostile environment, fend off the Nihil, and compete with a padawan turning to the dangerous comforts of the dark side.
This book is such a fun read and I was able to breeze through it in an afternoon. The characters are engaging, the situation exciting, and it fits into this broader universe in a way that gives us a closer look at the rank and file of the Nihil. We’re meant to believe the Nihil can be a threat to the Jedi at large, and this book gives us a much better look at that.
Vernestra Rwoh is such a fun character and I think she’s every bit as interesting as Ahsoka Tano. Watching a young person, in this case a 16-year-old, grapple with what it means to be a Jedi Knight in the universe on her own is really intriguing. I want more stories with this character. I’d take an animated series, even. Such is the depth and likability that Ireland imbues the character with. She’s got some tricks up her sleeve, too.
Though the story feels a little small, it ultimately works in the book’s favor. It’s a simple story, but one told extremely well.
Stuff to Watch Out For
There are two elements within this book that feel like hidden treasures: the lightwhip that Vernestra wields and the droid, J-6.
Lightwhips aren’t new to Star Wars, though they do appear to be new to the current canon. The most famous wielder of a lightwhip in the old Legends stories was Lumiya, an apprentice of Darth Vader who infiltrated the Rebels to woo Luke Skywalker and later turned into a full Dark Lady of the Sith. She was eventually killed by Luke Skywalker in an act of vengeance that threw him into a state of despair. She appeared in the Marvel comics and her lightwhip was always something that looked very cool. Vernestra Rwoh wielding one here was a very fun callback.
The other thing I found fun was the inclusion of the nanny droid J-6. J-6 looks to be of a similar make and model as ME-8D9, which is an ancient assassin droid that found her way into Maz Kanata’s Castle and was tasked with enforcing Maz’s rules in the bar. However, J-6 has a personality that reminded me more like L3-37 from Solo. She is given the ability to think for herself and gets just as sassy as that droid, who was portrayed so well by Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
Justina Ireland has written a book that begs to be read in one sitting. A Test of Courage is fun, doubly so when you’ve already read Light of the Jedi (the initial installment of the High Republic written by Charles Soule) and you can connect the dots of the universe and the key players. Vernestra is such a wonderful character, an absolute pleasure to read, and I hope we see more installments that feature her. There is a lot of interesting material to mine when you have a Jedi Knight making her way in the galaxy at such a young age, especially considering the choice she makes in the final pages.
Between this and Light of the Jedi, it’s easy to say that The High Republic is off to a great start.
Star Wars: The High Republic – A Test of Courage is available now.
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