There’s a lot of excitement surrounding the release of all the upcoming Star Wars projects on Disney+ — and understandably so. Longtime fan favorite Boba Fett is back (and better than ever) thanks to The Mandalorian, and he’s appearing in his own spinoff series later this year. Ewan McGregor is returning as Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Diego Luna will revisit the role of Rebel agent Cassian Andor.
While it’s great to have so much live action Star Wars content to look forward to, there’s a lot happening on the publishing side of Lucasfilm as well. Star Wars: The High Republic publishing initiative kicked off earlier this year, with a second wave of content released this summer. The new series takes place many years before the prequels, in the Republic’s golden age, and encompasses adult, young adult and middle-grade novels; comics; and more.
If you’re a Star Wars fan and you haven’t checked out the High Republic, I’m here to tell you that you’re definitely missing out. So far the High Republic has offered thrilling, epic storytelling from a fresh perspective and a diverse array of authors.
It’s a prequel — but it’s the right kind of prequel
Prequels are often tough to pull off, because when you already know where the story is going, the stakes don’t feel as high. A storyteller working on a prequel is limited by what plot twists they can come up with, because they’re boxed in by already-released canon material.
However, the High Republic is set far enough in the past that the series is filled with all-new characters we’ve never heard of before. We don’t know who will survive the series, or who may end up falling to the dark side.
The series is also poised to answer what I feel is an intriguing and important question to the Star Wars franchise as a whole: how did the Jedi Order erode so quickly into bureaucracy and corruption around the time of Palpatine’s rise to power? Although the Jedi of the High Republic era seem to be part of a thriving, healthy organization that’s respected across the galaxy, I can already spot some of the cracks that are starting to form that will eventually lead to the Order’s collapse.
If the High Republic series continues to be successful, I hope it paves the way for other Star Wars storytelling set long before or long after the existing films and television series.
New ideas and possibilities
Here’s the thing about all those Disney+ Star Wars projects I mentioned above: while I love Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Cassian Andor, those are all characters we’ve encountered before. So much of the Star Wars storytelling we’ve seen — at least in the Disney/Lucasfilm era — has focused on a relatively tight timeline, between The Phantom Menace and The Rise of Skywalker.
There’s nothing wrong with nostalgic storytelling and bringing back beloved characters. Yet at a certain point, you have to forge ahead into new territory. It’s really refreshing that so far, the High Republic is pretty much all-new characters (Yoda’s been mentioned a few times in the books I’ve read, but that makes sense because of his role in the history and evolution of the Jedi Order).
It would take too long to cover all the characters that have been introduced so far in this series, but overall I’ve really enjoyed meeting the Jedi from this era. These Jedi are not as strict or emotionless as the Jedi we see in the prequel era. Although there are still rules about forming attachments, they’re not as rigidly enforced. Rather, Jedi are encouraged to focus more on balance; they should seek to control their feelings, rather than allowing their feelings to control them. These Jedi seem happier with their position in society, and there’s a greater sense of compassion and energy within the order.
As good as all these characters are, even more important to a new Star Wars series is a strong villain. The High Republic introduces us to the Nihil, a group of renegades and pirates who get their kicks pillaging, plundering, and generally sowing chaos across the galaxy. They’ve got a bit of a Mad Max vibe going on, but with a distinctly Star Wars twist.
The leader of the Nihil is the mysterious Marchion Ro, who, like all the great Star Wars villains, hides behind an intriguing mask.
I don’t want to delve into spoilers here, because part of what makes Marchion Ro so fascinating as a villain is the fact that details about his past — and his plans for the future — are being slowly and carefully revealed throughout the course of this series. He just keeps getting more and more interesting, and I really want to spill all the details about what makes this character amazing. The ending to the most recent High Republic adult novel, The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott, is one of the greatest cliffhangers I’ve ever seen in a Star Wars story.
Marchion Ro proves the Sith aren’t the only worthy opponents for the Jedi. He may not be able to use the Force, but he’s found a way to level the playing field with a terrifying new weapon. (I promise, it’s not another Death Star.)
The storytelling taking place in these novels is very cinematic, and while it’s not necessary for these characters to make the jump to live action, I’d be all about a High Republic series on Disney+ (while it probably won’t feature the same characters, Leslye Headland’s The Acolyte will take place during the final days of the High Republic era).
Since there’s already a wealth of High Republic content out there (with plenty more on the way), diving into the series might seem a little overwhelming. The good news is, you don’t have to read every single piece of media connected to this series in order to enjoy it.
I’d recommend starting with the two adult novels, Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule and The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott. The comics and youth novels add to your overall enjoyment of the series, but they’re not as necessary to understanding the overarching story.
And even if you’re not a big reader, I’d recommend checking out the audiobook versions. Star Wars audiobooks have a reputation for being high quality productions that immerse you in the story in a whole new way. Even though I’ve already read the print versions of these novels, I’d still like to check out the audiobooks.
Seriously, I could keep going on and on about how much I love the High Republic, but I think I’ve said enough for now. I’ve purposely tried to be vague when it comes to mentioning plot details, because I knew very little about this series going in and I really enjoyed experiencing a Star Wars story that felt completely new and unexpected. Don’t go hunting for spoilers ahead of time; just grab a copy of Light of the Jedi and treat yourself to an epic Star Wars adventure.
Note: The image used for this post was created by Jake Bartok, a freelance concept artist, writer and comic illustrator. He’s created amazing fanart for Star Wars, Marvel and other franchises. I’ve purchased one of his Star Wars/medieval mashup pieces, and I highly recommend you check out his website and support his work!