To conclude my High Republic readings until more books come out, I read Into the Dark. I've always really liked Claudia Gray's additions to the Star Wars Universe (Leia: Princess of Alderaan, Bloodline, Lost Stars, Master & Apprentice), so I was looking forward to how she tackled the High Republic era, and this certainly did not disappoint.
Spoiler-free review: Into the Dark is a fun, yet darker look ahead at the High Republic era. Like the other books, it's events are very tied to the ones detailed in Light of the Jedi and it's fun to see a different angle on them. Gray's entirely new cast of characters are all really fleshed out through the story and interesting in their own ways. I'd definitely recommend reading this book after Light of the Jedi (and A Test of Courage, since there's a small reference to that story too).
Read on for a more in-depth review (with spoilers) of Claudia Gray's Into the Dark!
So I can't go on without talking about Geode. Geode is a member of a species called the Vintian, who just look like regular rocks. Geode doesn't talk, and no one really sees him ever do anything. But apparently, that doesn't stop Geode from hitting clubs on Coruscant (I very much enjoy the image of a rock sitting in a club- maybe he he even has sunglasses taped on) or daringly rescuing Jedi. I don't know how Geode moves or does anything- it isn't described and it doesn't have to be, because Geode is just that awesome. I would like to start a Geode fan club if anybody is interested.
To provide a little more context to Geode, he's a part of the crew of a small ship simply called the Vessel. The other members of this crew are Leox Gyasi (who for some reason I could only imagine as Owen Wilson) and Affie Hollow. Leox is a cool laid-back pilot who carries around meditation beads and is for the most part the embodiment as chill. Affie Hollow is the foster daughter of Scover Byne, the leader of the Guild that the Vessel's crew works for.
Okay, brief summary of the book before I get in deeper, just so you have the details. A couple of Jedi are on a trip on the Vessel to the soon-to-be-opened Starlight Beacon, when they have issues and have to drop out of hyperspace (which readers of Light of the Jedi know to be caused by the Legacy Run disaster). Stuck while the hyperspace lanes are closed, they dock at a nearby abandoned space station, inhabited only by gardening droids hard at work and some strange idols. A couple of other ships drop in too, and though there's a scuffle that breaks out, the Jedi manage to calm things down, and leave (taking the strange idols with them, believing them to carry the Dark side and wanting to study and hide them from those who would use them for evil). However, the Jedi realize that the idols were actually containing the darkness of the station, rather than holding it themselves, around the same time the Vessel's crew wants to go back to the station to learn more about it. They go back to the station, where they face a combination of the Nihil raiders and giant evil plant creatures, but manage to seal the darkness away and defeat enough of the Nihil before returning back to Coruscant to deal with the fallout. I'll go into more details as I discuss a few of the main characters.
To come back to Affie Hollow, she had a very interesting arc in the story. She's rather naive and has a bright view of the galaxy and the Guild (as well as her foster mother who runs it), which is shattered when she makes the discovery that the Guild is using and exploiting indentured pilots for exceptionally dangerous missions. Not only that, but her own parents were indentured servants to her now foster mother, and were killed on such a mission. Affie struggles a lot through the book with trying to reconcile the new information that she's learning with her previous, rose-colored look at the Guild and her foster mother. She was such a compelling character, and learning about the nefarious activity with her made you really sympathize with her as she tries to figure out what to do. She wants to do the right thing, but she just isn't always sure what that means. At the end of the book, Affie presents the evidence she gathered to the Republic authorities, who arrest her foster mother. Though of course Affie is deeply saddened, and you feel bad for her, both Affie and the reader can take some comfort in knowing that Affie did the best for all the people being exploited by the Guild.
Reath Silas is a Jedi padawan assigned to Master Jora Malli, who we first saw in Light of the Jedi. Reath is an interesting type of Jedi, as he really has no desire to go on the types of adventures we tend to associate with Jedi characters. Reath would be much happier staying on Coruscant his whole life, reading and working in the Temple Archives. However, Jora Malli takes a long-term assignment to the Starlight Beacon on the frontier of space, and Reath begrudgingly has to come with. Reath was an interesting character, and a really likable one. Despite his distaste for excitement, that doesn't mean he backs down and hides when he's confronted with danger. In that way, Reath was almost more admirable to me than other characters who live for adrenaline- he pointedly did not like that kind of thing, but still dove in when he needed to save his friends or even people he just met. It's Reath that uses not his skills in combat, but his ingenuity and ability at studying and memorizing that ends up saving our heroes by the end of the story, and it just goes to show that there really is room for all Jedi in the Order when it's at its best.
Another pair of interesting characters were Orla Jareni and Cohmac Vitus. Orla and Cohmac are older Jedi, who once went on a mission together as padawans twenty-five years prior- a mission that we flash back to several times throughout the book. That mission is an interesting one- monarchs from two hostile planets are both captured and held hostage, and they're sent to rescue them. Cohmac's master is killed on the mission, as is one of the two hostages. Thanks to that mission, the planets then find peace with one another and it paves the way for the Starlight Beacon to be built in that system. However, it leaves a mark on both Jedi. It makes Orla question following Jedi doctrines over her instincts and the Force, which we see through her becoming a Wayseeker, or a Jedi that doesn't follow Council orders, throughout the book. Orla's journey is a pretty good one- she's essentially planning on going and taking a pilgrimage to find out what being a Jedi means for her, and I look forward to hopefully reading more about that journey in the future. However, Cohmac has a different path. Cohmac becomes angry and bitter because of not the loss of his master, but because he felt like Jedi doctrine don't allow him to grieve the way he wants to. Through the story, Cohmac struggles with the temptations of the Dark side because of this, which was interesting to read about from his perspective. At the end of the book, he takes on Reath as a padawan, believing that taking a student like Reath will help him also learn more about what being a Jedi means to him. What I liked about Cohmac and Orla's arcs in the book was that they are stories I feel typically reserved for younger Jedi characters, so it was interesting to see them fleshed out among slightly older characters, and just goes to show that the journey of self-exploration never really ends.
Overall, I thought that Claudia Gray, as always, does a brilliant job at fleshing out all of her characters in this book, making it an interesting read. It's much easier to get attached to characters when you really know them, and Gray makes sure that we really gain intimate knowledge of these characters. Coupled with a compelling plot with some twists that you won't see coming (as well as a few that you might, if you're astute enough), I'd say Into the Dark is a very strong book, and a great addition to the High Republic stories that we already have.