Updated: Feb 26, 2021
I decided to put aside the slightly older Star Wars books for a little while to read the new High Republic ones that came out more recently. I started with Light of the Jedi, which did not disappoint- as evidenced by the fact that I read it in essentially one sitting (not counting two bathroom breaks) in five hours- I haven't read a book like that since I was a kid.
Spoiler-Free Review: Light of the Jedi is awesome! Not only is it full of a wide cast of fascinating characters. It shows the Jedi at their best, really exemplifying the qualities that I love most about them. It's also just a great introduction into the High Republic era of Star Wars- none of the other content have ever taken place in an overall happy galaxy- the closest we get is maybe in the New Republic era (before the First Order comes in), and I suppose things aren't too bad yet in The Phantom Menace and its accompanying material. But nothing seems to come close to the High Republic era. Charles Soule describes such an optimistic view of the galaxy, the Republic and the Jedi that it's easy to forget what's coming down the line. Though the book certainly has its dark moments, I still found a lot of it to be rather uplifting. It is one I would highly, highly recommend- not just to Star Wars fans, but to everybody.
Read on for a more in-depth and spoiler-laden review of Light of the Jedi.
The book is very long, and has multiple plots going on... plots that I think are much better read for yourself (and if you really need a plot summary, Wookieepedia has a pretty thorough one). So instead, I'll be talking about the things I really liked about the book, without caring about if I spoil different plot points.
I'll start off by talking about my favorite character from the book- Avar Kriss. Avar Kriss is a Jedi woman with a unique ability where she can create a web amongst every Jedi, no matter how far away, to create communication beyond what the Jedi could normally feel from one another. She is also just generally very fun and likable to read. She really shines in my favorite scene in the whole book, where she connects every Jedi in the galaxy so that can move a large explosive away from a star that would blow up an entire system of planets. It's a really beautiful scene, but what I loved most about it was how it illustrated each Jedi's different relationship to the Force. Avar Kriss hears it as a song, Elzar Mann sees it as a deep sea, Burryaga sees it as a leafy tree. I just think that it's such a beautiful sentiment- all of these Jedi see the Force very differently, but no perspective is better or worse than another.
Now, a review where I went through every character would be far too long, so as much as I'd love to highlight every other character I loved (which was most of them), I'll just stick to another one of my favorites- Burryaga Agaburry. Burryaga is a sweet, modest Wookiee padawan. He saves countless lives through his adept feelings of the Force, is a little socially awkward (through no fault of his own, it's just that most people don't understand Shyriiwook), and is very relatable by not really talking to anyone at a party unless other people introduce him and instead just shoving his face full of food. He also has a really sweet scene where he comforts a little boy who survived the great crisis that spurs on the plot of the book, even through their language barrier.
One thing that I really enjoyed reading through the book was all the political drama. I'm one of the probably like eight people who actually really love all the political parts of the prequels and The Clone Wars, so it's always fun to read about in book form too. Chancellor Lina Soh really intrigued me- she was really a great leader of the Republic, striving to connect the galaxy and complete Great Works. Also, she's great because she goes everywhere with a pair of giant cats.
In addition, because the books take place pretty long before other Star Wars media, we can see how technology is a little behind. It is mostly the same- they still have blasters, ships, and droids, after all, but where it really stuck out to me was when it came to hyperspace- the technology that the main conflict of the book centers around. Many of the characters express being pretty unsure of hyperspace and how it works, which is odd to hear considering how much its truly taken for granted in other Star Wars media. Also, the pioneering family of hyperspace navigation are the San Tekkas, clearly ancestors of Lor San Tekka from The Force Awakens, which I thought was an interesting detail.
To go on a little bit more about all of the Jedi stuff too (and there is a lot), it was really fascinating to read about how the Jedi Order functioned without the pressure of war on their shoulders constantly. Sure, we could see glimpses of that in other books like Master and Apprentice, but it was really great to read about regardless. I love the Jedi, and am much more defensive of them than many others in the fandom tend to be, so it was truly amazing to see them at their best.
But where the book gets extremely dark is with the criminals at the root of all the conflict- the Nihil, a large, storm-themed, elusive group of raiders with access to special hyperspace routes thanks to their kidnapping and manipulation of one of the San Tekkas as a girl, though she's now an old woman. The Nihil are extremely violent, showing no regard for any life, including those in their own ranks. They're bloody and never have any moral qualms- they simply want money. Though I'm a big Jedi fan, and I loved reading about the Jedi and the Republic, the Nihil were the most morbidly fascinating to read about in the book, since they're entirely new to me. At the core of it all is the extremely manipulative mastermind leader of the Nihil, Marchion Ro- who was behind nearly every event that took place in the book, even if that's far from obvious in the beginning. While the Jedi feel that they've won at the end of the book, despite their losses and knowledge that it isn't truly over, we know that Marchion's plans are only beginning... and I can't wait to see how they play out in the next book.