I just finished The Fallen Star today and... wow! It was such an incredible book. It really pulled me in and made me very emotional (I totally cried). Claudia Gray builds the tension so, so perfectly for this book and really makes the characters come to life. It was such a great addition to the High Republic storyline, and honestly kind of changed everything. The characters themselves are so dynamic over the course of this book and I felt so drawn in to every one of them in one way or another. It was an amazing read, and I would completely, 100% recommend this book to anyone.
Spoilers ahead for The Fallen Star by Claudia Gray! Seriously. So many spoilers.
The biggest thing I liked about this book was the way that it showed ingenuity across all sorts of characters and how they continually adapted to their situation and the new problems thrown at them so they could work as a team. Starlight Beacon is breaking apart and crashing, and due to the thoroughness of the Nihil, the Force-draining creatures and rathtars, problems arise more often than their fixed, and with limited resources and a tense situation characters, both Jedi and pilots who are trapped on the station work together to create creative solutions to their problems. My favorite of many, many scenes like these is when Padawan Bell Zettifar uses explosives to separate the medical tower from the station as it's crashing so that a medical ship can dock with them and take them to safety. It was such a great scene, for Bell especially as he's been struggling with his confidence and conviction in making decisions since the death of Loden Greatstorm, but this scene showed him being sure in himself and, as Stellan Gios puts it, shows the great Jedi Knight he is bound to become.
Marchion Ro's part in this book is from a distance from the main action of Starlight Beacon's destruction, but he is very, very involved. He creates the plan to prevent Starlight Beacon from receiving help or having any hope of saving people and sends the Nihil agents to sacrifice themselves for this mission. He watches it all unfold, with the shocking revelation that Ghirra Starros (senator and mother to Avon Starros) has betrayed the Republic to aid Ro, though she doesn't fully understand what she's getting herself into until she sees all the death and destruction, and is horrified but can't really turn back. At the very end of the book he reveals himself to the galaxy, which was shocking to me as (as far as the galaxy at large is concerned and not the Nihil) he's been acting from the shadows, so to reveal himself by name is huge and will change the direction of the High Republic going forward, considering how they previously thought Lourna Dee was the Eye and were spending efforts hunting her down.
The deaths in this book always hit very hard. Most of them were Jedi who were killed by the mysterious Force-draining creatures that killed Loden in the last book, leaving them as nothing more than ashy husks of their bodies. So many characters died. Among the dead are Orla Jareni, who was a really great character that I loved from Into the Dark, a Jedi Wayseeker with a dry sense of humor and amusing attitude, and Nib Assek, the elderly and kind, amusing master of Burryaga. The scene where her body is found by Burryaga and Bell is just completely heartbreaking, poor Burryaga is destroyed by it, but he finds the courage to keep going for everyone else on the station. I think the one that hit me the hardest was Stellan Gios,
Which is where I think the glimmer of hope in this book comes. This book is definitely very, very tragic, but I think there's hope to find. It's inspiring how the characters all come together and keep trying, no matter how dire things are. There's also the fact that Bell's second master, Indeera Stokes, survived whatever horrible creature killed so many of the other Jedi, and though she's still recovering she may be able to provide valuable information about it. Though Burryaga is believed dead by many characters because was taken by rathtars, but Bell has hope that he's still alive, so I do too and think Bell will find him as he searches. I think Bell's growth and newfound confidence in himself after being shaken for so long by Loden Greatstorm's death is inspiring, and he is easily becoming one of my favorite High Republic characters.
This book was so, so good. The best way I can describe it as maybe a The Last Jedi of the High Republic. So much is lost, but not everything, and there is still hope for the future as the galaxy bands together.