I read The Rising Storm over the holiday weekend, and I just totally ADORED it! It was seriously hard to put down at times. I loved getting to return to the era of the High Republic and see some of my favorite Jedi. The story was compelling and a great continuation of the other High Republic books I've read, and it was just a very, very great book.
Spoilers ahead for The High Republic: The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott!
I think one of my favorite elements of this book was the Republic Fair. Of course it was a little controversial and got interrupted by an absolutely devastating terrorist attack, but before the attack, it sounded just amazing. I loved hearing about all of the exhibits that they had, the floating islands for different planets. The Republic Fair would've been incredible to visit for sure- minus the terrorist attack that caused mass casualties and destruction.
I think my favorite part of the book- and the part that made it the hardest for me to put down- was the attack on the Republic Fair, however. Hearing about all of the Jedi across the fair stuck in their own points, desperately trying to help survivors and ward off the Nihil. There are so, so many cool individual parts of this sequence that I don't have time to go over them all, but some of my highlights included Elzar Mann briefly tapping into the dark side to fling a giant sky island to save some of the Jedi in the sky, Bell Zettifar and his loyal charhound Ember chasing after Chancellor Lina Soh's son to rescue him, Porter Engle riding on top of the Jedi Vectors to save falling victims and Stellan Gios' tense fight against Lourna Dee and some of her close Nihil followers, aided by Chancellor Soh's targons. But my absolute favorite part was when cybernetically enhanced reporter was just barely able to get a message out to the rest of the galaxy, aided by Jedi Master OrbaLin (who hilariously gave history lessons as he fought Nihil with weapons they grabbed from the Jedi historical exhibit). When all of the Jedi are able to come to their aid, the relief that comes from their support can really be felt. I love the Jedi unity that you see in the High Republic books, it reminds me of the best of the Jedi that we see in other Star Wars- like when they all arrive to help at the Geonosis arena, or when Rey is able to join with them to defeat Palpatine.
Another really fascinating part of this book was the power shifts from the Nihil. We saw from Light of the Jedi how their violent tendencies give Marchion Ro the power to just kill the leaders under him and create power vacuums that he can take advantage of, but we see in this novel how that can backfire on him. Lourna Dee and Pan Eyta have growing resentment for Marchion, and they take action against him- though Pan Eyta thinks he and Dee are a united front, she's really looking out for herself. They lead the attack against the Fair even though Ro doesn't give his full endorsement, and then Lourna sends Eyta on another attack- one that turns out to be a trap- while Lourna unknowingly invites Jedi to the Nihil doorstep, leading to another attack that deeply weakens the Nihil even further, though the Jedi aren't unscathed from this second battle. It was really interesting to read about how the violence and self-serving attitude of the Nihil comes back to bite them, creating a cycle of violence, greed and mistrust among the leaders of the group that I think will inevitably work its way down to the lower members as the story progresses, creating further discord.
This is where another great thing about this novel comes in- finding out what happened to Loden Greatstorm! I've been dying to know what's happening with him ever since we found out he was captured by Ro at the end of Light of the Jedi. We get reunited with him- the extent of his torture is just horrible, with his lekku being cut off and everything. Fortunately, when Bell- Loden's former padawan- sneaks into the Nihil base, he senses Loden and goes to find him. Loden is deeply weakened but is able to draw inspiration and power from the presence of other Jedi. His brief reunion with Bell is very, very sweet, as Bell- though saddened by the sickly appearance of his master- is inspired himself by Loden and ready to face new challenges together. Though like I said- their reunion is brief, as Ro releases a creature with the ability to overwhelm the senses of Force-wielders. It gives the other Jedi horrible visions, but in his weakened state, Loden isn't able to take it, and he is killed. It's really devastating that he had to die so soon after freedom from his long, tortuous imprisonment, but the optimistic part of me is glad that he was able to be free for at least a little bit, get his lightsaber back and see Bell again first rather than simply dying at Ro's hand.