More at home in the archives than in the darkness of space, the last thing Jedi Padawan Reath Silas wants to do is join his Master, Jora Malli, in the recently colonised Outer Rim. But as he and a group of travellers make their way to the newly constructed Starlight Beacon, they encounter old terrors long forgotten alongside new threats freshly wrought that make Reath confront not only his place in the Jedi Order, but his place in the galaxy as a whole.
Into the Dark is the second book in The High Republic that I’ve read and it only strengthened my love for this new series. Claudia Gray is a mastermind at exploring quietly intimate groups of characters, and her work in Into the Dark is no exception. There is no one else I would have rather introduced the Jedi characters of Reath Silas, Orla Jareni and Cohmac Vitus to this series. As she has proved in her earlier Star Wars work, Master & Apprentice especially, Gray knows how to write Jedi who don’t fit the typical Order mould, who veer from their teaching and are determined to follow their instincts. Even so, it is not only the Jedi that Gray excels in writing. Into the Dark also has three non-Jedi main characters: humans Leox Gyasi and Affie Hollow, and Geode, a sentient being who resembles a boulder. While I understandably grew attached to both Leox and Affie, suffice it to say that only Claudia Gray could make me care so much about a sentient rock.
In my review for the first The High Republic book, Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule, I praised the book for touching upon questions about the Jedi I’ve had as a long-time Star Wars fan while still adhering to the underlying theme of hope we’ve come to accept from the franchise. Into the Dark takes those questions broached in Light of the Jedi, dials them up significantly, and, rather than strictly focusing on hope, instead explores how people’s actions in the midst of reality can determine a situation.
As for my questions about the Jedi, there are a few sections in particular that I feel speak to my primary concerns regarding the Jedi Order:
‘When the searchers went around looking for Force-sensitive infants, they only checked for potential ability. Not temperament, and certainly no preferences. Nobody ever asked the younglings, “Would you like to become a swashbuckling heroic Knight? Or would you rather stay at home and read?”’ – Reath Silas
‘How does the dark side take form anywhere? Sometimes I think we, the Jedi, must be somehow to blame. We who refuse to look at the Force in full, to examine the darkness as well as the light.’ – Cohmac Vitus
‘If the Order was telling her to ignore the Force . . . it wasn’t the Force that was wrong.’ – Orla Jarenni
There is so much to take in with these three short quotes. First, is the lack of choice the Order offers its younglings and its insistence that they must be trained only from a very young age. The Order’s inability to understand how to train or exist otherwise is, as we know, a large part of their undoing. Similarly, we are most familiar with Jedi as warriors, heroes, especially during the Clone Wars, but if they are meant, above all to be peacekeepers, why is there such a resistance to Jedi like Reath, who have no desire to fight?
Cohmac’s quote feels like it was pulled straight from my prequel trilogy head and is followed nicely with Orla’s later thoughts. I’ll never understand how the Jedi OR the Sith could hear the phrase ‘balance to the Force’ and think it meant choosing one side over the other. Further, one of the Order’s biggest mantras is to ‘trust in the Force’, but time and time again we see examples of the Council enforcing their opinions, beliefs and law over the Force itself. It’s so exhilarating to have two characters, Cohmac Vitus and Orla Jarenni, who, before the time of the ‘Chosen One’, both rightfully question the Council and the Order and but who, ultimately, do so in very different ways. Where Cohmac dwells in his hurt and feels betrayed by the Order and the restrictions that come along with it, Orla finds a new trust in herself that she is able to, for now, allow to coexist with her Jedi training. In fact, the two Jedi’s responses to their doubts kind of remind me of the main difference between Anakin Skywalker’s and Ahsoka Tano’s responses to betrayal by the Order (could literally talk about that all day). I’m therefore excited (and terrified) to see how Cohmac and Orla grow throughout the rest of the series.
Though I love the message of hope in Light of the Jedi, I am glad that Into the Dark was a bit more grounded in a reality separate from hope. There is no ignoring of the fact that many people in the Outer Rim view the Republic and the Jedi as colonists who think their way is the best, right and only way forward. Reath himself confronts this in Affie Hollow, who is far from impressed by his Jedi status and who makes him realise that there’s a difference between reading about people and places and actually getting to know and respect them and their stories. We may all be the Republic, as the tagline goes, but what does that actually mean? Who does that truly encompass beyond the Republic’s home on the upper crust of Coruscant?
There are few more random thoughts that have been stuck in my head since reading this that I’d like to leave here:
- Protect Reath Silas at all costs
- Protect Affie Hollow at all costs (though 100% she can protect herself)
- Geode is, dare I say, a Rockstar?
- Leox Gyasi is the high space uncle I’ve always wanted
- This quote will live forever in my memory: ‘Time to lay down the law. Which he’d never laid down before. But he’d figure it out.’
I’m currently on a book-buying ban and my library doesn’t have Cavan Scott’s The Rising Storm, so who knows how long it will be until I have another The High Republic review. Rest assured, though. Just like the Millennium Falcon made the Kessel Run in (slightly over) twelve parsecs, I’ll get to it as fast as I can.
Into the Dark is currently available in print and ebook formats.