Light of the Jedi (2021) by Charles Soule – Book Review

Analysis of the first book in Star Wars' The High Republic franchise

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Book cover designed by Joseph Meehan

The first adult-orientated book in Star Wars’ The High Republic series, not only serves as the written debut of the Project Luminous franchise, but proves that sometimes things do live up to hype. Charles Soule has written two novels previously and Light of the Jedi (2021) is his third long-length prose work. But he is best-known for his contributions to comics, primarily writing critically-acclaimed and fan-favorited limited series like Death of Wolverine, She-Hulk, etc., and it was through Marvel that he got a chance to pen, what is in my opinion, the greatest Disney-Marvel Star Wars comic ever written – Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith (2017).

So, for lovers of illustrative content such as myself I was eagerly anticipating Light of the Jedi, Soule’s first non-comics material not only for Star Wars but one which not only serves as the foremost entry into The High Republic where events take place 200something years before The Phantom Menace, but one which also qualifies as flagship title for the latest SW project from Disney.

What I was slightly annoyed by when I first heard the announcement of Project Luminous was that I expected them to move forward from The Rise of Skywalker (2019). Not that Disney has ruined themselves by preferring to stay backwards in the timeline (Jedi: Fallen Order, The Mandalorian, etc.) but I thought that even a spin-off set after the events of TRoS might prove to be an interesting concept.

Maybe they prefer to stick to tradition, and what I can confirm from my side is that the novel beat my already high expectations – 80% due to Soule’s prowess as both a comic-book writer and prose author – a combination often seen nowadays but to be talented and successful in both domains is a massive achievement.

The Plot: When a group of marauders known as the Nihil attempt to kidnap migrants from Alderaan living on another planet, the Jedi have no idea what they are getting involved in, and what this fiendish team of villains is really capable of.

The narrative is semi-predictable. The story actually gets and more foreseeable with every act meaning, yes, the third and final act is half this has been done before and half-unexpected. The climax could be seen from a mile away. Again, I’ve read 12 or so entries in the canonical series so I might have more experience seeing future events play out in this literary universe, but you are in for a treat if this is your first SW novel regardless of whether it belongs to the legends category or canon brand.

The story really had a Pirates of the Caribbean vibe though missing the key ingredient: Jack Sparrow. Speaking of characters, I saw reviews on Goodreads mention that the novel has too many characters. For me, this would usually cause a problem with my reading experience but the content was not as overstuffed with individuals as with other entries in the canonical series.

Also, the character development is one area in which canon author Claudia Gray shines but Soule doesn’t (without supportive drawings that is). But Gray’s overall narrative reflects her characters wisely. Her politically-charged novel Bloodline drew out aspects of Leia Organa’s personality which Soule has not even done with characters featured in his original publications. However, give Soule an already established world and he can ground it even more with uber-creative storytelling.

If you are looking for more in-depth work then Clauda Gray’s SW contributions (both YA and adult) are recommended. But even the greatest canonical entries such as the original Disney-produced Thrawn Trilogy (written by its original creator Timothy Zahn) which serves as both a reboot of maybe the 1990’s most famous Star Wars character (novels wise), the eponymous Thrawn, and also serves as a tie-in to the ever-fun Star Wars Rebels animated series – is full of exposition. Additionally, Alexander Freed’s Alphabet Squadron series is so full of technical know-how about flying it reads more like an encyclopaedia of Star Wars related space travel and not as a proper example of a sci-fi action novel. This latter series puts opera in the term space opera.

But this is where Soule shines – owing to his extensive experience in writing for various Marvel and SW comic publications over the years – Light of the Jedi seems to come across as a graphic novel in prose form. Never does Soule stick to one group of characters or one setting for too long. Switching consecutively between the perspectives of good and bad people can sometimes become too confusing for a reader, but Soule manages to do so with aplomb. And this is how you are able to see how both sides feel about each other without having to wait for an entirely different section (the perspectives change within chapters as well) so this overall storytelling technique leads to comics-style pacing.

The characters are also well-constructed but it is wise to remember that all of them were created through teamwork. Jedi Master Avar Kriss didn’t disappoint at all. The four mega-villains from the Nihil side are all unique even if they are a tad stereotypical. Yoda is there but only for like a cameo. Besides Kriss and the antagonists, I found Porter Engle and the Trandoshan Jedi Master Sskeer as very intriguing good guys. Supreme Chancellor Lina Soh is also very nicely descripted and seemed to me like a mix of Padma Amidala and Leia Organa.

So, if you’re looking for a romantic Star Wars adventure but one that you’re never likely to forget, check out Claudia Gray’s Lost Stars (her best SW novel in my experience). If you want extreme Oxford/Cambridge level of description then opt for the 2017-2019 canonical novel series, Thrawn. And if you want your characters better developed, a plot like a cigar I.E., slow to burn but the aftertaste will be worth it then Alphabet Squadron might be more your flavor.

But for lovers of fast-paced thrills set in the same old but not exactly same old universe, then Light of the Jedi lives up to its title, and furthermore, you are able to read a prose work with as much passion as a graphic novel (if you prefer comics, that is) then Light of the Jedi is perfect gratification for your reading needs (especially for fans of Charles Soule like myself). Looking forward to reading the next entry in the series (the YA-themed Into The Dark by Claudia Gray) but not before the 2nd part of the Thrawn Prequel Trilogy, The Greater Good (2021), releases on April 21 less than a week from now. The first entry in the series, Chaos Rising, I found it to be better than the entire 2017-2019 trilogy.

Joseph Meehan’s front cover design shown below is super eye-catching.

Cover design by Joseph Meehan for Charles Soule's 1st The High Republic novel, Light of the Jedi

Read my review of Charles Soule’s debut novel, The Oracle Year (2018), by clicking the image below:

Cover design of Charles Soule's 1st novel, The Oracle Year

His sophomore attempt, Anyone, got a 5 out of 5 score from me – find out why:

Cover design of Charles Soule's 2nd novel, Anyone

You can read my other reviews of Disney-SW novels by browsing Literary Retreat’s Science-Fiction Category.

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