The High Republic - Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule
Here we go then - the first 'new' Star Wars since I first fired up KOTOR nearly 20 years ago. I've been pretty excited about this new Star Wars project since it was first announced - the fact that the legendary Claudia Gray is one of the authors who is contributing makes it all the more exciting... But anyway - onto the very first instalment - Light of the Jedi...
So.... to start off with, I really wasn't impressed for a very good reason - so many characters are introduced all at the same time, and it really is absolute chaos. Just as soon as you get used to a character, the chapter ends and you have to work really hard to get to the same stage with yet another new character by the end of the next one, repeat to fade etc etc. HOWEVER - after the first part of LotJ, I realised that this chaos is pitched exactly right. This opening section is pivitol to the story, and I'm sure will be a very important moment in the whole of this High Republic saga. It's called 'The Great Disaster' and is a way of introducing the dastardly Nihil - the new antagonists of the galaxy, as well as showing just how bloody ace the Jedi really are - heroic bastards, the lot of them. Anyway, the Great Disaster - a seemingly impossible natural phenomenon - has seen a transport vessel somehow break apart during a hyperspace voyage. Most of the debris threatens all life in the key Outer Rim system called Hetzal. Other parts of the doomed craft have spiralled past this system and instead threaten other Outer World planets - Chancellor Lina Soh therefore has to close all hyperspace routes in this section of the Outer Rim, resulting in devastating ecomic ruin for billions of Republic citizens.
So yes, loads and loads happens and it's hard to take it all in to begin with, but we also get to meet some characters who I feel will become key in this saga, such as Avar Kriss, Bell Zettifar, Loden Greatstorm, Burryaga and Elzar Mann.
After this opening section, the action moves to separate locations, and this is when LotJ starts to deliver. Once the Nihil - and their excellently written leader, Marchion Ro (we'll be seeing and hearing a LOT about this chap...) appear, it becomes a proper page turner. The hierarchy of the Nihil is really interesting - they're a sort of mish mash of pirates, Belters from The Expanse mixed together with a dose of heavy metal and cyberpunk - they're as different from the stealthy, sleuth Sith as it's possible to be. These guys are horrible - but I like them!
The action which unfolds focusses on far fewer characters (almost all of whom we have already met during the Great Disaster in the Hetzel system) during the aftermath and it's all really very interesting, chockablock full of action - it's proper Star Wars, and not some bullshit Merchant Ivory spin off that heavily blighted Queen's Shadow.
Something that happens a lot in LotJ is the clever twists on Staple Star Wars - we see new ways of Force manipulation, the way hyperspace works is also excellent - this isn't just more of the same and crucially, The High Republic isn't weakened by the restraints of novels set in and around the movies - it's shaping up to be a very interesting, exciting instalment of tales set in that galaxy far, far away we all love and it's definitely a saga I'll be following with great interest if it can carry on like this.
Top stuff - get it read.