Things have been quiet for me on the Star Wars front lately. The Mandalorian wrapped up an incredible second season a few months back, none of the upcoming Disney+ shows are close to release, and Lucasfilm is keeping a tight lid on all details related to any future films. And a little-known indie show about trauma called WandaVision has completely absorbed all of my nerdish attention since January.
All that changed when I picked up Charles Soule’s Light of the Jedi on a whim. I’d heard good things about it from Clave, and its Shadows of the Empire-esque background stoked my curiosity.
I was hooked from the first pages, finishing it in one feverish week of reading on lunch breaks, before bed, and on suspiciously long trips to the bathroom. But the thing that remains after finishing Light of the Jedi is the confident optimism that radiates steadily from its pages.
Light of the Jedi: An Orchestra of the Force
Light of the Jedi’s first one hundred pages are the greatest opening in any Star Wars novel. Ever.
Soule opens with the “Great Disaster,” a mid-hyperspace collision that threatens forty billion lives in the Hetzal system. The desperate race to stop—or at least impede—the impending catastrophe introduces the ingenuity and optimism that are the keystone characteristic of the High Republic’s Jedi Order. And what an Order it is.
The Jedi we meet in Light of the Jedi brim with confidence, creativity, and curiosity.
- Avar Kriss weaves songs out of the Force to boost the connections between Jedi even parsecs away.
- Porter Engle, an old Ikkrukkian with so many full legendary careers in the Order that he’s settled into the role of outpost cook by the time Light of the Jedi begins, was once known as the Blade of Bardotta (you learn why).
- Loden Greatstorm might just have invented the Jedi mind trick and is the gruff teacher everyone needs in their life.
These three are among the dozen or more Soule introduces in the book. From the Wookkie Padawan Burryaga to the Trandoshan Master Sskeer, all are devoted to serving the Force through the Jedi Order. They are the Jedi we thought we were looking at when George Lucas showed us Jedi Council in The Phantom Menace—calm, brimming with power, and fully in control.
We Are All The Republic
I don’t make that comparison to Episode I lightly. Remember the feeling you had the first time you saw it, whether as an adult or a kid, on opening day or at home on DVD? Remember all of the incredible adventures we saw: the Boonta Eve Classic on Tatooine (even 21 years later that name springs unbidden to my fingers as I write this), the Battle of Geonosis, the colossal space battle over Coruscant at the beginning of Revenge of the Sith. Feeling that? That’s what Light of the Jedi feels like.
Part of George Lucas’s genius was his ability to instill the classic Joseph Campbell archetypes spelled out by with relentless optimism. Sometimes questionable execution aside, Lucas took that optimism and gave it actual historical overtones in the prequels.
At their heart, the prequels are like Europe in 1913. War is coming—people know it, they even predict it—and the magnificent pomp of the Galactic Republic disguises the corrupt rot within. The Jedi Order of the prequels is similarly weak, hollowed out by its obsession with rules and myopically squabbling over midi-chlorians as the threat to the galaxy looms.
Charles Soule distills the pure excitement and goodness and adventure that George Lucas patented decades ago and pours it into this book. In the prequels that optimism is misplaced; the Republic will fall, no matter how high Anakin’s midi-chlorians counts are. But all of that is centuries away in Light of the Jedi, and the optimism here is earned.
Supreme Chancellor Lina Soh’s Great Works (enormous building projects) strengthen the Republic’s presence across the galaxy. The Jedi Order and its masters are capable of incredible things that I don’t want to spoil. And when characters conjure the power of the phrase “We are all the Republic,” the optimism is catching. You find yourself wanting its magic to last as long as it can.