The following contains minor (non-plot related) spoilers from the novels Star Wars: The High Republic: Light of the Jedi*_,_ *Star Wars: The High Republic: Into the Dark, and Star Wars: The High Republic: A Test of Courage as well as the comics Star Wars: The High Republic #1 and Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures #1
From the moment that it was first announced that Lucasfilm had been purchased by The Walt Disney Company, we knew that we would be getting more Star Wars. And what became just as clear at the out set was that Disney wanted to start its era of Star Wars by reminding fans of the previous ones. We got a trilogy of movies that, while it introduced new characters, was also sure to bring back all the ones that fans loved. We got spinoff movies, which was new, but both of the Star Wars Story films dealt with characters or events that fans were already familiar with. Star Wars was supposed to take up an entire galaxy, and yet, it was feelingly awfully small.
However, with the launch of The High Republic, Star Wars is finally doing what it probably should have done from the beginning. Telling stories that take place in an entirely different era, hundreds of years before the characters created by George Lucas. This decision has allowed a collection of writers to tell stories that, to be sure, feel as much like Star Wars as anything, but in a way that gives these creative voices a great deal more freedom than they likely would have telling a story set during an existing trilogy.
I've had a chance to read through the novels and comics that will serve as the launch lineup for The High Republic, which consists of Star Wars: The High Republic: Light of the Jedi, by Charles Soule, Star Wars: The High Republic: Into the Dark, by Claudia Grey and Star Wars: The High Republic: A Test of Courage, by Justina Ireland, as well as the comics Star Wars: The High Republic #1, story by Cavan Scott, and Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures #1 story by Daniel Jose Older. After spending some time in The High Republic I think it's exactly what Star Wars needs, here's why.
A New Look At The Jedi Order
If you're not familiar, The High Republic takes place some 200 years before the events of the prequel trilogy, when both the Galactic Republic, and the Jedi, are at the height of their power. Charles Soule's book, Star Wars: The High Republic: Light of the Jedi, is essentially the beginning of the story, though there's no specific need to read it first. The other books and comics I read take place either concurrently or in the immediate aftermath of an event which, on its own, might not seem like one that would impact an entire galaxy, but it is likely the first domino to fall in a series that sends the Jedi into action.
It's difficult to have a Star Wars story without Jedi, and one of the great benefits of The High Republic, is that it can basically have as many as it wants. The stories that we know within Star Wars are about the fall of the Jedi order and the aftermath of that, and thus, there just aren't that many characters available to show us what it means to be a Jedi, The High Republic shows us a Jedi order that is not only larger, but much more varied than what we're used to seeing. While as a group, the order largely seems to resemble what we know of the Jedi, the individuals that make up that order are free to go their own way.
The most interesting new character I came across was in Claudia Grey's Star Wars: The High Republic: Into the Dark, which introduces a Jedi named Orla Jareni. Orla is what's called a Wayseeker. She's a Jedi, and a member of the order, but she's been given permission by the Jedi Council to find her own way in the galaxy. She is not required or expected to follow the orders of the council anymore. The same book introduces other characters who, while they may still believe in what the Jedi stand for in general, may take more issue with some of the specifics.
And this isn't seen as necessarily a bad thing or all that unusual. Nobody is accusing anybody of going to the Dark Side simply because they feel things. This all feels like a breath of fresh air, that will give not only these characters, but all the ones to be created within The High Republic going forward, some freedom to do things we might not otherwise expect of Jedi.
An Interesting, And Diverse, New Enemy
Say what you will about the Galactic Empire, but there were an awful lot of white dudes in that group. The Empire was a powerful force in the galaxy but once you cut out the likes of Darth Vader, they were just a bunch of human soldiers dedicated to the Emperor's goal of total domination. Being a "human first" organization was part of their deal, but it makes the Empire far less interesting to watch or read about in stories that are full of interesting alien species. However, much like the heroes of The High Republic, the villains, the Nihil, also have more nuance and depth.
There's a lot that we don't know about the Nihil in these first books, and a lot I'm simply not going to give away, but the organization is essentially a bunch of pirates. They're not a single race of beings. They're not a bunch of Force-using followers of the Dark Side, which might make them seem like little match for the Jedi, but there are a lot of them, and they're a much more eclectic and diverse organization. Basically anybody you come across could be part of the Nihil, and that means you can't be sure of anything.
The High Republic Has Limitless Potential
But in the end what is so much fun about The High Republic isn't even what is in these first few stories (though what's there is a lot of fun) but the fact that just about anything could be in the next few stories. The High Republic absolutely feels like it's part of the Star Wars universe, but because it's not bound to the existing stories, it has a freedom that the other Star Wars stories we've seen since the Disney purchase just never had.
Each of the different books I read very much stand alone, while also having pieces that connected them to each other. So for those who want to read everything in The High Republic you'll be rewarded by those connections, but if you only pick up the occasional book, you should still be able to enjoy it even if you're not familiar with what's going on in the larger universe. This also means entire books can be written that have nothing to do with the grander parts of the adventure, and just happen to be set in the time period.
So far I have thoroughly enjoyed by time spent in The High Republic and I'm excited to continue the journey. While this era of the franchise is designed to be explored primarily through books and comics, elements of it have already found their way into games, and will be on Disney+ before too long. Whether or not we'll ever see The High Republic in theaters is anybody's guess, but I for one would welcome it. Keep reading CinemaBlend for more information on Star Wars: The High Republic before the first titles launch this January.