In addition to it being the title of the first “adult” novel in Lucasfilm Publishing’s ambitious multi-platform initiative Star Wars: The High Republic– released about a year ago at the start of 2021– Light of the Jedi is also the name of its first phase of novels and comic books, which is about to come to an end. But in retrospect, a more appropriate name for it might have been The Humbling of the Jedi, because that may have prepared us a bit more for what was in store for the series’ protagonists.

Star Wars: The High Republic – The Fallen Star (the final adult-targeted book in this initial phase) is being released this week, and I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of the novel for review. I’ve admittedly been pretty excited in anticipation of this story, considering that acclaimed author Claudia Gray (Star Wars: Bloodlines, Star Wars: Master & Apprentice, Star Wars: The High Republic – Into the Dark) is one of my current favorite writers contributing to the ever-expanding narrative tapestry of A Galaxy Far, Far Away.

However, during the first hundred pages of The Fallen Star, I began to worry that the book may follow the same repetitive pattern I nitpicked about in my review for Cavan Scott’s Star Wars: The High Republic – The Rising Storm (the Galactic Republic underestimates the threat of the band of ruthless marauders known as the Nihil, they endure a devastating attack, and the Jedi Order inevitably rushes in to save the day). But as the novel went on, I gradually began to comprehend that this story– and Phase 1 of The High Republic as a whole– is really about making the Jedi realize how woefully unprepared they are, having flourished over centuries of peace, to face any kind of significant threat. It’s a precursor, in a way, to their eventual downfall at the hands of Sith Lord Darth Sidious a couple hundred years later… but for now it’s enough for them to suffer blow after major blow from the devious Nihil and their leader Marchion Ro.

Anyone paying attention to The High Republic’s marketing likely knows what the plot of The Fallen Star centers around, but just in case I’m going to drop a significant SPOILER WARNING here (not for details from the back half of the book, which I wouldn't dare reveal in this write-up, but for the basics of how things kick off). The space station called Starlight Beacon– one of Supreme Chancellor Lina Soh’s so-called “Great Works”– serves as base of operations for the Jedi in the Outer Rim, and a symbol of a galaxy-wide outreach program intended to further bind the Republic and its various worlds and peoples together in unity. Naturally, this makes Starlight Beacon the ideal target for a Nihil attack, which is set into motion by a team of undercover agents early on in this novel (the first key lesson the Jedi need to learn is to seriously beef up their security measures). Then, after a good deal of setup following an almost overwhelming number of different characters– though that count does begin to dwindle as the book goes on– around page 140 the action kicks in and from that point on we get what I would call a rather effective version of The Poseidon Adventure in space.

The Fallen Star focuses on a group of Jedi (namely Stellan Gios, Elzar Mann, Indeera Stokes, Bell Zettifar, Burryaga Agaburry, and the “Wayseeker” named Orla Jareni) along with the crew of the transport ship the Vessel, plus the aforementioned Nihil infiltrators and two other Nihil prisoners who may or may not have sworn off their allegiance to Marchion Ro and his ravagers. Ro himself watches from a distance as his calculated plan unfolds, and the Jedi scramble to protect and save as many lives as possible– with the help of anyone else trapped aboard the station who is willing to lend it. Again, I don’t want to spoil too much about where the story goes from there, but suffice it to say that the “good guys’” fairly arrogant overconfidence is exposed yet again and– hopefully– shattered once and for all.

I think there are faithful High Republic readers who are likely going to have their hearts broken by this book, but it’s a necessary sacrifice for this ongoing initiative to have any even somewhat realistic path going forward– the Jedi have to be brought to their knees by Marchion Ro before they can regain a foothold and start to defend the galaxy in earnest without the hubris that left them open to these repeated attacks at their symbolic cores. And Gray continues to prove herself such a good writer who understands the fundamental elements of what makes Star Wars tick that the 350 pages just fly by in no time, especially after the dominoes begin to tumble. There are a few moments here and there that made me roll my eyes (I find myself increasingly frustrated by the character of Geode– a monolithic being who can apparently move and speak, though never when the reader is made aware of it) but these are few and far between enough that– without any real reservations– I can call The Fallen Star a fitting, thrilling climax to Phase 1 of Star Wars: The High Republic.

Star Wars: The High Republic – The Fallen Star will become available this Tuesday, January 4, wherever books are sold, and is available now for pre-order.