Book Review – “Star Wars: The High Republic” Phase II Culminates in New Adult-Targeted Novel “Cataclysm”

Real-life doctor and author Lydia Kang (Opium and Absinthe: A Novel) made her Star Wars debut in 2020’s anthology collection From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back, contributing the memorable short story “Right-Hand Man,” focused on the medial droid 2-1B.

And now Kang is preparing to release her first full-length effort set in A Galaxy Far, Far Away with the second adult-targeted novel in Phase II of Lucasfilm Publishing ambitious multi-platform initiative Star Wars: The High Republic– the aptly titled Cataclysm.

I struggled to get through the previous adult novel in this series, Convergence, so I was a little worried entering into Star Wars: The High Republic – Cataclysm, but quickly found my fears to be unfounded. Pretty early on in this book I figured out that Kang is capable of doing a pretty bang-up job of combining all the loose threads from previous Phase II content (including the aforementioned Cataclysm, the stellar young-adult novel Path of Deceit, Marvel and Dark Horse’s The High Republic comic books, and writer George Mann’s exciting The Battle of Jedha audio drama) to make something wholly her own that also delivers on a particularly satisfying level. Fans of the above-listed content will be thrilled to see a number of returning characters featured here, including several key Jedi Knights and Masters, such as Gella Nattai from Cataclysm. I think readers would likely be disappointed if Gella didn’t have a reunion with ne’er-do-well aristocrat Axel Greylark pretty early on in this novel, and Kang delivers on that promise as well, as Nattai seeks answers from Axel about his involvement with the recent events between the warring planets of Eiram and E’ronoh. We also check in on Republic Chancellors Greylark (Axel’s mom) and Mollo, but things get really interesting when it becomes clear that all paths in this story– and the investigation into what happened on Jedha to interrupt the signing of the peace treaty– lead to the planet Dalna and the Force-worshipping cult known as the Path of the Open Hand.

The Path have been central players in this phase of The High Republic, and we know from family names that their cult eventually evolves into the ruthless band of marauders called the Nihil later on in the timeline. But watching a handful of our protagonist Jedi descend on Dalna to finally interrogate the Path (and its leaders, the Mother and the Herald) for their misdeeds is a masterstroke of tension, simply because what they’re capable of and willing to do has been so well established in previous books. I don’t want to say much more than that in this review, but rest assured that fans may find themselves yelling a lot of “Don’t go in there!” exclamations as they read, almost as though this is the Star Wars equivalent of a survival-horror story– and those who know what the Leveler is will already understand that that comparison is more appropriate than one might think. I think it’s sufficient to say that I enjoyed this novel quite a bit, and it serves as a pretty effective send-off to this prequel-within-a-prequel phase of The High Republic. There’s still more to come from Phase II, of course, in both book and comic form, but Cataclysm is definitely the must-read climactic finale of this arc, and Kang has immediately proven herself a worth addition to Lucasfilm Publishing’s roster of writers contributing to the George Lucas-created saga’s current canon. I hope we get more Star Wars from her soon.

Star Wars: The High Republic – Cataclysm will be released on Tuesday, April 4th, but is available for pre-order right now.

Mike Celestino
Mike serves as Laughing Place's lead Southern California reporter, Editorial Director for Star Wars content, and host of the weekly "Who's the Bossk?" Star Wars podcast. He's been fascinated by Disney theme parks and storytelling in general all his life and resides in Burbank, California with his beloved wife and cats.