Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio (Audiobook – 6 July 2021)
Series: Star Wars – The High Republic
Length: 15 hours and 32 minutes
My Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars
Prepare to dive back down into one of the most unique parts of the current Star Wars canon, as bestselling author Cavan Scott presents the next exciting adventure in The High Republic era, The Rising Storm.
The High Republic is a massive collaborative multimedia Star Wars project that started earlier this year and which represents a new area of focus for the Star Wars franchise. Set in the Golden Age of the Republic, hundreds of years before the events of the Skywalker Saga, The High Republic currently contains several amazing pieces of tie-in fiction, with unique tales making up an overarching storyline. I have so far read two entries in this series, the introductory novel Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule and the great young adult book Into the Dark by Claudia Gray. The next major entry in this series is the fantastic and exciting The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott, which continues several storylines from Light of the Jedi. Scott, who previously wrote the fantastic Dooku: Jedi Lost audio drama, has come up with a fascinating and compelling novel that I really enjoyed.
Two hundred years before the events of The Phantom Menace, the Republic was at its zenith, with the Jedi leading the expansion outwards to the Outer Rim. However, following the Great Hyperspace Disaster, the Republic’s safety and security looks uncertain. Even after the creation of Starlight Beacon, the Outer Rim is still a dangerous place, especially with the machinations of the notorious pirate group, the Nihil, as well as the spreading attacks from the plant monsters known as Drengir.
Determined to show that the Republic and the principles that govern it are still strong, Chancellor Lina Soh has organised the Republic Fair on the planet of Valo. The fair will bring together cultural displays, new technology, Jedi artifacts and other wonders of the galaxy in a massive celebration to demonstrate the possibilities that an expanding Republic will have on the entire galaxy. Attended by high-ranking Republic dignitaries, visiting diplomats, celebrities, leading scientists and prominent Jedi, all eyes in the galaxy will be on the fair and its participants. However, some of these watching eyes have far more hostile intent and are determined to see the Republic Fair fail at all costs.
The most dangerous of these is Marchion Ro, the mysterious and unpredictable Eye of the Nihil. Under his leadership, the Nihil have achieved much infamy and caused inordinate destruction throughout the Outer Rim, and Ro is determined to keep the Republic and the hated Jedi out of his territory. As the fair begins, Ro orders a devastating attack that will shake the very galaxy to its core. As Jedi such as Stellan Gios, Bell Zettifar and Elzar Mann attempt to hold back to the tide of evil descending on Valo, they are about to discover that there is something far more dangerous afoot in the galaxy. Marchion Ro has uncovered an ancient evil and the entire galaxy, and every Jedi in it, is about to fear his wrath.
Now this was an awesome book, and one that is really starting to make me fall in love with The High Republic. Scott has produced an intense and powerful story that continues to develop some of the best The High Republic characters, while also advancing some great storylines established in the previous novels and comics. I had a wonderful time getting through this book, and this may be one of my favourite The High Republic novels so far.
This book has an awesome and captivating narrative to it. Set about a year after the events of the first High Republic novel, The Rising Storm quickly introduces several intriguing storylines that each follow a different key character. This includes a great storyline surrounding Elzar Mann as he attempts to decipher a warning given to him by the Force, as well as the tale of the conflicted and distracted Jedi apprentice Bell Zettifar. There is also great storyline that follows a new character, mercenary Force user Ty Yorrick, as she takes on a new contract, and several storylines that follow key characters in the Nihil. All these initially separated storylines are quite fun and do a good job setting up the various main characters, as well as establishing the current relevant events occurring in the galaxy. While these individual storylines are quite fun and feature a mixture of intriguing characters, they swiftly come together into one combined narrative, when all the participants arrive at Valo for the Republic Fair. Based on the book’s synopsis and the initial planning by the Nihil, you know that the fair is going to be attacked in some way, and Scott makes sure to ramp up anticipation for the upcoming carnage, showing multiple scenes that could lead into it. However, even after all that, I was still not quite prepared for how amazing the main part of the novel turned out to be.
The eventual raid on the fair ended up lasting for quite a substantial part of the novel, as a coordinated attack separates the key characters. With communications down and chaos reigning all around them, the protagonists are on their own, with each of their separate storylines focusing on their own encounters with the Nihil. The entire raid is utter bedlam and proves to be a hotbed of action, intense moments, and dangerous character development. I was honestly surprised at how dark parts of this book got, and readers are guaranteed a thrilling experience as there are several outstanding and intense action sequences. Each of the main characters is effectively highlighted during this period, and readers will quickly become engrossed in their storylines and their attempts to navigate the dangers they encountered. The entire raid sequence comes to an end with a decent part of the novel still left, which I initially thought was a bit of a mistake, as Scott could have ended the novel perfectly in the attack’s aftermath. Instead, he constructed an incredible final sequence that really tied the entire narrative together, resulting in a memorable conclusion that sets up the next wave of novels perfectly. While I did feel the story could have used a little bit of trimming, this was an overall excellent narrative, which I think was stronger than the preceding Light of the Jedi, mainly because it did not require the universe setup that Soule was required to chuck in.
While I deeply enjoyed The Rising Storm’s addictive story, this novel is a bit of a niche read and is mostly going to appeal to established fans of the franchise. The Star Wars extended universe is an interesting and enjoyable place to explore, but it can be easy to get a little lost while checking out these books. This is especially true with the new High Republic range, which takes the reader to a fictional period that has not been introduced to a wider universe either in a film or television series. Due to its position as a second wave High Republic novel, you really need to check out some of the earlier works in the series before you try this one out, especially Light of the Jedi, which sets up most of the storylines and characters featured in this novel. It is also important to add that this novel ties into several of the other High Republic comics and novels. Events from these books and comics are referenced throughout The Rising Storm as Scott’s key characters interact with the protagonists of these other works, such as the junior novel, Race to Crashpoint Tower. Knowledge of some of these contemporaneous pieces of fiction is not 100 per cent necessary, although several plot points and references become a lot clearance once you recognise the connection. While Scott did do his best to make story accessible to new readers, I think that most High Republic newcomers would be better served reading Light of the Jedi first, which will make it so much easier to enjoy this awesome novel.
One of the more difficult things about reading a High Republic novel is the lack of any recognisable characters from the Star Wars films or television shows, as the only character from them alive at this point is Yoda (who keeps disappearing). However, I found myself getting really invested in the complex and intriguing characters featured in The Rising Storm, as Scott makes use of both original characters and characters introduced in previous pieces of High Republic fiction. This novel focuses on a huge selection of supporting characters, each of whom have their own adventures and stories. One of my favourites was damaged Jedi Elzar Mann. Mann is a troubled being who spends most of this novel haunted by both a dark vision from the Force and his unrequited and forbidden love to his friend and fellow Jedi Avar Kriss. Because of this, Mann spends most of the novel walking the very edge of the Jedi code, breaking nearly every rule he can, including that major one about not falling in love or having a physical relationship with someone. This sets him on a knife’s edge, and when the Nihil come, he is pushed dangerously close to the Dark Side (which mirrors Anakin’s fall in several ways) with some spectacular results. This portrayal of Mann is one of the most compelling and exciting in the entire novel, and I appreciated the inclusion of a rogue Jedi. Another complex Jedi character that I enjoyed was apprentice Bell Zettifar, who was a major point-of-view character in Light of the Jedi. Bell is still reeling from the events of the first book where his master was apparently killed by the Nihil. Because of this and other traumatic events, Bell spends much of the novel doubting the Force and his place in it. I found myself really drawn to this character, and I appreciated the tough journey he was going on. Unfortunately, it looks like Bell is going to go into some very dark places in the future, which should make for some excellent and moving storylines.
Aside from Mann and Bell, another great character I liked was Stellan Gios, a Jedi recently elevated to the Jedi Council. Stellan, who had a minor role in previous pieces of High Republic fiction gets a lot more focus in this novel and proves to be a fantastic point of view character. He is another complex figure, especially as he also has doubts and regrets, despite his position as a Council member. I saw Stellan as the Obi-Wan Kenobi of the High Republic (partially because of the voice used by the audiobook narrator) and I liked his mostly calm demeanour, unrelenting friendship with the wilder Elzar Mann and the way he acts as straight man to several unusual Jedi characters. Stellan goes through a lot in The Rising Storm, and it was fantastic to see him continuously overcoming adversity as he becomes more use to his place on the Council. I also deeply enjoyed the character of Ty Yorrick, who was probably the best original character in this novel. Ty is a former Jedi apprentice turned rogue mercenary who uses her Force abilities and spiked purple lightsaber to hunt monsters. Despite her aversion for getting mixed up with the Jedi, Ty finds herself at the Republic Fair and must contend with both Jedi and Nihil. While Ty was not the most developed character in this novel, I really liked her unique style and the fantastic mentor-student bond she eventually forms with Elzar Mann. She has a lot of potential as a character, and I can see her becoming a major figure in the High Republic novels.
Some of the final characters I need to mention include Rhil Dairo, a spunky reporter who finds herself in the middle of all the key events of the book, recording with her cam droid. Rhil is a fantastic and fun reporter character, much in the vein of Lois Lane, who can kick ass and get the scoop at the same time. I also loved the scenes that featured Orbalin, a Jedi archivist and history buff. Despite his more academic inclinations, Orbalin is quite a fun character who proves to be a real badass, especially as he manages to hold off several Nihil characters, including the lethal Lourna Dee, while giving a history lesson. Finally, it was also great to see more of Wookie Jedi Burryaga, the cuddliest and nicest Jedi of all time, who everyone loves and who the reader feels inordinately protective of. All these protagonists and more add so much to The Rising Storm’s narrative, and it was absolutely great to see all of their storylines unfold.
I am also deeply enjoying the villains of The High Republic, the Nihil. The Nihil are a collection of murderous and self-centred pirates, who use their unique technology and tactics to bedevil the Republic and the Jedi. With their own unique look and style, which is a mixture of spacefaring Vikings and Mad Max villains, the Nihil are a pretty fun group of characters to follow. After a very strong introduction in Light of the Jedi, they have another amazing showing in The Rising Storm, achieving some major acts of destruction. Thanks to their weird weapons, violent attitude and being constantly high on a cocktail of drugs and stimulants, the Nihil prove to be pretty dangerous opponents, even to the Jedi. This makes for some very unique fight sequences, and it was fascinating to see the Jedi overwhelmed by these criminals. At the same time, there is also an intriguing focus on the leadership of the Nihil, as the top commanders, the Tempest Runners, fight for dominance against each other and Marchion Ro. Ro is proving to be a particularly intense and fascinating villain and Scott really builds on the character in this novel, showing more of his flaws, his motivations and his abilities to deceive and destroy. There are several amazing storylines following Ro throughout this novel, including one where he obtains a mysterious evil item from the past. The eventual partial reveal of this plot device results in The Rising Storm’s memorable conclusion and the High Republic creative team clearly has some fantastic plans for Ro in the future and they are turning him into one of the more complex and dastardly villains in the entire Star Wars canon.
As is becoming my recurring habit, I ended up listening to an audiobook version of this Star Wars novel. This of course was a wonderful experience, as the team behind these books ensured that this latest Star Wars audiobook was the usual audio treat that I have come to love. Featuring a decent run time of just over 15 and a half hours, The Rising Storm audiobook was an exceptional listen that I managed to power through in just over a week and which proved to be an exceptional way to enjoy this Star Wars adventure. The entire narrative of The Rising Storm is enhanced and supported by a range of awesome and iconic Star Wars sound effects and music, which are intended to draw the listener into the story. Both the sound effects and music are used to incredible effect throughout, and I think that they both added so much to my overall enjoyment of The Rising Storm. The sound effects do a remarkable job presenting the ambient noise of every single scene, with crowd noises, the hum of a lightsaber, the engine noises of a ship or the sounds of blaster fire, constantly played in the background. I was particularly impressed by the chaotic sound effects used during the Nihil attack on the fair, as you are treated to background noises of terror and destruction for several hours, which helps to highlight just how devastating the entire affair is. In addition, the always impressive John Williams musical score is so much fun to hear, and it was put to particular good use in several significant scenes to enhance dramatic impacts. I was extremely moved when I heard some of this music, as it either pumped me up during key action scenes (Duel of the Fates always gets me hyped), or to be deeply saddened when the more tragic musical cords struck up.
In addition to the exceptional use of sound effects and music, I also was deeply impressed with the incredible voice work featured in this audiobook. Leading Star Wars narrator Marc Thompson once again lends his voice to this audiobook, continuing the work that he did in the Light of the Jedi. Thompson has previously narrated some of my favourite Star Wars audiobooks, including Thrawn, Chaos Rising, Greater Good, Scoundrels, Dark Disciple, and the Doctor Aphra audio drama. I also really enjoyed the awesome work he did in The Rising Storm, as Thompson not only revises the many voices that he introduced in Light of the Jedi but also adds in several new ones for the new characters. I felt that various voices that Thompson did fit each of the characters extremely well, and he was able to perfectly personify their personality and written nature using a variety of fun accents. I also found that Thompson was able to highlight the various emotions that the characters were feeling, giving the listeners a great sense of what they were feeling through his tone. It was also cool to hear the combination of sound effect and Thompson’s voice when it comes to several alien characters featured within the audiobook, especially those whose voices were altered by technology. All this outstanding voice work, combined with the awesome sound effects and music, helps to turn The Rising Storm into an absolutely incredible and addictive audiobook, and this is easily the best way to enjoy this fantastic Star Wars book.
The High Republic continues to expand as the amazing Cavan Scott adds his own unique spin on events with the exciting and memorable Star Wars: The Rising Storm. This latest addition in the intriguing High Republic range does a fantastic job introducing the next stage of this unique Star Wars time period, complete with a devastating event, some major changes and some outstanding new characters. I had an incredible time reading this great novel, and The Rising Storm is a must read for all fans of the Star Wars franchise, especially in its audiobook format. If you have not gotten into the High Republic yet, you are missing out, and I cannot wait to see what happens next. I will also have to make sure to grab a copy of Cavan Scott’s next Star Wars audio drama, Tempest Runner, a High Republic entry which is set for release in a couple of months and which will tell the tale of one of the more intriguing Nihil characters, Lourna Dee.