Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio (Audiobook – 2 February 2021)
Series: Star Wars – The High Republic
Length: 11 hours and 11 minutes
My Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars
The journey into the new era of Star Wars fiction known as The High Republic continues as acclaimed author Claudia Gray presents the next entry into this sub-series with the young adult novel, Star Wars: Into the Dark.
The High Republic is a fantastic Star Wars multimedia project made up of novels, comics and other pieces of Star Wars expanded universe fiction, set hundreds of years before the events of the films, showing a completely different period of Star Wars history. This project started in January 2021 with the excellent novel, Light of the Jedi, which served as an impressive introduction to the period and the turmoils facing it. Into the Dark, which runs somewhat concurrently with the events of Light of the Jedi, is the first young adult High Republic novel and presents an intriguing new adventure with a great group of new characters. This young adult novel was written by the amazing Claudia Gray, author of the Evernight series, who has been making a real splash with Star Wars fiction in recent years. Not only did she write the awesome-sounding novels Star Wars: Lost Stars, Star Wars: Bloodline and Star Wars: Leia, Princess of Alderaan (all three of which I fully intend to read in the future), but she also wrote the outstanding 2019 novel, Star Wars: Master and Apprentice, which is one of my absolute favourite Star Wars novels of all time. As a result, I was quite keen to see Gray’s take on The High Republic era and she did not disappoint with a captivating and fascinating novel that was a lot of fun to read.
Jedi Padawan Reath Silas is about to have the adventure of his life, whether he wants it or not. Apprenticed to the powerful Jedi Master Jora Malii, Reath is happy with his life on Coruscant where he can pursue his academic and scholarly interests. However, his master has just accepted a dangerous new posting aboard the Starlight Beacon, a gigantic Republic-controlled space station on the frontier of the Outer Rim, far away from everything Reath has ever known.
However, fate has a funny way of changing even the best laid plans. Reath, leaving Coruscant a few weeks after his master’s departure, finds himself caught up in the disaster sweeping through the galaxy. Travelling aboard the unusual spaceship known as the Vessel, Reath and three other Jedi, each of whom have their own reasons for leaving the Jedi Temple and journeying into the wilds, encounter a mysterious disturbance out in hyperspace, as the remnants of the ship know as the Legacy Run, splinter out at lightspeed, destroying everything in their path.
To avoid the high-speed fragments, the Vessel makes an urgent jump out of hyperspace and finds itself trapped in an isolated portion of space with several other ships. Forced to seek shelter in a seemingly abandoned space station, the Jedi and the Vessel’s crew attempt to work with the other ships to find a way to survive until hyperspace can once again be travelled safely. However, great danger lies in wait aboard this station, as the various crews fight for resources and each of the Jedi are forced to fight their own inner demons. But there are things far darker and more ancient aboard this station, and Reath and his colleagues will soon be forced to face off against a deadly foe whose reappearance could change the galaxy forever.
Into the Dark is another epic and enjoyable Star Wars novel from Claudia Gray that takes the reader on a fantastic and exciting character driven adventure. I have been really enjoying the new High Republic pieces of Star Wars fiction and Into the Dark ended up being an awesome and compelling young adult feature that not only contains a great story, but which dives into some fascinating subjects through the eyes of its amazing characters.
Gray has come up with an excellent and enjoyable narrative for Into the Dark which not only ties in nicely with the previous entries in the High Republic line but which also sets several fantastic new characters on a captivating and emotionally trying adventure. The author starts the story off well, introducing all the key characters in quick succession (indeed six main characters get introduced in one extended sequence), providing some hints at their compelling backstories before sending them on their way into space. It does not take long before they get wrapped up in the chaotic events that featured in the previous High Republic novel, Light of the Jedi, forcing them to explore the main setting of the abandoned space station. This naturally leads to a lot of exciting and intriguing events as the characters are forced to survive for a time on the station with the crews of several other ships. During this time, a lot of story threads start to appear, such as mysterious statues, dangers from the other crews, strange writings on the wall that have significance to one key character and a lingering sense of darkness that assaults the Jedi.
At the same time, the author dives into several of the main characters’ motivations and the events of the past that drive them, including through a series of interesting flashbacks that have some curious connections to modern day events. The middle of the novel keeps up the excitement where, after a major event, the characters return home, only to continue to be assailed by the mysteries of the station. There are several good twists at this part of the book, including a significant reveal about a side character that I really should have seen coming. Eventually, all the characters reunite and return, only to get drawn into a dangerous confrontation on the station as gathered forces finally show their hand. All of this results in an explosive and impressive conclusion that leaves some interesting story arcs open for the main characters while also ensuring that the reader gets some satisfying closure about the events of the book. I really enjoyed this great narrative, which is filled with some clever story threads which come together extremely well into a fast-paced and compelling young adult tale that readers will get through extremely quickly.
Into the Dark is an interesting read which I felt had a wide range of appeal to a lot of different audiences. This latest book has been marketed as a young adult novel and teenage Star Wars fans will enjoy it. Not only is this a great Star Wars adventure but the book also features a couple of great teenage characters taking charge and attempting to initiate change, for better or worse, as the universe changes around them. While primarily a Star Wars novel, Gray does try to make it a little more relevant to teenagers, with some discussions about relationships, drugs and sex that you wouldn’t typically see in a Star Wars novel but which fit the tone of the book quite well. Like many Star Wars young adult novels, Into the Dark is a book that older readers will also enjoy, especially as it is tied into the main events of the High Republic era. While I think readers unfamiliar with The High Republic could easily enjoy this book, as Gray makes the text extremely accessible, I would say that Into the Dark is probably best enjoyed by those who have read some of the previous entries in the media project, especially the opening novel Light of the Jedi. Into the Dark has a lot of connections to Light of the Jedi, especially as a major event impacting the main protagonist of this book occurs in this preceding novel, and this latest book ties in well with the rest of the franchise while also enhancing it. In addition, Star Wars fans will really appreciate the author’s attempt to explore deeper elements of the Force, with the Jedi characters engaging in complex rituals to combat the Dark Side energy they encounter. The author does an amazing job examining some of the roots of the Force, as well as the mentality and abilities of the people who manipulate it, and it is a fascinating addition to the narrative. As a result, Into the Dark can be enjoyed by a large range of people who are guaranteed to have a lot of fun with it.
Easily one of the best highlights of this book is the amazing group of new unique characters who Gray has populated this story with. The author has come up with a great group of intriguing point-of-view characters, each of whom plays a major part in the book’s plot and who Gray spends substantial time introducing and providing some compelling development as the book progresses. The main character of Into the Dark is Padawan Reath Silas, the bookish apprentice of a great Jedi Master. Reath is a fantastic young adult fiction protagonist, being a teenager who is thrust into a dangerous adventure against his will and who must find his inner strength to survive and thrive. The author does a great job developing Reath throughout the novel, especially as he experiences substantial loss and trauma that he must overcome and which changes his entire outlook on life. This character also provides some fascinating insight into the experiences and troubles of a Jedi apprentice, especially when they encounter great uncertainty about their path. All of this results in some excellent character moments, and it was a lot of fun to see how Reath developed.
Another major protagonist of this book is Affie Hollow, the young teen co-pilot of the Vessel. Affie is another great young adult character, although, as she is more worldly (or the outer space equivalent of worldly?) than the somewhat sheltered Reath, she has a bit more common sense and a heck of a lot more sass. Affie has a pretty intriguing story arc that sees her investigate the mysterious involvement of her shipping guild, which is run by her adoptive mother, with the space station that the Vessel ends up on. This investigation, and her own stubborn determination, places her in the middle of some dangerous situations, and she ends up having to make some emotional and ethical choices towards the end of the book.
Other major characters in the novel are two of the Jedi who accompany Reath aboard the Vessel, Orla Jareni, a Jedi set on becoming a Wayseeker, a Jedi independent of the Council, and Cohmac Vitus, a noted and hooded scholar, both of whom are leaving for the frontier for different reasons. Orla and Cohmac are an interesting pair who are bound together by a long history and a shared trauma in their past. The events of this novel impact both severely, as it reminds them of the first mission they completed together, which is shown to the reader through a series of intriguing flashbacks. Despite being fully-fledged Jedi, both Orla and Cohmac are filled with doubts about their order and their purpose, although for very different reasons. This makes them quite a fascinating pair to follow, as they admit their problems to each other and attempt to come to terms with what it is to be a Jedi Knight and the difficulties that all of them face. There is also Dez Rydan, a younger Jedi knight who has a close connection to Reath due to them sharing the same master. Dez is a hotshot, adventure-driven Jedi who, while fun to follow, does not get as much focus as the others, mainly due to the events of the book. However, he goes through a substantial amount of trauma, which results in some intriguing sequences, and I quite enjoyed seeing his story progress.
While the above group of characters are all interesting and well developed, I have to say that my favourite two characters have the be the hilarious and comedic team of Leox Gyasi and Geode, the other two crewmembers of the Vessel. Leox, the captain of the Vessel, is a space hippy, down to the outfit, speech pattern and mentality. Described by the author as essentially being 1990s Matthew McConaughey in a spaceship, Leox has a lot of fun as he breezes through the events of Into the Dark with ease, passing out words of wisdom and advice, and generally being a nice and entertaining presence throughout the story. While mainly the book’s comic relief (a role he fills perfectly), Leox does have a serious side, especially when it comes to protecting his young compatriot, Affie. I also liked that the author portrays Leox as asexual, which think is great for the wider Star Wars universe, and I felt Gray introduced and handled it extremely well. The other great character was the Vessel’s navigator, Geode. As you may be able to guess from the name, Geode is in fact a large sentient alien rock who can apparently communicate and walk around. If you had asked me before reading Into the Dark whether I would enjoy a character who is a mute rock, I probably would have had some issues with it, but Gray makes it work extremely well and I absolutely loved the inclusion of this character. Since Geode does not speak out loud through the entire novel, the reader is a little uncertain whether Geode is actually alive or whether this is some elaborate joke from the characters aboard the Vessel. Watching Affie and Leox apparently have detailed conversations with him, determine his emotional state just by looking at him, and suggesting that the character has a wild and outgoing personality is pretty hilarious, and I ended up really liking this fantastic character, who was a real solid (snigger) addition to the cast.
Considering that the last Star Wars novel of Gray’s that I read ended up being one of the best audiobooks I read in 2019, it should come as no surprise that I chose to listen to Into the Dark’s audiobook. Like pretty much every other Star Wars audiobook I have previously listened to, Into the Dark was pretty awesome in this format, thanks to the use of sound effects and music from the films and animated shows. The Star Wars sound effects (which include the iconic sounds of blasters, lightsabers, star ships and so much more) add so much cool ambience to the narrative and the amazing music increases the emotional impact of a ton of awesome scenes, even though it was used a little more subtlety with this book. I also quite enjoyed the narration of Dan Bittner, an experienced narrator whose work I have not previously had the pleasure of enjoying. Bittner does an impressive job with Into the Dark, as he was able to move the story along at a swift pace while easily keeping the listener’s attention with his narration. I particularly liked the cool voices that he came up with for the various characters featured in this novel, and he was able to produce distinctive voices that fit the characters really well. I also loved the “hippie” voice that he came up with for Leox, and the good-natured, ethereal tone really stood out for me and made me laugh. With a run time of 11 hours, this is not a very long Star Wars audiobook, and listeners should be able to power through it in short order while having a good time. Overall, this was an impressive production, and audiobook remains my favourite way to check out a Star Wars novel.
Star Wars: Into the Dark is an outstanding and compelling young adult tie in novel that takes the reader on another amazing adventure in the Star Wars universe during the High Republic era. The always awesome Claudia Gray has come up with a fantastic and captivating tale, anchored around several entertaining and wonderfully complex characters. The result is an excellent Star Wars novel that will have a wide amount of appeal and is really worth checking out.