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Star Wars: The Rising Storm tells gripping tale, despite too many characters

Cavan Scott's epic High Republic novel sends its Jedi and pirate villains on a fascinating journey, but it can occasionally be hard to remember who's who.

Sean Keane Former Senior Writer
Sean knows far too much about Marvel, DC and Star Wars, and poured this knowledge into recaps and explainers on CNET. He also worked on breaking news, with a passion for tech, video game and culture.
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Sean Keane
3 min read
Star Wars: The Rising Storm

Ty Yorrick, Stellan Gios and Bell Zettifar face off against the Nihil in Star Wars: The Rising Storm, the second adult novel in The High Republic series.

Penguin Random House

Ever since Charles Soule's excellent novel Star Wars: Light of the Jedi kicked off epic new saga The High Republic last December, I'd been unsure exactly where the main story would take place. The Jedi-centric stories take place across a range of books and comics, so any of them could've conceivably picked up the plot threads Soule left dangling.

Turns out Cavan Scott's The Rising Storm is where it's at. His engaging novel, which came out Tuesday, is a direct sequel to Light of the Jedi -- it follows the Force-wielding heroes and scary space pirates the Nihil more than two centuries before The Phantom Menace.

In this era, the Galactic Republic is expanding into the frontier regions of the Outer Rim and the ambitious Chancellor Lina Soh is celebrating by holding a Republic Fair to highlight all the new possibilities it brings. With Jedi attending as ambassadors, Soh promises it'll be a safe, fun time for all citizens. However, Nihil boss Marchion Ro has a dastardly plan to prove her wrong.

The first half of the novel's 427 pages establish the Fair and its cast of Jedi and other Republic types, with occasional jumps to Ro and his Nihil goons. Scott effortlessly infuses each character with plenty of nuance in their early appearances, giving you a nice grounding for the rest of the story.

All of the Jedi feel flawed and human, so they're relatable and memorable. We also spend time with ex-Jedi apprentice Ty Yorrick, who left the Order to become a mercenary. She's a fascinating character, feeling much like a Star Wars version of The Witcher's Geralt of Rivia and tying in subtly to Scott's 2019 audiobook Dooku: Jedi Lost.

Beyond the Force-wielders, Scott introduces a large cast of politicians and others at the Fair. Aside from the charismatic (and seemingly benevolent) Chancellor Soh, these are the novel's weakest characters -- we don't spend enough time with them, so they feel flat compared to the complex Jedi and it can be confusing when we jump to one of their perspectives.

Star Wars: The Rising Storm alternate cover

Stellan holds back the Nihil hordes on the Out of Print special edition cover.

Penguin Random House

By contrast, the Nihil are utterly intriguing due the dynamic between Marchion Ro and his lieutenants. As Ro works toward his own secret agenda, they're constantly plotting against each other -- like a less refined version of the Sith -- and it creates a delicious sense of danger in all their scenes. All the baddies feel developed and distinct too, so you won't feel disoriented when hopping between them.

It builds to an ambitious attack on the Fair, which takes up much of the latter half of the story. It's near-constant action, and Scott's spectacular writing makes all the peril feel suitably captivating and cinematic. There's a sense that anyone could die at any moment as the Nihil massacre Republic citizens and ruin the Jedi's image as protectors. The author wisely resists killing off characters for shock value; the Jedi remain believably effective in the face of overwhelming odds.

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Through all this, Scott hints at Ro's grander plans and gives us a taste of upcoming High Republic stories (which will be divided into three phases over the coming years). He also deftly alludes to cool stories happening elsewhere -- Daniel Jose Older's junior novel Race to Crashpoint Tower also comes out Tuesday and Justina Ireland's young adult book Out of the Shadows lands July 27 -- but never at the expense of his own narrative.

Despite a handful of underdeveloped characters, The Rising Storm evolves into a gripping thrill-ride that'll make you love its Jedi heroes, fascinated with its despicable villains and leave you emotionally exhausted in the best way possible.