The time to explore The High Republic era in Star Wars is here! Today, two of the stories within the Star Wars: The High Republic publishing campaign are available for all fans — one being Star Wars: The High Republic: A Test of Courage — which takes readers on an exciting yet emotionally-fueled adventure.
This canon middle-grade (targeting children 8-12 years old) novel follows a group of kids, all from different backgrounds, as they escape a sabotaged cruiser and land on an unknown moon. The High Republic stories are set hundreds of years before Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, which kick-starts the events of the Skywalker Saga. Written by Justina Ireland, the language and navigation of Star Wars lore within this book is easy to understand, making it the perfect book for the young Star Wars fan in your life. While this story is aimed for younger kids, the story can capture the heart of anyone no matter their age. Trust me, it’s definitely hard to put down once you’ve started.
Warning: There are spoilers beyond this point.
The twenty-three chapter story takes readers on a surprisingly high-stakes adventure with children (around the same age as the intended audience) at the forefront.
A Test of Courage begins with tragedy that brings together the main characters — Vernestra “Vern” Rwoh, a very young and recently knighted Jedi; a slightly younger Padawan learner, Imri; Avon Starros, the daughter of a senator who has a nack of inventing and learning; and Honesty Weft, the son of a Dalnan diplomat. They are all brought together on the Steady Wing — a luxury liner meant to take them to a dedication ceremony for the Republic’s new Outer Rim space station — the Starlight Beacon. However, two members of the Nihil — a group of anarchistic marauders — sabotage the ship by planting explosives. No one survives the destruction except for the young group.
This is when we really get to learn about each character. The children are left stranded alone with no guidance on an unfamiliar moon that has acid rain and is mostly filled with uncharted forests. The chapters alternate between the point-of-view of the different characters, which ultimately gives more depth to the story. We learn about Vern and how humble she is. She doesn’t see herself as anyone special even though she is one of the youngest Padawans to pass her Jedi trials. We see Imri deal with the grief of losing his master in the explosion and navigate through intruding insecure thoughts. We see Honesty’s struggle to feel useful in this unfamiliar place, while grieving and honoring his late father. And we learn about Avon’s past and why she was sent away from her mother. The mix of Force users, non-Force users, and droids within A Test of Courage makes for a refreshing take on Star Wars tales. Especially through Avon, the reader gets the rare perspective of a non-Force user’s curiosity and, quite frankly, confusion as to how the Jedi and the Force work.
While shorter than other novels due to its younger targeted audience, A Test of Courage really allows the reader to understand each character’s past and how that affects them now, which is greatly appreciated. Star Wars fans are known to want to know as much as they can about characters within this universe, and this book allows them to learn about the characters and feel what they feel in a short amount of time. It’s encouraging to see a book that really dives into the whys and how comes of the decisions each character makes.
Things really pick up within the story after the group finds out that the Nihil followed them onto the moon they sought refuge on. When they learn that the explosion was intentional and no one was meant to survive, this causes unique internal conflict for each of the characters. For example, Honesty and Imri are filled with rage. They believe in order to give justice to the ones they lost, they need to seek revenge and kill those responsible. This leads Imri on a path toward the dark side. This moment within the story is truly fascinating, because not only do we see conflict between the Nihil and the group, we see conflict between the young characters as well. The reader is taken into the mind of Imri as he embraces these negative emotions, which you don’t get to see often. While it shouldn’t have been surprising to see the character give into dark side thoughts, due to the hints throughout the book — including a reference to the Nightsisters when Vern shows Imri her modified once lightsaber, now lightwhip — the writing is so compelling that the reader’s authentic reaction would be that of shock.
In an intense fight with Vern as she tries to stop Imri, he goes as far as saying he’d kill her if she got in the way. This moment proves how influential the dark side can be, no matter who is tip-toeing the line between good and bad. However, following his defeat, Imri soon realizes that he let his rage and grief control him, bringing him back to the light. The relationship between Vern and Imri throughout A Test of Courage is so intriguing and seeing them go head-to-head is definitely satisfying. I do wish, however, this conflict between the two lasted a bit longer.
Thankfully, the book ends on a happy note. The children make it to the Starlight Beacon, and Vern vows to help Imri and work with him to become the best Jedi he can be as his new master. While short, the ending leaves the reader wanting to pick up the other stories within the multi-media campaign due to the hints of a larger story that will be explored within this era. However, The High Republic: A Test of Courage can be read and enjoyed on its own as well.
I highly recommend picking up this book, whether its for a younger loved one or yourself. Overall, Star Wars: The High Republic: A Test of Courage brings a new and refreshing adventure in the Star Wars universe, and the more in-depth look at characterization and character growth make the story even more impactful for the reader. Plus, it’s an easy read that you can get through pretty quickly, which is a bonus in this fast-paced world we’re living in today.
Star Wars: The High Republic: A Test of Courage is available now. You can buy it wherever books are sold as well as Amazon. Star Wars: The High Republic: Light of the Jedi is also available for purchase.
The next book in The High Republic publishing campaign, Into The Dark, will be available on February 2. You can pre-order it here. Stay tuned for a review on that as well!