Editors Note: For light and life! Welcome to PowerUp!’s rolling coverage of Star Wars: The High Republic, the all-original publishing push from Lucasfilm set two hundred years before the prequel films. Our reviews will assume you’re up to date on the novels at the least but we will endeavour to provide context wherever possible/needed. As for spoilers, you’re in the clear here. While we will talk general plot stuff as it relates to theme and character work, the best surprises are still yours to discover on your own. Finally, a massive thank you to Disney for our early access.
Endings are tricky. As the first phase of the grand Star Wars: The High Republic experiment comes to a close many of its threads, both thematic and plot, have been…accelerated, to say the least. The adult novels saw Star Wars publishing royalty Claudia Gray return to bring Starlight Beacon crashing down in The Fallen Star, an event-movie scale novel that eschewed smaller character work for tragic spectacle with mixed results. Conversely, comics boy wonder Daniel José Older has been brought in to pen the final Young Adult (YA) novel, developing on the characters and threads first introduced by Gray in Into the Dark back in February 2021 and Older’s own critically acclaimed comics run The High Republic Adventures.
Midnight Horizon is, first and foremost, a worthy addition to the grander tapestry that serves as both a satisfying conclusion to phase one and a tantalising tease of phase two’s prequel concept. It draws upon events of The Fallen Star to bolster not only the events of that book but also its own dramatic core, delivering on the interconnected promise of the publishing effort in perhaps the most seamless way yet.
Midnight Horizon Review
Though the “Boys Are Back In Town” cover art suggests otherwise, Midnight Horizon near flawlessly balances several leading character perspectives with relative ease. Jedi Masters Cohmac Vitus and Kantam Sy, along with their respective padawans Reath Silas and good, good boy Ram Jomaram, are dispatched to Corellia after the marauding Nihil make their presence known on the core world. On the iconic industrial shipyards planet, the delegation of Jedi joins forces with Alys “Crash” Ongwa, a plucky young woman who has inherited a security business from her aging mother and a whole host of political and social connections with it.
After one of her team is killed on assignment in the book’s thrilling prologue, Crash enlists the Jedi padawans to help her scour Coronet City for clues while the two masters are dispatched to handle a seemingly violent worker uprising. Older also draws upon his High Republic Adventures plot threads to great thematic effect, flowing events from the comic run into Midnight Horizon that feel organic and informative, even for those unfamiliar with the preceding releases. Still, the core hook of the book is a city embroiled in violent upheaval and the machinations of those looking to take advantage of the inevitable power vacuum.
The singularly focused nature of Older’s Corellia study may not have the twisted thrills of Gray’s Amaxine Station or Ireland’s planet-hopping, but in trading scale for focus, Midnight Horizon hums with layered character work and cutting social commentary. Everyone receives their flowers from Older, each arc propelled by a blend of relatable human angst and heightened Force/Love dramatics. Reath Sylus has been my High Republic baby since his first appearance and watching this bookish boy be somewhat ripped into manhood through a flurry of violence and forged in fire emotional connections is genuinely gutwrenching. Reath’s concluding moments in Midnight Horizon are among the best in the whole series, a cathartic evolution of his character that left me in tears.
Meanwhile, Cohmac’s rapidly worsening relationship with his own conflicts makes for palpable tension between the Master and the Force at large. While I can’t deny that splitting Master and Apprentice up for the majority of the book left me wanting, the character work that Older is able to achieve because of their absence from one another is entirely worth it. Kantam Sy steals the show in many ways here, the perfect counter-balance to Cohmac and fascinating Force study in themselves. Much like Into the Dark, Midnight Horizon features a series of flashbacks to early days for the Jedi, only this time it’s a breathtaking exploration of love and self-actualisation through Sy’s eyes.
Rounding out the Jedi perspectives is the bundle of joy Ram Jomaram, a sheer force of light in the book and owner of its most thrilling action setpiece. Ram and Reath’s relationship is as key to Midnight Horizon as Cohmac and Sy’s – contrasting individuals who propel each other forward and provide a much needed alternative perspective on the world. Midnight Horizon often ruminates on how we can grow as individuals when we allow others to guide the way. One particularly poignant moment likens intense emotions to the wind – tangible and experienced but ultimately flowing over us, not through. It is quintessentially Star Wars.
And while the journey of these young adults into darker times is undoubtedly heavy, Older also managed to make me physically laugh out loud dozens of times throughout. Giving these kids the chance to be boys, perhaps for the last time, feels like a kindness that Older doesn’t waste a moment of. One ongoing gag about how the two padawans react to the presence of a girl is perhaps the most wholesome thing in the entire High Republic.
“What girl?” I hear you grumble in your best Kylo Ren impression. Crash, much like Ram, caught me completely off guard in the best way possible. She is a powerhouse of a character whose relationships and general moment to moment life on Corellia I found engrossing to the last. Crash’s struggles throughout the book are fascinating pockets of grounded drama amid a storm of Force and violence – the desire to connect with others but an unwillingness to be truly known, the pressure of legacy and encroaching political threats swirl around Crash and form a well-realised lead. Her relationship with her best friend and pop star sensation (no seriously) Svi’no Atchapat is another highlight, though the final act did leave me wanting more closure than I got with them.
Though that disappointment only stings so much because of its relative contrast to the rest of the book’s relationships, which all play out in spectacularly satisfying ways. Zeen Mrala and Lula Talisola are orbiting the events of the book in a brutally beautiful way, resulting in the most romantic use of the Force since The Last Jedi. While they are eventually separated so that Zeen can assist the lads on Corellia, their connection lingers throughout and punctuates Older’s thematic work in the book. The events of The Fallen Star unravel simultaneously to Midnight Horizon and Zeen’s connection with Lula, as well as Cohmac’s to Jedi Wayseeker Orla Jareni, make for heartbreaking parallel stories to Gray’s mainline novel.
It may sound too obvious, or too cheesy to say aloud but Midnight Horizon is very much a book about love. I don’t just mean in the romantic sense (though Older has undoubtedly written the horniest Star Wars text to date here) but love in an all-encompassing way. The book grapples with what it means to love others as well as yourself and the conflicting emotions derived from ideologies conflicting with self-interest. It is, in no uncertain terms, an unblushing reinforcement of the power of love Lucas injected into his space fantasy all those years ago. Older makes love feel as ethereal as the Force itself, an integral part of the magic of Star Wars.
Midnight Horizon also just fucking whips. There is palpable danger injected into the usual array of saber and blaster skirmishes; several times I took sharp intakes of breath as my favourites plummeted into another clash. Older’s eye for clear and concise action serves him well here with several extended setpiece moments flowing effortlessly for the reader, perfectly balancing emotional investment with narrative appropriate scale. This isn’t the fate of the galaxy as such but you’ll be nervous to turn the page all the same.
Elsewhere the novel delights in the micro, a flurry of detailed glimpses at a side of Corellia I didn’t know I wanted. Crash’s perspective as an established presence on Han’s iconic homeworld grants us access to side streets bustling with culture, pockets of natural wonder and, most scathingly, a study of political and social power structures. Older’s tonal balance is impressive here as Midnight Horizon is as compelling during a rather goofy paparazzi scandal set in bustling food districts as it is while casting an unflinching eye on the privileged.
A grand masked ball sequence in the middle of the book left my mind racing as it unfolded – not for its action, but for its concise and insightful commentary on wealth and social status. This is Star Wars at its best, utilising the heightened setting of that galaxy far, far away to say something tangible about the very real struggles we face today. Older’s political musings are raw in Midnight Horizon, a clear-eyed rejection of centrism baked into a radically queer story that knows exactly what it wants to say and how to say it loud.
To say any more would be to truly dive into spoiler territory and you deserve the chance to read Midnight Horizon with fresh eyes and an open heart. It is a triumph not only for The High Republic at large but for Older, who has proven himself an invaluable and necessary voice in Star Wars over the past year. Tightly crafted worldbuilding and compelling action meet wonderfully earnest characters in a book that perfectly balances light, life and tragedy. Midnight Horizon brings phase one of The High Republic closed in spectacular fashion and leaves just one certainty for its future – give Daniel José Older an adult novel right now.
Star Wars: The High Republic – Midnight Horizon was reviewed with an advanced review copy provided by the publisher.
For more High Republic, check out our thoughts on the controversy surrounding the recently announced game from Quantic Dream.