Being a Star Wars fan in the UK can have its ups and downs… on the plus side, we tend to get the films earlier in cinemas (by a day). On the down side, we always have to wait longer for the Middle Grade and Young Adult novels to get released, and never as eBooks or Audiobooks.
That was the case with ‘A Test of Courage’, and I’m not going to lie, the wait was killing me. After Charles Soule’s masterpiece ‘Light of the Jedi’ and two amazing issues of ‘The High Republic’ comics, I was chomping at the bit to read this, especially as it was almost a month and a half since it got released.
Justina Ireland’s first entry into ‘The High Republic’ was worth the wait. Having already read the first three chapters (though not the prologue) I had already met four of the five main characters, Vernestra Rwoh, Avon Starros and her Droid Companion, J-6 and Honesty Weft but soon after that we meet our fifth protagonist, Imri Cantaros, a Jedi Padawan. The five of them are the only survivors of the Nihil sabotage of the Steady Wing, a luxury cruiser, the destination, The Starlight Beacon, just in time for the dedication ceremony.
Of course, the ship is sabotaged and the survivors land on a nearby moon called Wevo, where the ecosystem is nothing short of deadly with storms of acid rain and strange plant life that regrows itself every day.
The five heroes must survive and learn to overcome their feelings, with Imri and Honesty mourning the losses of their Master and Father respectively. But when The Nihil responsible for the attack show up, the two of them seek revenge but are stopped when they are captured and subsequently saved by Vernestra and Avon. With the Pirates captured, Vernestra must save Imri from himself as his anger at the loss of his Master starts to lead him towards the Dark Side. And to add to the already brilliant story, a surprise cameo from the fan-favourite Trandoshan Jedi Master Sskeer just makes a great book perfect.
Set during the events of ‘Light of the Jedi’, the Galaxy is still reeling from the Nihil attack on the Legacy’s Run which cements this story at a specific time and gives us an idea on how much time passes during Soule’s novel.
The characters we meet are a motley crew, Vernestra is a newly knighted Jedi and one of the youngest Jedi Knights in history. She’s proud of her achievements but still very unsure as to what she should be doing. She’s well connected to the Force and able to keep the unruly Avon in check.
Thanks to Vernestra, we get to see the introduction of the lightwhip into the Canon, having been previously utilised in the ‘Legends’ timeline. She was able to modify her lightsaber after having a vision in her sleep and spent the rest of the night working on the weapon and it comes in handy.
Avon Starros (an ancestor of Sana Starros) is somewhat of a wild child. A child genius, she’s always trying to learn as much as possible and usually trying to find a way to cause chaos in the process, even going as far as reprogramming J-6, her babysitter/bodyguard Droid, who at the start of the book could give C-3PO a run for his money in being prissy, but thanks to Avon’s shenanigans begins to act more like K-2SO.
Honesty Weft, the son of the Dalnan Ambassador who was travelling to the Starlight Beacon to meet with the Chancellor to discuss the possibilities of Dalna joining The Republic. He is angry at missing out on a rite of passage that his peers would be undertaking And is prone to arguing with his father. After the destruction of the Steady Wing and the death of his father, Honesty becomes angry and racked with guilt because his final interaction with his father had been another argument. As the days pass, his temper begins to wane thanks to Avon and Vernestra. However, once they discover The Nihil on Wevo, he wishes to take action and capture them. It’s at this point when Imri draws Honesty in and feeds off of the boy’s anger and the two of them go to confront the Pirates. During his capture he comes to realise that combat wasn’t the best option and instead asks Avon if it’s possible for Avon’s mother, a Senator, to get Honesty the chance to speak before the Council and plead a case for them to hunt down The Nihil.
Imri is the Padawan of Jedi Master Douglas Sunvale who is also on the Steady Wing when it’s destroyed. Imri is devastated by the loss of his Master, whom he refers to as his Father when thinking a bout him. Over the course of the book he lets the anger and rage fill his emotions until they boil over and he attempts to get revenge against the two Nihil on Wevo. However, after he is captured and then rescued he ends up battling Vernestra before coming to his senses. Back on Starlight Beacon, he believes that he will be punished but learns that if every Jedi was punished and expelled from the Order for one time losing control of their emotions then there wouldn’t be a Jedi Order left.
What’s amazing is that this book deals with the concept of death and how people deal with the loss of loved ones through Imri and Honesty, whilst it also tackles how people deal with those coping with loss through Vernestra and Avon, luckily it’s done in a way that doesn’t feel like a lesson but it comes across subtly. I think this is the first Star Wars book I have read that has been somewhat a morality tale, much like how Lucas planned the films to be.
‘A Test of Courage’ is not only an excellent continuation of ‘The High Republic’ but a fantastic Star Wars story, Justina Ireland’ first entry into the series deserves its place on the New York Times Bestseller list and I am very much looking forward to her next entries to the series, the Manga, ‘The Edge of Balance’ and the YA novel ‘Out of the Shadows’, which will feature Vernestra, Imri and Avon in an all new adventure. Can’t wait.
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