Star Wars: The Rising Storm is the second book in the mainline series of the new High Republic Era of the Star Wars Canon. What does that mean in layman’s terms? This ain’t your parent’s Star Wars! Set during an era roughly 200 years before Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, this is an era of relative peace and prosperity in the galaxy far, far away, as the Republic begins to expand into the Outer Rim. Personally, I think it is an exciting time to be a Star Wars fan, because, as described in the original announcement video for the High Republic, it’s like a “wild west new frontier” with the Jedi being more akin to King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table than the religious generals we saw in the prequels or the mystical hermits we’ve seen in the original and sequel trilogies. And that’s what I adore the most of this new era of Star Wars: the Jedi.
Now I know what you all are probably thinking, “Oh, Jonathan’s favorite part about this Star Wars thing are the Jedi. How original.” And you’re right. The Jedi are quite literally the backbone of the Star Wars franchise, but it’s the way these Jedi are portrayed and introduced in the High Republic. Do you want to see a new unique Jedi who is an amorphous slime that walks around in a space suit? Boom, meet OrbaLin. What about a Wookie Padawan whose Jedi ability is to be the goodest boy? How about a Jedi whose literal nickname is “Buckets of Blood?” The High Republic’s got it. There are so many unique and robust characters to choose from, and while there was a diverse set of Jedi in the prequel era, we rarely got to see that diversity unfold. Most of the time you could replace one Jedi with any other Jedi and the story would still play out the same. In the High Republic, each Jedi is celebrated for their uniqueness and it’s this celebration of uniqueness that the High Republic’s greatest strength is on display: their relationships with each other.“A Jedi is the master of their emotions, never a slave.”
Each Jedi has their own strengths and weaknesses meaning that there is a greater need than ever that they all rely and trust in each other. There’s a comradery amongst these Jedi that I can’t help but feel was lacking in other Star Wars media. While yes there were outliers, Anakin’s and Ashoka’s relationship comes to the forefront, the Jedi relationships of the prequel era were much more strict. They heavily taught against attachment, feelings, and desires. There were rarely any relationships besides that of teacher and pupil. The High Republic Jedi however, though they do follow the same Jedi code, look at life with a little bit more humility.
As Jedi Knight Indeera Stokes tells her Padawan in Rising Storm, “…Jedi can love… We are living creatures rich in the Force, with everything that brings. Joy, affection, and, yes, grief. Experiencing such emotions is part of life. It is light… But while we experience such emotions, we should never let them rule us. A Jedi is the master of their emotions, never a slave.”
These Jedi genuinely care and love one another. They spend time and get to know each other. Be honest, no matter how cool and amazing Mace Windu was, can you imagine him relaxing, spending time with another Jedi, or just plain enjoying himself in general?
There’s one moment towards the end of The Rising Storm that encapsulates what makes me love these High Republic Jedi so much. After a very intense and long battle—and when I say intense and long I mean this battle is like a quarter of the book—two of the main protagonists, Jedi Masters Stellan Gios and Elzar Mann, are talking about the aftermath of the battle. What follows is a beautiful depiction of honesty, friendship, and accountability.
Stellan is unsure about a leadership role he has just received and Elzar is assuring him that he will stand with Stellan no matter what. Stellan thanks Elzar and then responds, “What about you El? What do you need?” After a long pause, Elzar responds “I think I need help.” Elzar opens up and tells Stellan how during the battle he gave in to the dark side for just a moment with devastating results and it terrifies Elzar. Stellan doesn’t even drop a beat before encouraging Elzar. He reminds Elzar that everyone is tested and that the important thing is that he recognized what was happening and asked for help. Stellan then says “You said you were here for me, and that goes both ways. We will get through this, all of it. We’re not alone, not when we have the force and each other.” These are not two members of a religious order talking, this is two brothers, two friends, talking openly and honestly with one another. They trust each other. They have faith in each other.
Now take that scene and juxtapose that to Anakin Skywalker. Anakin, just like Elzar, has had moments that he’s given to the dark side with devastating consequences—need I remind anyone of the Sand People incident? But who does Anakin go to for help? No one. He confides with Padme but he doesn’t trust or confide with any of the ones he should be able to go to first: his fellow Jedi. Anakin even confides in Chancellor Palpatine before going to any Jedi, let alone his teacher Obi-Wan Kenobi.“We’re not alone, not when we have the force and each other.”
While Obi-Wan famously calls Anakin his brother, their relationship has always been a bit lopsided. Obi-Wan cares for Anakin but it almost always comes from a place of pride or superiority. Both in the movies and in the Clone Wars, where we see the most of their character development, Obi-Wan’s response to most of the things Anakin does is with a “When will Anakin grow up” mentality. One can’t help but wonder, if Anakin was able to get the comfort and help he needed, would Darth Vader even exist?
It’s hard not to see the resemblances in our lives. How many times have we seen others, or ourselves, in trouble and with the desire to reach out for help but feel we have no one we can go to? Or maybe we know who we can reach out to, but we’re afraid of possible judgment or condemnation? Being vulnerable is one of the hardest things we can do, but how much more fulfilling is it when we know we have people we can be that close with? Surrounding ourselves with people who will be there for us and also trying to be those people for others is possibly the greatest quest in our lives. It is just so comforting and inspiring to now see that same quest being explored in Star Wars by one of the most iconic of sci-fi space knights, the Jedi.
“Above all, maintain constant love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God.” 1 Peter 4:8-10