This year, Lucasfilm will take on one of its most ambitious publishing initiatives since the iconic Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire event in 1996. The High Republic introduces an entirely new era of the galaxy far, far away; beginning in 300 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin), the High Republic is an enlightened age when the Jedi are strong and the Senate reigns. Set two centuries before The Phantom Menace, this is an unprecedented look at the age before the Jedi fell and the Empire rose.

Crafted by five of our favorite Star Wars authors, the marquee event will span multiple novels, comics, and young readers titles. To celebrate the dawning of The High Republic, we sat down with authors Charles Soule, Cavan Scott, Daniel José Older, Justina Ireland, and Claudia Gray to get to know the heroes (and villains) who will be inhabiting this new age.

Marchion Ro, The High Republic: The Light of the Jedi

Disney, Del Rey

Charles Soule kicks off the event with the stunning establishing novel The High Republic: The Light of the Jedi.

“When a shocking catastrophe in hyperspace tears a ship to pieces, the flurry of shrapnel emerging from the disaster threatens an entire system. No sooner does the call for help go out than the Jedi race to the scene. The scope of the emergence, however, is enough to push even Jedi to their limit. As the sky breaks open and destruction rains down upon the peaceful alliance they helped to build, the Jedi must trust in the Force to see them through a day in which a single mistake could cost billions of lives.”

The sparkling ensemble piece aims to introduce readers to the era. But Soule gave us an in on the character he believes drives the narrative. “If there’s a through line character in Light of the Jedi, it’s actually the villain,” Soule explained. “Marchion Ro, the Eye of the Nihil. The Nihil are the main antagonists of the book, and certainly a large part of the storytelling we’re doing. They’re a kind of anarchic space Viking Marauder group that has some very unique capabilities, built on hyperspace and other things they can do.”

Although “the organization of the Nihil is pretty loose,” Soule told Nerdist that “Marchion is sort of a high priest figure who gives them the thing that makes them special, which is the ability to access hyperspace in a way that no one else in the galaxy can, which makes them a very dangerous set of antagonists.”

The author explained that this character “goes on a journey through the book that takes the Nihil to a very different place at the end than where they were at the beginning. That journey and the reasons he undertakes it will have a huge ripple effect on all of the other storytelling we’re doing. It’s those choices that I think make him and the Nihil antagonists that are very different from but hopefully as compelling as the Empire, the First Order, and the Sith.”

Vernestra Rwoh, The High Republic: A Test of Courage

Disney, Del Rey

For another angle on the Starlight Beacon disaster, look to Justina Ireland’s gorgeous junior novel, The High Republic: A Test of Courage.

“Vernestra Rwoh has just become a Jedi Knight at age fifteen, but her first real assignment feels an awful lot like babysitting. She’s been charged with supervising eleven-year old aspiring inventor Avon Starros on a cruiser headed to the dedication of a wondrous new space station called Starlight Beacon. But soon into their journey, bombs go off aboard the cruiser. While the adult Jedi try to save the ship, Vernestra, Avon, Avon’s droid J-6, a Jedi Padawan, and an ambassador’s son make it to an escape shuttle, but communications are out and supplies are low. They decide to land on a nearby moon, which offers shelter but not much more. And unbeknownst to them, danger lurks in the forest?”

Ireland drew on her own personal experiences when crafting her lead. “Storytelling is about answering a question for yourself, however that looks. And for me, I really wanted to write a character who was extremely good at something they believe in, and what happens when there are things that keep happening to challenge that belief,” Ireland told Nerdist. “For me personally, that was my adolescence, because I joined the US Army at a very young age. And the longer I was in the army, the more I kept getting promoted, the more I wondered whether this is a place I wanted to be. Or that was the right place to be. Or was just even the right thing to do.”

Ireland continued, “If you have a character who’s questioning themselves and they’ve not yet fully committed to something like the Jedi Order, I think it’s a different question than if you have somebody who has come of age of in this system, who is good at the system, who is being praised by everybody who participates in the system. Then they start to have questions from this place of security within the system. I mean, it makes sense if you want to overthrow the Jedi Order because a Jedi kicked in your door, right? But if you’re in the Jedi Order and you start to ask those questions it’s a very different kind of perspective. And so that’s one of the reasons we’re following Vern and why she’s so young.”

Keeve Trennis, The High Republic

Disney, Marvel

Next up is Cavan Scott, Ario Anindito, Mark Morales, Ariana Maher, and Annalisa Leoni on the Marvel series The High Republic.

“It is centuries before the Skywalker Saga. The Jedi are at their height, protecting the galaxy as Republic pioneers push out into new territories. As the Frontier prepares for the dedication of the majestic Starlight Beacon, Padawan Keeve Trennis faces the ultimate choice — will she complete her Jedi Trials or rescue the innocent from disaster?”

Scott shared his thoughts on Keeve Trennis and how the new Jedi’s journey reflects his own. “The Marvel book’s a team book, but Keeve is the main thrust of the story,” Scott said. “She’s quite a personal character because it goes back to those moments at Skywalker Ranch where we’re all sitting together and we didn’t know each other that well then. And I sat there, asking the question repeatedly in my head, ‘Why am I here?’ in every sense of the word. What have I done that means I’m sitting at this table with these other great storytellers? It’s just that real sense of like, ‘What can I personally add?’ I knew I was sitting there with nearly 20 years of experience working on things like Star Wars. But it’s still a question I kept having to ask and that’s the question Keeve asks all the time.”

Scott continued, “She finds herself at the center of a galaxy that isn’t what she expected. She finds herself standing next to people who she’s always respected as masters and peers but most importantly for her she knows she has an entire galaxy watching her because she is a Jedi and that’s what they do. They stand there and they shine a light. And so she constantly asks herself, ‘Am I good enough for this? Can I try harder? What can I do?’ I don’t think that’s a weakness. I think that’s a strength in character because she constantly questions, ‘What is it to be a Jedi? ‘What should that person think when they see me? What should I feel when I see them? What should I be doing? I think it’s something we’ve not seen in a Jedi character before.”

Lula Talisola, The High Republic Adventures

IDW, Disney

Next, we have Daniel José Older, Harvey Tolibao, and Rebecca Nalty’s IDW comics series The High Republic Adventures.

“Flaming destruction is coming to Trymant IV! A remnant of the Hyperspace Disaster appears in the sky, and Zeen and her best friend Krix have only minutes to get to the Elders of the Path and find safety! Meanwhile, Master Yoda, Master Baro, and a group of Padawans are racing towards the disaster for a daring rescue mission.”

For Older, Lula represents heart and humanity in the midst of the sprawling world of the High Republic. “What I love about her is just how human she is,” Older shared. “And her struggles with, on the one hand, just trying to be a great Jedi and doing the best she can and being kind of ambitious but also really loving and taking care of her friends. And something we haven’t seen a lot of in Star Wars yet is Jedis working in a group of Jedi. We’ve seen Dyads, the master and apprentice. But this is really a cohort of young Jedi Padawans who are traveling around the galaxy together and who really developed that friendship as a group.”

Older called “a natural leader,” adding that “she takes care of everyone but also wants what’s good for her and she wants to keep everyone alive. There are so many instances that challenge to that even right away.” But fans should be especially intrigued by the direction her story goes: “And then there’s just her relationships with Master Yoda, and with her own master who we meet later on. And then when she starts meeting people out in the galaxy and when crisis strikes, how does she manage that? It’s just been really exciting to explore, along with her relationship to the force itself and what that means.”

Reath Silas, The High Republic: Into the Dark

Disney, Del Rey

Bestselling author Claudia Gray adds another amazing young adult Star Wars story to her catalog with The High Republic: Into the Dark.

“Padawan Reath Silas is being sent from the cosmopolitan galactic capital of Coruscant to the undeveloped frontier—and he couldn’t be less happy about it. He’d rather stay at the Jedi Temple, studying the archives. But when the ship he’s traveling on is knocked out of hyperspace in a galactic-wide disaster, Reath finds himself at the center of the action. The Jedi and their traveling companions find refuge on what appears to be an abandoned space station. But then strange things start happening, leading the Jedi to investigate the truth behind the mysterious station, a truth that could end in tragedy….”

Gray gave us some insight into her newest addition to Star Wars canon in her introverted new Padawan. “Silas is Padawan who has had an experience as an apprentice very different from anything I think we’ve seen in quite a while,” Gray teased. “We’ve mostly seen Padawans in the Clone Wars, years where they’re surrounded by combat and the downfall of the Republic. Reath meanwhile has had this existence mostly on Coruscant, his master is on the Jedi Council, and he thinks that this is what his life as a Jedi is going to be and he’s so wrong.”

As Grey said, “It’s always fun to have a character who thrives on order and is an introvert thrown into the most dramatic situation possible. That’s exactly what happens when he’s on his way out to Starlight Beacon and they’re waylaid by the great disaster. They find what ought to be a great harbor, but maybe is its own disaster in a way. And he has to interact with kinds of people he hasn’t interacted with before. I think his view of the galaxy and his view of the Force widens a lot over the course of the adventure, even if he would still rather be at home with a book.”

You can find out more about Star Wars: The High Republic here!

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