Star Wars: The High Republic: Convergence – Book Review

Set generations before Light of the Jedi and from acclaimed author Zoraida Córdova, comes Convergence, the next adventure in Phase Two of the High Republic universe, expanding the new era of Star Wars like never before.

Here’s the summary…

It is an age of exploration.
Jedi travel the galaxy, expanding their understanding of the Force and all the worlds and beings connected by it. Meanwhile, the Republic, led by its two chancellors, works to unite worlds in an ever-growing community among near and distant stars.
On the close orbiting planets of Eiram and E’ronoh, the growing pains of a galaxy with limited resources but unlimited ambition are felt keenly. Their hatred for each other has fueled half a decade of escalating conflict and now threatens to consume surrounding systems. The last hope for peace emerges when heirs from the two planets’ royal families plan to marry.
Before lasting peace can be established, an assassination attempt targeting the couple tilts Eiram and E’ronoh back into all-out war. To save both worlds, Jedi Knight Gella Nattai volunteers to uncover the culprit, while Chancellor Kyong appoints her son, Axel Greylark, to represent the Republic’s interests in the investigation.
But Axel’s deep distrust of the Jedi sparks against Gella’s faith in the Force. She’s never met such a puffed-up, privileged party boy, and he’s never met a more self-serious, relentless do-gooder. The more they work to untangle the shadowy web of the investigation, the more complicated the conspiracy appears to be. With accusations flying and potential enemies in every shadow, the pair will have to work together to have any hope of bringing the truth to light and saving both worlds.

Set in 382 BBY, 150 years before The Great Disaster and long before anything recognizable, Convergence doesn’t quite seek out new worlds for us to discover. Instead it returns us to somewhat familiar territory in E’ronoh and Eiram, known planets if you’re up to speed with Phase One of The High Republic publishing initiative. Thankfully this disjointed timeline creates ease of access, and while I believe the powers that be will never allow for a completely self-contained canon Star Wars story, Convergence comes close. I suspect a small part of that has to do with Zoraida herself, whose previous Star Wars novel, A Crash of Fate (a personal favorite of mine), also finds its own way, despite being part of a broader narrative. Speaking of, look for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Black Spire Outpost nugget in this book.

Determined to work their way backwards on the timeline, The High Republic has taken an even further step back with Phase 2. And because of this, there’s an ominous tone that hangs over everything, like infrasound that puts you in a slight state of unease as things progress. It’s the futility of it all, isn’t it? Knowing what’s to come? Knowing that most of these folks (minus Yoda of course) are one with the Force a generation or two prior to The Phantom Menace in 32 BBY. In that sense, it’s not about how they die, but more about how they lived, who lived a good life, who didn’t.

Most of the characters are generally optimistic and blasé about things because this crop hasn’t really encountered anything to galactically nefarious yet, certainly nothing on the scale of which befalls future generations of Jedi. And because of this impending doom, any Phase Two manufactured volatility could feel a little milquetoast by comparison, which it does here. You’re left with no choice but to really lean into character work and inventive overarching narratives to lure us into a temporary state of amnesia, forgetting for a moment the dark times ahead. Luckily for us, The High Republic up to this point has had absolutely no problems putting together a damn good roster, not to mention intriguing enough plot lines to make this a successful endeavor to date. On the character front, Convergence does a pretty good job, on the story front, not so much.

 “E’ronoh and Eiram were in the middle of nowhere, but on the way to everywhere.”

The Forever War between Eiram and E’ronoh, not to be confused with the Eiram and E’ronoh Crisis (mentioned briefly in Phase One), is the backdrop here as these neighboring planets hate each other for reasons no one can seem to remember. This longstanding feud has really closed them off from the rest of the galaxy and a lack of basic resources has caused hard times for both. As always, it’s the people who suffer and as they reach a point of critical mass, a ceasefire is called in order to open up hyperspace lanes to much need freighters carrying much needed supplies.

The book starts of off with a little terrorism, as a mysterious figure on E’ronoh clearly up to no good, causing some sabotage. We later find out her name is Serrena, and she is part of a group of Force zealots who call themselves the Path of the Open Hand. So as not to spoil two books at the same time, I won’t say too much about this group but if you’ve read the Justina Ireland/Tress Gratton YA book Path of Deceit, then you’re already familiar with them. And if you haven’t read that book yet, what are you waiting for? Seriously, it’s great, check it out.

Okay, the Path of the Open Hand are not affiliated with the Jedi but do share some similar tenets, namely finding balance and having a good relationship with the Force. That’s where the similarities end however and the key word is “balance”, as the Path believe in the law of equivalent exchange basically, what you take out, you must put in. So, any use of the Force creates imbalance, and since they can’t use the Force themselves, they believe it should be left alone. They accuse the Jedi of duplicity, folks who like to withdraw from the Force ATM, hitting their daily limit with wanton regard for such things.

They are led by an enigmatic figure named Elecia Zeveron, or “The Mother”, who claims the Force speaks to her, providing her a mandate. Like any cult leader, her followers don’t ask too many questions, and cynicism aside, they are bound together by the shared belief that the Force is not a commodity. They are basically a “Force Rights” group. Now, whether Zeveron truly believes in the cause, or is just using her “Children” for a nefarious purpose, we just don’t know yet. But her followers are buying what she’s selling, finding that she satisfies the basic human need of wanting to make sense of things, make sense of the universe.

Anyways, this prelude is a precursor for what’s to come as Convergence blasts out of the gate with a tense standoff occurring in the space between these two waring planets. After a bit of a hyperspace gate collision, involving the Republic and some freighters carrying much needed planetary supplies, the match is lit, and a cease fire that was in place goes up in flames. It’s here we learn that privilege doesn’t get you out of a cockpit or off the battlefield as we meet Captain Xiri Albaran, Princess, and daughter to the Monarch of E’ronoh. She leads a Thylefire squadron and is an all-around badass, having been trained the old-ways and since the death of her brother, is expected to take over for her father at some point. When one of her Thylefire pilots attacks the Eiram forces unexpectedly and without cause, and the ensuing battle leaves Xiri crash-landed on Eiram, things between the two planets go from bad to worse. Whether this turn of events will end things for good, or can cooler heads prevail will be your guide the rest of the way.

This leads to my favorite part of the book, and one that stands out in comparison to the rest of the story for two reasons. One, this clever POV switch doesn’t reappear again, and two, it’s the most emotionally poignant moment of the book by a mile. We cut to Bly “Blitz” Tevin in his final moments, the young Thylefire pilot that fucked everything up in the first place, before he himself crashed to his death. To any outsider, his family was not one of great importance, but to the people of E’ronoh, everyone knew his sister Lena, whose death was a rallying cry for their people and inspired Bly to enlist. Compared to the rest of the book, this is a blip really, a misnomer compared to the events that unfold, and I’ll bet not a single other reader points it out, but I felt its impact. Wars are filled with moments of unrequited heroics, acts of sublime courage and sacrifice that will never be written or talked about, I’m grateful Zoraida chose to shine a light on his.

The summary doesn’t mention either by name for some reason, but when Xiri crashes her devilfighter into the cold waters of Eiram, she’s saved by Phan-tu Zenn, the adopted heir to Queen Adrialla. After the two sides sort through some hasty accusations and poor communication, we get to the part of the summary that says…

“The last hope for peace emerges when heirs from the two planets’ royal families plan to marry.
Before lasting peace can be established, an assassination attempt targeting the couple tilts Eiram and E’ronoh back into all-out war. To save both worlds, Jedi Knight Gella Nattai volunteers to uncover the culprit, while Chancellor Kyong appoints her son, Axel Greylark, to represent the Republic’s interests in the investigation.”

So, with the Republic heavily invested and peace between the two planets not assured, Xiri and Phan-tu are betrothed to one another, certainly not for love, but to really head-off any potential bad actors, which are aplenty. They decide a barge tour around E’ronoh is the best way to sell this idea to the people and if they draw out any would-be assassins in the process, so be it. Deceit, betrayal, loyalties tested, forced proximity, espionage, yes, it’s all there as Xiri, Phan-tu, Gella, and Axel encounter all sorts of things, human and non-human alike on this journey. And so, the book moves along, revealing some truths which were probably better left hidden, as we learn some folks out of fear, will do just about anything to protect their family/planet in the name of patriotic sentiment.

The High Republic is Jedi driven of course so Gella Nattai is front and center, with a few others along for the ride, contributing here and there. A Jedi Knight, she’s recovering from a bad day at the office having suffered a setback on Orvax during a previous Pathfinder mission where she was team leader for the first time. Anxious to get back to Jeddha City for some balance, as she inches her way towards being a Jedi Master, the Council reassigns her to this Eiram supply run with Master Roy, Master Sun, and Roy’s padawan learner, the youthful and energetic Enya Keen.

Like I said, there’s talk of the “M” word, and Gella thinks that’s what she wants? Truth be told, she’s not entirely sure what she wants and even googled “wayseeker”, feeling a little lost and in need of some direction, some inspiration. Well, thank the maker because that inspiration arrives in the form of Axel Greylark, debonair HoloNet playboy and son of co-Chancellor Kyong Greylark.

Side Bar…

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time in Canon Star Wars that the Galactic Republic has had co-Supreme Chancellors. Chancellor Kyong Greylark shares the modest task of ruling the galaxy with Chancellor Mollo, a Quarren male who is on the scene here in Convergence, brokering a peace deal to the best of his ability. Their work relationship status is “complicated” and their individual reasons for taking an interest in the Eiram System are complicated, but for the most part they split their duties accordingly and people seem to like them. While I could never see Mr. Palpatine signing off on co-Supreme Chancellor duties, these two seem well suited for the task. Let’s hope they’ve never heard of Darth Bane and the Rule of Two.

…okay, we’re back.

Yes, I’ve seen the Axel love out there, and Gella is a main character, they’re a package deal…But I feel like as Star Wars fans, we’ve been conditioned to instinctively like an Axel-type, who personally I find a little nondescript. Whether it’s the Han Solo effect or just a general love of swashbuckling-badboys-who-need-to-be-fixed, it seems we can’t get too far without having a rogue type to swoon over. Now throw in a little Jedi animosity, overbearing mommy issues, some forced proximity, and away you go.

One thing The High Republic hasn’t shied away from are Jedi experiencing/dealing with attraction and other forms of attachment, and conveniently enough, and thanks to Claudia Grey, Jedi have wayseeking available to them. Point is, yes Gella is steadfast in her approach to becoming a great Jedi Master, the door is open, let’s put it that way.

But, and maybe it’s the YA fan in me—and certain tropes are embedded in my blood—but for my money, the ever-so-slightly disregarded Xiri/Phan-tu situation is where it’s at. Romeo and Juliet connotations aside, I feel like this relationship suffered the most with the lowish page count, and I know for a fact that Zoraida could’ve crushed the betrothal narrative given the time to flesh it out more. Instead, we get a rushed nondescript narrative where things happen just because they need them to happen.

That’s something the rest of the book isn’t immune to either: erratic pacing. This book has a strange meter to it that kept me off balance; keeping me from totally engaging in what should have been a meaningful exploration of one’s cosmic significance, a formulated vision of a life’s purpose. This erratic pacing kept pulling me out of the story, often to the point of disinterest, and that didn’t do much for the ending which felt predictable and flat. Zoraida is a great writer, so she kept pulling me back in, but this back and forth eventually took its toll.

It’s hard to talk about specifics here without spoiling anything so that will have to be perhaps discussed at a later time, but like I said, things happen just and not for any real purpose. And while it looks to explore the space between, I felt like the “moving target” angle when it comes to the antagonist(s), derails that effort. Perhaps, and entirely plausible, is that I was expecting too much, putting too much emphasis on a single book that simply looks to ease us into Phase Two, a piece in a much larger puzzle.

So, what’s the bottom line?

My first thought is that Zoraida’s writing feels a little fettered, not to mention lacking any real bite. And while I like a good many parts of Convergence, I’m not sure I enjoyed the sum. In my heart, I feel like it needed another 50 pages or so to really deliver something great, but as it stands, it lands somewhere else.

Try as they might, any High Republic book shouldn’t be judged as a standalone novel because it’s so intrinsically tethered to a broader narrative that we’ve been enjoying for a couple of years now. Critiquing it as one would be unintelligent and dishonest to be frank, so even though I’m being critical of it, I understand there’s a long way to go. You must understand that these books are no longer entry points and reward those who have invested their time and energy in the catalogue writ large. And Convergence is so indeterminate with regards to the comings and goings of the universe you wouldn’t know where to place it anyway.

But I truly believe that what determines our ability to stick with something is the understanding that not everything in an IP will be to your liking. And these of course are just my foolish and uneducated opinions, I’m a Star Wars fan for life, a High Republic fan for life, and a huge Zoraida Córdova fan for life.

Star Wars: Convergence is out now, click HERE to order a copy today!

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*All images courtesy of Lucasfilm LTD.

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