Star Wars: The High Republic – Tales of Light and Life | Book Review

The latest Star Wars anthology from Disney Books brings new short stories from The High Republic to fill the gaps between all phases with some of your favorites.

With Phase II of The High Republic (THR) at an end and Phase III not coming until November, fans are understandably anxious. The initiative has been impressive on all fronts, bringing great stories and tons of favorite new characters; the hype is real for a reason. If you’re jonesing for more High Republic stories to tide you over, you’re in luck with Tales of Light and Life.

Star Wars: The High Republic – Tales of Light and Life
Written By: Zoraida Córdova, Tessa Gratton, Claudia Gray, Justina Ireland, Lydia Kang, George Mann, Daniel José Older, Cavan Scott, Charles Soule
Published By: Disney Books
Release Date: September 5, 2023
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The Young Adult novel from Disney Books is the first anthology of shorts set in this time period and brings together nearly all of the THR authors together for brand new stories set after both the events of Phase II and Phase I. Though it’s billed as the “kick off” for Phase III, the stories in Tales are more about filling in some of the gaps, showing what happens to certain characters after the “main” story events, and getting us primed for what’s coming next. Regardless of how you look at it, it’s a really great anthology top to bottom.

Tales of Light and Life includes nine short stories written by these authors:

Zoraida Córdova
Tessa Gratton
Claudia Gray
Justina Ireland
Lydia Kang
George Mann
Daniel José Older
Cavan Scott
Charles Soule

I’m not going to go into detail on each one, but I was impressed at the variety they all managed to offer. It really feels as though it hits on the breadth and width of the entire initiative so far, while managing to incorporate just about all of your fan favorite characters.

From seeing what certain characters (including Marda Rom and even Geode!!!) got up to after the main events of both Phases to even answering some lingering questions before the next Phase commences; Tales has something for everyone. The variety makes a lot of this anthology work, as each story offers up a new facet of these characters and the time period.

Considering certain events, it’d be easy for each tale to be a bit more…heavy. While there are a few stories that bring a certain gravitas to them, and feel important to moving things forward, it’s impressive how positively joyful many of the shorts feel.

Much of The High Republic has been about showcasing the Jedi coming up against the terrors of the Nihil (and subsequently setting up their eventual fall). It’s important to remember, however, this is also meant to be a golden age for the order. This is them at their best, and these short stories in particular do much to highlight that.

George Mann’s Shield of the Jedi gives us a story about Rooper Nitani and her Knighthood trials. No spoilers here, but it does a fantastic job of showing exactly what the Jedi are supposed to be (their ideals and such) while retaining that sense of adventure. It’s great insight for fans, showing how things were within the Order, while hammering home those central tenets that are crucial to the Light Side of the Force.

Another story puts the focus on a Padawan, having just learned about the fall of Starlight Beacon and the death of so many, struggling to come to terms with his place in the Order. As so many Jedi prepare to dive out into the galaxy to help and fight back against the Nihil, he wrestles with his own fears regarding it (namely in missing out on a “normal” life). In many ways, it’s a heavy topic, and deals with some ideas that are tough to confront. The way in which the story is handled, however, allows readers to empathize with his dilemma and ultimately rejoice in the decisions made.

Balancing those heavy elements with the fun factor is delicate work, but one these authors have all shown a penchant for over the years within Star Wars. In Tales of Light and Life we’re getting all that same level of skill, excitement, and character work, in a smaller format.

On top of that, the overall pacing of the anthology feels well thought out. The arrangement of the short stories can impact the overall feel of a collection, and they did an excellent job of sorting them out here. Even as they jumped from different time periods and locations (even all new characters), there was a definite flow to the overall book that made me want to keep flipping the pages.

Coming in at a hefty 350 pages, I breezed through this book in a couple days. Each story brought something different to the table and feel engaging in their own right. While I certainly have a couple “favorites” there were none that stuck out as weak links. If you’re itching for more The High Republic goodness, and eager to see a different side to your favorites, Tales of Light and Life is essential reading.

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Jordan Maison
Editor-in-Chief: Writer and cartoonist who went to college for post-production, he now applies his love of drawing, movie analysis, filmmaking, video games, and martial arts into writing.