Claudia Gray’s The Fallen Star has more in common with Cavan Scott’s The Rising Storm than Charles Soule’s Light of the Jedi. Like the former, there is a slow build-up to the disaster. This novel also involves similar characters (Stellan Gios, Bell Zettifar, Indeera Stokes). But, similar to Light of the Jedi, Gray’s The Fallen Star pits a meticulously planned attack against the Jedi who, with the help of others, must problem solve quickly to save as many lives as possible. This is not a spur-of-the-moment attack like The Rising Storm, and the consequences are far more devastating.
The Fallen Star is not a fun read (there is a sense of dread throughout the novel as things continue to develop), and it is surprisingly tedious when things start falling apart in the back half. But this will be a necessary read looking back on The High Republic as a whole because, when we do see the characters that survive again, the events in this novel will have shaped their development significantly more than any other.
But this story, more so than other High Republic novels, relies on context from The Rising Storm (for main characters), and Into the Dark and Out of the Shadows (for ancillary characters). Gray provides context when relevant, but she already has too much on her plate.
Let us get into the nit and grit of the story, characters, and overall implications as we move into Phase Two:
**IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO DISCUSS THE FALLEN STAR IN A MEANINGFUL WAY WITHOUT SPOILERS SO PLEASE STOP HERE IF YOU HAVE NOT READ**
The Fallen Star begins with a prologue showing where various characters are emotionally and physically. Bell is participating in a Nihil raid and desperately wants to gain confidence again after all the hits he has taken since Light of the Jedi. Meanwhile, other characters are making their way to Starlight, either for repairs, as prisoners, or as a resting place before they head back into the galaxy. Starlight has moved to the orbit of Eiram, a new member of the Republic, and Jedi Master Stellan Gios is helping the people get clean water after disastrous weather. Meanwhile, Marchion Ro executes Nihil raids on random worlds that draw Republic and Jedi Forces far enough away from Eiram. And a team of Nihil tech specialists secretly enter Starlight with mysterious cargo and start methodically sabotaging the comms channels.
As Stellan, Bell, and other Jedi like Elzar Mann and Orla Jareni (who have been working together to help Elzar regain balance in the Force) gather back on Starlight, they all feel something is wrong. There is a disconnect between the Jedi and the Force, but no one can articulate what IT is or what it means. Some, like Jedi Master Regald Coll, try to brush it off, while others like Indeera Stokes and Orla feel a sense of dread. Stellan starts to have nightmares that cloud his decision-making. Then an explosion rocks the station, and it is no turning back.
The disaster happens sooner in The Fallen Star than The Rising Storm and there is similar foreshadowing and repeat words and phrases as each Jedi on the Starlight Beacon tries to make sense of what is happening on Starlight with the explosion, communications, but also to their very beings as Force-users. Fear sets in as some Jedi (and passengers) rise to the challenges of a station slowly crashing into Eiram’s atmosphere and others fall.
This novel has more than 15 points of view (POVs), some of which come late in the novel. Many character POVs worked in Light of the Jedi when Star Wars readers were getting acquainted with the High Republic era. But now (three adult novels, two YA, two middle-grade, and many comic issues), it drags the story, and a few POVs are pure contrived devices to create unnecessary conflict. There is also a suspension of disbelief with the Jedi’s actions given what some of them already know: It is hard to understand, for example, why the group discussion on the disturbance took so long and why, after what happened to Regald, Orla is the only one who connects the attack with the disturbance.
Overall, the multiple POVs bring multiple inciting incidents and conflicts that do not always serve the main story arcs, which revolve around three people. The star of this novel is Stellan Gios, with strong arcs for Elzar Mann and Bell Zettifar (supported by Orla Jareni, Indeera Stokes, and Burryaga). Some characters feed into their development, but many just take up space.
Stellan Gios, who took the lead in The Rising Storm, goes on a journey of self-discovery in The Fallen Star as he starts to question his very being. Stellan has revelations about his life as a Jedi, his relationships within the Order, and his identity. Along with learning how Stellan perceives the Force (a firmament of stars in the sky), we learn that he views his special bond with Elzar and Avar as three constellations. He finally confides to Elzar his internal struggles and jealousy of Elzar and Avar’s conviction:
When Stellan sacrifices his life to save an entire city, he is at peace with who he is. The novel ends with Elzar and Avar remembering Stellan and knowing that their bond extends beyond death.
It is a beautiful arc, and most fans will be sad and feel that there was more story to tell with him, which is never off the table since Star Wars jumps around in timelines.
The titles for the adult novels always carry double meanings, and we knew from promotional materials that Starlight Beacon would fall. However, the title is not referring to the station, but Stellan Gios. A Jedi cut down when he comes to his fully realized potential and can do the most good. But his death also sets up Elzar and Bell to grow and become their best selves.
At the beginning of The High Republic, Elzar, Avar Kriss, and Stellan were promoted as the three key leaders. There was little chance of all three making it to the end alive but, by taking Stellan out now, Elzar and Avar no longer have a buffer in their friendship and must now face their feelings. This is one of the struggles that Elzar is dealing with in The Fallen Star, and he accepts that he can love Avar but never be with her (in a way that Anakin Skywalker could never reconcile). Outside of Light of the Jedi and the comics, we have spent less time with Avar Kriss, so she is overdue for more POVs, but her perspective in this novel is tied to her connection with Elzar and Stellan.
Elzar has made great progress with the help of Orla’s lessons and meditation on controlling his dark side tendencies and understanding how to use the Force specific to his abilities. Elzar sees the Force as an ocean, so Orla tells him not to fight against it but to move with it as a partnership. Orla’s death to the Leveler threatens to derail all of that work, but Stellan’s death hopefully has set Elzar back on the right path as he and Avar move forward. It is a shame that Orla is gone already because her perspective as a Wayseeker was intriguing, and I hope we meet more of them in future content. It was also great to get a backstory of Stellan and Orla’s history and Stellan believing the concept of wayseeking to be a selfish aspect opposing the Jedi Order. If we get more Stellan stories, I hope they also include Orla.
Bell Zettifar is the third main POV in The Fallen Star and, even though he is still a Padawan, is becoming a new leader in the Jedi Order. One could argue he has suffered the greatest hardships: losing his Master Loden Greatstorm in Light of the Jedi, almost losing his life, then finding his Master, then horrifically losing him again in The Rising Storm. He has overcome all of these challenges and perseveres in The Fallen Star. Part of that is attributed to his bond with Indeera Stokes, his charhound Ember, and fellow Padawan Burryaga. All three are used expertly within the story, Indeera more in the first half with Burryaga throughout. Bell and Burryaga’s relationship rivals Han and Chewie’s friendship and, with Burryaga missing (presumed dead), Bell has a new mission: to find Burryaga, either confirming his death or rescuing him. It is a refreshingly different Star Wars redemption story as Bell hopes to correct his perceived mistake of giving up too soon on Loden Greatstorm.
There are ancillary character arcs that serve the main characters well. Chancellor Soh’s observation of this tragedy unfolding and the wheels spinning in her head of how to shape it politically will have lasting effects on how the Republic attempts to neutralize the Nihil. Chancey Yarrow’s role affects both Nan’s development and Elzar Mann’s as she meets a sudden and cruel end. I am curious to see how Elzar redeems killing her and if he will connect with her daughter, Syl.
Yes, Nan is in this story, and she is still forgettable, although she is not the most useless. That title belongs to Koley, the mini antagonist to himself. He does get a poetic death courtesy of Geode, who is the other problem I have. The novelty of a sentient rock that randomly shows up in places and somehow navigates ships (is it Force-sensitive?) has worn off for me. Then again, I was not even taken in by Baby Yoda. Geode is here to stay, but I wonder if a character like that would translate to live-action. As for his crewmates, I have come to appreciate Leox Gyosi’s perspective on the galaxy and his relationship with Affie is endearing and was one of the positives of Gray’s YA novel Into the Dark. But I am not sure any of them needed to be in this novel. As a reader of the Star Wars Insider short stories, it’s great to see Pikka and Joss Aldren, but they also are only in this to be known volunteer to help with the evacuation.
Even Marchion Ro, who is almost cartoonish in portrayal here, feels shoehorned when we are in his POV. I enjoyed him in The Rising Storm because it highlighted how truly regular he was (a person who has father issues and a history with the Jedi). In The Fallen Star, we only get his reaction to what’s happening (and that he is replacing his crew with droids). And his constant inner monologues just repeat his disgust with everyone except Thaya, his new Nan. His perspectives in the Prologue and Epilogue would have been enough with Thaya’s POV in between. Marchion continues to isolate himself as he becomes more power-hungry and paranoid. The replacement of the Gaze Electric crew with Enforcer droids could ultimately be his downfall (relying solely on droids never worked out for anyone in Star Wars).
Ghirra Starros is almost a completely different character than in Out of the Shadows, acting like a love-sick puppy versus a tactful politician. And, because most of her characterization comes through the eyes of Marchion Ro, it feels unsettlingly sexist. Ghirra does have the line of the novel: “It is easier to believe in things when we are fighting for them.” It is poignant even if it does come from a shallow place.
A new piece of information comes courtesy of Elzar Mann when thinking about his feelings for Avar. He mentions that Padawans often fooled around together and Instructors and Masters pretended not to notice as long as nobody went too far:
“When relationships formed, reprimands were rare. Instead a Master would promptly take her apprentice away on a long-term mission far from any Jedi temple. By the time a reunion could take place, both younger people had generally grown up, gained perspective, and moved on.”Claudia Gray. Star Wars The High Republic: The Fallen Star.
This passive-aggressive way of dealing with attachments in the Jedi Order does not appear to be around during the Prequel Trilogy (in which attachments are forbidden), so I wonder if The High Republic will show how the Jedi got from point A to B.
We get more information on the power of the Leveler (mainly that it can completely disconnect them from the Force). How it does that and turns an organic being into a husk is still a mystery to be solved. Expect even more information to be revealed in both Phases Two and Three.
The enforcer droids’ description sounds different, although there have been enforcer droids present in The Old Republic and the Original Trilogy (K-2SO is a type of enforcer droid). Per Marchion Ro, these droids are illegal, so they will do some damage when they get unleashed into the galaxy.
The Fallen Star potentially sets up Eiram and the rulers Queen regent Dima and Queen consort Thandeka, to play a larger role as the Republic moves forward against the Nihil. The planet’s past conflicts were first mentioned in Into the Dark as a side story, and Gray has elevated the planet’s role in The Fallen Star. The entire galaxy witnessed Eiram’s response in the face of tragic events so, if the Jedi are looking to regain hope, it could start on Eiram.
The Fallen Star had a lot to achieve, and the novel couldn’t hold up the weight of all those character stories. It is more of a setup for future storylines than what it should have focused solely on: Stellan’s identity as a Jedi, Elzar’s struggles, and Bell’s endurance. The Fallen Star is the last adult novel in The High Republic Phase One Saga (Light of the Jedi) and is a turning point for the Jedi, Republic, and the Nihil. We might not see any of these characters until Phase Three (Phase Two, Quest of the Jedi, is set 150 years before Phase One), so The Fallen Star is still a key novel in the overall story, but it is one of the weakest. However, if you were not already, get ready to be a Stellan Gios fan.