At the end of The Edge of Balance Vol. 1, I found myself wondering how this story was going to connect to the other comics and novels and if it would even matter in the long run. I should have known better than to judge a manga by its first Volume.
The Edge of Balance Volume 2 closes the chapter on one part of Lily Tora-Asi’s journey through Jedi Knighthood as she finds answers to some tough questions, adapts her way of thinking, faces an immense challenge, and suffers significant losses.
**Spoilers for The Edge of Balance Vol. 1 – 2, The Fallen Star, and The High Republic Adventures**
This story is set sometime after the fall of the Great Progenitor and before the fall of Starlight Beacon. Marchion Ro is meeting with Kriz, Nan, Sabata, and Mr. Zaret, and the subject of Banchii comes up. Mr. Zaret wants to know what they should do about the Jedi Temples. Marchion Ro’s answer is simple…eliminate it.
Meanwhile, Lily speaks with Doctor Silar about the Drengir and the Banchii residents who were casualties. The Doctor believes the situation they faced with the plants was unique to Banchi, which is a relief to Lily, but she is still concerned about the Nihil being active in the area. The Doctor asks Lily how she is coping with everything, and Lily says she is fine but keeping busy helps take her mind off of things.
Unfortunately, Lily is faced with the reality of the galaxy when Master Sav Malagán arrives unexpectedly. Lily is thrown off her balance of trying to get the villagers to prepare bunkers in case of a Nihil attack while also helping the Younglings focus. Her insecurities of running the Jedi Temple in Master Arkoff’s absence also weigh on her, but her Padawan Keerin is observant of Lily’s feelings and helps her navigate the pressure.
Lily and Sav clash right away as Sav insists that the Nihil will attack as they did on Takodana (so this takes place after The High Republic Adventures #10). But Sav’s concerns are shortly validated when Mr. Zaret secretly sets off a bomb distracting the Jedi and shortly after their communications go down. Sav suggests that Lily take the Younglings, Viv’nia, and Nima, to Starlight to let them know what is going on and give the Younglings some time exploring new environments.
The three arrive on Starlight just in time for the Great Jedi Rumble Race, which has become an appreciated marker in the timeline reading Wave Three. Lily consults with Masters Arkoff and Stellan Gios on the Nihil on working with Sav even though they have different philosophies. It feels like every comic and novel in Wave Three has the characters go to Starlight as a final goodbye.
Shortly after Lily, Viv’nia, and Nima leave Starlight, they get a call from Stellan that Hon-Tallos is under attack and Lily worries that Banchii is next. Her fears are realized when Keerin and the Jedi Archivist Ru-Ru discover their communication transmission was sabotaged, just as the Nihil arrive. Lily and the Younglings have to emergency land in the forest and get help from the native Banchiians. Then they see Nihil with a canon meant to attack the temple. Keerin loses patience, concerned that waiting will endanger the temple and the occupants, and confronts the Nihil, but is distracted by Mr. Zaret, who pretends to be a Nihil hostage. Zaret takes advantage of Keerin’s heroics by shooting him point-blank in the chest, killing the Padawan.
Lily, faced with the attack on the temple and losing her Padawan, finally allows herself to let go of the temple to save the lives of the Jedi and Banchii citizens (who take up arms to help fight the Nihil). With the help of Sav, Lily destroys the temple, taking out some Nihil who appear to be searching for something in the temple. The story ends with the notification from the Coruscant Temple that Starlight has fallen and all Jedi are to report back to Coruscant, which is a victory for the Nihil as it is the equivalent of a retreat on the front lines of the Outer Rim. But Lily decides to stay on Banchii and protect the newly settled citizens, without the temple. While the others leave, Marchion Ro and a team of Nihil arrives to search the ruins of the temple.
Like many Wave Three novels and comics, The Edge of Balance is a tense read with a turning point for the Jedi. Lily has decided to stay in her adopted home, and she is probably not the only Jedi in the Outer Rim. Will Lily find other Jedi in the Outer Rim who have chosen to stay and potentially fight off the Nihil?
The story is well-paced in three acts (Banchii Temple life and Sav’s arrival, Starlight Beacon, and the Battle at the Banchii Temple). There is foreshadowing of Lily’s loss and her ability to adjust and let go of the things she has held onto. The only thing that seemed off was the timing of certain situations. For example, Nan is present at the beginning with Krix and Mr. Zaret, which does not make sense because she should be off with Chancey Yarrow as they are both on Starlight when it goes down.
Lily’s journey from a Jedi Knight still struggling with her insecurities of leading and protecting Banchii to the certainty in her decision of staying is a welcome improvement upon the first Volume, which holds the conflict almost exclusively for the third act. This is somewhat understandable because Volume 1 revolved around a mystery, but the pacing was uneven.
The loss of Keerin is a poignant moment, and his death is given the page time needed to breathe and balances Lily’s mourning with the urgency of the overall attack perfectly. Keerin is the tragedy of potential cut short as he felt more assured in his abilities than most Padawans. His sudden lack of patience felt out of character, but then again, we never really got to know his character. But that has been the rule of The High Republic, characters are introduced and die sometimes within one chapter of a book. After the first Volume, I thought that Keerin would have a more significant role to play moving forward, and he did. But it was all in service to Lily’s development, which is different from most other The High Republic content with multiple POVs and character journeys. It is refreshing to focus on one character, and I am now invested in Lily’s development moving into Volume 3.
Speaking of surprises, Sav’s role as a foil for Lily’s rigidness fits the theme of Star Wars and balance. Learning from her experiences portrayed in The High Republic Adventures, she challenges Lily to adapt to the threat of the Nihil and attachments to the temple because ultimately, it is the people who matter. Sav’s advice for Lily in her time of grief makes me wonder how many Padawans she has lost in her centuries of being a Jedi. Perhaps Sav will get her own comic or manga as she has been set up as second mentor to Lily.
Daniel José Older has more of a presence in Wave Three with The High Republic Adventures, Midnight Horizon, and this Volume (writing with Shima Shinya). The High Republic Adventures regulars Lula and Zeen make a short and sweet appearance as Lily visits Starlight. And we still do not know the fate of some of the Jedi aboard Starlight, including Master Arkoff (who is not mentioned in The Fallen Star).
Sometimes it feels like Marchion Ro is shoehorned into plots to be an ever-present villain, especially since the Drengir are currently not a threat. Here, Marchion Ro is involved because he believes there is a specific item in the Banchii Jedi Temple that he has been seeking. This is not the control rod for the Nameless, which is currently in his possession. And, since Ro appears at the end of the book looking through the rubble, the object is probably there.
It is not a concrete canon contribution, but this brings another artifact/item into the story that has importance. Whether Marchion Ro is the one who finds it, or Lily remains to be discovered.
We will have to wait to see how all this plays out in Volume 3, which might not even come out until Phase Three. However, Volume 2 is The Empire Strikes Back of this series, with the main characters facing a heavy loss but determination moving forward.