Star Wars The High Republic: Quest for the Hidden City Thoughts

2 out of 5 credits

Phase Two, Wave One has switched up the release of category novels, releasing the YA novel Path of Deceit first in October, followed by Middle-Grade Quest for the Hidden City, and ending with the Adult novel Convergence. As I mention in my review for Path of Deceit, there is a reason for this which will become more apparent as we delve deeper into Phase Two. Path of Deceit also introduces what is likely the main antagonist of Phase Two through the eyes of two compelling characters. It was a refreshing twist that I hoped would continue with the rest of the novels in Wave One.

Unfortunately, Quest for the Hidden City by George Mann focuses on the wrong main characters to try and tell this story; therefore, the novel’s themes come across as half-formed. 

**Mild spoilers for Quest for the Hidden City and Path of Deceit**

The Story

The droid couldn’t be certain. Everything was mixed-up. Scrambled. Nothing seemed to make sense.
And so it continued to drift, perhaps sensing, somewhere deep down in its damage circuits, that there had once been a destination in mind, a message it was supposed to deliver.

George Mann. Star Wars The High Republic: Quest for the Hidden City. Disney Lucasfilm Press

The story starts with such promise. Imagine the vast reaches of space and a single droid floating, trying to remember how it got there, thinking it might have been sent to deliver a message, but its memory is full of monsters.

Star Wars does an excellent job across all mediums by injecting human qualities and thoughts into droids. EX is a droid who finds itself in this peculiar situation. When a Republic rescue team gets ahold of the droid and identifies it: EX is a part of a Pathfinding team that includes a Jedi and his Padawan, who are supposed to be on the planet Aubadas. And the droid does have a message from Jedi Master Rok Burnan: his team was ambushed, and he is trapped on Gloam.

So how did the Jedi Master and Padawan end up on a separate planet, and their droid ends up floating in space? It’s a catalyst for a great Star Wars story.

We quickly meet a father/son prospecting team, Spencer and Dass. Dass wonders how they got stuck on a planet with monsters and worries about his injured father.

When the Republic learns about the missing Jedi, they send two of their own to investigate: Master Silandra Sho and her Padawan Rooper Nitani. Silandra has a shield that she uses as a defense, which will become an important symbol as the story unfolds. And how Rooper sees the Force proves particularly useful when they are dispatched first to Aubadas. There they meet Mittik and the Katikoot, a civilization of bat-like humanoid creatures who have made an underground city powered by minerals found on Gloam, a sister planet to Aubadas that holds dark secrets.

Their power source is running out as Gloam has become too dangerous to mine. First, there was the “miner’s curse,” a disease that started killing off the Katikoot workers. Then some of them disappeared. Then there were tales of monsters that lurked within the caves, and soon, no workers wanted to return to the cursed planet. And with the Republic occupied with the civil war between Eiram and E’ronah, the missing Pathfinding team tried to uncover the mystery of Gloam.

While on the planet, Rooper, Silandro, Mittik, and the team start to put together the pieces of what happened to the Pathfinding team and learn some unfortunate truths about Gloam. But will they get there in time to help rescue Dass and his father, who are also on the treacherous planet?

Quest for the Hidden City wants to say things to say about the exploitation of worlds and their resources, the erasure of certain hard truths from history, and how that can doom a society to repeat past mistakes. And it speaks volumes that the Jedi saw these issues early in The High Republic yet still stood by and let the Republic during the Prequel era do the same thing to other worlds.

The Characters

Concept art of Jedi Master Silandra Sho and Padawan Rooper Natini | credit Lucasfilm Publishing

Middle-Grade stories often focus on a character and how they fit into their home through their relationships with family and friends. But in Star Wars, the concept of home is complicated when Jedi are often the lead characters. Technically their home is the Jedi Order, so their life revolves around an institution that reaches across planets. And the parental figures for Jedi Padawan are their Jedi Masters.

Because of this, character journeys in Middle-Grade sometimes seem similar to those in YA. Race to Crashpoint Tower balanced this the best with Ram Jomaram. Ram was a Padawan stationed on his homeworld of Valo, the location of The Republic Fair, where the Nihil attacked. His story allowed a more traditional exploration of a Middle-Grade hero while having the unique experience of being a Jedi with characters like Lula Talisola and Zeen.

But Rooper’s story is more about her purpose within the Order. If you look at the Jedi Order as a home, then Rooper searching for meaning within that makes sense to the hero’s journey of a Middle-Grade story. Because she is a Jedi, Rooper feels that people have a level of trust in her that she needs to live up to, and she battles with doubting herself and her abilities. Luckily, Rooper comes to understand that the Jedi are not about seeking adventure in the Outer Rim but being a shield, the last line of defense for those who need their help.

I am also not sure that Rooper was served well by having her Master with her the whole time during the novel. Vernestra, Rom, Imri, Honesty, and Avon were all separated from authority figures at some point during Phase One and had to make tough decisions informed by their development. Rooper does get to that point, but it involves convincing other Jedi, and I cannot help but think how much better this would be if she found herself having to lead. Rooper will also be in Quest for Planet X in Wave Two, so maybe she will have more of a leadership role in the next Middle-Grade novel.

Dass has a clear-cut internal and external struggle. He is externally battling to stay alive with his father while internally concluding that he does not want to be a prospector like his dad but a pathfinder. The difference between the two is not clear in the text, but Prospecting during this time is more dangerous but more lucrative. It is how the San Tekkas made their fortune. Pathfinders work more with the Republic and the Jedi and act as a search and rescue team.

But Rooper and Dass are outsiders to Aubadas and Gloam and have an outsider’s perspective of how the stripping of Gloam’s resources connects to the monsters hidden in the ruined city.

The key to a more holistic story that connects with the central theme is through the perspective of the character Mittik, a Katikoot, who the Jedi meet on Aubadas. Mittik has an assured view of the history of the Katikoot and their homeworld that is not the entire truth. As the story unfolds and we learn more about the two sister planets, Mittik realizes that she knows very little about where she comes from and her people.

Yet we never know what she is thinking as layers of the mystery are revealed. We only understand her point of view through conversation with the Pathfinding team sent with Silandra and Rooper. It is a missed opportunity for a Phase Two novel that set up subverting expectations with Path of Deceit, which focused more on the antagonist and less on the Jedi.

Quest for the Hidden City could have done that for Middle-Grade readers through the POV of someone who learns that everything they thought they knew about their home might be a lie. But Mittik is just acting as a guide for the Jedi and an exposition source for the reader. We barely get any time spent in the city and a mention of public sentiment/disregard of their energy crisis and degree of mistrust towards the Jedi. It is too easy for Rooper to convince them that the Republic can help.

There are other characters like Spencer, Dass’s father, who is why the two end up on Gloam, courtesy of Sunshine Dobbs (who is referenced and seems to be a through line in most of Phase Two so far). And there is the rest of the Pathfinder team accompanying Rooper and Silandra: Dietrix, the pilot, and Obik, the medic. Both are forgettable characters, and I can’t help but wonder if their presence in the novel is more about plot convenience. Perhaps I will be proven wrong if they get fleshed out in future stories.

Canon Contributions

The Katikoot are a large part of the novel, and Mann does a great job of introducing the species and their history. It is easy to imagine the cities on Aubadas and Gloam and how uniquely tailored they are to bat-like species. With the Republic building a better relationship with the Katikoot and Mittik learning more about her people’s history, I hope we see these relationships develop further in Phase Two.

Just like Eiram and E’ronah are twin planets bound by formation but driven apart by war, the sister planets of Aubadas and Gloam share a history. And the latter was the home of a Jedi temple and an advanced city before it was abandoned. There still is much to learn about both planets, particularly Gloam. And the major threat in the novel is not entirely contained or understood by the Jedi. Are we going to learn more about the mysterious and threatening dark side power that created the creatures on Gloam? Will the Katikoot try to do right by the sister planet they mined into desolation?

We might only hear about these things in context as the Jedi might have more pressing matters to deal with in the galaxy, but it will still be exciting to watch how these stories connect, not just in this Phase but with Phase One, even if they do not always deliver.