This review of Star Wars: The High Republic: A Test of Courage may contain minor spoilers.
The second book to be released set in The High Republic era is A Test of Courage by Justina Ireland, the first being Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule. A Test of Courage opens with the targeted destruction of a luxury ship, the Steady Wing, on its way to the opening ceremony for the Starlight Beacon space station. Two members of the Nihil, an organized group of pirates dedicated to instilling fear in the Republic, are responsible.
In the aftermath of the destruction, four young individuals are left stranded on a moon far from known space lanes. Among the survivors are newly minted Jedi Knight Vernestra Rwoh, Padawan Imri Cantaros, Honesty Weft, son of the ambassador for the planet Dalna, and Avon Starros, daughter of Senator Ghirra Starros. (The name Starros is likely familiar to readers of Marvel's Star Wars comics, which have featured a character named Sana Starros. Since this story takes place 200 years prior to The Phantom Menace, there's no confirmation there's a relation.)
Vernestra, or Vern as she's nicknamed, is young for a Jedi Knight. At just 15 years of age, she is considered a prodigy in the ways of the Force. Avon is a tech wiz, an inventor, and a bit precocious to say the least. She's a challenge for Vern, who is tasked with her safety. Imri's master, Douglas, was killed in Steady Wing‘s destruction. This leaves him feeling unmoored and vulnerable to the temptations of the dark side of the Force. Honesty's father was also killed in the explosion and he's left with anger and feelings of guilt over things unsaid. The four are also accompanied by Avon's droid, J-6. Avon has made certain adjustments to the droid's programming, making it a real character in its own right.
As the four try to find their way on the mysterious moon where they've become stranded, they encounter dangers both from the natural world and the two Nihil pirates responsible for the Steady Wing‘s destruction, who also find themselves stranded.
A Test of Courage is a middle-grade book aimed at readers between 8-12 years of age, so I'm not the targeted audience. That said, I found it quite enjoyable. The characters are developed nicely, each with a distinct personality and the pros and cons that follow. Imri in particular is troubled by self-doubt, something he experienced while his master was alive and is greatly amplified after his death. Once the pirates are discovered, Imri decides to take the situation into his own hands, and he sees Honesty's anger as a useful tool. Vernestra finds herself having to deal with the aftermath, and bringing Imri back from the precipice of falling into darkness.
There are some pretty mature themes found in A Test of Courage, but they're handled responsibly. It didn't feel like things were just tossed into the mix because it's a “kids book” and no one will take it seriously. There's a real plot and the things that happen to the characters do so for actual reasons, and there are valuable lessons to be learned.
A Test of Courage by Justina Ireland was released the same day as Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule. While the stories set in The High Republic era are interconnected, you don't need to read everything to follow the story. However, having read Light of the Jedi first, I found A Test of Courage to be complementary. The younger intended audience and adult readers alike will find something to appreciate in this well-crafted tale.
Star Wars: The High Republic: A Test of Courage is available to order from Amazon.com.
Thank you to Disney Lucasfilm Press for providing an uncorrected galley proof for review purposes.Powered by Sidelines