New from The HoloFiles from Josh and George Bate: REVIEW: The High Republic: Convergence

By George Bate

Several years ago, ‘High Republic’ was a term unknown to most Star Wars fans. Rumors aside, fleeting mentions to this era were sporadically present in projects like The Rise of Kylo Ren and Dooku: Jedi Lost, but, until early 2021, the time before The Phantom Menace was entirely unexplored in canon. Flash forward 23 months and the High Republic era has easily become one of the most fascinating and captivating time periods in Star Wars storytelling.

The latest High Republic adult novel is Convergence, written by Zoraida Córdova, whose previous Star Wars work involved short stories included in From a Certain Point of View and The Clone Wars: Stories of Light and Dark. Convergence is part of the High Republic’s second phase, meaning it is set 100 years before the events of Light of the Jedi and, as such, is the earliest set story in Star Wars canon to date. Córdova’s novel takes place at a more peaceful time in the galaxy as the Jedi serve as guardians of peace, dispatched by the Republic to different conflicts all over the galaxy to facilitate peace. The relevant conflict in this story is the Forever War, a long-standing feud between rivals planets Eiram and E’ronoh. Members of the Jedi Order, including Gella Nattai, find themselves in the middle of this conflict as peace between Eiram and E’ronoh is closer than ever before. However, some insidious forces are willing to go to great lengths to prevent the planets from achieving peace…

Convergence is the fourth adult novel in the High Republic publishing initiative and follows Light of the Jedi, The Rising Storm, and The Fallen Star. Like its predecessors (or successors, given Convergence’s status as the earliest set story in Star Wars chronology), Convergence is intelligently centered around a core event. Despite its sprawling story and myriad of characters, Light of the Jedi was centered around the Hyperspace Disaster. The Rising Storm was centered around a Republic fair. And The Fallen Star was set aboard and centered around Starlight Beacon. Convergence, meanwhile, is centered around a wedding. This wedding is between Princess X’ira Albaran of E’ronoh and Prince Phan of Eiram and holds importance as the event will bring the warring planets closer than ever before and finally bring an end to their Forever War. Convergence benefits from positioning this wedding as its focal point as it provides a grounding to a story that could easily become convoluted with so many characters and motivations at play. Córdova nicely builds the conflict between the two planets at the core of this story in the book’s early chapters and, in turn, makes this Forever War feel real and lived in.

Also akin to other High Republic novels, Convergence doesn’t have a main character per se, but, rather, bolsters an ensemble of different characters with unique backgrounds, journeys, and motivations. In the early stages of the novel, it can be a little overwhelming to grow accustomed to all of these new names, although, by the end of the novel, the central characters feel thoroughly developed. Surprisingly, the novel’s standout character isn’t a Jedi, but the son of a Chancellor of the Republic named Axel Greylark. Greylark is introduced to the reader as a Han Solo type, with an undeniably likable (and simultaneously questionable) swagger and overconfidence. However, it’s soon apparent that Greylark is a stark departure from the Han Solo archetype and is a far more unique character than one may initially intuit. Córdova writes Greylark in a manner that makes the reader feel the frustration of a mother of rowdy, rebellious teen, while also infusing a heartbreaking empathy in the character’s journey.

Amongst the various insidious agents determined to scupper Eiram and E’ronoh’s peace is the Path of the Open Hand, the antagonists for this new era of High Republic storytelling. The Path of the Open Hand is a cult, led by a mysterious figure known as the Mother, who believe that the Force should be free and not wielded by anyone, including the Jedi. This cult is a villain unlike anything seen in Star Wars before, with an ideology that feels wholly distinct and unique. In a way, it harkens back to Luke Skywalker’s condemnation of the Jedi Order’s monopolization and unfounded ownership of the Force in The Last Jedi. Convergence offers a light introduction to the Path of the Open Hand. Perhaps it’s a testament to how brilliant the concept for this villain is or how Córdova manages to captivate with such little time spent with the cult, but it’s inevitable that readers will finish Convergence wanting to see more and learn more about the Mother and her followers.

If there is any critique of Convergence, it is that it doesn’t exactly make the most of its novel placement in the Star Wars timeline. Setting the High Republic’s Phase II even further in the past was an intriguing and unexpected decision from the Star Wars publishing team, although it would be fairly easy to read Convergence and not entirely appreciate its unique setting. The presence of two Chancellors of the Republic may standout to those more familiar with the High Republic’s initial phase of books and comics, but there is little else in this novel that makes this era 100 years before Light of the Jedi feel any different from the High Republic era introduced in Phase 1 set 100 years later.

VERDICT:

Convergence takes readers even further back in the Star Wars chronology with a narrative populated with interesting, diverse characters and centered around a Forever War between two warring planets. While Convergence doesn’t make the most of its unique standing in the Star Wars timeline, it is ultimately yet another accomplishment of the High Republic publishing initiative. Córdova writes her characters, in particular Axel Greylark, with a warmth and intimacy that leaps off the page and provides emotional moments for even the most minor of characters. While featured more in the shadows than in the forefront of this story, the High Republic’s new villainous group in the Path of the Open Hand is undoubtedly intriguing and will make readers eager to discover more about this cult in future High Republic stories. Above all else, Convergence exemplifies, once again, that Star Wars fans are missing out if they haven’t explored the High Republic era yet.

Convergence is on sale November 22.

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