Plus, author Justina Ireland offers insights into the young Jedi at the heart of her next young adult novel in Star Wars: The High Republic.
Reath Silas and Vernestra Rwoh are struggling with some very relatable teen problems in the next book from Star Wars: The High Republic, Out of the Shadows by Justina Ireland, out later this month. The two young Jedi knights are worried about changes in the galaxy and living up to expectations, while also continuing to hone their skills as Force users.
When we first met Vern in A Test of Courage, she was a prodigy just trying to keep herself and her friends safe on a dangerous jungle planet. "It's been more than a year since we last checked in with Vern and Imri, and what a year it's been," Ireland says. "No spoilers, but these characters have been through a lot since the destruction of the Steady Wing, and I think that shows in how they approach problems. They're still teenagers and still Jedi, but they aren't soulless lightsaber-wielding machines. The tragedy in the galaxy has impacted them, and they've seen a lot. That would make anyone question their faith and how they use it to improve the world around them, and the Jedi are no different."
Fans will recognize Reath from Claudia Gray's Into the Dark, a debut that Ireland says made it easy for her to write the character in this next stage of his journey. "Taking his characterization and extrapolating it based on who he is at the end of Into the Dark and considering what he and Cohmac have been up to gave me a pretty good idea of the kind of ways Reath was most likely to change and grow," Ireland says. "And, honestly, that's part of the fun of The High Republic. These characters are growing and changing in very tangible ways, and I dig that."
And the book will introduce us to Sylvestri Yarrow, an average denizen who's just trying to make her way in the galaxy as a pilot and trader. "I like Jedi, but I have always been endlessly fascinated about the regular folks in the galaxy. Like, what is it like to be a lunch lady in the High Republic?" Ireland quips. "Who works in the laundry room in the Jedi Temple? These are the kinds of questions I always have and so of course I wanted to bring another scoundrel into the High Republic, even if it was just a fledgling scoundrel. Sylvestri Yarrow is like so many of us who are just trying to get through the day with our sanity intact, and throwing the complications of Jedi, Republic politics, and warring kajillionaires at her was really, really fun."
Although the book doesn't arrive for a couple more weeks, today StarWars.com is thrilled to share an exclusive excerpt from Star Wars: The High Republic: Out of the Shadows, the forthcoming Star Wars: The High Republic Young Adult novel by Ireland. In the passage, the Jedi Reath and Vernestra are dealing with the fallout of their journey so far. Ireland promises a story full of intrigue and excitement. "Nihil! Lightsabers! Jedi! Sadness! Electric cats! It's Star Wars, fam. Get in, buckle up, and have fun."
Read the preview below, and pick up your own copy when Out of the Shadows arrives July 27, 2021.
Reath was completely unable to sleep. He laid in the too-comfortable bed in his quarters for a handful of hours, willing himself to rest, even going so far as to meditate his way into the cool blue reassurance of the Force. But every time he began to drift off, he was pulled out of it by racing thoughts.
It had been too long since he’d spent a night in the bosom of safety. He was used to falling into a fitful sleep, exhausted and wondering what the next day would bring, not stuffed full of good food and snuggled into soft covers.
Maybe adventuring had broken him.
The corridor lights were dim as Reath left his room. It was technically the sleep cycle, even though there were still Jedi up and about tending to their business. Not all the species were diurnal, so there was activity on Starlight Beacon at any given hour, even if it tended to settle into something more sedate after most found their rest.
He made his way through the corridors, his feet leading him even though he had no real destination in mind. When he stopped in front of the bank of windows near the lifts, he stilled and turned toward the vastness of space.
Reath turned to find Vernestra standing nearby. Sweat dotted her brow, and she held a glass of water. Reath saw the door to the practice room sliding closed a short distance down the hallway.
“It happens. Every time we leave and come back, it takes about a day for my body to readjust to the gravity here on the station.” She drank deeply of the water while looking out the windows into the darkness of space beyond. “Dueling helps me when I can’t sleep.”
Reath nodded, and Vernestra gestured back toward where she’d come from. “Since you’re up, come duel with me. The practice droids are getting tired of me walloping them, and I’d love a partner.”
Reath nodded. “Sounds like fun,” he said, and Vernestra laughed in response.
“You sound like a man headed to death,” she said as they walked back to the practice room.
“Uh, it’s just that I usually practice with Master Cohmac, and he is really, really enamored of forms.”
“Well, then, dueling with me should be fun, because I like to use a little bit of everything. You can critique my form. That should be a nice change for you.” Vernestra winked as she said it, and Reath found himself ﬂushing. When they were Padawans, Vernestra’s form had been a thing of beauty, sinuous and efficient, and more than one Master had come by the practice room to see it for themselves.
Reath had always seen dueling as part of the requirement to be a Jedi, and so he had taken it on with the same dogged determination with which he approached every task he was not particularly suited to.
After tossing Reath a practice tunic, Vernestra grabbed a practice saber off the rack in the corner, and Reath did the same, testing them out until he found one that felt nearly the same as his own lightsaber. When he powered it up, it glowed a sedate blue, and the one Vernestra had chosen glowed a peaceful green. These lightsabers, while carrying a slight charge, did not have the killing ability of real lightsabers. That didn’t mean that getting hit by one didn’t hurt. It just meant that neither Reath nor Vernestra had to worry about accidentally cutting off the other’s hand. The tunic was also made of a material that was sensitive to heat, and a direct hit would show on the snowy material as an angry scorch. “Ready?” Vernestra asked, and Reath nodded, his heart pounding.
Vernestra was not like Master Cohmac, who was patient and steady in his attacks. She ran forward and delivered a ﬂurry of blows, all of which Reath parried, much to his surprise. Vernestra smiled, seemingly unbothered, and the sense Reath got from her was of a stream charting its rightful course to the sea, all intent and purpose.
“Breathe, Reath! You’re going to end up exhausted if you hold your breath the whole time!” Reath let out his breath in a whoosh, taking another deep breath as Vernestra swung her saber in a wide attack and exhaling it as he blocked the blow.
They went on like that for a long while, Reath forcing himself to remember where to put his feet, to keep his shoulders square, to watch Vernestra’s shoulders to understand what her next move might be. Minutes passed, and Reath found himself wiping the sweat off his brow, hard-pressed to keep up a competent defense against Vernestra’s enthusiastic attacks.
She was even better than he remembered.
Finally, Reath felt himself slowing, and Vernestra slowed her attacks, as well. When she launched herself into a back-ﬂip in the air over his head and caught him from behind, the saber sizzling across his back, he groaned and raised his hands in surrender.
“I yield,” he gasped, and Vernestra’s laughter was equally winded.
“Cohmac must be an amazing teacher. Your form is impeccable,” Vernestra said, powering down her saber and ﬂopping onto the padded ﬂoor, arms akimbo.
“Maybe,” Reath said, sitting down hard. “But I still lost.”
“Only because you wanted to.” Vernestra rolled over onto her side, propping her head up on her hand. “You could have won any number of times. But you were so focused on defense that you never took up the attack. I get it, the Order wants us to defend life,” she said, her eyes sliding out of focus as her thoughts drifted. “But I think sometimes we can best defend life by going on the offensive.”
“Are we still talking about dueling?” Reath asked. Vernestra sat up and sighed.
“No, not really. It’s just that, when I was a Padawan I thought all of the older Jedi had everything figured out and the Force would give me that same kind of insight when I became a Knight. But here I am more than a year later, and I still feel just as confused and conﬂicted as I did when I was a youngling.” Vernestra fell back onto the mat. “And not only that, I’m worried no one takes me seriously because I’m so young, except for my Padawan, and I’m not sure I’m giving him the right tools to be a good Knight.” She turned her head and smiled at Reath. “So, you know, normal late-night musings.”
“Yeah,” Reath said, lying back, as well. “The entire time Master Cohmac and I were on Genetia, Master Cohmac kept saying that he had to get this volume or that, that the Force had led him to be in this place or that. But I don’t know if he truly believed it. The destruction on Valo was hard on everyone, but ever since, I feel like Master Cohmac has been volunteering us for more and more dangerous missions. I’ve sensed guilt in him, but I don’t know what it’s from, and he isn’t one to share such personal thoughts.”
“I probably shouldn’t have, either, but I consider us friends,” Vernestra said. “But I have felt this sense of apprehension from so many Jedi lately, especially the more we go up against the Nihil. Is it the right thing to seek them out and destroy them before they claim more lives? So far they’ve tampered with the hyperspace lanes, seeded the Drengir throughout the galaxy, and attacked the Republic Fair. I can’t see how they’ll be any less dangerous if we leave them be.”
“But that feels like it goes against the Order and the balance in the Force,” Reath said. Nothing Vernestra was saying was alarming. He’d had the same thoughts on more than one occasion, and in the end it always came back to his faith that the Force was guiding him on the path best suited for him.
“Exactly. And so I end where I began, questioning if I am doing as the Force wills or as I want. But since I haven’t thought about returning to Coruscant, I suppose leaving Starlight Beacon is wholly the workings of the Force,” Vernestra said with a laugh. “I’m sorry you can’t sleep, Reath, but I am glad you were up to spar with me.”
“Me too,” Reath said as Vernestra climbed to her feet and put away her dueling materials before taking her leave. “And next time I won’t spend so much time on the defensive.”
Vernestra laughed. “I look forward to it.”
Reath didn’t move as she left, choosing to remain ﬂat on the practice mats as he let his mind wander.
Vernestra’s misgivings were no different from his own, and like her he had thought that he would somehow feel different once he was promoted to a Knight. Not that he believed that would happen any time soon. If his trials required researching something obscure like the history of Genetian wedding rituals, he’d have no problem, but for most Jedi their trials required dealing with something they weren’t skilled in. And while Reath didn’t think he was a lost cause, he definitely felt like he had a lot of learning left to do before he took on any more responsibility.
The whole question of the responsibility of the Order in relation to the Jedi just proved how unprepared he was to be a Jedi Knight. Reath had heard Master Cohmac have the same conversation with other Jedi, the argument about how much the Order owed the Republic. Some Jedi were concerned that their focus was at risk of turning from research and education and the workings of the Force to war and politics. Master Cohmac certainly had expressed worry over how comfortable the Chancellor and her aides had become inserting themselves into Jedi Council meetings even after the Great Disaster had been resolved. And Master Cohmac might be a bit of a worrier, but he greatly disliked feeling beholden to the whims of the Republic, even if he also thought the Nihil were a dangerous threat.
Reath didn’t know how he felt on the matter. He could see both sides, and it wasn’t like anyone was looking to Padawans to make the decision. Thank the Force.
Reath picked himself up from the practice mats, his muscles warning him that he would feel the effects of this training session long into the next day, and after putting away his practice saber and tunic, he returned to his room and promptly fell into a blissful sleep.
Visit Lucasfilm’s official hub for all things Star Wars: The High Republic at StarWars.com/TheHighRepublic.