The High Republic, in my opinion, is probably one of the best parts of Star Wars since Disney took over in 2012. The publishing franchise has since early 2021 grown tremendously. The initiative spans adult, young adult, and children’s books as well as an animated series in the form of Young Jedi Adventures. The High Republic will finally make its way into Live Action in The Acolyte a Disney+ show coming sometime in 2024.
The High Republic is set centuries before The Phantom Menace showcasing the Jedi at their peak, and the Republic as it first enters into the Outer Rim. Star Wars: Cataclysm by Lydia Kang is part of Phase 2 of the High Republic publishing initiative, set over a century before the novels of Phase 1. Cataclysm is the final adult book of Phase 2 as it follows on from both Convergence and The Battle Of Jedha. The book brings in characters from both previous books as well as giving us some new, unforgettable characters and treating us to some familiar faces from the movies.
The book follows several Jedi members as they aim to unravel the mystery of The Path of the Open Hand, an elusive cult that has aimed to disrupt peace by any means. All roads lead to Dalna, headquarters of The Path as the Jedi prepare to take on a foe like no other, in a battle for light and life. Cataclysm has ended up being one of my favorite books in the entire High Republic so far and it’s very easy to see why.
[Warning: Review may contain minor spoilers for Star Wars: Cataclysm but no major plot reveals!]
A fractured introduction in Star Wars: Cataclysm
Timeline-wise, Cataclysm begins around the same time as the battle itself in The Battle of Jedha. We are first introduced to the villains of the book, the Path of the Open Hand, a cult that believe the force should be free and that the Jedi should not have it. The Mother is the leader of the cult (who serves as a kind of ‘Palpatine’ of the book) with a new character, Binnot Ullo as her up front and in the action “Darth Vader” (complete with a glove with poison spike fingertips, very bond-villainesque). They both concoct an evil scheme to make the Jedi and Republic pay for their failures and to free the Force, which involves several characters from the previous books. This plot sets up the book and establishes where we find the characters at the beginning.
Cataclysm is very character heavy and Lydia Kang does a great job of managing to juggle several groups of characters without ever losing any of them within the story. The rest of the character introductions take us through their reactions to the failings of the Battle of Jedha along with the unveiling of The Path being behind everything and the mystery surrounding their plans for the galaxy.
Phan-Tu and Xiri both return as the newly married heirs to the warring Eiram and E’ronoh, their respective home planets. Both characters have a lot to work through in the book as being newlyweds and saving their planets comes with a whole host of problems, alongside dealing with their parents still not believing in a peaceful alliance between the planets. They were both first introduced in Convergence along with the other returning characters of Jedi Wayseeker Gella Nattai and scoundrel and chancellor’s son, Axel Greylark (a favorite character among High Republic fans). Both intertwine brilliantly as Kang writes a very beautiful but painful relationship between them as they grapple with Axel’s betrayal at the end of Convergence.
This core quad of characters are the most important ones in the book by far and we see through their eyes for a lot of it. Getting to know them all deeply in Convergence only strengthens your bond with them during Cataclysm as they all work on revealing the plot around them and the wider world of characters they interact with.
Other returning characters include the Jedi duo, Creighton Sun and Aida Forte from The Battle of Jedha. They deal with the losses suffered in Jedha and aim to get answers about The Path by sneaking into their compound. Jedi Master and Padawan, Char-Ryl-Roy and Enya Keen from Convergence, and Chancellors Kyong Greylark and Orlen Mollo, also return, each playing important roles in the political aspects of the story. Kang manages to give every single one of these characters their chance to shine despite there being a lot of them.
Their introductions in previous books definitely help with this, as we know their thoughts and feelings and how they act in different circumstances. There are a lot of dealings with failure and regret from a lot of these characters as the book progresses into a more tense and dark tale. Yet despite how dark it gets they always want what is best for everyone and this manages to shine through in Lydia Kang’s words.
The new bunch in The High Republic
Whilst Lydia Kang does amazing work bringing back the returning characters, I strongly believe her best work is with the new characters made for the book. The main villain, Binnot Ullo is a typical Star Wars bad guy in many ways. However, his sheer tenacity, his creepiness, and his poison glove hand make him a formidable adversary to be the face of The Path in this book. He is no match for some of the Jedi and his relationships with several of the characters in the book make him very interesting and not just a forgettable face with blue markings.
Kang’s best work, in my opinion, comes in the form of her comedy in Star Wars: Cataclysm and none more so than with the Jedi Orin Darhga. Orin teams up with Gella for most of the book as she deals with Axel Greylark and his connections to The Path, chasing him across the galaxy until they end up on Dalna. On top of being the very beacon of what the Jedi stand for, Orin is absolutely hilarious, and just like the characters in the book do, you will also be groaning at all of the best “dad jokes” he gives.
Another favorite of mine was that of Master Yaddle (yes, her!) and Padawan Cippa who Yaddle has been left in the care of for a short while (effectively babysitting duty). Hilarity ensues as Yaddle has to deal with a very large, impatient, powerful force-wielding child for the entire book. However, there are moments of tenderness between them both as we get closer to the end, with Cippa ending up in dangerous situations on Dalna. Yaddle gets many moments to shine in this book, living up to her name as a very powerful Jedi and Force user who could arguably be on the same level as Yoda. These new characters pair up very nicely with the already-introduced ones as Lydia Kang expertly crafts the book toward its very violent ending.
The Night of Sorrow
Teased throughout Phase 1 “The Night of Sorrow” is finally revealed in this book. With Cataclysm starting big and spread out, it slowly winds its way to becoming a much smaller atmosphere as more and more characters wind up on the planet of Dalna, headquarters of The Path.
The tension is palpable as the book reaches its third act in which Jedi and the Republic alike finally uncover the truth about The Path and must fight their way off of Dalna. As more and more Jedi end up on the planet throughout the book, tensions rise until it boils over into an all-out war.
Kang gives us the most visceral, violent, and visual battle that I have ever read for a long time. The action leaps off the page and the battle was incredibly easy to visualize, a testament to the astonishing planning and writing it took to get us here. There are plenty of surprises, reveals, sheer terror, and death all throughout the fight, a good quarter of the book is spent on the battle from start to finish and when it begins you will not want to put the book down until it ends.
Final thoughts on Star Wars: Cataclysm by Lydia Kang
Cataclysm is a testament to what makes The High Republic so great for me. Lydia Kang has brought us a very engaging, amazingly written book that will serve as some of the best Star Wars has to offer.
Despite the several books before it that are also recommended reading, once you get to Cataclysm you know reading the previous installments has been incredibly worth it for this amazing book alone. This is an excellently paced book that not only gives us phenomenal Jedi action, but beautifully tender and fist-pumping moments from even the most minor of characters. This is Star Wars firing on all cylinders.
My rating 9.5/10
Star Wars: Cataclysm by Lydia Kang is available now in hardback, digital, and as an audiobook, and will be released in paperback in January 2024!
[This review was written by Guest Writer Cameron Brook]