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‘Star Wars: The High Republic: Defy The Storm’ by Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland

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Phase 3 of the High Republic is now in full swing, with the first wave of books now released and the comics a few issues into their phenomenal runs. Things have never looked more dire for the Jedi and the rest of the galaxy as the threat of the Nihil deepens and intensifies. Star Wars: The High Republic: Defy The Storm marks the last of the first wave of books until June, and also is the first YA novel of Phase 3.

Written by Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland (who teamed up for Path of Deceit in phase 2), Defy The Storm follows on from the adult novel The Eye of Darkness, whilst also being a somewhat sequel to Out of The Shadows, released back in phase 1 (also written by Justina Ireland).

The book is a grand galaxy hopping adventure! While it may not be as grand in scale as other books when phase 3 is over, it’s still an amazing young adult novel that deals with loss, love and growing up away from parental figures.

[Warning: there may be minor story spoilers in this review below]

The premise of Star Wars: The High Republic: Defy The Storm

The story of Defy The Storm follows Jedi Knight Vernestra Rwoh and Avon Starros, daughter of the disgraced Nihil senator Ghirra Starros, as they traverse the stormwall in search of Vernerstra’s Padawan Imri Cantaros. Imri is still alive and supposedly trapped deep in Nihil space.

They team up with Jordanna Sparkburn who also wishes to find family across the stormwall, and the untrustworthy Xylan Graf who is currently “working” for the Nihil. Each character has their own agenda once the occlusion zone, will they all make it back out alive?

The characters of Defy The Storm

This High Republic story’s greatness comes from its characters. They’re certainly the best part of the book, and each one gets time to shine, and gets into their psyche of how they’re dealing with the Nihil takeover. It’s great to see the perspective of other characters other than the Jedi, such as Avon and Jordanna who are the two other main characters in the book.

Star Wars: The High Republic: Defy The Storm

Avon is a particularly interesting character in the book as being the daughter of Ghirra Starros, Marchion Ro’s right hand woman, is not all it’s cracked up to be. Hating the fact that her mother is aligning herself with such vile people, she aims to try and stop her by her own means.

A lot of Avon’s character work in the book is her trying at all costs not to become like her mother, which is done amazingly through several key moments and scenes in the story. Avon is inherently good and despite wanting to escape the Occlusion Zone and begin trying to help the Republic, she first seeks out her friend Vernestra to help her bring back her Padawan Imri (who Avon was trapped with on Starlight Beacon).

Jordanna Sparkburn is somewhat the opposite of Avon in the book, instead, wanting to return to her family trapped deep in the Occlusion Zone. Being a San Tekka, family proves very important to Jordanna, as she searches for them.

Her journey in this book is a very interesting one for several reasons. One such reason is that part way through the book, she stumbles upon a mystery that could affect the whole galaxy in the future. The mystery is teased very well and brings a larger sense of dread to the later chapters and books. It really feels like this mystery may end up being a bigger danger than the Nihil or even the Nameless. Jordanna herself is also a great example of what the young adult books pride themselves on, a proud queer character who embodies a lot of the good that non Jedi characters can do across the galaxy.

Vernestra Rwoh is probably one of the best Jedi created for the High Republic (so much so she will be appearing in The Acolyte later this year) and her journey in Defy The Storm is another great example of her embodying everything it means to be a Jedi.

She starts out disillusioned away from the Jedi order and keeping to herself on a far off planet, it’s only when her friend Avon comes to tell her about her long-lost Padawan that we see her start to regain her senses and become a Jedi once more, risking it all for the sake of other people. Her lightwhip gets a lot of use in the book and the way the authors describe how Vernestra uses it is very vivid and shows her mastery over the newest cool lightsaber form. Seeing her regain her sense of self makes her journey in the book all that more sweet.

Xylan Graf is the other semi-main character in the book, the suave, Lando Calrissian-type who is seemingly incredibly untrustworthy. Xylan works for the Nihil under duress aboard the Lighting Crash, which is responsible for controlling the Stormwall. He is by far one of the best side characters in the book, every chapter with him in it suddenly becomes funnier and more dramatic.

You can’t help but fall in love with him as a character no matter what he is doing and the way the authors write his journey is astonishing. We get to see him slowly leave the rich, suave, annoying persona behind as he teams up with Jordanna, Avon and Vernestra and really gets a feel for just what the Nihil are doing out in the Occlusion Zone.

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A very solid Star Wars: The High Republic novel

The great thing about the young adult novels of the High Republic is that we get to go a lot more in depth than in just the adult novels. In Defy the Storm, we get to learn a lot more about what life is like in the Occlusion Zone, and what the mass movement of the Stormwall in Eye of Darkness did to that part of the galaxy. We also get to learn about how the Stormwall itself works through the Lightning Crash space station. Gratton and Ireland have often said how much they like to write about the science of Star Wars, and it is clear to see in this book.

Defy The Storm is a very solid novel, and does a lot of heavy lifting for the future books to come. The mysteries and plot threads revealed in the book will help feed the rest of the novels, and hopefully we get to see a lot more of the characters in future installments.

There are a few issues as you read through Defy The Storm that may stand out, some of which comes from the tonal inconsistency, this may down to the dual writers, but some characters don’t feel as much in danger as others at points. As well, a few plot threads seem to get wrapped up even before the characters get to truly be in the moment.

There is also a part of a chapter towards the end of the novel between Vernestra and another character which I feel is completely out of place in the book. I feel this should be left for that character to deal with outside of a singular chapter. However, none of that takes away from the great storytelling and the amazing work done to bring all of these characters together into this adventure.

Final thoughts on Star Wars: The High Republic: Defy The Storm

Overall, I believe Defy The Storm is a great read, Vernestra, Avon, Jordanna and Xylan all exemplify what makes the High Republic such a great and expansive part of the Star Wars world. The plot, while doing a lot of set up for the future, is intriguing in its own right and leaves us wanting more from the characters. I’m eager to see what the future holds for the rest of Phase 3.

My rating: 8/10

Star Wars: The High Republic: Defy The Storm by Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland is now available most places books are sold. Do you plan to read this new High Republic novel? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or on The Cosmic Circus Discord!

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