The storm was predicted in Path of Deceit. Its strong winds and bands of rain collided in Convergence. By the time of The Battle of Jedha, it had slowly made landfall, but now — in Cataclysm by Lydia Kang — the storm is in full rage and only the combined might of the Jedi Order and the Republic can hope to quell the tempest.

Following the failed signing of a peace treaty between Eiram and E’ronoh on Jedha, all roads lead to Dalna. To everyone involved, it’s becoming painfully obvious that the Path of the Open Hand has been up to no good, but the full extent of its complicity is still not known. Therefore, in different waves and following distinct story arcs, various characters and interests come together at the planet, only to discover that Dalna isn’t as they remember it.

Much like the Path itself, the planet has undergone changes. No longer colorful and in bloom, it’s now dark and foreboding. In fact, throughout the conflict, the planet embodies the storm, pelting everyone with rain and covering everything with darkness. That, of course, is to the Path’s liking. Its leadership has been planning this assault for years. And its dedication shows. From the deep and convoluted cave system to its new and deadly armaments, the Path stands ready to defend itself. More so, it stands ready to make a statement.

Reminiscent of the real world impasse between the Branch Davidians and the federal government at Waco, this conflagration of ideology and firepower devolves quickly. It becomes a field of fire, with extreme violence and suffering everywhere to be seen. And with the leadership’s blessing, it rages out of control, pulling in an ever widening cast of interests until — like the center of a black hole — nothing can remain.

Worlds Kept Apart

Star Wars image of the High Republic moon Eirie

After the botched treaty signing, Jedi are dispatched to assist Chancellor Orlen Mollo. The hope is to restore calm and keep another skirmish from breaking out between Eiram and E’ronoh. Unfortunately for the chancellor and Master Char-Ryl-Roy and Padawan Enya Keen, dark forces are already on the move. A dirty bomb has already been put into place.

The good news is that it doesn’t go off. The bad news is that its detonation is inconsequential. Just its existence — and its location — is enough to foment another round of fighting. A rising tide of destruction seems inevitable — even Xiri A’lbaran and Phan-tu Zenn can’t seem to stem it. The only hope is that the real perpetrators can be found and proof of the crime presented before it’s too late.

Thankfully, clues have been left on the shared moon of Eirie. Persons of interest are found to be guiltier than expected, and a trail of suspicion leads directly to the Path. Aided by Xiri and Phan-tu, the Jedi begin a fact-finding mission with diplomacy as a cover. Yet, as they attempt to parley with the Path, it becomes clear that a peaceful solution isn’t in the works. Especially when word comes that an attack is already underway. An attack that spills over into violence against them.

The Chaos

Love and order can conquer chaos

Axel Greylark begins the book in prison. It’s a fitting place for a boy who grew up feeling confined and stunted and for a man who can’t seem to move on and grow as a person. Even though Axel’s been sidelined, the powers that be still need him for a job. One only he can execute. And so he’s freed, unleashing with him a galaxy worth of chaos.

Of course, with the chaos there’s also order. In this case, a yang to his yin — Gella Nattai. Matched up with Orin Darhga, a Jedi Master with robes full of bad dad jokes, the two follow Axel to Dalna and are quick to confront him with a choice: do the right thing or else be left with the consequences. In this case, the potential capture, humiliation, and death of his mother, Chancellor Kyong Greylark.

If we know anything about Axel, it’s that he can never follow the straight path. And so begins the consequences. It’s a quick and steep decline into death, suffering, and madness as the Leveler is unleashed and hordes of fanatics spill out of the caves like ants to a picnic. Before long, Gella and other Jedi are engaged in a forever war of their own on the surface, defending themselves against an endless onslaught of furious believers. All because a boy grew into a man who couldn’t comprehend the results of his actions.

The Survivors

Dalna before the fighting begins

Following their harrowing turn on Jedha, Master Creighton Sun and Padawan Aida Forte should have been given some R & R. After all, they had just seen the worst in people. Mobs whipped into a frenzy, people clashing on the streets. Instruments of war tearing down neighborhoods. Yet, that isn’t the Jedi way. To sit back and relax.

No, instead of taking it easy, the two continue the good fight, searching for the cause of the unrest. And they find its origin with the Path on Dalna. Almost immediately, they begin an investigation, taking on Jedi Master Yaddle and her youngling, who happen to be in the area. Together, the group land on the planet and find it peaceful enough. Yet, hidden throughout the landscape are large defensive structures. Within them are types of weaponry to repel an invasion. And in the huts surrounding the structures are elderly Path members, all of them having been moved to the surface to stunt any direct or orbital attack.

While Yaddle remains with the ship, Creighton and Aida search the caves, trying to uncover direct evidence of malfeasance. Down there, they get more than they can handle. Before long it’s a chase back to the surface and a frantic attempt at escape. Unfortunately, while trying to get away, their ship is shot down and their means of survival endangered by fields full of enforcer droids.

Leaders To The Rescue In Cataclysm

Leaders of the Star Wars Republic during the High Republic

On Coruscant, Kyong and Jedi Master Yoda are initially informed of what’s going on. They give their blessings and are content with the multiple responses to the Path. Yet, when communication in and out of the system is hijacked and the only message coming through is a demand for the chancellor to come to Dalna alone, the writing is on the wall.

What follows for the chancellor is a humbling experience. It’s a direction she never thought her life would take. And yet, with Axel for a son, it’s a direction that overwhelmingly felt inevitable. She travels to Dalna and she faces her challenge with the poise and respect only a chancellor can summon. She does it for herself, for her son, and for her office. But, most importantly, she does it with others. She does not travel alone.

For the first time in an adult High Republic novel, Yoda makes his presence felt. No longer talked about or mentioned in passing, Yoda travels to Dalna and sees for himself what the Path has been up to. And while Yoda doesn’t end the conflict with a wave of his hand, what he is able to accomplish is worth the wait. It’s worth seeing him in the thick of a battle again. And yet, compared with the destruction wrought and the needless carnage, his actions are overshadowed, made almost pedestrian.

Mother Of All Traps

Fighting about the take place in Cataclysm

This fight, in scale, might not be as large as Jedha’s. It doesn’t encompass a city and multiple factions all trying to ground one another into smithereens. But this fight is more personal. It’s far more focused and — politically — could not be more toxic.

The fallout from this encounter will have plenty of reverberations. Certainly through the rest of this phase but more emphatically into the future, where malcontents like those among the Nihil will see strikes like this one as a sign of Jedi and Republic weakness. Despite the technical win, this is a misstep for the good guys. It’s a chink in the vaulted armor. And it will undoubtedly lead to more rounds of setbacks and more bloodshed until the proper people are brought to justice. But that’s for another story.

Grading Cataclysm

This novel is a page turner. In a good way. There are many characters to follow but Kang aptly weaves their stories and actions together into a seamless whole. While at time the action tends to overstep on personal character moments, there’s enough breathing room for contemplation. Which is a good thing, because this book requires contemplation.

Certainly it would have been nice having more of the Mother and the Ro cousins, but this story is correctly focused on the Jedi and the Republic. It’s centered on the good guys and their inability to give up on their morals and belief in redemption. Thus, the trap that almost ensnares them.

In the end, though, love wins out. Along with law and order. And the promise that as long as the Jedi and Republic still stand, right will triumph over wrong.

Focused plot
High stakes
Good character details
Intense fighting that can get overwhelming

Review Summary

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