Unlike the previous book in the series, The Rising Storm doesn’t start with a disaster. It doesn’t have an opening hook that lasts a third of the way through. Instead, it’s a slow burn. It’s a tale full of forewarning dread that builds with each successive page and scene. The height of which is an all-out battle that threatens to tear the fabric of the Republic apart.
Thinking all is well and the Nihil have been destroyed, Republic Chancellor Lina Soh continues with her Great Works. With the Starlight Beacon up and running and no danger on the horizon, she turns her attention to a great fair meant to showcase the best the Republic offers.
Much like the disaster in the first book, the fair consumes a big chunk of the book and sets the stage for the fighting. And, as with the disaster, the fair is the backdrop that allows us readers to get reacquainted with characters from the first novel while being introduced to new ones.
Forewarning Dread: The Republic Fair
Modeled on real-world expositions, which have featured new technologies and innovations across various disciplines, this fair is likewise a showcase. It has many pavilions featuring the best and latest in science, the arts, faith, and even cuisine. With the pavilions grouped into four distinct zones, each flanking the main thoroughfare called the Republic Avenue, the real showstoppers are two mammoth displays.
The first is a ship, the Innovator, the most advanced research and medical vessel ever built. Its design is sleek and impressive, and state-of-the-art. It’s meant to be the first of many to patrol the Outer Rim, providing light in the darkness and any aid to those who need it.
The second are floating islands, forty-two in all, each representing the key members of the Republic. The repulsor islands are distinct biospheres made to mimic what can be found in each world. All are suspended over a lake next to the pavilions.
Of course, with such an impressive array of technologies on display and so many people scheduled to attend, it goes without saying that the Nihil will attack. It’s just a matter of how and when.
Mayhem Ensues In The Rising Storm
Naturally, everything falls to pieces right at the fair’s opening, with Soh and other dignitaries in attendance. And, of course, the Republic and Jedi are caught flatfooted. Even though there have been continued skirmishes with the Nihil, including an attack on the Innovator right before it was moved to the fairgrounds, no one thinks to beef up security.
At least, not to levels that would make sense. Sure, the Jedi are spread thin, diverting members and resources toward an emerging threat called the Drengir. And yes, at least one senator has been pushing for a standing military to keep the Outer Rim safe, but the immediate deficits in ships and manpower are ignored.
It’s the height of hubris, perhaps the greatest weakness in this High Republic era. And it costs many people their lives. When the attack does come, the fair is destroyed, and its symbols of hope and unity are left smoldering in the wake. Practically nothing is left unblemished, including the Jedi.
Veering Toward The Dark Side
While only one Jedi calls upon the Dark Side of the Force, it won’t be hard seeing others succumbing soon enough. After all, there’s only so much a handful can do to stop a rising tide. And whether the Republic likes it or not, the Nihil and their credo of self-preservation are getting stronger.
This contrasting view of individualism versus community is at the heart of The Rising Storm. It plays out across the fairgrounds and the Outer Rim at large. The more the Republic expands and pushes its agenda, the more individuals rebel against it. In many ways, it can be seen as the inverse of the Galactic Empire, where the good guys are in control. Yet, in many of the same ways, the control feels perilously close to imploding.
All that’s needed is a push. And from the way the novel ends, at least two threats are perched to provide that momentum. One, the Drengir. The other, a creature the leader of the Nihil spends most of the novel finding and finally unleashing.
Tale Of The Tape: The Rising Storm
While the tension and premonitions are fantastically paced in the first third to half of the book, the final section races by with barely a chance to catch a breath. Characters and scenes come and go like cars on a speedway. It’s a bit much to maintain. Especially with such a large cast of characters and without enough grounding scenes to establish everyone’s relationship.
Also, as with many middle chapters in a saga, this book suffers from not having a distinct beginning or ending. It feels untethered and too much like a setup for something bigger later on. While many of the primary characters are still a joy to follow and are enriched by further entanglements, the collective isn’t as strong as in Light of the Jedi.
Which isn’t to say author Cavan Scott did a horrible job. The Rising Storm is a solid read. It’s just not as innovative as its predecessor. The stakes aren’t as high and our favorite characters are clearly not at their best.
For further reading about the High Republic, check out our reading list.
- THE GOOD
- Strong writing
- Mostly good pacing
- Main battle scene very cinematic
- THE BAD
- Too many characters
- Final section too fast paced
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