The High Republic has been serving up a steady stream of middle-grade stories that nicely complement the overall story arcs in both Phase I and Phase II. In addition to bringing us adventures that both kids and adults can enjoy, they have introduced us to compelling young characters.
After all, the first character from High Republic books announced in a live-action project – Vernestra Rwoh – debuted in a middle-action book.
The latest addition, Star Wars: The High Republic: Quest for Planet X, is among the best examples of the initiative's middle-grade storytelling. The book is Tessa Gratton's first solo Star Wars novel after cowriting Path of Deceit with Justina Ireland. She also contributed the short story “Masters” to Stories of Jedi and Sith.
With art by Petur Antonsson, the book picks up after George Mann's Quest for the Hidden City as we rejoin Jedi Padawan Rooper Nitani and Dass Leffbruck, son of a hyperspace prospector, on Batuu. It is in the chaotic aftermath of the Battle of Jedha, and Rooper nervously wonders about Silandra Sho, her Jedi Master, who had made a pilgrimage to the planet. Details are few, and she wonders if she should have gone along.
The growing menace from the Path of the Open Hand does not stop the Graf and San Tekka families from sponsoring the Great Hyperspace Chase. If you've followed the High Republic, you'll recognize both families as leading hyperspace prospectors. They sponsor the Chase to identify, chart, and profit from new routes on the galactic frontier.
The event is another fascinating look into the galaxy at this point in its history. It gives the reader another glimpse at how the universe we see in the Star Wars films evolved.
Dass has partnered with Sky Graf to participate in the Chase, and they recruit Rooper to join them. The Chase begins with a no-holds-barred chaos that evokes some of our earthly history's land speculations and gold rushes. But we soon learn that the event was just a cover. Dass and Sky have other plans, and the trio is soon off to find the mysterious Planet X.
Gratton excels at exploring the main characters' motivations and their evolution through the story. Though she has been on Pathfinder teams across the frontier, Rooper feels drawn to serve in more demanding roles. At the same time, the 15-year-old Padwan ponders what kind of Jedi she wants to be, reflecting on the symbolism of Master Sho's unique shield.
Dass, it turns out, has already been to Planet X. His father's starship is still there after a less scrupulous prospector, Sunshine Dobbs, stranded them. Despite his father's concerns, he intends to find it and return it. Doing so would surely establish his ability as a pilot and prospector in his own right. Like most Grafs, Sky wants to bring more glory to the family name. Yet they also have more profound, personal, and poignant ambitions.
All three main protagonists go through personal and emotional growth through the journey and the difficult decisions it presents. Their wrestling with weighty issues of loss, uncertainty, legacy, and identity will resonate with many young readers and many of us who used to be young.
The book is notably unafraid to explore the evolution of Sky's identity. While the character isn't the first nonbinary individual to appear in a Star Wars story, few have played such a prominent role. Sky's companions use their preferred pronouns without a second thought and accept them for who they are.
Everyone should be able to see themselves, without translating who they are, in their favorite storytelling universe. The High Republic has done a great job of this, and Quest for Planet X truly excels.
The trio's journey takes a turn when they come across Fel Ix, a Path of the Open Hand member who Gratton and Ireland introduced in Path of Deceit. The encounter takes the story in an unexpected direction, leading to surprisingly deep conversations between him and Rooper. I couldn't help but think that their exchanges – and how they leave things at the end of the story – could teach a thing or two to us here in the real world — even (maybe especially) the adults.
Through Fel Ix, the reader can also tie together some lingering loose threads in Phase II and the entire High Republic arc. Planet X quickly evolves from what seems like a MacGuffin for a relatively consequence-free romp to a critical element in the Path's plans… and those of the Nihil 150 years later.
Michael Siglain, Disney-Lucasfilm Press Director of Creative Franchise, initially recommended reading Quest for Planet X before Lydia Kang's Cataclysm. Some of Quest's final chapters, however, overlap with the climax of Cataclysm and contain some significant spoilers for the other book. If you intend to read both, consider reading Cataclysm first to absorb its, well, cataclysmic events fresh. Then read Quest for Planet X for an outside view of the pivotal event through the perspective of Gratton's unlikely band of heroes.
Whether middle-grade books are “essential” reading seems to be a perennial question. Indeed, the major plot points feature prominently in the adult and young adult titles. You won't be lost if finances or free time dictate skipping this one. But you will undoubtedly miss out on engaging characters and a rip-roaring adventure – to say nothing of a fascinating look at how hyperspace prospecting and one of the better explanations of “hyperspace science” we've seen in Star Wars canon.
For my money, no matter how old you are, Tessa Gratton's exemplary character development and the high stakes adventure make Quest for Planet X a worthwhile read. It is one of the best middle-grade books in the High Republic initiative and holds its own among the adult and young adult titles.
Star Wars: The High Republic: Quest for Planet X is available from all booksellers or directly from Disney Books.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.