Review – A Collective Hope Perseveres in Race to Crashpoint Tower by Daniel José Older

Race to Crashpoint Tower Cover


The High Republic continues to demonstrate how effective collaboration can be when it comes to world building…or galaxy building. All the authors of The High Republic team are still playing in the Star Wars sandbox but this period is so far removed they are free to choose what they connect to and what they don’t. So far, the authors have done a great job telling stories in tandem. Race to Crashpoint Tower by Daniel José Older holds and exceeds that standard, recounting another perspective of the Nihil attack on the Republic Fair and telling its own story of what happened there.



Daniel José Older bridges between his own characters and events of the ongoing IDW comic Star Wars Adventures and Cavan Scott’s The Rising Storm. While this middle-grade reader is much shorter and focused on a smaller cast of characters, it’s adds just as much impact to the Nihil attack on Chancellor Soh’s Republic Fair. I love how Older weaves together the characters in this novel with respect to the other events they’ve experienced so far. I highly recommend reading Older’s IDW comic series, The High Republic Adventures before jumping into this story. There are only five issues and it’s a great read on it’s own but it adds a lot to Race to Crashpoint Tower.


I’ll do my best to keep this review relatively spoiler-free but I will go into plot points and character detail. Race to Crashpoint Tower is a great story about knowing your limitations while sill believing in yourself and not backing down when you know you can do better. Ram Jomaram is a Padawan comfortable with himself who knows not all heroes drop in swinging lightsabers. Paired with Lula Talisola, a Padawan who’s already faced the Nihil in The High Republic Adventures and strives to be a superior Padawan in every way. The two of them compliment each other and are determined to protect those they feel depend on them. The Nihil aren’t the only ones they are facing – the Drengir make an appearance.



We get an idea how the Drengir are spreading across the galaxy and the Nihil’s role in that. The Drengir are against everyone, they don’t distinguish. Older assumes you’ve read Claudia Gray’s Into the Dark and the High Republic Marvel series by Cavan Scott. If this is your first introduction to them, you’ll probably be a little confused. These predator plants are dangerous but Race to Crashpoint Tower shows it’s possible to communicate with them. Though they’ve been painted as a mindless, brutal hive-mind only concerned with their next meal, we learn the Drengir are capable of compromise and they have the potential to go mobile when needed. There’s a stunning scene which pits them against the Nihil and they rapidly grow limbs to take control of a ship, piloting it away to make their escape.



The story opens when we meet Ram doing what he loves the most, working in a dusty shop, repairing droids and speeders. Although he is a Padawan, Ram is content to use the Force as a mechanic and holsters his lightsaber as if it’s simply another tool. He’s not looking for an adventure or wondering when he’ll get to face an opponent with his laser sword. In truth, Ram is one of the most altruistic Jedi I’ve encountered in Star Wars. He’s incredibly mindful of the Force and the lessons his master passes down, applying them to his daily tasks and trying to be of service to the Jedi. Valo is his home and when the Nihil come in blasting there is a specific helplessness and dread Ram feels in the destruction. Essentially, Ram witnesses the end of his world as he knows it, in the absolute worst transformation from paradise to battlefield. The realization that Valo will never be the same even if the Nihil are defeated comes early for Ram and he rises above it when many others would give up. Managing his anxiety, emotions, and distaste for combat, Ram still shows up to help protect the world he loves and the helpless people being picked off by the Nihil.



If you’ve been reading The High Republic Adventures you know Lula Talisola and have seen her in action. Here, Older takes advantage of the medium to give a more introspective look at the Padawan. Lula is extremely ambitious and states many times she intends to rise to the top of the Jedi ranks. Star Wars readers are familiar enough with ambitious Padawan and Jedi to know that’s a big red light, but Older succeeds in making Lula’s ambitions relatable without demeaning her age. Lula’s been studying directly under Master Yoda and traveling the galaxy for some time, making it for ambition to creep up. The best part of her struggle with ambition is she’s aware of it and uses her teachings to ground herself. Ram, someone quite content with where he is, offers a nice counterbalance for Lula and by the end of the story they’ve pushed each other in directions both of them needed to go. Lula’s ambition is especially charged when she meets someone not much older than herself, already a full Jedi.


Vernestra High Republic


Vernestra Rwoh is back! Vernestra and her apprentice, Imri Cantaros, have been busy since we met them in A Test of Courage. They’ve been all over Marvel’s The High Republic by Cavan Scott, fighting the Drengir. Here, Vernestra takes Lula under her wing as they travel to a remote moon in search of a Nihil stronghold. Vernestra is one of my favorite characters so far in The High Republic and Older makes effective use of her presence. She looms large in Race to Crashpoint Tower but doesn’t overwhelm the story, showing up when she needs to and letting the Padawans figure things out for themselves. She’s a great focal point to show how hard Lula works to keep her ambitions in a healthy place, balancing the potential pendulum swing they could take toward envy and pettiness. At no point does Lula resent Vernestra’s achievements but it’s hard for her to see someone who is literally everything she wants to be. By getting to know Vernestra up close, Lula realizes she’s painted a false portrayal of this almighty Jedi. Vernestra achieved her success through the same dedication and trials Lula want to undergo. Lula realizes she’s on her own path and her successes will be measured by their own standards, not Vernestra’s.



Zeen Mrala is another character from The High Republic Adventures. Older takes the opportunity to go a bit deeper into her past and the current dilemma. We met Zeen on the planet Trymant IV, just as the Nihil arrived to attack after they’d made an alliance with her mentor, leader of her people the Elders of the Path. Raised to fear Force-users, especially the Jedi, Zeen’s decision to join the Padawans after seeing them defend her home world is not without complications. It cost her a best friend and expectedly she’s still not quite sure what to think of the Jedi. There are also a few holes in her story I assume were supposed to be filled in at this point by The High Republic Adventures but as of this review, continuing issues have not been published.  Older tries to impart Zeen’s emotional state but readers who aren’t acquainted with her backstory from the comics may not feel the weight intended. The biggest moment for Zeen is her return to Trymant IV and seeing the desert it’s become since the Nihil attack. This compels her to continue helping the Jedi and Padawans, even if she’s not sure she wants to join their ranks.



Although Race to Crashpoint Tower takes place during the Nihil’s assault on the Republic Fair, the characters are mostly outside of the action. As I mentioned earlier, it’s an extremely difficult choice for Lula and Ram to stay away from the battle. One of my favorite moments in the book is when they fight the urge to draw their lightsabers and protect those under attack in Lonisa City. Both Lula and Ram realize they need to trust in the Jedi and the Force and recognize the role they need to play. They are the only ones who can restore Crashpoint Tower and send a distress call to Starlight Beacon and the rest of the galaxy. Putting their own feelings aside, they turn away from the destruction clawing at their souls through the Force and do their best to focus on getting help for the overwhelmed Jedi and security forces.


Star Wars High Republic Free Comic Book Day Feature


By the end of the story, these three come together and restore Crashpoint Tower, managing to turn the Drengir against the Nihil. They realize the only thing the Drengir care about is their next meal and when the predator plants learn the Nihil’s attack intends to kill most of the people in Lonisa City…well, don’t mess with the Drengir’s meal. This was one part I found a bit unbelievable, since the Drengir we’ve seen so far don’t do much negotiating, but maybe this is a new breed of the species we’re seeing. The trio learn how easy it is to turn those who believe in nothing but their own power through destruction against each other and do just that. Once the Drengir attack the Nihil ship by boarding it, they fly away into the darkness, looking for their next meal. Our heroes are able to broadcast a distress signal to Starlight Beacon, bringing much needed help to the besieged Republic Fair.



As noted, this story overlaps events and characters from Cavan Scott’s The Rising Storm and takes place concurrently. Ty Yorrick has the biggest presence in Race to Crashpoint Tower. Though Ty never outright states it, I got the sense she related to the Padawan experience of Ram and Lula. It will be interesting to see if she connects further with Zeen or encounters her in future stories, as Ty’s a Force-user who left the Jedi Order and could potentially find kinship with Zeen. I would’ve loved more of that and hope their limited interactions set the stage for a bigger story in the future.



By the end of the story, Ram is changed. Like Lula, he’s been forced to confront his own status quo because of the attacks. He’s seen what he’s capable of and realizes his service to the galaxy is more than tinkering with droids and machines in a dusty garage on Valo. Ram joins Lula and Zeen aboard the Star Hopper, a traveling Padawan academy, and from the looks of future High Republic Adventures covers, their story is just beginning.


Race to Crashpoint Tower is definitely worth your time. My only criticism is it leans heavily on what Older established in his comic series and as mentioned may leave some unfamiliar readers out in the cold. His love of droids is not lost, as V-18’s small role in the story adds a lot of laughs when they are needed. Older’s respect of his own characters fills the text with a lot of love and added greatly to my enjoyment. He doesn’t treat the Padawans’ feelings as petty or silly because of their age. Older recognizes the flux each of them are in, against the backdrop of the horrific acts of the Nihil, and guides them through for a believable and optimistic outcome. This is a story all young readers can enjoy and take something from. It’s okay to believe in yourself and ask for help at the same time. Teamwork isn’t about being the team leader, it’s about supporting those and finding others strengths in your weakness. It’s filled with hope and Older brings out the best in each character. To me, that’s what Star Wars is all about.


RATING: 7.5/10


Race to Crashpoint Tower is available wherever books are sold. Special thanks to Disney Lucasfilm Press for the ARC used in this review.

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Kyle Larson lives in Portland, Oregon. When he's not running trails, he's reading and writing.

Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson lives in Portland, Oregon. When he's not running trails, he's reading and writing.