Review – The War is Underway in The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott


The High Republic begins riding its second-wave of novels this summer, kicking things off with Cavan Scott’s The Rising Storm. Scott is a seasoned Star Wars writer with an impressive range of Star Wars comics (both IDW and Marvel) and a dazzling audiobook Dooku: Jedi Lost. His own Star Wars pedigree and that of the previous High Republic novels let Scott hit the ground running with this breathtaking, juggernaut of a novel. The Rising Storm is one of the best Star Wars novels I’ve read and it might be my favorite. Just going to get that part out of the way. I loved this book and I think you will too.



Before we proceed, as usual, I’ll do my best to keep spoilers to a minimum and I won’t reveal any of the big punches this book throws. It’s one of the fastest stories, jumping across the galaxy far, far away in the span of a sentence but never losing cohesion. This is a huge story composed of several small stories. Cavan Scott knows these characters so well and dives deep into their souls. Whether they are swinging a lightsaber or trying to find balance with their emotions, the battles come in both the physical and the spiritual for the Jedi. The same is true for the Nihil, who must face a reckoning within their own ranks of what (and who) they are fighting for.  You’d do well to stop reading here if you’re trying to stay spoiler free.


In the opening pages, we learn the terrible visions of death and destruction Elzar Mann suffered at the end of Charles Soule’s The Light of the Jedi stick with him. These visions disrupt his psyche, much like the galaxy and the Jedi have been disrupted by the Nihil. The Jedi and the Republic are still recovering from the Great Disaster, the Nihil attack, and the emergence of the Drengir. Despite the ominous opening, the story quickly turns toward hope.


Chancellor Soh rallies the attention of the galaxy toward the Republic Fair. It’s not only a demonstration of the stability the Republic offers, she wants to celebrate different cultures within the expanse. It’s not as performative as it sounds but there are those who are nervous about another Nihil attack. Like the Republic of the prequels, they are at a turning point with how they handle threats. Some senators clamor for the creation of an army and less reliance on the Jedi. For the Nihil, Soh has given them the perfect target to remind the galaxy they are still very much a thing.



This book is as much about the Nihil as it is about the Jedi. Though they suffered great losses from their first battle with the Republic, the Nihil feel stronger than ever. Within that strength, there are cracks, especially within the power structure Marchion Ro hastily crafted. We see the Nihil and all their faults through the lenses of Ro, Lourna Dee, and Pan Eyta. The three of them all lead the same followers but toward different ends. Not only do we see what they’d like for the ideals of Nihil, we also learn their past and how life before the Nihil drives them in The Rising Storm.


Marchion Ro, “The Eye”, is tested as a leader, mostly from within his ranks. The Jedi don’t necessarily feel like as much as an adversary for him when compared to his own demons and those who look to take the Nihil from him. While Marchion struggles, Pan and Lourna make their own plans for power. The three need each other to survive but can’t co-exist, which drives the underlying tension of every moment spent with the Nihil in the story. They’re at war with the Jedi and they’re at war with themselves.



The Nihil aren’t the only ones in conflict within themselves and an ever changing galaxy. Each Jedi faces the new fear growing in the galaxy as they deal with what it’s cost them so far.



Stellan Gios is someone trying to keep the peace but cornered into a fight. Once the Nihil show up (we’ll get to that in a second) all bets are off for whatever soul searching Stellan hoped for. Peace is shattered in an instant and Stellan must protect those most precious to the Republic. He’s also concerned for his friend, Elzar, who he can sense is deeply troubled. Their bond is a highlight of this story, two friends not afraid to be vulnerable and talk about their troubles. It only deepens what they fight for, the hope and love in the galaxy greater than them or the Jedi. They both miss the Avar Kriss, who is absent most the story, who usually rounds out their trio. Stellan senses something stirring in Elzar about Avar, and he’s not wrong to pick up on something.



It’s strongly implied Elzar and Avar had a romantic relationship at one point as padawans. Elzar tried to pick it up moments after Light of the Jedi but Avar resisted, likely not available for it as she’s marshal of Starlight Beacon and heavily engaged in conflict with the Drengir (See Marvel’s The High Republic by Scott for that story). Folks, I am here for a Jedi love story that doesn’t end in death, so let’s keep our fingers crossed. Avar isn’t the only one who caught Elzar’s eye, he also has a brief relationship with someone he’s become friends with. We’ve seen Jedi do this before but in The Rising Storm it doesn’t seem to be a big deal. I’m interested to see more romantic encounters involving Jedi.


There is more to Elzar, though. Like Bell, Elzar knows people need him but he’s unsure from the despair he feels. The visions feel inevitable to him and when the Nihil attack, he fears they’ve come to fruition. Desperate to save his friends, Elzar’s path takes a surprising and unsettling turn, which I won’t spoil here. None of these characters are the same by the end of The Rising Storm but Elzar is especially changed. There’s no doubt what he experiences will have repercussions in future High Republic stories.



Bell Zettifar shines in The Rising Storm. While Stellan and Elzar struggle with the unrest in the galaxy leading to the culmination of a Nihil attack, the same stress is compounded for Bell while he struggles with grief. Though we know his master Loden Greatstorm survived and is a Nihil prisoner, Bell wrestles with the loss of that bond. There’s always been a familial element to the master/Padawan dynamic of Jedi tutelage, but Scott highlights the loss exceptionally well through the lens of Bell. Bell Zettifar is a Padawan at the end of his days in apprenticeship, struggling with grief from the loss of his master. The Padawan is written exquisitely by Scott. While Bell knows the galaxy needs him to be a hero, he deals with what the Jedi often struggle with the most, emotions. The grief is so bad Bell is feels shame and sometimes cuts himself off from the Force. Bell thought of his master like family and he’s bravely forging ahead in an uncertain galaxy. Bell’s fate in this story takes a turn and he’s the character who is most on my mind after finishing The Rising Storm.



The Rising Storm also introduces several new characters, including standout Ty Yorrick. Ty is a former Jedi who left the Order under unexplained circumstances but travels the galaxy as a “saber for hire”. Honestly, I’ve been looking forward to learning more about her since previewed Ty in April. When we meet Ty, she’d like nothing more than to focus solely on her next job and how many credits it provides, but she can’t ignore those who need her help. She eventually comes to the Republic Fair by way of a job, protecting a dubious mark named Mantessa and her daughter. Once the Nihil attack, Ty is forced to choose between the job she was hired to do and assisting the overwhelmed Jedi. Ty manages to do both.


Ty doesn’t seem to resent the Jedi but she makes it clear she’s not one of them. Working with the Jedi is a matter of practicality for Ty, understanding once the Nihil attacks come she needs them and they need her. Elzar is the Jedi she connects with and I could tell Scott had a lot of fun writing those scenes. Ty also faces a dilemma, as Mantessa reveals the technology she’s hoping to sell is capable of suppressing blasters and lightsabers. Ty recognizes the greater implications of this threat. An underlying, unspoken moral code guides Ty, but it’s her own. The character’s agency is what stands out most to me. She chooses her own path, for better or worse, and doesn’t blame the galaxy or the Jedi for her circumstances. And in the last pages of the story, the event Ty witnesses makes me think we’ll be seeing a lot more of her going forward.



And what is this Nihil attack I keep referencing? Well, have a look at this gorgeous piece by Jama Jurabaev (Available as a variant cover from Out of Print). The Nihil attack on the Republic Fair is some of the most relentless action writing I’ve read in a Star Wars novel. Scott commands your attention through a rapidly flowing stream of chapters offering multiple vantages of this dreadful assault on Chancellor Soh’s hope to demonstrate the Republic’s essence. Your heart will feel equal parts adrenaline and despair as the Nihil pummel the peaceful affair, ripping apart the serene stage set in the early chapters of the book.


The Nihil attack is also symbolic but perhaps not the way Marchion, Pan, and Lourna intended. The Republic Fair showcases several planets, each of them given a giant floating island so fair goers can hop between them. When the Nihil arrive, they aren’t just attacking a monolithic Republic, they are attacking the best of what these planets brought with them to showcase at the Republic Fair. While the Nihil hope to disrupt and humiliate the Republic, you’ll see several of reluctant potential members emboldened to stand with the Republic against the Nihil.  The Torgruta delegation especially standout in these scenes…we better see a lot more of their leader, Regasa the High Huntress.


The wounds inflicted will no doubt have a lasting effects on the Republic and the Jedi. Soh immediately admits naivety, thinking the Republic Fair would outshine the Nihil’s intention to diminish her outreach. The leadership and accountability of Soh balance the colonial vibes I picked up in Light of the Jedi, which initially made me skeptical of her intentions. Here, it’s very clear she’s someone trying to do what she believes is right. We also meet her son, Kip, who I love and expect to see more of. The Rising Storm gives us the opportunity to see a little bit more of how Soh operates and it still feels like we’ve barely scratched the surface of who she is as a person.



I’m going to be careful talking about Marchion Ro and what’s revealed about him. Early in the book, we learn where Ro comes from. Scott takes every chance to get inside Ro’s head and carve out how his past motivates him now. The vulnerabilities give us a much more nuanced Ro than we’ve seen in Light of the Jedi and The High Republic Adventures. Ro doesn’t have any illusions about how difficult his position is. Part of his story involves reaching into the lore of his people, who hail from a hostile world called Rystan. I’m grateful Scott took the time to delve into Ro, who at times many readers will relate to and even sympathize with. I have to admit, aside from the intriguing gear, until I finished The Rising Storm, Marchion Ro didn’t strike me as a compelling villain. You’ll walk away from this story wanting more and you might even find yourself concerned for the Eye. Ro is quickly becoming one of the great Star Wars villains.



The palace intrigue and politics of the Nihil is equally gripping. Pan Eyta and Lourna Dee take their own paths, each hoping to facilitate Ro’s downfall. Adversaries sometimes forced to be allies, their stories converge and divert in some of the best ways. Scott goes deep into their minds, as well. We learn about both of their brutal pasts which carved them into stoic survivors who rose above the chaos of the Nihil. Sharpened into weapons at their peak lethality, both Lourna and Pan are prepared to strike. I won’t spoil anything but the Nihil, like the Jedi, are forever changed by the infighting and attack on the Republic Fair. Big actions have big consequences and the Nihil cross a new threshold in The Rising Storm. Scott makes some bold choices, and in my opinion, they all pay the reader dividends by the end of the story.



There are many other stories making up the narrative tapestry of The Rising Storm. A young romance, Loden Greatstorm’s fate, and the ever swirling political winds of the Republic Senate are just a few. The narrative walks a fine line of kitchen sink overcrowding but the many chapters  (seventy-six total) help give the reader a clear sense of where they are and what they should focus on. On first read, the length and frequency of the chapters puzzled me, but Scott utilizes the method perfectly, grounding the reader each event.


None of the Easter eggs felt forced. It connects and honors previous and ongoing High Republic stories, while stretching out to other stories in the canon. The Sith Wars are mentioned numerous times, as well as a story in George Mann’s Star Wars: Dark Legends. Scott’s never been shy about digging into Star Wars lore and canon, so you’ll find plenty to comb through here. I took several pages of notes just one those things, so keep an eye out and I don’t want to spoil them for you here. Oh, and the San Tekka family…especially Mari…we should expect to learn a lot more about them going forward. Mari’s surprising role toward the end is one of the best revelations in the book!



Where do we go from here? Well, I expect the next wave of stories will put both the Jedi and the Nihil in even more dire situations. Those who survive walk away stronger but by the end of the story the stakes are higher for both. While neither side has declared war, it’s underway and just beginning.


Cavan Scott took the opportunity to go deeper into everything Star Wars with The Rising Storm. It is synonymous with what I’ve come to look forward to in Star Wars. The characters arcs are honored from beginning to end, whether I feel good about each ending or not, Scott allowed them to find it. The story is dark but it’s not cynical. Everyone is allowed to rise above what the galaxy might expect of them, good or bad. The Rising Storm tells a story of it’s own while still feeling familiar and a part of something bigger than one novel. Weeks after reading, I’m still thinking about moments from the story and what might happen to my favorites. I’m still affected and each time I go back to The Rising Storm I find something new. That’s great writing and I’m excited for more from Cavan Scott and the other excellent authors crafting The High Republic.


RATING: 9.5/10


The Rising Storm is available wherever books are sold. Special thanks to Del Rey 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.