The Nihil attack on the Republic Fair at Valo remains a watershed moment in the second wave of High Republic stories. After Cavan Scott and Daniel José Older contributed their stories, author George Mann and illustrator Peter Antonsson bring this harrowing day to life for younger readers who may not be ready for all that intensity. We experience the Republic Fair through the eyes of onlookers and one of our favorite Padawans, Burryaga!
Showdown at the Fair really brings this day to life, from the peaceful beginning to the fiery end. The Republic Fair at Valo was a demonstration of how vast the Republic is while also highlighting its diversity. Chancellor Soh chose Valo and came with the best of intentions, gathering a big audience from around the galaxy. Many in the Jedi leadership were in attendance as well. The illustrations by Peter Antonsson bring to life scenes that readers have only been able to imagine so far.
When the Nihil attack comes, younger readers are spared the horrific details older readers became well aware of in other books. Instead, author George Mann focuses on the heroism of Burryaga and so many others who stepped up that day. The common thread about this attack is how many came together to hold back the Nihil and protect as many as they could. It was still a tragedy, but it would’ve been much worse without the heroes who rose up that day.
Burryaga isn’t the only one to show up. Several Jedi appear, and I was especially happy to see Padawan Bell Zettifar and Ember the Charhound! Here, aboard the Republic science vessel, the Innovator, we see a moment from their daring rescue in Cavan Scott’s The Rising Storm. Again, Mann and Antonsson underscore how large the attack on Valo was, and how many heroes showed up.
Mann highlights an important part of Burryaga’s heroism – finding courage in the face of fear for the right reasons. The Wookiee Padawan doesn’t come out lightsabers swinging, tossing thermal detonators left and right to blow up Nihil marauders. He does his best to find strength through his friends, knowing he’s not alone, and protecting those who cannot protect themselves. Courage isn’t bravado, it’s doing the right thing when it counts. The importance of passing that on to young readers isn’t lost in Showdown at the Fair.
The Nihil ultimately retreat, especially once the Togruta fleet gets involved. Aside, it’s so cool to finally see Togruta ships in action after reading about them in previous stories! The attack remains a great tragedy, and the Nihil are far from defeated, but there are still many survivors who get to walk away. If Burryaga and others had not been there, it’s likely nothing would’ve survived.
The High Republic continues to raise the bar for storytelling in Star Wars. Showdown at the Fair is a perfect way for young readers to continue their journey with Burryaga after he was introduced in The Great Jedi Rescue by Cavan Scott. There are also several stickers included; every lucky reader can add them to their collection if they’re into that. We’ll likely see much more of Burryaga as The High Republic continues into the future of the era. Personally, I’m very excited to watch him grow up through these stories, along with all of the readers who’ve followed him.
The High Republic: Showdown at the Fair is available wherever books are sold. Special thanks to Disney Lucasfilm Press for the copy used in this review.