A galaxy at peace… starts the opening crawl of the second novel in Lucasfilm Publishing’s newest multi-media initiative, The High Republic.
A Test of Courage is written by New York Times best-selling author Justina Ireland and is aimed towards young readers between the ages of 8 and 12. While the book may be aimed towards a younger demographic, it’s a perfect book for all readers.
Justina Ireland's A Test of Courage a Satisfying Tale Brimming with Heart
In many ways, the story reminded me of “The Gathering,” an episode from the fifth season of The Clone Wars. Through external and internal exploration, young characters learn important lessons and grow under duress. But A Test of Courage is set 200 years before the events of The Clone Wars, and Ireland brings to life a new cast of endearing characters.
Sixteen-year-old Vernestra Rwoh, a Mirialan Jedi Knight, unexpectedly becomes the guardian of a ragtag bunch of children after a disastrous calamity. Those children include; Avon Starros, the eleven-year-old daughter of a senator and her snarky J-6 protocol droid; Honesty Weft, the eleven-year-old son of a Dalnan ambassador; and Imri, a fourteen-year-old Jedi Padawan.
The book opens with a Nihil-centered prologue as Klinith Da, and Gwishi sabotages the High Republic luxury liner, Steady Wing, to prevent an alliance between the Republic and the Dalnan ambassador. Following the events of Light of the Jedi, it is quite clear that the Nihil is determined to sabotage the Republic’s attempts at spreading into the Outer Rim. While the Nihil may be marauding pirates, I can’t help but sympathize with their distaste for the High Republic, assuming they can enter the sector and start patrolling it. Maybe their motives aren’t pure, but two books into The High Republic, and I’m really liking the Nihil.
Ireland is truly talented at bringing the characters to life and taking them through a full emotional journey over the course of the book. Oftentimes books geared towards young readers will brush over tragedy, but not A Test of Courage. Imri and Honesty both suffer crushing losses, and they’re allowed to cry, emote, and express that grief through anger and frustration. Each child is so drastically different; it was extremely satisfying to see how they came together and for each other as they dealt with situations so much bigger than themselves.
I think that is why A Test of Courage reminded me of The Clone Wars. The novel is filled with poignant, thought-provoking lessons that are perfect for young readers and all readers that turn to Star Wars for important life lessons. Through the children's experiences, we learn more about the Jedi, the origin of the Sith, and the dark side, and gain further understanding of the world at large in the Star Wars universe.
If you have read any of my previous reviews, you will know that I am a huge fan of worldbuilding when it comes to Star Wars, which is why A Test of Courage ticks all of the boxes for me.
I was particularly fond of three lines in the book that tie The High Republic to more recent Star Wars content. Pasaana, which was first introduced in The Rise of Skywalker, is referenced in connection to the apparent sand ghosts residing on the planet; Batuu, which is connected to not only the Sequel Trilogy but the Disney Theme Parks, is briefly mentioned about Batuu knots; and there was a brilliant inclusion of joppa stew, a delicacy (as long as you’re not Avon) from Mon Cala.
The only downside to A Test of Courage was that the book was not nearly long enough. I wanted to stay with these characters longer. I’m looking forward to seeing these characters return as the stories are drawn together. Justina Ireland has crafted a perfectly suited book in the hands of a youngling or a sage Jedi Master. It’s a satisfying tale brimming with heart, friendship, and masterfully dealt world-building and Star Wars mythology.
Get your copy of A Test of Courage ahead of the January 5th unveiling of Star Wars: The High Republic.