The Rule of Two: Convergence Book Review

After the high that was reading Path of Deceit, I was worried that I’d find myself feeling let down by any and all future High Republic installments. I should have known better. That’s not how Star Wars: The High Republic works.

Star Wars: the High Republic: Convergence: a Star Wars the High Republic novel by Zoraida Córdova is what I would describe as a dual-genre novel. The genres, in this case, being romance and political thriller. In fact, it’s quite fitting that this novel grapples with the duality of these two genres given that pairs, dualities, partnerships are not just a theme, but foundational to this story.

The action takes places on the dual-planet system of E’ronoh and Eiram, two planets perpetually linked: physically, ecologically, culturally, and politically. And in the grand literary tradition, at war. The seemingly unending conflict between these two planets creates a perfect backdrop to witness the Jedi Order as diplomats and peacekeepers, an aspect of their role often alluded to, but so much less often seen in practice (due mainly to the fact that they are so often taking up arms à la the Clone Wars or putting themselves in a corner as punishment for having resorted to taking up arms à la Luke Skywalker).

The conflict is messy and deeply entrenched, and as we flip from viewpoints of characters living on Eiram to characters living on E’ronoh and back again, I found myself fully empathizing with their contrasting viewpoints of the age-old conflict, while simultaneously frustrated at their inability to reach a compromise. (Luckily, there are no real world parallels for me to examine more deeply here, given that in my personal conflicts, I am always right and my opponent is always wrong.) Watching this conflict unfold and experiencing the frustrations of the Republic and the Jedi as they try to bridge the gap between the two worlds is a fascinating exploration of human nature and a thought-provoking commentary on the role of mediators. I loved seeing the Jedi in this role and hope we get to see more of this in the future.

The cast of characters were entirely new (with a couple of minor exceptions) and while I oftentimes find myself lost when jumping into a cast of new characters, that was not the case here. It wasn’t long before I was faced with a complete inability to identify a favorite character. The Jedi masters were thoughtful and wise, but with a surprising sense of humor. The Jedi Knight was confident, yet insecure, questioning her place in the Order and the Galaxy. The Jedi Padawan was exuberant and optimistic. The princess was loyal, but deeply emotive. The prince was really just trying his best. The Chancellor was haughty, but loveable. The other Chancellor was exhausted. And the son of the other Chancellor was….well.

Axel Graylark will probably be the stand-out character from this book, as he well should be. You’ll love him. You’ll hate him. You’ll love to hate him. Trust me when I say that I don’t throw around this term lightly – he is the epitome of a fuckboy. But, the kind you root for, despite everything. I never tired of his inner monologue and he always kept me guessing about his intentions and loyalties.

The continued recurrence of the dualities was a strength of this book. By focusing on pairs, I feel like I grew to understand each character as an individual, examining their personhood reflected upon the other. And pairs there were aplenty: the two queens of Eiram, the two Chancellors of the Republic, the two Jedi Masters, the two planets with future in flux, the two young heirs, who hold that future in their hands, and the Jedi knight and the Chancellor’s son, both looking to find their way in galaxy full of locations, but no place to call home.

I am continually impressed with the consistency of the High Republic stories, despite the ever-widening casts of characters, settings, and tones. Convergence is a worthy installment to the series, living up to the reputations of those that came before, while forging an exciting path forward. I hope this isn’t the last we have seen of these characters and, more importantly, of Zoraida Córdova, in the High Republic.

Danni wrote this. They are Rogue Six on Rogue Podron. Thanks to Del Rey for the review copy!

No Thoughts, Head Empty, Just Path of Deceit

I’m a pretty shameless shill/stan/whatever for the High Republic at this point, but when I tell you that I was simply blown away by Path of Deceit by Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland…….whoof. Easily my favorite High Republic title to date.

I won’t lie, I was skeptical of the choice to throw us back 150ish years after we just met, got invested in, and had our hearts broken by the Jedi of Wave 1. However, this book immediately dispelled any concerns or sadness I had about not getting to continue on with that story because these characters and their actions not only directly inform what is happening in Wave 1, but introduce so many additional intriguing concepts and stories.

When it comes to Star Wars stories that I’ve watched/read/experienced, this book is easily the most philosophical with regards to the nature of the Force. The Wave 1 stories did some really interesting and new stuff when considering how the Jedi experience the Force and utilize it for good(?), but this book pulls that curtain even wider to consider the Force as a whole. There’s a moment early on where Jedi padawan Kevmo does something that, to us as experienced Star Wars fans, is pretty mundane – we’ve seen it plenty before. However, the reaction by cultist (and Marchion ancestor) Marda Ro made me stop, put the book down, and go for a walk to contemplate everything I’ve ever known about life and the universe and the Force. Gratton and Ireland were able to challenge my perception, understanding, and ethical consideration about such a simple and common use of the Force and that kicked off 300 pages of philosophical musings, debates, and explorations that had me hooked.

Kevmo, Marda, and Yana Ro are the main trio of characters in this book and each was fascinating to read about in their own right. As each chapter would end, I would loudly groan because I wasn’t ready to leave the brain of the character in question, only to immediately be sucked in by the inner monologue of the next. The way they each understand the concepts of the Force, life, and family, and in turn challenge each others’ perceptions of those things is the type of material that makes me want to drop everything and become a philosopher in the GFFA.

Also. There’s romance. I’m not usually into romance, but it’s a good romance. I was rooting for it from the get-go.

And that ending. No spoilers, but holy heck, it’s been a couple of weeks since I finished this book and I’m still feeling Some Sort of Way about that ending. I’ll be about to fall asleep, and suddenly sit up straight in bed, shout a few select words into the void at the authors, and then lay down again, as I continue to process what I read and count down the days until Path of Vengeance is in my hands and I can see what happens next.

Path of Deceit opens up the familiar Star Wars galaxy in new and interesting ways. That’s always one of the biggest tests of new Star Wars stories, in my opinion, and there’s no doubt that this book was successful. Pick it up, read it, cherish it, caress it fondly, reread those delicious philosophical debates and have an existential crisis of your own.

Oh, also there’s cult stuff.

100 flowers out of 10.

Thanks LFL Publishing for the review copy. I’m probably gonna buy, like, ten more.

Danni (they/them) is Rogue Six on Rogue Podron. They don’t sleep well, probably due to the regular yelling about fictional space books. They tweet things at @dannipurrgil.

I Am Not the Pirate Ruler of Wild Space: On Fictional Self Reflections and Kantam Sy

In 2016, we were introduced to the first canonical non-binary Star Wars character: Eleodie Maracavanya aka the Pirate Ruler of Wild Space. Featured in an interlude in Aftermath: Life Debt (and then subsequently in another in Aftermath: Empire’s End), Eleodie is seen leading a crew of galactic misfits who take control of a New Republic Corvette, filled with Ithorian artifacts (probably including some holy grasses and, like, a tree or something – never change, Ithorians!), and recruit new civilians into the pirate gang.

Also. Eleodie uses zhe/zher/zherself pronouns.

As a nonbinary fan of Star Wars, there’s a special kind of thrill when you first encounter a new character that shares, at least to some degree, your gender identity. Reading a sentence with a “zhe” pronoun fills me with a rush of excitement, fueled by the shared connection I suddenly feel to this individual.

But the thing is…I am more than my gender identity. Luckily, so is Eleodie! But where Eleodie is a confident and charming space pirate, I am……decidedly not those things. My similarities with Eleodie begin and end with our gender identities. So while I may relate to one specific aspect of this character, to say that I see a reflection of myself in this character isn’t true.

For years, we’ve heard a certain subset of Star Wars fans bemoan the “woke-ification” of the Star Wars franchise. “I don’t mind diversity, I just don’t understand why it has to be shoved down our throats,” they’ll tweet, as if a single character in a single chapter of a book who is doing nothing more than existing as zher authentic self is suddenly interrupting the opening crawl of the newest saga film with a heavy-handed PSA about trans sensitivity. Meanwhile, they feast upon a buffet neurotypical, cisgender, heterosexual, white, straight-sized, male, able-bodied characters, all of whom have complex personalities and roles, outside of those singular labels.

Per Wookieepedia, there are now 17 non-binary characters in the Star Wars canon. Altogether, still an embarrassingly small number (and being buffered by such fan favorites as Unidentified Black Sun Agent and Unidentified Slicer). But it is 17 more non-binary characters than we had in Star Wars when we recorded our first episode of Rogue Podron in 2015.

Reading about Eleodie was cool. As far as token representatives of an entire group of people go, you can do a lot worse than Badass Space Pirate. And since that time, I’ve had the privilege of experiencing the stories of Taka Jamoreesa, the Traveler, and Ceret & Terec. Every time, though, I felt a similar experience to reading about Eleodie. As Jake Peralta would say, “cool [non-binary character], still [not really me, though].”

But then, I read Midnight Horizon by Daniel José Older and Kantam Sy entered my life.

Kantam Sy has a love and respect for the natural worlds around them, deeply in tune with the plants and animals and other living beings.

Kantam Sy tries to gain wisdom by listening to their elders.

Kantam Sy loves a good bar brawl, from time to time.

Kantam Sy can sometimes feel overwhelmed by decision-making, and otherwise insignificant decisions can feel daunting and disproportionately impactful.

Kantam Sy feels pressure to have their entire life planned out and the thought of not knowing what comes next fills them with anxiety.

Kantam Sy finds meditation to be frustrating, sometimes.

Kantam Sy feels emotions intensely and revels in them.

Kantam Sy has a deep well of inner strength, a resolve that they draw on to help steady themself through their darker moments.

Kantam Sy is a loyal and reliable friend.

Kantam Sy makes impulsive decisions for love.

Kantam Sy is non-binary, and uses they/them pronouns.

Unlike Eleodie, it isn’t just the gender identity that Kantam and I share. Do all of these above traits manifest exactly the same way in me? Certainly not! But I sure do find myself nodding along as I read this list – you could swap “Kantam Sy” for “Danni” in pretty much every sentence and it would still be a truth. That that character also shares my gender identity, sees the world through that similarly complex, at-times-frustrating-but-always-beautiful non-binary lens makes that connection all the more special.

There’s something unspeakably profound about seeing yourself reflected back at you in a fictional character. It’s a common experience to see shades of ourselves in this character or that; it’s much rarer to see a character who is you, who radiates you with every sentence they say, every action they take. And seeing yourself in a character, especially a character that is good and complex and flawed and heroic and funny is a powerful experience, one that opens a door for self reflection and invites an opportunity for self love.

That’s an experience everyone deserves. And an experience everyone can have, if we continue to populate our stories with characters as richly diverse and beautifully expansive as the people who are reading about them. Even the space pirates.

Danni (they/them) is Rogue Six on Rogue Podron. While they’ve never participated in a good bar brawl, they certainly like to think that they’d enjoy the idea of doing so. They tweet things at @dannipurrgil.

The High Repodlic: Marvel’s The High Republic #6-10 – “The Heart of Drengir”

Joined by guests Chris Werms and Wesley, we’re flashing back in time to catch up on what’s been happening in Marvel’s High Republic comics during the second batch of issues, #6-10. Join us as we discuss Keeve and Sskeer’s attempts to parse out Dark Side and Light, mis-pronouning representation in Star Wars, and snakes, bunnies, and raccoons, oh my!

Thanks to Chris and Wesley for guesting on this episode of Rogue Podron! Be sure to check out Chris’s Legends recaps on Mynock Manor and Wesley’s Star Wars Queers Watch Twitter account!

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Hosted by Danny with special guests Chris and Wesley!

The High Repodlic: The Fallen Star

New years, new tears! Meg, Saf, and Danny are back to discuss the latest installment in the third wave of the first phase of High Republic stories: The Fallen Star by Claudia Gray! We talk full spoilers about all the reasons we are sad, all the reasons we are glad, and all the reasons why Leox Gyasi is the greatest character in the history of Star Wars (and not only because he remembered to pack a whuffa hide).

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Hosted by Meg, Saf and Danny

The High Repodlic: the Edge of Balance, Volume 1

Meg, Saf, and Danny are joined by High Republic graphic novel aficionado Dillon to discuss the first High Republic original manga series: the Edge of Balance by Shima Shinya, Justina Ireland, and Mizuki Sakakibara. We discuss our feelings about this iteration of the drengir (scary!), this iteration of Stellan Gios (sexy!), our excitement around original Star Wars manga stories, and plentiful tangents about Baze, Chirrut, cannibalism, and Dexter Jettster (not all at the same time, though).

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Hosted by Meg, Saf and Danny with guest host Dillon!

The High Repodlic: Tempest Runner

Despite the constant bullying, Byn and Dakota from the Skyhoppers have returned again to discuss their spoiler-filled thoughts about the Tempest Runner audio drama by Cavan Scott. We discuss how this compared to previous Star Wars audio dramas, Lourna Dee’s journey, the physiology of blurrg, and, of course, Marchion Ro’s mouthbreather of a voice.

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Hosted by Danny with special guests Byn and Dakota from the Skyhoppers.

The High Repodlic: Marvel’s The High Republic #1-5 – “There Is No Fear”

Danny is joined by Podron friend and besalisk super-expert Dillon to discuss the first five issues of Marvel’s The High Republic comic series. Together, they talk about the tongue-twisting pair of Sskeer and Keeve, the strengths of using comics as a storytelling medium in the High Republic era, the joys of seeing the drengir in visual form, and much more!

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Hosted by Danny with guest host Dillon!

The High Repodlic: Out of the Shadows

Meg, Saf, and Danny gather together to discuss the second YA release in the High Republic: Out of the Shadows by Justina Ireland. (Danny was on rugged internet, so sounds a little interrupt-y at times – sorry about that!!) We discuss the nerd squad, how we’re living for the aro/ace representation, and, you know it, Yaddle.

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Hosted by Meg, Saf and Danny

The High Repodlic: the Rising Storm

Danny is joined by Skyhopper sibs Byn and Dakota to discuss their spoiler-filled thoughts about The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott. We discuss all the characters, our leveler theories, and of course, Wet Bub.

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Hosted by Danny with special guests Byn and Dakota from the Skyhoppers.