assion lies at the center of so many moments in Star Wars. Luke’s passion for adventure sends him to Mos Eisley with Ben Kenobi. Rey’s passion for her friends ensures that she never gives up on them. Anakin’s passion for Padmé…well it nearly destroys the entire galaxy, but it’s IMPORTANT.
But more crucial to the makeup of Star Wars may not be the passion of the characters but rather the passion of the creators behind it all.
Daniel José Older is no stranger to fans of Star Wars books and comics, especially those that have devoured the first two phases of The High Republic. His newest Young Adult book, Midnight Horizon, stands out not only by its merits as a story, but by the unrelenting love for the characters, plot, and world that seep out from every single page.
Throughout Midnight Horizon, Older welcomes his favorite characters from the entirety of the first phase to create the most electrifying and compassionate story the era has ever witnessed.
Midnight Horizon whisks readers off to the streets of Coronet City on the fan-favorite planet of Corellia. While Corellia has been known as the premier manufacturer of ships and freighters for most of its Star Wars history, Older’s tale focuses on a potential Nihil force that threatens to overwhelm the planet. The Corellian people have long stood strong against all outward invaders, but when a dear friend of the infamous security specialist Crash Ongwa goes missing, there’s only one place to turn.
The Jedi of Starlight Beacon.
These Jedi investigators include a number of welcoming heroes from The High Republic Adventures comic series like Jedi Master Kantam Sy and Padawans Ram Jamoram and Zeen Mrala as well as other stars of The High Republic initiative like Jedi Master Cohmac Vitus and his apprentice Reath Silas who we first met in Into the Dark. Together, these Jedi travel to the Core world to discover the true nature of the citywide threat as a growing darkness begins to settle over Starlight Beacon.
Before proceeding any further, it’s important to note that the events of Midnight Horizon occur slightly before and concurrently with Claudia Gray’s The Fallen Star. Much like previous releases, we recommend that you read The Fallen Star before Midnight Horizon to experience the events of Star in a more direct way rather than their eventual mentions within the pages of Midnight Horizon.
Alright. Back to the chaos.
When the Jedi first arrive on Corellia, we are thrust immediately into their shoes as they learn about the planet. They are not native to the planet’s Jedi Temple, they do not have the experience or wherewithal of Crash and her crew, so we are able to learn about the planet and its oddities through their eyes. This device immediately cements a sense of intimacy and ownership to the story and elevates moments of discovery, elation, and even tragedy.
Aside from the Nihilistic (I had to do it once come on) mystery that provides the frame for the book, Midnight Horizon’s plot consists of a number of personal journeys - a welcome staple of the Young Adult genre. While Older ensures that every character gets their moments of revelation and reflection, perhaps the most gripping tales belong to Kantam Sy, Zeen Mrala, Ram Jamoram, and Reath Silas. These four characters never shy away from their duties as Jedi investigators, but they each question the fundamental pillars of their life from the necessity of combat to the nature of the Force to whether they will ever be allowed to love whom they choose.
It is the interwoven nature of these personal plotlines within the excitement and calamity of the larger story that makes Midnight Horizon such an energetic read. Every chapter contains some new key piece of information that reveals a new clue about the Nihil or a new crossroads in a personal journey, and that constant sense of discovery propels you through chapter after chapter after chapter.
And then there’s Part 5.
Without spoiling anything about the set pieces of the book’s climactic ending, the final fifth of Midnight Horizon is so exciting and kinetic that Daniel José Older even created a Spotify playlist as a backing track. When I first read this set of chapters, I had anticipated reading for about thirty minutes on a Saturday morning before continuing with my day.
Instead, I finished the entire book and canceled everything else I had planned on doing.
Older’s dedication to personal discovery, youthful excitement, and mind blowing action crafts a story that not only lives up to all of those that preceded it, but also crowns Midnight Horizon as the best Young Adult novel in the history of The High Republic.
Does anyone love their characters more than Daniel José Older?
Midnight Horizon is filled to the brim with moments of character reflection and growth, but what makes them all truly shine is the passion with which they are written. From Zeen to Ram to Kantam to Crash, Older’s compassion for his creations is so obvious that it brings into question how much joy other writers must have while creating their own projects.
While this pure love of Older’s is fantastic to witness on its own, it also enhances the reading experience by lending a certain level of ownership to the reader. Because the characters are written with such an intimate scope, the reader is able to insert themselves directly into each scene as a friend, mentor, partner, and confidant depending on the perspective of the chapter. This level of immersion not only creates a further sense of vibrancy within the world of Coronet City, but it also strengthens the bonds of connection between the characters and the audience to an unbreakable extent.
Midnight Horizon also thrives by placing such a strong emphasis on relationships of all kinds. Within the pages of Older’s latest are new friendships, lifelong friendships, burgeoning relationships, lovers long since passed, and everything in between. The naturalism with which every type of connection is written is exquisite, and whether its Reath teaching his new friend Ram about deadpan joke delivery or Kantam helping their old friend Cohmac wrestle with unrelenting inner demons, the connections presented in each scene are undeniable and electric.
Moreover, the amount of these relationships that involve at least one if not two queer characters is phenomenal! LBTQ+ representation in Star Wars literature has been on the risefor years now, and Midnight Horizon carries that torch brilliantly by placing queer characters center stage in terms of romance, adventure, and every other possible scenario. These are not characters only defined by their sexuality or gender identity, but they are characters that embrace them wholeheartedly.
Every character in Midnight Horizon goes through a number of hardships. Some of these trials are based in heartache, others are born in blasterfire. Regardless of the source of turmoil, Older’s characters find their strength within those whom they have come to trust, value, and love: each other. Therein lies Horizon’s greatest strength. Insurmountable odds can be conquered if you are willing to let go and put your faith in those who surround you.
Because after all…that’s what makes up the Living Force. The people. The connection. And maybe it’s because the past few years have made those connections a bit harder for all of us, but when you close the final chapter of Midnight Horizon, you can’t help but feel that you’ve spent 500 pages with your dearest friends.
Isn’t it wonderful to witness an author run free and create with reckless abandon? Within Midnight Horizon, Daniel José Older inserts so many things that we’ve never seen in a Star Wars book that you can’t help but laugh at the beautiful audacity.
First and foremost, Older must be applauded for crafting the entire ecosystem of a pre-Republic Corellia. While we have witnessed Han’s homeworld briefly in Solo: A Star Wars Story and more in depth in books like Rae Carson’s Most Wanted and A.C. Crispin’s Han Solo Trilogy, Midnight Horizon brings us the first taste of the Core World within the High Republic timeline, and it is sprawling with excitement and adventure.
While we absolutely get our fill of the glorious shipyards the planet is known for, Older also infuses Corellia with detailed social and political structures including things like the City Fathers, the Grindalids, and entire security details dedicated to protecting the corporate elite and even popstars! All of these added layers of depth make Corellia feel lived in in a way that is sometimes missing from mainline planets in Star Wars literature.
All of this originality is not limited to Corellia, however. Through an expert use of flashbacks, Older expands the history of one particular character to include venues and careers that we’ve never seen before but now seem to fit so perfectly within a galaxy far, far away. Is that unhelpfully vague? Yes. But are the reveals of the specifics that Older crafts worth it? Beyond a doubt.
Every High Republic novel has shared the responsibility of expanding the Star Wars universe in more traditional ways like new ships, character types, and even Force abilities, and those innovations are plentiful in Midnight Horizon as well. The pure, wholesome Ram Jamoram is usually found at the center of these new technical marvels, and through his optimistic, wondrous eyes, we are reminded of how amazing it is to stumble upon something brand new in a universe you simply adore.
Just like our real life universe, the Star Wars mythology is constantly expanding, and that expansion is at its peak when authors unabashedly fill the world with things they love like music, art, and spaceships.
Oh. And dugs. Older loves his dugs.
I cannot remember a time when I saw an author leave it all on the page quite like this.
Daniel José Older has been talking about his excitement surrounding Midnight Horizon for months now, and after finishing the book, it is beyond clear why: he loves every single part of it. Occasionally, authors who are especially connected to their work can get lost in their own emotional journey and sacrifice the integrity or quality of the story, but Older’s blinding passion for every character and story enhances Midnight Horizon beyond measure.
Previous fans of Older’s Star Wars work like Last Shot, Race to Crashpoint Tower, and especially The High Republic Adventures will instantly feel at home with his style of writing that incorporates humor, action, and tenderness in equal measure. Characters freely crack jokes and almost take a metatextual look at the galaxy from time to time, but the characterizations in Midnight Horizon are so strong that Older’s choice to double down on these more personal choices connect reader to character quicker than we’ve ever seen.
While we may have met some of these characters over the past year in The High Republic Adventures, Older’s transition from comics writing to to prose allows him to flesh them out fully by giving us deeper access to their inner monologues and the struggles behind the wisecracks. Older has always been clear about his respect for younger characters, but giving 500 pages to their journeys really opens up just how deeply he cares for them.
And that level of devotion can’t help but be transferred to the reader. Aside from the emotional intimacy of his character moments, however, one very important fact must be noted:
This is the best action Older has ever written and perhaps the best battle writing in the entire High Republic initiative.
The climax of Midnight Horizon is filled with unbelievably cinematic action sequences, and Older’s meticulously crafted skill at following the battlefield with vigor and intention brings just enough order to the whirlwind of chaos to keep you completely invested. There are sequences that are epic and those that are horrifying. There are moments of elated victory and moments of terrifying defeat.
The unyielding chaos of the battle is matched only by the gravity of the emotions burning within those that are fighting it. To combine those in such perfect harmony is a feat few can claim to have mastered. Daniel José Older has.
When describing how entertaining Midnight Horizon is to experience, it can be very tempting to solely focus on the final part of the book. Featuring what may be the best written battle in the Star Wars Canon, Part 5 is the most exhilarating, page turning sequence we’ve seen in The High Republic.
Which is, once again, made even better by Daniel José Older’s personal playlist.
Aside from that brilliant climax, however, Midnight Horizon remains thoroughly entertaining from beginning to end by shifting tones, switching points of view, and creating a world that you can’t stop thinking about any time you unfortunately need to put the book down for a minute.
Older manages this high level of engagement and excitement by ensuring each character and plot development is just as intriguing as the last. Shifting to another scenario, timeline, or character group never reduces the level of reader interest, because every piece of the Horizon puzzle is crafted with the same respect and care.
I want to know Crash’s story.
I want to know Kantam’s story.
I want to know Zeen’s story.
This constant level of desire on behalf of the reader keeps the pages turning at a truly alarming rate even before the chaos reaches its maximum level, and when the dial is finally turned to 11…let’s just hope you don’t have any additional plans for the rest of the day.
Midnight Horizon is the book Daniel José Older was born to write.
The High Republic has significantly altered our expectations of Star Wars literature over the last year due to the astonishing level of quality and sheer volume of new characters, locations, and mythology. The previous two waves have brought us some of the best Star Wars books we’ve seen in years (including Youtini’s 2021 Book of the Year, Light of the Jedi), but Wave 3 has somehow set the bar even higher.
Midnight Horizon is undoubtedly the best Young Adult novel the initiative has seen thus far, and by bringing characters like Zeen, Kantam, Ram, and Crash over from the world of comics, hopefully more readers of these “traditional books” will find their way back to The High Republic Adventures.
If you want Force lore exploration, queer love stories, Corellian gang shenanigans, political sabotage, boisterous humor, and a battle that redefines the word EPIC, this is the book you’ve been waiting for…and somehow, this is still only the beginning.