ave 3 of The High Republic Initiative has been bombastic, to say the least.
Claudia Gray’s The Fallen Star and Daniel José Older’s Midnight Horizon both blew us out of the water with their respective narrative excellence and character interactions, so expectations for Justina Ireland’s latest middle-grade novel, Mission to Disaster, were pretty high. Usually, this book would have been released alongside The Fallen Star in accordance with the shipping schedules of previous waves, but due to supply chain issues (seriously – get those pre-orders in!), Disaster represents the final book release of the entire phase.
Excluding the comics, of course. Which are spectacular, by the way.
Before diving into specifics, we want to note that despite Mission to Disaster coming to shelves almost two months after The Fallen Star, the story actually takes place prior to Gray’s novel. Additionally, there are no Star related spoilers in Ireland’s book, so regardless of your Wave 3 process, feel free to dive right in!
Now. Onto the story.
Mission to Disaster reunites Justina Ireland with fan favorite characters Vernestra Rwoh, Avon Starros, and Imri Cantaros in an adventure that combines a dastardly Nihil kidnapping plot with the villainous promise of ecological disaster. Early on in the story, Avon finds herself taken prisoner by an attacking Nihil force and whisked away to an unknown world. As Avon attempts to negotiate her own survival under the eyes of Tempest Leader Kara Xoo and the nefarious Dr. Mkampa, Vernestra and Imri travel to the planet Dalna to meet new allies, discover a rich historical culture, and investigate Avon’s disappearance.
Ireland’s love of her original characters like Vernestra and Avon shines brightly throughout this book, and the new additions like Yacek Sparkburn and Lyssa Votz (a wonderful homage to Lyssa Hurvitz, our publicity contact at Disney Lucasfilm Publishing!) fill out the cast in a way that feels natural and fulfilling.
Of particular note throughout this story is Imri Cantaros. Back in A Test of Courage, Imri’s innate ability to access emotions through the Force was a source of continual conflict. By the time of Mission to Disaster, he has honed this power through mediation and training courtesy of Vernestra, and his perspective provides a nice angle for us to access different sides of the Force that we haven’t witnessed before. While Imri’s full potential in this arena does feel somewhat untapped throughout the story of Mission, it definitely lays additional groundwork for some further evolutions down the line.
Another standout character throughout Mission to Disaster is undoubtedly Avon Starros. Her intelligence and wit have been highlights of every scene she’s been in since her debut back in Wave 1, and Mission puts Avon’s skills to the test in her most high stakes arena yet. The intricacies of her scientific experiments are massively impressive, and the emphasis on her intelligence and competency is incredibly welcome in a book aimed at a younger audience that may be exploring a love of science for the first time.
In addition to the flavorful character moments from old favorites (hello Deva Lompop from Ireland's recent comic issues) and welcome additions, Mission to Disaster provides some intriguing information about the planet Dalna that has potential insight to Phase II of The High Republic when it arrives in October. Justina Ireleand has previously hinted at the importance of Mission to Disaster in this respect, and without giving any additional story spoilers, the fact that Phase II occurs 150 years in the past is a key element to remember as you read. This type of integration has been gravely important between the first year of High Republic projects, and if the authors are connecting dots between centuries…we’re all in for quite the ride as the next few years of content are revealed.
However, as Qui-Gon told us, we must keep our focus here and now where it belongs, and in the case of Mission to Disaster, that means focusing on a perfectly enjoyable adventure story with some marvelously fun characters. While it may not include some of the deeper emotional conversations surrounding Force lore and attachment that the previous middle-grade novels have featured thus far, the focus on ecological destruction and technological innovation definitely makes for an enjoyable race to the finish line once the chaotic climax firmly takes shape.
Lovers of Justina Ireland’s previous Star Wars work will feel right at home within the pages of Mission to Disaster, and for those wanting an exciting tale of science, teamwork, and just a little destruction, you can’t go wrong picking up the final book of Phase I.
Mission to Disaster is available now!