ne of the biggest strengths of The High Republic throughout the first phase was its emphasis on expanding readership and accessibility by producing stories for a variety of audiences. Key moments in the narrative occurred in adult novels, young adult novels, comics, manga, audio dramas, and books that can be described as “junior novels” or “middle-grade novels” depending on who you talk to.
These books introduced fan-favorite characters like Vernestra Rwoh, taught us lessons about the eternal battle of light versus dark, and showed a lot of adults that a good story is a good story no matter its external packaging. Newly christened High Republic author George Mann continues that trend with Quest for the Hidden City by infusing Phase II of the bestselling initiative with a tale of a few brave Jedi, a loving father and his devoted son, a misunderstood people with a mysterious past, and a look at the monsters creeping in from the dark.
He also creates what may be the best middle-grade novel The High Republic has ever seen.
Quest for the Hidden City begins with a distress call. A group of Pathfinders, including a couple of beloved Jedi, have sent a droid from the planet Gloam in need of assistance from their allies in the Republic. Also on the planet resides Dash, a fledgling explorer, who wants nothing more than to discover the wonders of the galaxy alongside his dad, but Spence’s latest venture seems to have stranded the pair on the particularly unforgiving world.
Sprinkle in Jedi Master Silandra Sho, her Padawan Rooper Nitani, a fascinating group of people called the Katikoot, a mysterious crystalline power substance, and just a hint of betrayal and intrigue, and you have yourself quite the adventure! This story is full of thrilling action, emotional revelations, and (unsurprising if you know Mann’s previous work) just enough horror to keep the lights on for the younglings.
While the book may initially be marketed for a younger audience, Mann’s writing does nothing to insult the intelligence of the reader. The vocabulary matches any cadence you would find in a Star Wars novel from Penguin Random House, and the stakes of the story are just as real for older readers as for elementary children that may be diving into this galaxy for the first time. By respecting his readers regardless of their age, Mann’s work in Quest for the Hidden City traverses any kind of age restriction in a way that will guarantee enjoyment for any fan of The High Republic.
Moreso, readers that tend to avoid younger fiction will rob themselves of the introduction of some truly phenomenal Phase II characters. While many of the book’s main protagonists are given opportunities to shine, the most entertaining additions to the High Republic roster are unquestionably Silandra Sho and Rooper Nitani.
First of all…Silandra Sho has a lightsaber shield. And she uses it. Repeatedly. That’s really all that needs to be said about that.
And yet more must be said nonetheless, because Silandra Sho is a truly exemplary Jedi Master. Not only does she handle herself brilliantly in combat, but she also emphasizes the importance of compassion and communication in her teaching of Rooper. Not only is she continually trying to further Rooper’s understanding of the Force, but she is also ensuring that her Padawan knows that she is trusted and valued by her master - a key lesson for any student, Force sensitive or not.
This student, however, is not defined solely by her wonderful relationship with her Master, but also by her growing trust in the Force and her fantastically driven desire to help others. Rooper Nitani graces the cover of the book fiercely wielding two lightsabers, and Mann expertly puts those lightsabers to use right alongside Nitani’s fierce wit. The middle grade novels of The High Republic have been full of Padawans that provide excellent role models for all younglings, and Rooper happily joins that fold.
Finally, amongst these exciting character introductions and a few shocking turns, Quest for the Hidden City nestles a story of the dedication of a son to his father and the dedication of a people to their past. Both of these stories are rooted in a love for what has come before and a question of the future that lies ahead, and Mann presents the final leg of these journeys with the reverence and respect that they so richly deserve.
As the High Republic initiative bolsters into Phase II, many readers will ask what is “necessary” to read. Everyone gets busy, and when Star Wars is producing so much amazing quality content, it can be easy to get sucked into the idea of “what story matters the most?” Only time will tell how deeply Quest for the Hidden City will affect the rest of Phase II, but through the talent of his words and his obvious care for every character on the page, George Mann has ensured that this story will affect each reader here and now. And that is more than enough.
Quest for the Hidden City is available now wherever books are sold.