The High Republic: A Test of Courage is a canon middle grade novel written by Justina Ireland. It is part of the Star Wars: The High Republic publishing campaign, and it was published on January 5, 2021 by Disney–Lucasfilm Press.
The story is set two centuries before the events of Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, and it follows teenage Jedi Vernestra Rwoh and a young, ragtag group as they are stranded on a jungle moon after the Great Hyperspace Disaster.
Vernestra Rwoh has just become a Jedi Knight at age fifteen, but her first real assignment feels an awful lot like babysitting. She's been charged with supervising eleven-year old aspiring inventor Avon Starros on a cruiser headed to the dedication of a wondrous new space station called Starlight Beacon.
But soon into their journey, bombs go off aboard the cruiser. While the adult Jedi try to save the ship, Vernestra, Avon, Avon's droid J-6, a Jedi Padawan, and an ambassador's son make it to an escape shuttle, but communications are out and supplies are low. They decide to land on a nearby moon, which offers shelter but not much more. And unbeknownst to them, danger lurks in the forest?
On a mission of sabotage, undercover Nihil pirates Klinith Da and Gwishi land their stolen cargo hauler at Port Haileap. The Galactic Republic is looking to expand into the Dalnan sector, which the Nihil do not want to happen. The duo has been sent to destroy the Republic starship Steady Wing as it leaves Haileap, since someone important to the Republic is supposed to be onboard. Klinith, a human, is uncomfortable without at least some of her piercings in, deciding to put her silver lip piercing back in, although her hair is still magenta. Gwishi, an Aqualish, cannot do anything about the scar showing where he lost one of his four eyes. But with their orange mechanics' coveralls, they are able to board the enormous cruiser, splitting up to go about their work. Entering an escape pod bay, Klinith is confronted by a droid which insists she sign for the "maintenance" she claims to be doing, prompting her to smash it to pieces with a hydrospanner.
Meanwhile, teenage Jedi Knight Vernestra Rwoh has been assigned on her first mission by the Jedi Council to protect Avon Starros, the daughter of Senator Ghirra Starros. Twelve-year old Avon is a talented inventor, but also willful and rebellious. Her mother sent her to Port Haileap to keep her out of trouble. Jedi Master Douglas Sunvale invited Avon aboard the Steady Wing's voyage to the Jedi station Starlight Beacon, hoping that she will befriend Honesty Weft, the twelve-year-old son of the Dalnan ambassador Weft. Avon is also accompanied by her nanny protocol droid J-6. Prior to the voyage, Vernestra stops Avon from joyriding on an improvised scoot speeder and escorts her young charge aboard the Steady Wing.
Elsewhere, Honesty sulks aboard the Steady Wing. While his diplomat father believes that his son should learn more about the Republic and diplomacy from the voyage, Honesty is unwilling to miss his Metamorphosis Trials, a vocational training program that prepares young Dalnans for the harsh realities of life on Dalna. Due to his interest in joining the Dalnan military, his trial will focus on hand-to-hand combat. The elder Weft warns his son to behave himself.
In the dining room, Vernestra joins Master Douglas and his Padawan Imri Cantaros, who is still learning how to maintain his lightsaber. Imri is anxious about the Jedi Trials and confides in Vernestra, who recently completed the Trials at a young age. Avon delivers a welcoming speech to the Dalnan delegation, claiming that her mother convinced the Republic to send the Steady Wing in order to boost the Republic's membership.
When the Dalnan ambassador Janex brings up the recent Great Disaster, Imri and Master Douglas talk about the Jedi and Republic's responses to the destruction of the Legacy Run and the "Emergences" that it triggered, seeking to reassure the Dalnans. When Janex raises concerns about saboteurs instigating the Emergences, Master Douglas reassures the Dalnan delegation about the safety of the Steady Wings's amended hyperspace route, which involves a one-day detour through the Haileap system.
A perilous voyage
While the droids are serving dinner, the ship experiences several jolts, which is followed by several large crashes that cause damage to the Steady Wing. A hole in the ship's dining room sucks several droids and dishes into the void of space. With the emergency bulkhead unable to close properly, Master Douglas asks Vernestra to clear the gap of obstacles. Vernestra uses the Force and her lightsaber to close the gap. Believing that an Emergence has hit the Steady Wing, Douglas orders an evacuation of the ship and tasks Vern with leading it.
While fleeing through the ship's passenger hallway, Imri and the others discover that several of the escape pods are missing. Before more explosions can cause the ship to break apart, Master Douglas uses the Force to push Imri, Vernestra, Honesty, Avon, and J-6 into a different compartment of the hallway before a bulkway closes, separating the group of young people from himself and the adults of the Dalnan delegation. Under Vernestra's leadership, the adolescents travel through the entertainment deck into a hangar containing a maintenance shuttle.
Inside the hangar, the group discover the remains of three disintegrated service droids. Vern realizes that the accident that struck the ship was no "Emergence" but was the result of sabotage. With the Steady Wing disintegrating, the youngsters escape aboard the shuttle. They escape before the Steady Wing explodes, killing Master Douglas, the Dalnan delegation, and numerous crew and passengers. Through the Force, Imri senses the death of Master Douglas.
While Avon pilots the unshielded shuttle, Vernestra and Imri uses the Force to shield the ship from debris. During the escape flight, Avon tells the others that she learned to fly through a simulator and had been "borrowing" real ships since the age of six. J-6 adds that she meant stealing. Meanwhile, a grieving Honesty experiences regret for arguing with his father and not making up prior with him prior to his death. Honesty finds a kindred spirit in the older boy Imri, who is also coming to terms with the untimely death of his Master Douglas, whom he regards as a father figure.
Though grieving the death of Master Douglas, Vernestra does her best to comfort the grieving Imri and Honesty Weft. Avon informs Vernestra that she and J-6 have been unable to activate the comms since clearing the debris field. While observing the shuttle's hyperdrive unit, J-6 discovers that the hyperdrive was deliberately sabotage. Discussing the destruction of the Steady Wing, the trio deduce that the ship was destroyed by a series of explosives rigged to explode in a sequence.
Running low on fuel and oxygen, J-6 proposes that they find a habitable location in the Haileap system to wait until help arrives. Vernestra and Imri use the Force to probe the surrounding space for life but find nothing. Honesty also finds several rations which turn out to be packets of joppa stew, which Avon dislikes. Following a meal, Avon and Honesty rest while Vern and Imri take turns flying the shuttle. While meditating through the Force, Imri senses a nearby jungle moon, which turns out to be Wevo. After consulting Vernestra, the two decide to fly their shuttle there.
While traveling in the shuttle, Avon toys with the idea of analyzing Jedi kyber crystals, hoping to use her findings to apply for enrollment at the University of Coruscant. Vernestra informs Avon that they are approaching a planet, which Avon believes to be a moon. Avon is curious about Jedi Force powers, wondering whether they can let Vernestra see the past. Avon confides with Vernestra about her suspicion that whoever destroyed the Steady Wing will come looking for them. While Avon desires vengeance, Vernestra and Imri believe that it goes against the Jedi way.
The jungle moon
After landing, Avon awakes Honesty Weft and tells him that they have landed on a jungle moon. To honor his late father's memory, Honesty decides to judge people by their actions instead of their expectations. The youths explore the surrounding jungle and flood plain. Honesty is annoyed that the others discussed their exploration plans while he was asleep. When the scientifically-minded Avon suggests that sleeping was the best way to deal with grief stemming from the loss of his father, Vernestra advises Avon to be more careful with her words, saying that "science cannot replace empathy." Avon also finds a scout droid named SD-7 ("Essdee") in the cargo shuttle which she activates to aid with their exploration. Vernestra also hands Honesty a small blaster due to his prior training to be a military combat officer.
Vernestra and Imri use their lightsabers to slash their way through the jungle. The group also discover that the moon's atmosphere produces acid rain. While slashing a path through the jungle, Vernestra modifies her lightsaber into a lightwhip, a weapon dating back to the Sith Wars. With the help of Avon's scout droid, the group find a cave behind a boulder. Vernestra and Imri use their Force powers to hurl the boulder away, allowing the group to seek shelter inside the cave before heavy acid rain inundates the floodplain.
Inside the cave, Imri struggles with his jealousy towards the talented Vernestra. While fiddling with his damaged lightsaber, Imri takes the opportunity to inform the curious Avon about the significance of the weapon and kyber crystals to the Jedi. Vernestra tries to reassure Imri about dealing with his self-doubt and finding a new Jedi Master. While Imri is uncomfortable with Avon's curiosity with kyber crystals, Vernestra reassures him that Avon has a good heart.
Overcome by hunger, Avon decides to eat nuna jerky, which she is not a big fan off. Under Avon's direction, J-6 determines that they are on the jungle moon of Wevo by cross-referencing jungle locations with an acidic rain component in Leric Schmireland's almanac. Wevo is a remote jungle moon that is far from established trade routes. With the group running low on water, Honesty discovers a new water source in the form of a fruit that is popular with handsies, a primate species native to the moon. J-6 determines the fruits to be safe for consumption.
The Nihil threat
While snacking on the wild fruits that Honesty discovered, Imri befriends a handsy, which he names Chiri. Vernestra and Imri soon sense a disturbance in the Force and realize that they are not alone on Wevo. Vernesta and Imri trace the disturbance to a cargo hauler that has landed nearby, which they learned was damaged by the boulder that the two had dislodged earlier. Vernestra recognizes the Aqualish and female human mechanics Gwishi and Klinith Da that she had encountered aboard the Steady Wing earlier.
The Jedi discover that Gwishi and Klinith are Nihil operatives who planted the explosives that destroyed the Steady Wing. The Nihil are on Wevo to kill the children in order to ensure there are no survivors from their "smash and dash" operation. The Nihil also kill Chiri after the primate helps itself to their food. Seeking revenge, Imri wants to confront the Nihil but Vernestra decides that they should return to the cave to brief the others and decide their next step.
Meanwhile in the cave, Avon confides in Honesty about her difficult relationship with her overprotective mother, Ghirra. Once while Ghirra was away as a junior Senator representing Hosnian Prime on Coruscant, Avon decided to sneak out of their private compound and was kidnapped by some would-be political influencers. Following the kidnapping incident, Ghirra brought her daughter everywhere she went to keep her safe. Avon came to resent her mother for hovering over her. As a compromise, J-6 explains that Ghirra had sent Avon to Haileap to allow her to have space for herself in a safer environment. After discussion, Honesty and J-6 make Avon realize that her resentment for her mother was ill-founded, and that her mother truly cared for her safety.
Later, Vernesta and Imri return from their scouting expedition and inform the rest of the group that Nihil operatives destroyed the Steady Wing and are on Wevo to finish them off. While Honesty and Imri desire vengeance against the Nihil, Avon proposes capturing the marauders and using pieces from their ship to repair the damaged maintenance shuttle. Undecided, Vernestra decides that they should rest while she comes up with an attack plan they can implement at first light.
The attack and rescue
While on watch duty later that night, Imri struggles with his anger and desire to avenge the deaths of Master Douglas and Chiri. Sensing Honesty's desire for retribution, Imri enlists his help in taking the fight to the Nihil. Imri arms himself with lightsaber while Honesty brings his blaster along. Imri decides not to involve the sleeping Vernestra since she does not share his aggression. The two creep up to the Nihil's damaged cargo hauler. However, Honesty is taken prisoner by Gwishi while Imri is stunned by Klinith. Realizing that the other children and droids are still at large, Gwishi decides to wait for them rather than attack them first.
Back at the cave, Vernestra, Avon and J-6 discover that the boys have left. Avon informs Vernestra that Essdee has tracked Imri and Honesty to the damaged cargo ship. J-6 reveals that she is programmed as a bodyguard droid and equipped with several blasters and cannons. Traveling to the cargo ship, J-6 distracts the Nihil by walking to the ship, drawing them out for the lightsaber-wielding Vernestra.
Vernestra used her lightsaber and Force powers to disarm the Aqualish Gwishi while J-6 frees the boys. Klinith tackles Vern from behind and manages to hold her at gunpoint. However, a newly-freed Imri Force chokes Klinith. Seeking to avenge Master Douglas's death, Imri intends to kill her but Vernestra warns the Padawan that giving into his anger will open him up to the dark side of the Force. When Imri ignores her, Vern uses the Force to hurl him over the cargo ship into the trees.
While J-6 and Avon secure the Nihil prisoners, Vernestra confronts Imri, who activates his lightsaber. Vern activates hers in self-defense and the two fight. Vernestra gains the upper hand by using the Lightwhip mode of her lightsaber to slice Imri's lightsaber in half. Vernestra remonstrates with Imri, warning him that killing the Nihil woman was not what Master Douglas would have wanted. Through the Force, the late Douglas counsels Imri to trust that Force works in mysterious ways and to follow the will of the Force. After convincing Imri that they can bring the Nihil to justice, the two Jedi return to the cargo ship.
After the Jedi return to the ship, Avon and Honesty inform them that they have dispatched distress messages to the Republic, Jedi and Dalnan capital. Vernestra interrogates the Aqualish Gwishi who identifies himself as the leader of the Strike that claimed the Steady Wing. The human Nihil woman Klinith tells her captors that the Nihil destroyed the Steady Wing in order to prevent Dalna from joining the Republic since the Nihil regard the Dalnan sector as part of their domain. She adds that the Nihil have declared war on the Jedi and the Republic, whom she says will feel their wrath.
Honesty seeks Avon's help in getting her mother Senator Starros to grant him an audience with the Senate so that he can inform them about the crimes of the Nihil against his father and friends. The two comfort each other with Honesty realizing that he has found a friend.
Back with the Jedi
Two days later, the children and droids are picked up by the Trandoshan Jedi Master Sskeer and his Padawan Keeve Trennis, who had recently come from the planet Shuraden. Avon is curious about Sskeer's ability to regenerate his lost arm but Vernestra corrects her. Avon also speaks with the despondent Imri, who is troubled by his recent embrace of anger and rage during the fight with the Nihil. Imri thinks that he is not worthy to be Jedi but Avon reassures him that he would make a good Jedi because he made her feel welcome at Port Haileap. While the others are preoccupied, Avon also finds Imri's damaged lightsaber inside Vernestra's pack.
After being picked up by Jedi reinforcements, the group travel to the Jedi space station of Starlight Beacon. Vernestra meets with Master Sskeer, who convinces the young Jedi Knight to take on Imri as her first Padawan. Vernestra believes that she has let Imri down by not being prepared for the adventure on Wevo. Master Sskeer reassures her that all Jedi are tempted by the dark side but can resist it. Despite her doubts, she agrees to take on Imri as her Padawan.
Vernestra breaks the good news to Imri. While Imri feels bad for embracing Honesty's anger with the Nihil, Imri reassures him that recognizing their mistakes and doing better is the path of a Jedi. She tells Imri that the Jedi Order is not going to expel him for a single mistake. She offers to help the Padawan work things out. While Imri is worried about the threat of the Nihil, Vern tells him that they are Jedi and will be ready for them when they strike next.
The coming storm
Aboard the Nihil command ship Poisoned Barb, the Quarren commander Kara Xoo receives Klinith's holotransmision informing her about their efforts to hunt survivors from the Steady Wing massacre, which dates back to a week earlier. A Weequay subordinate informs her that his Strike found no sign of Klinith and Gwishi apart from the wreckage of the ship they had help them steal before they left.
Dismissing the Weequay, she contacts a fellow Nihil commander named Pere, whom she intends to discuss her plans to attract new recruits from Dalna. Besides making a show of force to the Republic and Jedi, Kara hopes to impress Kassav Milliko and the other Tempest Runners.
- The original plot summary on the Disney website stated that the Steady Wing was knocked out of hyperspace in the Great Disaster. In the book, the starship is destroyed in a bombing some time after the disaster.
- Imri Cantaros' homeworld is first stated to be Genetia, and then Hynestia later on. Justina Ireland explained in a tweet that his parents may have hailed from different planets.
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Notes and references
- The Star Wars Book dates the launch of the Starlight Beacon, which is depicted as part of the events of The High Republic: Light of the Jedi, to 232 years before the events of Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope, which corresponds to 232 BBY according to Star Wars: Galactic Atlas. As such, the rest of the novel's events must also occur around 232 BBY. The High Republic: A Test of Courage is set concurrently to Light of the Jedi, meaning that its events must occur around that year as well.
- High Republic author Justina Ireland on exploring and inscribing a new era of Star Wars (backup link)