Review: A Test of Courage by Justina Ireland

It’s here! I feel like we’ve been waiting for the High Republic since August.

We were lucky enough to get an early review copy of A Test of Courage by Justine Ireland, and so this is our first introduction to the High Republic. We’ve heard a lot about how Light of the Jedi is the official start to this story, and we’ll cover how it feels to skip that and jump in here shortly.

But first, we would like to assure you this is a spoiler-free review. We will cover minor plot points, but any revelations or big details will be left out. Let’s jump in!

A Test of Courage introduces us to Vernestra Rwoh. A fifteen-year-old Mirialin, Vernestra is a Jedi Knight prodigy, passing her trials at quite a young age.

“Vern” as she’s called by some (a nickname she does not appreciate) is on her first mission as a Jedi Knight, although she feels like she’s stuck babysitting. She is tasked with protecting a Senator’s daughter, Avon Starros. Avon is fiery and independent to say the least, and she also has designs to become an inventor. They are on board a luxury cruiser headed for the dedication of Starlight Beacon, the new space station that will be the jewel of the Republic and allow the Jedi to continue their mission of peace.

Also on board are Jedi Master Douglas Sunvale and his padawan Imri, along with a delegation from the planet Dalna. The Republic is attempting to convince the Dalnans to join the Republic, and so the delegation includes Ambassador Weft and his son, Honesty.

Not long after our story starts, though, the voyage goes tragically awry. The four youngest characters (Vernestra, Imri, Avon, and Honesty) end up stranded on a little-known moon with no way to contact anyone for help. To make matters worse, the moon is inhabited only by primitive wildlife and features a lovely toxic rain that threatens our four heroes’ chances of survival on a daily basis.

But as they explore the planet, not only do they find that the planet itself threatens their lives, but a mysterious pair of travelers from aboard their cruiser also have reason to be chasing them down.

All of that adds up to what was really a fun adventure to kick off my experience with this new age of Star Wars stories. As I mentioned before, Light of the Jedi really is the kickoff story for this series, but I found no issues with starting here. And for younger audiences, that’s a good sign as that’s probably the best place for them to begin. This book is really meant for a middle grade audience (below Young Adult, even). There are a few references to events and characters in Light of the Jedi that may leave you feeling left out here, but nothing that takes away from the rest of the story.

I found myself very attached to these characters by the end of the story. Their journey is well constructed and their emotional reasons for their actions were very well developed. I feel like we’ll be seeing more of these characters in the near future. Vernestra and Imri feel like a natural choice to expand on their story down the road, and I feel Avon has much more to offer. Considering her last name has been seen before, and the fact that she acquires an interesting relic at the end of the story, her choices seem to have an impact that may not be felt for a couple more centuries.

While this is a middle grade book, I do feel like there are parts of this book that will excite Star Wars fans of any age. That said, though, adult readers may leave this one feeling like the plot was a little bit thin – particularly in the way it wraps up rather quickly near the end. Again, if you are picking this novel up as an older reader outside of its intended age range, be mindful of that. I felt like it should compare to some other Young Adult Star Wars books (Lost Stars, for example) until I was reminded that this is aimed at an even younger audience than those would be.

Any other remaining negatives for me feel like nitpicks, but I will include them here for completeness. I felt some of the character names were too “real world” and lacked that Star Wars charm (Honesty and Douglas in particular). Also, the main droid of the story comes across feeling rather familiar, as I felt like she closely mirrored the sass of K-2SO or L3.

Overall, though, A Test of Courage was a fun adventure. It may not be an absolutely necessary read if you’re looking to touch on the high points of the High Republic, but it is a fun read nonetheless.

A Test of Courage will be released this Tuesday, January 5th in hardcover, e-book, and audiobook formats wherever books are sold!

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