Review: The High Republic: Escape from Valo

Title: The High Republic: Escape from Valo

Author: Daniel Josè Older and Alyssa Wong

Release Date: January 30, 2024


Padawan Ram Jomaram has a lot on his mind, not the least of which is saving the planet where he has spent much of his life, Valo. The problem? A year after the ill-fated Republic Fair decimated the world that he loved so much, the Nihil moved back in and have been occupying the planet since the fall of Starlight Beacon. On top of that, Valo is in the Nihil Occlusion Zone, where Jedi are being hunted like prey. What's a Padawan to do? Obviously, create a secret identity and fight back in secret.

But, when Ram's vigilante moves inspire three Jedi younglings who have also been hiding in the ruins of Valo's capital, Ram must step up and protect these young Padawans and do what Jedi do best; help the people of Valo!

What Should I Read to Prepare?

Older has a tendency to harken back to previous events in the High Republic initiative in his books, referencing his characters' past exploits. While he does a good job in this book of summarizing his other work, there are still some connections that feel more fulfilling if you have read some of their contextual providers. So what should you read?

Race to Crashpoint Tower: Ram's character has grown a great deal since he was first introduced, but seeing Ram on Valo before everything that happened provides a great contrast for Ram in this book.

The High Republic Adventures (Phase I): Specifically, issues 8-10, which show the attack on the Temple on Takodana, which is referenced a number of times.

The High Republic Adventures (Phase II): These references are not for Ram, but to provide some ancestral background for one of our new characters, Zyle Keem.

Tales of Light and Life: Older's entry, "The Lonely Traveler is Home" is referenced briefly early on in the book. Plus, this story is adorable.

Overall Opinions

Between this book and Phase 2's Path of Deceit, I am starting to think that maybe all Star Wars books should be co-written. This is an absolutely stunningly constructed book full of heart and love and persevering in the face of impossible odds. While we might have some idea what to expect from Daniel Josè Older in his Star Wars prose, this book truly exceeds expectations and shows how special the combination of his and Alyssa Wong's storytelling ability truly is. Wong's addition to this publishing initiative was a genius move by the team, and I truly believe that these two are a perfect co-writing pair.


As might be expected from this team, this book has a lot of energy and so, so much flair. Ram is already a lovable character, and has been one of my favorites since his first introduction, but the new characters that we also see in this novel are amazing. Let's take a brief moment to review our new cast:

Gavi is a human youngling who is the heart and soul of our little group, but he has also had an incredibly traumatizing experience that leaves him unable to connect with the force in the way that he used to.

Tep Tep is a young Alcedian with a deep Force-connection to animals. Even though she is a freedom-fighter in an occupied city, she still feels so young and sweet, and you will also want to protect her at all costs.

Kildo is another Alcedian who likes to get into trouble. He has deep emotional ties to Gavi, and their story is a standout of the novel.

In addition to our Jedi characters, we also encounter a young Zabrak pirate named Zyle. They are so full of swagger and fun that I cannot imagine anyone other than Older and Wong doing them justice. While their motives may not be the altruistic, they truly are a young swashbuckler with a heart of gold.

On the slightly more morally ambiguous side is Driggit, a human from Valo who, though previously friends with the Jedi younglings, has fallen in with the occupying forces in order to protect her family and friends.

All of the characters have really lovely development and arcs throughout the novel, and I would be really interested in taking a deeper dive into Driggit in particular, and believe that we are definitely going to be seeing much more of her in the future.

Also worth noting, this book is very, very queer, featuring a very sweet Achillean relationship, a nonbinary character, and a trans character, all amongst our key players.

Plot and Themes

I recently said that I wanted a Star Wars book that felt like Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, and this book has almost entirely filled that niche for me, except that the characters are not corrupt enough. There is an incredible feeling of found family, an impossible heist with a major score, and everything appearing to go wrong until it goes right. I absolutely adored it.

More than anything else, the themes in this book are absolutely immaculate in their execution. First, and perhaps most obvious, are the same themes that many of the High Republic books, that of attachment and love in the Jedi Order. This book handles the idea of the fine lines between love and attachment in such a insightful and tender, but still incredibly accessible way. In particular, the question of what love looks like for a Jedi was beautifully handled, with young characters coming to the realization that love did not have to mean fear or loss or becoming consumed. It can be so much more than that. I adored the following quote:

"Their love didn't make them weaker or bad Jedi. It made them unstoppable. Because love wasn't attachment. True love was letting go."

The other theme that this novel really digs in to is that of resilience in the face of impossible odds. It asks the question of what can and should we do when our world is crumbling around us, and how the lines between being on the right and wrong sides can seem to blur in those moments. This book, like many of the Star Wars stories that have come before, feels especially poignant with current political events. Looking, in particular, at the occupations and genocides in Ukraine and Palestine, there are clear parallels n this book. Watching some of our characters react by trying to reclaim their lives and city and to route out a hostile and violent invading force through sabotage and rebellion while others do whatever they can to the next day, even if it goes against their own best interest and helps the oppressor shines light on the complexity of rebellion and survival.

There is always so much unexpected depth and complexity in Star Wars middle grade novels, and the massive length of this book (she's a whopping 384 pages) gives so much space for fun adventures, tenderhearted moments of introspection, and incredibly in-depth looks into the brutality of living under violent occupation. Beyond that, there is the incomparable spunk of Older and Wong's writing that truly brings this book to life.


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