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Everything you need to know about Star Wars: The High Republic

Get to know the setting of the forthcoming Star Wars show The Acolyte

Art from the Star Wars YA novel The High Republic: Path of Deceit, depicting a young Jedi with blue skin and a gold lightsaber standing beside a woman clutching flowers to her chest, and both of them behind a robed woman with her hands outstretched. Image: Lucasfilm
Joshua Rivera (he/him) is an entertainment and culture journalist specializing in film, TV, and video game criticism, the latest stop in a decade-plus career as a critic.

One of the most ambitious and large-scale Star Wars stories happening right now hasn’t been on Disney Plus or in movie theaters — at least, not yet. It’s the High Republic, a massive multimedia project set centuries before the movies telling an ambitious, large-scale story about a different era of Jedi Knights facing a different kind of menace than fans have seen before. Soon, the High Republic will find its way to Disney Plus with the forthcoming series The Acolyte, bringing a wave of new fans into the newest corner of Star Wars lore.

With this specific and fairly new era of Star Wars history about to get its TV close-up, there’s no better time to dive into this impressively huge — and still ongoing — story.

What is the High Republic?

The High Republic is primarily a sprawling publishing initiative from Lucasfilm that comprises myriad books, comics, and audio dramas all set in a previously unexplored era of Star Wars history. The goal is to tell a diverse set of stories all centering on a new cast of characters responding to huge, status-quo shaking events.

Cover art from Star Wars: Light of the Jedi: The High Republic Image: Lucasfilm

While the High Republic is mainly overseen by a brain trust of authors writing its stories, it’s also similar to a Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting, like the Forgotten Realms or Planescape: a self-contained chunk of a very popular whole, one that’s ripe for exploration across all sorts of media. Soon, the High Republic will be featured on screen for the very first time in the forthcoming Disney Plus serious The Acolyte.

When is the High Republic set?

Most of the action takes place about 200 years before The Phantom Menace. The general idea is that these stories depict what is effectively the last golden age of the Jedi Order, before the institutional rot that made the order so stodgy and ripe for obliteration by Emperor Palpatine by the time of The Clone Wars and the prequel trilogy.

High Republic stories are about Jedi at their peak as a diplomatic force, making a case for the Order as a powerful ally to both community building and defense. In these stories, the Jedi are ideologically aligned but also diverse — there is a code, sure, but they’re all still pretty human and dynamic characters.

yoda in the high republic era of star wars Image: Disney Lucasfilm Press

It’s far enough in the past to feel very different from the Star Wars fans know, but close enough to have a lot of recognizable people and places. (Yoda, for example, is very much around, a spry 700-something.) It’s also an era that keeps many centuries between itself and the Old Republic era, as to not infringe on another popular setting.

What is the High Republic about?

The short version is simple: If the High Republic is supposed to be an era where the Jedi were at their very best, then someone’s gotta make them prove it. That someone is Marchion Ro.

Initially a member of a gang of crafty space pirates, Marchion Ro slowly executes a plan to turn his gang, the Nihil, into something more menacing and under his absolute control. Piracy gives way to terrorism and all-out war, as the Jedi are blindsided by the Nihil’s attacks and slowly begin to unravel Marchion Ro’s true motivations.

Marchion Ro, the villain of the High Republic story, sits on a throne with a cyclopian helmet on his head, his face hidden behind its giant red eye. Image from the Marvel Comic Star Wars The High Republic: Eye of the Storm Image: Marvel Comics/Lucasfilm

The Jedi’s struggle against the Nihil forms the spine of the High Republic, but as the High Republic consists of multiple novels, comics, and other media, there is much more going on.

How do I dive in?

Even though the High Republic is only two years old, there’s already a staggering number of stories set within it. The best way to tackle them is to learn how releases are structured, and to follow what interests you.

The High Republic is broken up into three “phases,” each about a year long. Within each phase, there are three “waves,” which generally contain at least one new release from every major publishing category: an adult novel, a YA novel, a middle grade installment, a comic book story arc, and so on.

This can seem overwhelming, but in execution it’s easier to make sense of. Essentially, the High Republic is a trilogy of trilogies, with the adult novels serving as the narrative spine that everything else connects to.

Phase I revolved around the introductory trilogy of Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule, The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott, and The Fallen Star by Claudia Gray. This is where you should start.

Once you’ve read the Phase I trilogy of adult novels, root around for whatever else interests you from that phase — many find the YA novels just as compelling, if not more so, than the adult ones, and Marvel’s main High Republic ongoing comic series is designed to complement the novels nicely. Keep Wookieepedia’s exhaustive chart of High Republic releases handy so you don’t get ahead of yourself in the narrative — as Phase II, the current phase, is a prequel to Phase I.

This is kind of a lot

It is! I recommend liberal use of your library card if you want to dive in, because buying all these books would get pretty expensive. But, as guides put together by fans say, the High Republic is an immersive experiment that can be rewarding for hardcore deep-divers. It’s Star Wars for the kind of fan that wants MCU-style interconnected storytelling but with a level of focus and intricacy that movies can’t really swing, with a variety of stories that cater to all kinds of tastes.

And, what’s more, it’s far from the only kind of Star Wars story being published. It’s just one flavor of many, looking at a familiar universe from a certain point of view.

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