Star Wars: The Living Force is a Delightful Respite | Review

The latest Star Wars novel, The Living Force, offers fans a prequel adventure that’s lighter in stakes, but highly engaging nonetheless.

John Jackson Miller returns to the Star Wars galaxy, finally, with The Living Force. The new tale puts the focus on ALL of the Jedi Council in a new story set before the events of The Phantom Menace. It’s a relatively untapped period of time for Star Wars stories, which is why I was thrilled when the novel was announced.

Star Wars: The Living Force
Written By: John Jackson Miller
Published By: Random House Worlds
Release Date: April 9, 2024
Purchase [Affiliate]:

While I’ve enjoyed seeing the expansion of the Clone Wars era, there are plenty of years (before and after) The Phantom Menace, with a bunch of great characters that haven’t been explored yet. Just look at what we got with Claudia Gray’s Master & Apprentice novel, or even the Dooku storyline in Tales of the Jedi. As such, I was eager to dive into The Living Force and Miller absolutely delivers on another great story. Let’s dive into why!

A Time of Complacency

After returning to the Jedi Temple following a chance encounter with some would-be space pirates, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn (alongside his padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi) is concerned about the state of the Order. He’s seen first-hand the dwindling view of the Jedi in the minds of the “common” people, and the general detachment of those on the Council from the day-to-day troubles affecting people all over the galaxy.

As such, he presents to the Council a challenge, as only Qui-Gon could do. A challenge to breakaway from the “larger view” of the Force and get back to basics. A challenge to “help one person” in some aspect of their lives.

It’s a challenge the Council takes seriously, and an upcoming temple closure on an Outer Rim planet of Kwenn, provides them the perfect opportunity to embark on a “retreat.” Having undergone a revival as part of The High Republic’s Grand Renewal initiative. With the 200th anniversary of that event looming, the planet has once again fallen into a state, complete with various pirate factions fighting for territory.

Seeing a chance to help, the ENTIRE Jedi Council (an almost unprecedented event) departs from Coruscant to host a bicentennial celebration and see if they can’t improve the lives of those on the planet in the process.

Elsewhere, Master Depa Billaba is deep undercover to infiltrate a rising pirate faction that could upend the balance of power in that part of the galaxy. As their leader seizes that chance to unite the warring pirate factions under a single banner, a bigger plot to destroy the Jedi (and any goodwill they’re building) could bring the entire endeavor to ruin.

Color map that’s included in the Barnes & Noble exclusive copy of the book.

From Their Ivory Tower

In the interest of keeping out of spoiler territory, I’ll leave the basics at that. Suffice it to say, the members of the Jedi Council are confronted with some harder truths about the wider galaxy, and how their role in it is viewed. Coming out of The High Republic era novels, where the Jedi are (largely) still looked upon as idealized heroes, The Living Force shows how drastically that point of view has shifted in the galaxy. Forcing the Council to confront that directly is what serves as the driving factor in the overall story.

While the pirate action is a pivotal part of things, and adds a layer of tension/action to it all, the real heart of the novel, is seeing how the Council reacts to learning how out of touch they’ve been. This, more than anything, serves as the heart of the novel’s story. It also serves as a nice bridge between where we see them in The High Republic era and how they got where they are in the Prequel movies.

There are some other elements at play, a little bit of a mystery to solve, and more action than anticipated…But it’s in the character work that The Living Force really shines. Miller has always been excellent at providing engaging, multi-faceted characters who are easy to relate to (even when they can do the impossible).

Every single member of the Jedi Council is given their “15 minutes” and all manage to feel distinct and unique. For many members of the Council, this is really the first time they’ve been anything more than background characters. Seen, or referenced, used as cameos to connect to a certain time period, yet never fleshed out.

The Living Force changes that up; managing to make even the most obscure members of the Council feel like old friends. Characters with an actual history who are “living” within this universe, rather than merely occupying space. Even characters fans are more familiar with and have been expanded on in books/shows over the years (e.g. Mace, Yoda, Yaddle, etc), Miller is able to add to them in ways that feel both in line with what we already know about them, while adding some new depth of his own.

This type of engaging character work is something Miller has always excelled at, and the abundance of characters (old and new) presented in this novel shows how deftly he handles them. Even if you took out all the stuff about the pirates and conspiracy, I’d still have a tough time putting this book down. Seeing the Council members interact with one another, and how all their idiosyncrasies play into how they choose to help others, is compelling enough on its own.

A Necessary Respite

To be honest, I didn’t realize how much I needed a “reprieve” in Star Wars books until reading The Living Force. Don’t get me wrong, I love the novels we’ve been getting and they’re some of the best Star Wars stories being told. The High Republic (and even other recent standalones like Brotherhood and Inquisitor: Rise of the Red Blade) are definitely on the heavier side of things.

Those stories are designed to be intense and touch on themes surrounding war, trauma, and moral compulsion. The stakes aren’t simply about people living and dying (though there is that), but whether or not they’ll retain their souls in the process. It can be…a lot.

As such, the lower stakes presented in The Living Force felt like a nice respite. A pallet cleanser if you will, that allowed me to journey to the galaxy far, far away without feeling stressed out. Again, because I’ve really enjoyed the output of Star Wars novels lately, I never realized how much I needed this type of book: a novel that let’s us engage with these characters in a more “natural” setting.

It also helps that this novel is absolutely hilarious. There were numerous (literal) laugh out lough moments while reading it. It was impressively handled; subtle and natural to the moments in which they popped up. Not only does it provide levity at key points, adding to the more lighthearted feel of the novel, but adds to the sense that these characters are “real” beings with real emotions.

The Living Force is another stellar Star Wars adventure from John Jackson Miller, and gives the author the chance to do what he does best: character work. It’s expertly handled and thus, when the action does kick off, adds a lot of gravitas to those moments beyond being simply “neat.”

While all eyes seem to be on the big drama/intensity of The High Republic (or further expanding the Clone Wars/Dark Times), The Living Force proves other—less action-packed—eras are still worth exploring in the galaxy far, far away.



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Jordan Maison
Jordan Maison
Lover of all things nerdy, Jordan's passion for books began at an early age and simply never stopped.