Lost Legends

The Prequel’s Prequel: A Deep Dive Into the High Republic

The overlooked era of Star Wars lore is now more important than ever.

Lais Borges/Inverse
Celebrating the Prequels

While wandering around outside Star Wars Celebration in 2022, I more or less recognized all the cosplays. Anaheim Convention Center was a sea of Reys, Kylos, Lukes, Leias, Anakins, and Padmés, but there was one woman who didn’t fit in. She wore a tight-fitting blue suit with white detailing, and her hair was dyed bright red.

I prided myself for my near-encyclopedic knowledge of Star Wars characters, so I had to ask who she was cosplaying as. She introduced herself as Mackenzie Robinson, and she was dressed as Sian Holt, the sleek private detective from the High Republic comic series Trail of Shadows. It was then I realized swaths of Star Wars history that goes relatively unnoticed by even the most hardcore fans. Set hundreds of years before the prequel trilogy, the High Republic tells the story of the Galactic Republic and the Jedi when they were at their greatest and most respected. Because it’s so far removed from the events of both the original and prequel trilogy, High Republic stories can’t affect what’s going on in the live-action Star Wars universe. To Robinson, that’s what makes it so special.

“They have a little more freedom with the story because it takes place in an era that hasn’t been previously explored,” she told Inverse, “and it’s nice to have a story in the Star Wars universe that doesn’t directly tie into the movies or TV shows.”

But with next month’s The Acolyte set in “the last days of the High Republic,” that’s all about to change. Here’s everything you need to know about the High Republic — and how it could shape Star Wars’ future.

What is the High Republic?

The High Republic shows the Jedi and the Galactic Republic at their absolute peak.


The High Republic is a canon multimedia project highlighting the High Republic era, when the Jedi were the most powerful organization in the universe. Launched in 2021, the series has run in the background of Star Wars through novels, young adult and young reader books, comics, web series, short stories, and audio adventures.

It’s been organized into three phases so far: Phase 1, set about 200 years before The Phantom Menace; Phase 2, which is set another 150 years before Phase 1; and Phase 3, which picks up where Phase 1 left off.

While there are dozens of characters who go on all kinds of adventures, the main conflict is between the Jedi and the pirate conglomerate known as the Nihil. Multiple tragedies prove that the High Republic isn’t the idyllic time of peace that the galaxy’s later players would remember it as — the cracks in the republic are starting to show, even if it won’t fall completely apart for another 150 years.

The Starlight Beacon

The Starlight Beacon as seen in the announcement trailer for The High Republic.


The first High Republic novel, Light of the Jedi, followed the dedication of the Starlight Beacon, a symbol of the peaceful era. The Beacon was a giant, luxurious space station placed within the Outer Rim, helping those who were normally out of reach of the Republic navigate space and serving as a monument to the unity of the galaxy. But in future stories, the Beacon became the setting for all kinds of horrific events, including the discovery of a carnivorous plant species known as the Drengir.

However, the opening of the Starlight Beacon was almost thrown into turmoil by the Great Hyperspace Disaster, when the space freighter known as the Legacy Run was blocked by an obstacle while traveling along a hyperspace path, resulting in the ship being torn into pieces. The pieces began appearing in real space, attacking the Hetzal system and requiring countless Jedi to work together and save the planets — but little did the Jedi know this disaster was caused by a massive threat hiding in the shadows.

The Nihil

The Nihil are an oncoming storm of “space vikings.”

Marvel Comics

The Nihil are a group of space pirates who traverse the galaxy through unknown hyperspace paths that allow them to travel in ways that seem impossible — paths calculated by Mari San Tekka, an unconscious Force user whom the Nihil captured and kept in a medical bay for years. Under the tyrannical rule of Marchion Ro, the Nihil are divided into three factions, each of which are divided into three classes of fighters: Strikes, Clouds, and Storms.

The announcement trailer for The High Republic referred to the Nihil as “space Vikings” because of their fierce sense of loyalty to each other, even if they lack a sophisticated ideology. That’s actually what makes the Nihil such an interesting villain — unlike the Sith, the Nihil aren’t in direct opposition to the Jedi, it’s just a fight for power and survival.

As the Jedi moved more and more into the Outer Rim, the Nihil started to see them as a threat and the two began a massive fight throughout the galaxy. As it stands currently, the Nihil seem to have the upper hand as they’ve destroyed the Starlight Beacon and claimed a section of the Outer Rim of their own. However, High Republic fans have the added bonus of knowing that by the time the Galactic Republic falls to the Empire, the Nihil are nothing but a distant memory.

Vernestra Rwoh

Rebecca Henderson will play High Republic fan-favorite Vernestra Rwoh in The Acolyte.


Possibly the most important High Republic character to the live-action Star Wars fan is Vernestra Rwoh, the green-skinned Mirialan Jedi master who began as a child prodigy, finishing her Jedi trials at the age of 15. But as soon as she became a full-fledged Jedi, she was forced into the Republic-Nihil war.

On her first mission, while protecting the children of Galactic Senators, she had a vision of an innovative weapon type: an adjusted lightsaber that took the form of a whip. With both the smarts and the cool gear, Vern became a fan favorite who found herself on the front lines of many High Republic adventures. It was Vernestra who helped defeat the Drengir, Vernestra who discovered the tragic past of Mari San Tekka, and now, thanks to the extended Mirialan life span, it’s Vernestra who will appear in live-action in The Acolyte.

The more is said about The Acolyte, the more it appears to take from the High Republic. The two share an era, a political landscape, and now a fan-favorite character. But will The Acolyte be willing to use the great ideas that have sustained such a rich storytelling empire even though it’s not common knowledge?

Hopefully, we’ll see — or at least hear about — these fascinating elements in live-action, leading fans to the most overlooked part of Star Wars fandom. It may not directly affect current-day Star Wars now, but the universe and the Star Wars timeline are both ever-expanding.

This article is part of the “Celebrating the Prequels” series, a two week-long series of articles about the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy leading up to the 25th anniversary of The Phantom Menace.

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