While the first phase of The High Republic era ended on a catastrophic cliffhanger, the next phase takes a page out of classic Star Wars storytelling — by taking readers into the past. Phase 2 kicks off with the thrilling and ominous young adult novel Star Wars: Path of Deceit by Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland.
Path of Deceit takes us 150 years before the events of Phase 1’s Hyperspace Disaster, the Nihil attack on the Republic Fair, and the destruction of Starlight Beacon. This era of Star Wars is, according to story creators, a time of exploration and discovery, where Jedi and teams of Pathfinders travel the galaxy to connect with new worlds and peoples.
This second phase of The High Republic features all-new Jedi and other characters, but those new faces provide a chance for storytellers to dive into Star Wars history. One of the key things we’ll learn in this phase is how the ruthless Nihil space pirates came to be, where the monstrous Leveler came from, and see the holy city of Jedha in its prime.
Previous waves of High Republic books started off with adult novels first, but there’s a very good reason why the YA book Path of Deceit launches this phase. The novel sets the stage for new adventures and excitement, but it also for new dangers.
And Path of Deceit highlights the hope-filled dangers of this era in a captivating story of cultish Force fanatics and charming Jedi on a twin-sunned agricultural Outer Rim planet.
The novel chiefly follows two main characters on the planet Dalna. Padawan Kevmo Zink and his master Jedi Zallah Macri are sent to the planet to investigate a stolen Force artifact. Signs quickly point to the Path of the Open Hand, a spiritual cult that vehemently believes the Force should be free — a.k.a. no “using” the Force as the Jedi do.
One true believer of the Path is Marda Ro, a demure teenager with naive but pure intentions when it comes to her view of the Force, the Jedi, and her place in the galaxy. Marda and Kevmo quickly catch each other’s eye in a sweet, young love romantic subplot that becomes a star-crossed one – even as Marda abhors Kevmo’s “abuse” of the Force.
At the center of the story is a mysterious woman dubbed the Mother, who’s revered as a sort of Force prophet for the Path of the Open Hand. She claims to have Force visions that guide her and the Path on how to further their message and “liberate” the Force.
Marda and Kevmo’s budding relationship and the Jedi’s arrival at the Path’s remote compound trigger a series of devastating events that leave the main characters questioning their beliefs and readers shaken to their core.
Like many previous Star Wars YA novels, Path of Deceit shines with its focus on just a few key characters, giving readers time to get to know them on a deeper level in a shorter amount of time. Some of the adult High Republic novels have a tendency to bounce between half a dozen characters’ points of view to introduce the many different people in this galaxy. That can make it hard to connect and empathize with those characters.
But with Path of Deceit, readers will fall in love with Kevmo and Marda right away and easily relate to Marda’s cynical cousin Yana. Just a few chapters in, you’ll feel like you know these characters on an intimate level, rooting for them despite their many missteps.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper Star Wars book without pain and suffering. But you’ll be happy about the undercurrent of darkness running through the novel. That vein is ripped open in the third act through a series of escalating horror, which concludes in a haunting cliffhanger.
The Path of the Open Hand may want the Force to be free, but at what cost?
No spoilers, but Path of Deceit may have you questioning the nature of the Force and its relationship with the Jedi and the galaxy at large.
Path of Deceit is a sizzling, character-driven page-turner that plants the seeds of the Jedi-hating villains of The High Republic era. The YA novel is an excellent start for this next phase of Star Wars storytelling and is friendly to both High Republic newcomers and experts.
Star Wars: The High Republic: Path of Deceit releases on Oct. 4 from Disney Books.