Review: Path of Vengeance is a bold, deliciously dark piece of The High Republic

Star Wars: The High Republic - Path of Vengence. Image courtesy
Star Wars: The High Republic - Path of Vengence. Image courtesy /

As the concluding novel in phase two of The High Republic, Path of Vengeance by Cavan Scott proves to be one of the boldest and bleakest entries in Star Wars literature. The overall theme of the book is women in their villain eras, and we’re just along for the deliciously dark ride.

Path of Vengeance is nearly a direct sequel to the events of Path of Deceit by Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland. In fact, it also mainly follows key characters from that book, including Mardo Ro and Yana Ro. Rounding out the trifecta of perspectives in Path of Vengeance is Matty Cathley, a Jedi Padawan Scott that brought over from his excellent run of The High Republic comics from Marvel.

Path of Vengeance book review

It’s the beginning of the end for the Path of the Open Hand, despite dealing significant and often secret blows to the Jedi and sowing chaos on Jedha and warring planets Eiram and E’ronoh. The Force cult has splintered in the aftermath of the Battle of Jedha, with the Mother on one side and the Herald on the other. True motives are finally revealed, and Marda, Yana, and Matty are caught in the middle and forced to choose between right, wrong, and themselves.

It’s not easy to discuss Path of Vengeance without spoiling too much, but the story does overlap with key events in The Battle of Jedha and Cataclysm. The first several chapters are recaps of sorts but also plunge right into the chaotic action of the Battle of Jedha — this time, from Marda’s and Yana’s perspectives.

Those who have read Cataclysm know that the Night of Sorrow is the brutal battle between Jedi and Dalnan forces and radicalized members of the Path of the Open Hand. Then the Nameless creatures (also known as the Leveler) are thrown into the rain-soaked, bloody mess to torment and kill the Jedi.

Path of Vengeance chronicles the Night of Sorrow as well, just from a few different perspectives. It’s during this tragic cataclysm that the Mother’s machinations are finally revealed as well as her history and the reasons for her hatred of the Jedi.

Readers have been clamoring for more on the Mother for months, and the revelations about her are still shocking even if they’re not surprising. But the Mother (a.k.a. Elecia Zeveron) and her story are not nearly as interesting as the character work done on Marda, Yana, and Matty.

Marda is the true star of Path of Vengeance — she’s also the key figure on the cover, with Jedi Oliviah Zeveron and Matty behind her. Over the course of phase two, Marda evolved from an innocent and naive girl into a young woman who takes what she wants and refuses to bow to anyone.

Much of that journey of self-discovery comes from her experiences both on and off-planet — from the mysterious and Force-soaked world of Planet X to the caves-turned-catacombs of Dalna during the Night of Sorrow.

Marda does bad things in Path of Vengeance, but I couldn’t help but root for her. She’s been radicalized in her own way, with a steadfast dedication to the “freeing” of the Force by any means necessary. She’s not out for vengeance like the Mother, she’s out for freedom — for the Force and for herself.

Marda’s journey is mirrored by her cousin Yana, who’s still reeling over the loss of her girlfriend Kor. Yana has never had a blind belief in the Path’s cause like Marda, and she’s been looking for a safe way out for years. She gets her chance in Path of Vengeance, but not before she’s caught between choosing her cousin and her girlfriend’s father the Herald, who was blamed for the Battle of Jedha and imprisoned by the Guardians of the Whills.

Both women inevitably reap what they sow in this story. They embrace and fight back against their Evereni stereotypes, especially the notion that death and darkness quite literally follow them around like a storm cloud.

It’s no secret that the Path of the Open Hand is the precursor to the ruthless Nihil marauders seen in phase one of The High Republic. And Path of Vengeance lays the first brick of the villainous foundation. We can only hope there’s maybe one more story yet to be announced that connects these Ros to Marchion Ro.

On the Jedi side, Padawan Matty is sent to Dalna alongside Oliviah — an aloof, hard-to-read Jedi Knight who’s harboring a secret connection to the Path. Chatty Matty is intimidated by the “cool girl” Oliviah, who bounces between treating her like a Padawan and like an equal.

There’s an emotional rawness to Matty that we don’t often see in other Jedi. She’s not afraid to wear her emotions on her robe sleeves or speak out with sarcasm and bluntness when she senses something amiss.

In Path of Vengeance, Matty refuses to bottle up her anger, fear, or grief for the sake of keeping it cool. Matty loses her cool a lot in Path of Vengeance, but it’s never seen as a weakness. Her compassion and care for others, herself, and the Force is her greatest strength.

It’s no surprise that Scott has landed another hit with Path of Vengeance. The author is one of the most beloved writers in Star Wars literature.

While vastly different stories, Path of Vengeance is easily comparable to Scott’s The Rising Storm. Both books are thrilling page-turners that fly through epic battles without missing a character beat or crucial detail. Scott spares no expense detailing the horrors of war and the Nameless creatures that turn Force-users into petrified husks.

The novel more than delivers on its promises of despair and darkness but with just enough touches of hope and light. Path of Vengeance is an incredible book, and together with Path of Deceit, represents a masterpiece in Star Wars storytelling.

Related Story. Review: Star Wars: Path of Deceit is an ominous, Force cult-filled start to The High Republic Phase 2. light

Star Wars: The High Republic: Path of Vengeance by Cavan Scott is available on May 2 from Disney Books.