High Republic: Temptation of the Force review: Do you believe in love?

What happens when two Jedi are in love?
Star Wars The High Republic: Temptation of the Force. Image Credit: StarWars.com
Star Wars The High Republic: Temptation of the Force. Image Credit: StarWars.com /

Shipping fictional characters has never been at the forefront of my Star Wars fandom. In previous High Republic stories, I enjoyed the characters of Elzar Mann and Avar Kriss, especially Elzar, and I understood the importance of their personal history and complex relationship. That being said, I was never an enthusiastic shipper of Elzar and Avar and assumed any real pursuit of a romantic relationship between them would be ill-fated.

Star Wars: The High Republic: Temptation of the Force by Tessa Gratton proved me wrong, as it made me completely invested in Elzar and Avar's romance. Part of it is simply the fact that this is the first High Republic novel where Avar and Elzar spend ample time together. For the majority of the books, they've been separated on different missions or by the Stormwall. They always weigh heavily on each other's minds. The scenes they have shared together are powerful, but nothing beats the characters actually being together in the same space.

Gratton's writing captures a natural chemistry between the two characters, not only because of their shared history and emotions but also through a deep exploration of how they both experience the Force. Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule introduced the concept of Avar experiencing the Force as a song and Elzar experiencing it as an ocean. Temptation of the Force digs into how their individual experiences with the Force allow them to intimately connect with and understand each other, such as in the beautifully written passages below:

"Avar fell into the melody of the Force, into the ebb and flow. She listened, letting her questions flow out of her wordlessly, hoping they'd catch in the greater song and whisper something back to her. "

Tessa Gratton

"She wanted him to know that a quiet, slow ebbing-and-flowing growth built just as strong a foundational root as her brighter, ecstatic growing. Slow like the sea turning the cliffs inexorably into a glimmering white beach, and sand falling into the reefs, catching in shellfish, and even more slowly turning to pearls. "

Tessa Gratton

If two Jedi are going to be in love, it only makes sense that they experience much of their love through their deep connections to the Force. Their dynamic and their relationship is refreshing because it's not the doomed and taboo romance one might expect. Instead, their romance strengthens their connection to the Force and makes them better Jedi who learn from past mistakes as they find where they truly belong in the Jedi Order.

Elzar and Avar's love is the heart of the story, but the power of love also influences other characters and storylines. It drives many of the consequential choices made by married couple Xylan Graf and Cair San Tekka, even when they are at odds with each other. The Wookiee Jedi Burryaga Agaburry's deep empathy and love allow him to make several crucial discoveries that save others. Some of these discoveries may even be the key to finally defeating the Nihil and the horrors they've unleashed.

The villains and the future of the High Republic

The Eye of the Nihil, Marchion Ro, is as chilling as ever. He's a villain who essentially got everything he wanted at the end of Phase I, leaving him listless for much of Phase III. That changes in Temptation of the Force when he discovers the blight introduced in Defy the Storm by Gratton and Justina Ireland. The blight consumes the entirety of planets where it's found. It affects all matter and is reminiscent of the effects the Nameless creatures have on their victims, making Ro fascinated and increasingly dangerous as he seeks to weaponize the blight.

In many ways, Temptation of the Force feels like the season finale before the final season of a long-running television series. This makes sense as it is the second-to-last adult novel in The High Republic publishing initiative. The final novel, Trials of the Jedi by Soule, is slated to be released in the spring of 2025.

Temptation of the Force addresses all the burning questions from The Eye of Darkness by George Mann, the previous adult novel in Phase III, with one of the questions being answered on the first page of the prologue. There are satisfying payoffs for other ongoing story threads like Elzar and Avar's relationship. The heroes do have several significant and game-changing victories, but the ending also raises the stakes higher than they've ever been in The High Republic, leaving readers eager for the final books to be released.

Reading as The Acolyte releases new episodes

Watching The Acolyte while reading Temptation of the Force generally made for an even more rewarding reading experience, part of which is just the pleasure of experiencing the High Republic era on the page and on the screen. Vernestra Rwoh is a prominent individual in both stories, and several moments in Temptation of the Force may contribute to why she feels like such a different character in The Acolyte.

One downside of knowing that Vernestra is still alive a century later in the timeline is that it lessens the tension in some of her scenes. A strength of The High Republic is that so few of the characters are guaranteed to survive, which opens up more storytelling possibilities and increases the tension whenever the characters are in danger.

Beyond Vernestra, Temptation of the Force has other connections to the first live-action series set during the High Republic, including multiple references to a Jedi named Barash. The Barash Vow, which Torbin takes in The Acolyte, is named after Barash. With Kelnacca in The Acolyte and Burryaga in Temptation of the Force, Wookiee Jedi are important in both stories. Burryaga's point of view chapters are among the best and most important parts of the novel.

The final verdict

Temptation of the Force is a must-read for High Republic fans as it balances excellent character work with many fan-favorites while moving the overarching plot forward in thrilling fashion. As cheesy as it sounds, it makes you believe in love, all while setting the stage for the high-stakes conclusion to The High Republic.

dark. Next. How the High Republic's Jedi Order differs from the prequels. How the High Republic's Jedi Order differs from the prequels