This review was originally posted on The Geeky Waffle. It has been reposted here with permission.
The High Republic is back, baby. It’s been a long spring and summer of building anticipation, and at long last Phase 2: Quest of the Jedi is here. Set 150 years prior to the events of Light of the Jedi, Phase 2 will follow the Jedi during their era of exploration. But although this is a century and a half before the Nihil’s widespread antics throughout the galaxy, this era is far from turbulence-free. After all, as we learned with the movies, even prequels come with their share of drama.
Phase 2 is kicked off with Path of Deceit, a young adult novel by Justina Ireland and Tessa Gratton. If you have ever wanted to know about the Nihil before they were Nihil, just what their relationship with the Force used to be, and what exactly went down on Dalna, this book sets us on the path (heh) to getting those answers.
The story follows primarily three perspectives: Jedi Padawan Kevmo Zink, and cousins Yana and Marda Ro, members of the Path of the Open Hand. The Path is a group of Force adherents living on Dalna and preaching about the nature of the Force as they see it. They are, in a word, a cult. Not that any of them see it that way though.
Things get complicated when Kevmo and his master arrive on Dalna seeking stolen Force artifacts, the theft of which they trace right back to the Path. Kevmo’s investigation leads him to Marda, and soon the two young people are torn between a growing attraction, and the knowledge that their views on the Force are so different as to be nearly irreconcilable without someone making a massive concession.
For quite some time now, Star Wars has been flirting with the idea of beings in the galaxy who perceive and interact with the Force in very different ways. The Bendu and the Lasat, both from Star Wars: Rebels come to mind. But this is the first time to my memory that we’ve been able to spend this much time with characters who not only do not view the Force as the Jedi do, but rather view the Jedi as aberrations, and as those who misuse the Force. We had hints of this in Cavan Scott’s The Rising Storm, with Marchion Ro’s cousin Kufa taking great offence at the way “true believers” have been treated with respect to the Force.
By introducing the Path of the Open Hand through three points of view: Kevmo, a cynic, Yara, an adherent who sees the flaws, and Marda, an adherent wholly devoted to the gospel of the Path and the Mother who leads them, it allows the reader to immerse themselves in all aspects of this group we know will become a bigger presence than they are currently. It takes skill, after all, to portray what is very obviously a cult led by a charismatic, yet self-serving leader, and to still have readers asking themselves whether they’re ideas are entirely wrong.
This book has everything the High Republic does so well. It is unafraid to explore romance, family, budding attraction and (where the Jedi are concerned) the dangers of attachment. But there is also the mystery and suspense surrounding what exactly the Mother is hiding from the Jedi and from her own cult. Those who have read all of Phase 1 can guess where it’s going, but that doesn’t make the end result any less terrifying.
On that note, those who made it through Phase 1 only reading the adult or the YA would be well served by reading each of the books this time around. It’s hard to imagine such a crucial piece of the puzzle not coming into play as Phase 2 begins to unfold.
With Path of Deceit, Ireland and Gratton beautifully lay the groundwork for Phase 2. But because Star Wars is nothing but a story told out of order, with the High Republic being no exception, they have also managed to enrich an already vibrant and gripping tapestry.
Path of Deceit is available October 4, 2022. Special thank you to Disney Books for the advance copy for review purposes.