Hello, everyone! This evening I’m reviewing Path of Deceit by Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland, which is the first book in the second phase of The High Republic publishing initiative.
The #1 New York Times best-selling series continues…for life and light!
A provocative and thrilling young adult adventure set in the world of the High Republic, 150 years before the storytelling of Phase I. Meet mysterious cult members, daring explorers, Jedi peacekeepers and more!
I was so excited to return to the High Republic era of Star Wars. I ran out to buy this book at 9 AM on release day. The store didn’t even have it on the shelves yet, and the poor associate searched the whole store before deciding to check the stock room, which is where it was located (of course). lol. I enjoyed the first phase of this publishing initiative very much, and I’ve been curious to see how the second phase would unfold, especially considering there’s a backward time jump of 150 years. I was both excited about the jump and hesitant because, on the one hand, it meant tons of new characters but also that all the emotional attachments to the phase one characters don’t really matter to these stories. It also meant getting no resolution to the massive cliffhanger that was at the end of phase one. Regardless of any initial hesitations I had going into it, I LOVED this book.
I ended up really liking the time jump. The galaxy of the first phase felt quite polished, as if the Republic was at its peak (at least before disaster struck). This book made the galaxy feel wild and unknown. At the same time, the setting felt quite intimate, with almost the entire book taking place in one small area of a backwater planet. It definitely had frontier-like vibes and allowed the reader to really understand the state of the galaxy outside the core, which I enjoyed a lot. The time jump also allowed for the inclusion of some great Easter eggs, and I’m now fascinated to see how the events of this book ultimately lead to the crisis witnessed in phase one.
The character work in this book was fantastic. The padawan Kevmo radiated golden retriever energy. He had difficulty focusing, both his attention and his use of the force, and throughout the story he grappled with reconciling his somewhat impulsive nature with what it means to be a Jedi. His master was the opposite, stoic almost to a fault, and the two of them made a great pair and pushed each other to learn and grow in different ways. The real stars of this book, however, were the Ro cousins, Marda and Yana. They were both fascinating, well-developed characters that blurred the lines between good and bad. Yana longed for adventure and felt stifled by her place on Dalna and her role in the Force sect The Path of the Open Hand. Marda, on the other hand, felt at home on Dalna and was a fervent believer in the faith of The Path who wanted to prove herself and take on more responsibility within the sect. I liked Marda because of her complexity. She was incredibly good, to the point of being gullible, and held a deep love for the others around her and the galaxy at large. However, that gullibility led to some extreme beliefs that have the potential to take her down a very dark path. She wholeheartedly believed the opposite of what most people in Star Wars (up to this point, at least) have thought of the Force, and it just made her feel wrong despite having seemingly pure intentions.
The commentary on cults was brought to life in eerily realistic ways. Marda’s thoughts about life, the Force, and the role of the Jedi were truly warped by the indoctrination of The Path. However, so many of their beliefs felt like they could be true within the context of the larger Star Wars narrative, which highlighted how cults trap people with the potential for truth without any evidence. The arguments between Marda and Kevmo about the nature of the Force were my favorite thing about this book and produced some of my favorite dialogue ever written in a Star Wars book. It left me contemplating the nature of the Force and wondering whether the Jedi were very wrong in their beliefs. I guess only time will tell, but I’m excited to see where the other phase two books will take the philosophical debate.
I have just a couple other notes, and then I’ll shut up. I promise. The LGBT rep in this book was fantastic. I love how these High Republic stories have incorporated a truly diverse Star Wars experience. Race was also a significant, but relatively minor, aspect of the story. Marda and Yana are members of an alien race that seems to be universally hated. I’m curious to see how that racism factors into their character development moving forward, and I also hope to learn what tragedy befell their people and forced them to live with The Path.
Overall, this was a wonderful introduction to phase two of The High Republic. I quickly became enamored with these new characters, and the authors knew just how to use them to heartbreaking effect. The plot, while a bit slow-burn and isolated, set some exciting things in motion. Therefore, I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars.
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