Star Wars: Path Of Deceit Delves Into The Fear Of The Jedi

Spoilers for "Star Wars: Path of Deceit" follow.

"The High Republic" is an exciting new era in the "Star Wars" universe, housed primarily in off-screen adventures: books, comics, and audio dramas. That will change eventually with "Star Wars: The Acolyte," the new Disney+ TV series from Leslye Headland, but in the meantime, the books are where the action is. "Path of Deceit," co-written by Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland, is the newest installment of the publishing program and kicks off a whole new look at the era. In the first wave of stories, starting with Charles Soule's "Light of the Jedi" and ending with a cliffhanger in "The Fallen Star" by Claudia Gray, gives us a window into what makes the Jedi afraid. "Path of Deceit" is the first book in the second phase of "The High Republic" turning the clock back another hundred-plus years in the "Star Wars" galaxy. Communication and travel take even longer in this frontier-look at the "Star Wars" galaxy and through it all, the Jedi Knights are still the guardians of peace and justice throughout the universe.

This book centers on a young Jedi padawan named Kevmo Zink and a young woman named Marda Ro. Kevmo has traveled to Dalna with his master to search for a stolen artifact and comes to fancy Marda Ro. Ro is an adherent of a cult on the planet Dalna called The Path of the Open Hand, a sect that believes that using the Force is blasphemous. Despite their differences, the two strike up an unlikely romance. But, like any cult, there is more to it than meets the eye and a web of deceit grows larger.

The Path of the Open Hand

One of the most interesting things about this book for fans of "The High Republic" is the window it offers into the family history of the bad guy from the previous phase of the initiative, Marchion Ro. Ro is the head of a band of marauders who hate the Jedi called the Nihil and reading this book it seems as though the Path of the Open Hand could easily transform into that group of pirates with another generation or two of brainwashing its adherents. 

In fact, Ro's ship, The Gaze Electric, is featured heavily in this book, under construction as a vessel for pilgrim voyages on behalf of the Path. In this book, the Path of the Open Hand feels benign, except for the behind-the-scenes machinations of their charismatic leader known almost exclusively as "Mother." In fact, the entire organization feels very much like the "Star Wars" equivalent of the Manson cult.

The Great Leveler

What do Jedi fear? That's the question the writers behind "The High Republic" set out to answer and this book gives us our first hint at the origins of that fear. Throughout the books in Phase One a mysterious presence or creature has caused untold dread and panic in the Jedi it has encountered. For others, starting with the Twi'lek Jedi Master Loden Greatstorm, these creatures could turn adept Force users like Jedi into stone and ash. Where did these creatures come from and how did the Nihil get control of such dangerous monsters?

"Path of Deceit" aims to answer that question in an ending that is as thrilling as it is heartbreaking, introducing us to these beings named "Levelers." Although the answer is only in the name itself and a hint of where they came from, this story promises more answers from the second phase of "The High Republic."

Details to Watch Out For

Set so far in the past, there aren't a lot of connections to the broader "Star Wars" galaxy, though there are enough for us to sink our teeth into. The first is that the book is set on Dalna, a planet that has had a growing importance in "The High Republic" era and we see it at its most idyllic, long before the great disaster that befalls it when it is turned into a lava-filled wasteland.

The most fascinating name-drop might have come in the form of an artifact purloined by the Path of the Open Hand that was purported to come from the ruins of Moraband. Moraband is home to the ancient order of the Sith and Yoda traveled there once during the Clone Wars and visited the final resting place of Darth Bane, the Sith Lord who installed the rule of two for his successors in the evil order.

Another of my favorite Easter eggs in the book comes in the form of a mention of the council on the planet Jedha (featured heavily in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) that includes Guardians of the Whills like Baze and Chirrut from that film, Sorcerers of Tund—an obscure and delightful reference to Lando Calrissian's arch-nemesis Rokur Gepta in the early 80's adventure books he had—and the Church of the Force which was a creation for "The Force Awakens."

The best call-out, though, is when one of the characters settles in to read a book from the holonet and it's a cheesy romance novel. And it's about a Senator who falls in love with a Jedi. And is basically the plot to "Attack of the Clones." If nothing else, it made me smile to see that movie get some love.

The Verdict

"Star Wars: Path of Deceit" was an exciting addition to "The High Republic" setting and a perfect introduction to this earlier spot in the "Star Wars" galaxy. It would be easy for someone to jump in with this novel and start reading without having read any previous installments of the initiative. Gratton and Ireland have a seamless style that breathes life into every page, making it a fun, quick read. The romance between the two main characters, Marda and Kevmo, is charming and tragic and has all of the best hallmarks of a great "Star Wars" story and it has a very satisfying end that makes me want to dive even deeper into this second phase of "The High Republic."

Star Wars: Path of Deceit is available now at bookstores everywhere.