Star Wars: The High Republic Path of Deceit had me questioning my take on religion, and now I see that in any galaxy, too much of it can be fatal.
Star Wars: The High Republic Phase 2 has arrived, and with it, we bring an interesting re-wind to about 150 years before the Light of the Jedi. In the Phase 1 era, the Republic creates Starlight Beacon to connect the Outer Rim with the rest of the galaxy. Now we dial it back, and the hyperspace prospectors have started the initial work of mapping the Outer Rim. It’s laying the groundwork for the Phase 1 climate. And there is also a very ominous foreshadowing to Light of the Jedi as well.
The Path of Deceit, starts with a bit of a red herring, introducing us to a Radicaz Dobbs (also known as Sunshine) landing on the all-too-familiar world of Dalna. He sells Force artifacts. And he is interested in making an offer to the Mother, the leader of the religious group The Path of the Open Hand. He is smitten by the mother, and enters a pseudo-friendship/business relationship with Elecia, procuring leads for new force items.
A RED HERRING?
The reason I called Sunshine a red herring, is that while the book does feature him later, the story is generally cut up between two points of view. The view of the Pantoran Jedi Padawan Kevmo Zink and the Path member Marda Ro. Yes, Ro. She is a direct ancestor of the treacherous Marchio Ro, the leader of the Nihil and architect of destruction in Phase 1. Marda however, is an almost complete opposite of her descendent, as she is kind and true and wants to spread the message of the Path across the galaxy.
She also wants to travel to the stars like her cousin Yana. But the Mother disappointingly tells Marda that her place is on Dalna, raising kids. Unlike Luke Skywalker wanting to leave Tatooine, it is non-negotiable with the Mother. The name of Marchion Ro’s species is revealed in this book. And throughout we are constantly bombarded with the fact that the Evereni race is hated throughout the galaxy. But we are given very little info on exactly why. They have sharp nails and teeth, and it is hinted that they are killers. The mystery surrounding their reputation is quite interesting, and I hope we learn more about it in a future book.
Marda meets Kevmo when he and his master are sent to Dalna to recover Force artifacts that unbeknownst to them are being stolen by the Path. Kevmo is an extremely upbeat and positive character, and it is refreshing to see how he forms bonds with other beings so easily. He meets Marda and there is an instant attraction between the two. However, all goes wrong when Kevmo demonstrates his ability to use the Force.
The Path of the Open Hand does NOT believe that anyone should utilize the Force, as they believe that the ripples of Force-related action can lead to a disaster in another place in the galaxy. Basically, their belief is that of the butterfly effect. The real-world belief is that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in one part of the world can generate a tornado in another part. It is such a strange take on the Force. And I find learning about this dogmatic, hypocritical Force religion to be quite interesting.
The Path people remind me of a mixture of Evangelic Christians and the Amish because they live simply without too much technology. They are zealots. Complete slaves to their religion. Marda is very dogmatic and over the course of the novel, the relationship between her and Kevmo grows with each trying to convince the other that their view of the Force is correct. Yet, the Mother is not the malevolent leader that she tries to convey. She is corrupt and profits off her religion and has insidious plans when things do not go her way.
The story is usually cut between Marda and Kevmo. And while Marda is an interesting person to read, it is also a red herring as I really began to focus on her cousin Yana. Yana is one of the Mother’s children and travels throughout the galaxy “liberating” Force-sensitive items. Her companions are her Nautolan girlfriend Kor, Treze, and the human Chincey. These “kids” are not good kids, and Treze has no qualms about committing murder on his quests. The way he shifts from homicide to flirtatious affectations is quite disturbing, and it quickly becomes apparent that the Path is a cult.
I loved the sexual tension between Marda and Kevmo. And it hit me at the end that this book is perhaps the first canon Star Wars novel with non-human main characters. People on Reddit have critiqued Star Wars for not doing this sooner, and I’m glad they can be quiet now.
I didn’t have any problems with Path Of Deceit. The story is excellent. The characters are excellent. And many of the things that happen exceeded expectations for how this story helps begin Phase 2. It’s definitely not one of the more action-packed Star Wars books that people are used to. So if you are looking for swinging lightsabers and blasters, you’ll have to keep reading until it gets there. Yet much like Andor, I find this to be better than fine.
The finale is actually quite dark, and the moral of the story really is that when you become a religious zealot, only trouble will follow. Violence, selfishness, greed, and anger – the tenets of the dark side are all endemic within extreme religions. Yet if this is the case, what of the Jedi Order itself? This book had me questioning a lot of things about my take on religion, and now I see that in any galaxy, too much of it can be fatal.
Star Wars: The High Republic: Path of Deceit is available to order now. Phase 2 is finally here!
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Max Nocerino is a regular Staff Writer for The Future of the Force. He is a passionate Star Wars fan and loves the literature of the galaxy far, far away. Follow him on Twitter where he shares his love of the Force frequently!