Travel to Dalna and meet Marda Ro and Padawan Kevmo Zink as The Path of the Open Hand begins their quest to free the Force with disastrous consequences. Melissa reviews The High Republic: Path of Deceit
It’s time to return to The High Republic era in Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland’s Path of Deceit. But can this latest volume build upon the foundation laid down by its predecessors? Let’s find out.
On the peaceful world of Dalna, the Path of the Open Hand has made their home. Lead by the charismatic Mother, The Path is a seemingly peaceful Force religion believing that the Force must be free. To do this, the elite Children steal Force artifacts from across the galaxy and bring them to their compound. After stealing from the royal family on Hynestia, the Jedi are onto them. Sent to Dalna to investigate are Padawan Kevmo Zink and his master, Zallah Macri.
While trying to gather information on the locals, Kevmo meets Marda Ro and her young charges by chance. The teens are instantly attracted to one another, but when Kev uses the Force Marda realizes they are on opposite sides. Marda and Kevmo strike up a tentative friendship with Marda determined to convince him using the Force is wrong and harmful. And Kevmo fears what she might unwittingly be involved in. However, the peace on Dalna is shattered when Marda’s cousin comes back alone from a mission saying the Mother betrayed them. Before a peaceful resolution can be reached, disaster strikes leading to unimaginable consequences.
THE LUCAS PLAYBOOK
The authors of The High Republic decided to take a page out of Lucas’s playbook by going back in time and showing how the Nihil was created. And revealed what happened on Dalna to make the citizens weary of the Jedi and outsiders. So this one takes us back to the beginning. Plot-wise, this was more about the character interactions and how the Path gets to the next step of its plan. That’s not to say there was no plot, but it was more subtle and calculating. There was action, especially during the natural disaster, and during Yana’s mission with the Children. The tension came from trying to figure out what the Mother was planning and what the strange, pulsing jewel the Mother cradled. For me, it was also when Marda would finally figure out the Mother was a liar.
THE PATH OF THE OPEN HAND
The Path is led by the Mother, who has set herself up as a Force Prophet. But immediately, you could tell something about her was off when the smuggler, Sunshine, she hires seems to become in thrall to her upon meeting her. I suspect she’s using the Force to do so. Sunshine will do anything for her, which he demonstrates later in the novel. She’s taken the Path’s beliefs to the extreme and turned a peaceful sect into a cult. We find out she’s only been in charge for a few years after subverting the former leader The Herald when her garden bloomed overnight. Again, I suspect she used the Force to do so. But she claimed it was because the Force chose her to speak for it. It’s unclear what her true motives are, but she is a master liar and manipulator.
The Path’s beliefs are simple enough, and similar to the Jedi in some respects. I can’t find fault in their belief of gifts are freely given and their condemnation of stealing. Of course, they are breaking the stealing rule by taking the artifacts and justifying them as righteous. Marda does this in her head. They do have seemingly good intentions when they take them too knowing that they can be used by people to commit bad deeds. Locking them up in the compound isn’t that different from the Jedi locking up Force artifacts in the archives. But we know the Jedi’s intentions are nobler than the Path’s.
Their strongest belief seems to be that the Force must be “free” that by using the Force, the Jedi are abusing it in some way and that using it can have unforeseen consequences across the galaxy. For instance, when Kevmo uses the Force to save members of the Path, Marda and others believe that somewhere else someone died instead or something else bad happened. It’s Marda’s cousin however that points out that if the Force hated being used, it wouldn’t allow the Jedi to use it. However, you can see the Mother’s influence has corrupted the religion in a short time. Her personal beliefs are seeping in as the “will of the Force” and some, like Yana, are questioning it. One Elder even tries to point out to Marda that the Mother doesn’t give to the Force and that Marda has the potential to be better than the Mother.
We are introduced to the Marchion Ro’s ancestors, Marda and Yana. While an exact age isn’t given, Marda is about 17-18, and Yana is 19-20. I expected Yana to be the more devout one as one of the Children since the members we saw in Convergence (which takes place after this) were more devout. Alas, it’s Marda who is the true believer. This saddened me as even with Yana’s revelation about the Mother’s betrayal and what subsequently happened she refused to see the woman as anything but loving and true. She’s also the only one who doesn’t seem to be put off by the jewel and what hatches from it. Yana on the other hand sees the Path as a temporary stop and home and now that she is an adult wants to leave with her girlfriend, the Herald’s daughter.
She knows the Mother is a liar and manipulator, but can’t seem to convince Marda. Then end seems to convince Yana more than ever that the Mother is bad and needs to be removed from power, and Marda that the Mother is good and holy. So it will be interesting to see where they and the Path go from here. And how it evolves into the Nihil. I liked Kevmo’s wide-eyed eagerness and earnestness. His easy flirting without even meaning to or trying was cute and endearing. Zallah was a level-headed woman who balanced him well and seemed to know when to let him be himself and when to remind him to temper his eagerness and emotions. She was a good teacher to him. I’m sad that this will be the only time we see them though.
This one leads perfectly into Convergence and Quest for Planet X. We can see the Path of the Open Hand and the Mother’s plan begin to take shape. And we are left with the ominous feeling of what’s to come. Overall, Gratton and Ireland crafted a well-thought-out, character and relationship-driven novel. We see these characters evolve and their relationships change due to the experiences here. But only time will tell how they play into the larger plot at work. I give this one Four Lightsabers.
Star Wars: The High Republic Path of Deceit by Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland is available to order now. Happy reading!
I’m Mina, the Jedi Librarian. I’m a Program Specialist Librarian, lover of all the books, and a lifelong Star Wars fan. I’m also secretly a Jedi.