This past week, I finally read Path of Deceit, the first literary installment in Phase II of the High Republic, a prequel to the first phase. While at first I was sad that we weren't getting more of some of my favorites from the first phase of the High Republic, I immediately fell in love with this new story arc, and can't wait to see where it goes and how it further ties into the other High Republic stories. Seeing the clear foundations of things we see in the chronologically later books was really interesting, and I really found myself getting attached to these new characters and fascinated with this particular part of Star Wars history. Path of Deceit was a great introduction into a new era of Star Wars storytelling, and I can't wait to see where the rest of this phase goes.
Spoilers ahead for Path of Deceit by Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland.
The biggest thing introduced to us in this book for the new phase of the High Republic is the Path of the Open Hand. They are a cult that follows the Force, but unlike the Jedi or other groups, they believe that even the smallest use of the Force creates a ripple of disturbance that can have drastic consequences. Their leader, the Mother, is also... less than ethical, and definitely has some shady things going on. She sends out a group of followers to steal Force artifacts, and herself hatches an egg of one of the absolutely horrifying creatures that have haunted me since I read The Fallen Star. It was really interesting to see a group with a very different approach to the Force, and we know that in some way they will lead to the Nihil, because they constructed the Nihil flagship the Gaze Electric, which is space-ready at the end of the book.
Speaking of leading to the Nihil, my favorite two character in the novel were easily Marda and Yana Ro. Two cousins and members of the Path, Marda completely dedicated to their teachings and Yana eager to leave yet doesn't really get the chance. Both of these characters are really fascinating, and add to some lore about what Evereni are and their relationship to the galaxy, but also to some of the mystery. We know that one of them will eventually have Marchion Ro, leader of the Nihil, be their descendant, and I'm so curious to see how things will all come together with the formation of the Nihil in this family line. With Marda being a dedicated follower to the Path on the Gaze Electric but Yana being the unwilling keeper of the creature that Marchion uses to kill Jedi, I can't wait to see how it will all come together.
Two other characters I certainly enjoyed were Kevmo Zink and Master Zallah, two Jedi sent to investigate a missing Force artifact. I always love to see a good Master-Padawan relationship, and I thought Kevmo endearing character. Which is what made their ends all the more tragic, as they are the first Jedi victims (we know of) at the hands of the very type of creature that kills so many Jedi a hundred years later. Kevmo almost escapes, but unfortunately is still subject to crumbling from its effect. I can't help but wonder what would happen if Kevmo had been able to get back to the Jedi and tell them about the terrible creature that had done this to them, but the great tragedy of Star Wars is that we never know the answers to these questions.
This book was a great read, and I will certainly be painting a few blue lines on my face and walking around with my palms up on my costume-less days at my next Celebration. Gifts freely given, after all.