fter months of books, comics, audio dramas, and short stories, the second Phase of The High Republic is almost at an end. It’s almost hard to believe that before the first page of Justina Ireland and Tessa Gratton’s Path of Deceit, we had never heard of The Path of the Open Hand, The Mother, or the mysterious purple eggs that would house the ravenous Leveler.
This Phase has been infused with a truly massive amount of new Star Wars lore as well as a slew of characters that have added their respective songs to the brilliant melody of this initiative. However, as fans eagerly await the return of the survivors of Starlight Beacon in this Fall’s third Phase, the question of Phase II’s ultimate purpose still lingers in the air.
Was it worth leaving our Phase I friends for all this time? What answers did we seek in the long distant past?
Cavan Scott’s YA novel Path of Vengeance rounds out this era of The High Republic by adding nefarious context to events many readers have already encountered. Through his exploration of standout characters Marda, Yana, and Matty, Scott reaffirms the necessity of Phase II’s expansion of the horrifying Nameless and further confirms his place as one of the best Star Wars writers in the game.
Without giving too many direct spoilers, many of the major beats in The Path of Vengeance will be very familiar to High Republic fans. Scott begins the novel within the chaotic throws of The Battle of Jedha to add to the story framework originally constructed within George Mann’s audio original, The Battle of Jedha, and Scott’s own comic, The High Republic. As the story goes on, a similar story technique is used to explore events first illustrated in Lydia Kang’s adult novel Cataclysm as characters that are just outside the focus of Kang’s story step into the light within Scott’s.
While this choice is not in conflict with the quality of the book, it is a somewhat stark departure to those who have followed The High Republic since the beginning. For those hoping that Path of Vengeance will be a direct continuation of Cataclysm's climactic events, the story will be best served by leaving those expectations at the door in order to be fully immersed in the intricate story that Scott is telling.
Once those caveats are out of the way, Path of Vengeance opens up into one of the more chilling, exciting, and harrowing books that The High Republic has produced. Each part focuses on a singular conflict experienced through the eyes of the main protagonists, Marda Ro, Yana Ro, and Matty Cathley, and because these characters are split up throughout the majority of the novel, the vast scope of the events feels as grand as possible.
Although the main events of the Battle of Jedha and the subsequent Night of Sorrows will be known by readers of the previous installment of Phase II, Scott inserts scenes of both clarity and intensity within the established framework that are fantastically engaging. It could even be argued that his writing of his own characters from The High Republic hits its peak within Path of Vengeance as the fighting Jedi of Jedha are given even more agency to engage with the battle’s devastating effects.
Snaking throughout the various battles, however, is the diabolical plan from The Mother to spread the will of the Path of the Open Hand by “freeing the Force”...and releasing the Nameless. In order to aid with this fulfillment, Marda finds her way to the mysterious Planet X that readers first heard tale of within Tessa Gratton’s most recent middle-grade adventure, Quest for Planet X. These sequences are filled with classic moments of adventure and discovery as Marda and her crews face down hauntingly creative obstacles in order to retrieve The Mother’s deadly desires.
This combination of thrilling space adventure with gritty wartime realism exemplifies Star Wars at its tonal best, and with Scott’s trademark mastery of dialogue and pacing, Path of Vengeance culminates in a third act that stands right alongside Cataclysm as the most impressive of the Phase. Although some of the final reveals are robbed of a little steam due to their previous existence in other media, the care and talent with which Scott crafts the story far outweighs this.
Throughout Phase II, fans of The High Republic have been almost bombarded with new characters and factions. Every form of the Battle of Jedha seems to introduce a new sect of Force users while each landing ship on Dalna’s surface carries more unique Jedi than you can count. While these additions have succeeded in fulfilling the promise of a full and vibrant galaxy, the sheer volume of names and species of side characters has been slightly overwhelming from time to time.
While Path of Vengeance does toe this line from time to time with crews, cultists, and Jedi (oh my!), the main cast of the novel shines beyond any small confusions as Scott writes them with more intrigue and complexity than ever before. Marda and Yana Ro may have been initially introduced in last year’s Path of Deceit, but this novel takes their respective journeys and shows us their full potential as leads.
Marda’s tender care for those in the Path that we witnessed last year has been eroded by loss and despair, and the result is a Guide of the Path who looks into the horrors of the galaxy with fear, but also determination. She has known pain unlike any she could have ever imagined, and the Force must be balanced to shield her from that fate forevermore.
Yana, on the other hand, begins the novel in a state of disillusionment after her own loss at the end of her previous chapter. Although most of her life has been devoted to the Path and its members, her vision has become clearer in the time since the death of her dearest love. Not only does she see The Mother for who she truly is, but her own destiny begins to stray further and further from everyone she’s ever known.
Marda and Yana’s voices are expressed with absolute clarity by Scott as he allows their inner and external monologues to delve into questions they’ve clearly harbored for years, and this practice results in some of the best written scenes since The Rising Storm. The only minor confusion comes when certain voices appear within the minds of the two cousins. Although these specters speak only within the thoughts of each respective Ro, their lines are not italicized in the printed versions of Vengeance, so the confusion of their existence crosses the boundary of character and reader. Although this is a minor inconvenience, it is relatively constant and takes a bit of adjustment in the midst of such impactful conversations.
Beyond the members of the Path, past and present, are the Jedi who are written with the highest level of heroism seen since their triumphs in The High Republic’s first Phase. Chief among these are the aforementioned Padawan Matty and the majestic Jedi Knight Oliviah Zeveron. For those that have not followed Scott’s The High Republic comic, Vengeance serves as an introduction to the pair. Although their exploits within those issues are hinted at in ways that may slightly confound non-comic readers, Scott does an admirable job presenting the two in a way that almost guarantees them to become instant fan-favorites.
The constant balance between the Jedi and Path in the structure of the novel allows readers to experience every side of the book’s ever increasing conflict, and by using his main protagonists in such effective and transparent ways, Scott ends The High Republic’s second Phase with the strongest bonds of character work we’ve seen thus far.
As one of the chief architects of The High Republic since the beginning, Cavan Scott is no stranger to the magic of the era. While his reputation has perhaps been skewed towards his affinity for putting characters through…difficult situations, it must never be forgotten just how talented Scott is when it comes to the cultivation and execution of character relationships.
Back in Phase I, Scott gifted the community a true masterpiece with The Rising Storm due to his ability to craft dialogue and execute exquisite pacing. Those same talents are on display throughout Path of Vengeance as he uses the literal makeup of the book to propel the reader through their journey.
In addition to his wonderful character work and intricate plot development that has already been addressed, Scott’s technical craftsmanship adds a level of creative anxiety to Vengeance. As the tension rises, the chapters shorten. The descriptions shorten. The dialogue is arrested. By the variety of his economy of word choice and syntax, Scott conducts the emotions of the reader to achieve the precise emotional outcome he intends.
There are a few choices that occasionally muddle this flow like the lack of italicizing when it comes to the dialogue of spectral characters, and certain scenes cram in a few too many characters to track effectively for most readers. Nonetheless, these minor deviations from Scott’s consistent command of prose do little to dissuade from the sheer quality of the writing.
In the hands of lesser authors, the repetition of events preceded in other novels could have felt redundant and needless, but the way that Scott uses the underrepresented voices of his leading cast creates a propellant narrative that reminds us exactly why he’s been driving this story since the beginning.
Cavan Scott is no novice to the world of exhilarating entertainment. Every time that he places his stamp on this universe, you are sure to find fantastical action sequences alongside his trademark humor that perfectly exemplifies the very essence of Star Wars.
Path of Vengeance continues this grand tradition as Scott expertly aligns his chessboard through the earlier part of the novel in order to finish the adventure with the most well paced and epic third act we’ve seen since The Fallen Star. Although a few of the grand reveals are somewhat muted by their earlier appearance in other media (even the Star Wars YouTube channel), the impact of each sequence still hits home thanks to Scott’s undeniable skill when it comes to gripping an audience.
Aside from the adrenalized excitement of the final act, the entertainment evident in Vengeance can also be heavily attributed to Scott’s mastery of pacing. His previously lauded choice to condense his chapter lengths to increase dramatic tension echoes that of a filmmaker shortening the length of cuts to keep theater goers on the edge of their seats. There is almost a frantic feeling to the flipping of pages that occurs synonymously with the mounting anxiety in the written scenes, and the marriage of the two may force many a reader to binge the final 150 pages in a single sitting.
While Path of Vengeance may not answer every question posited by the first two Phases of The High Republic, the consistent tie-ins to the Phase’s previous media provide small, consistent boosts of excitement as the fabled Planet X is mentioned or as Tey Sirrek’s name flutters through the air. Keeping with the grand tradition of The High Republic, intimate knowledge of these outside materials is not strictly necessary, but the feeling of reward for more dedicated followers of the initiative is more evident than ever.
Phase II of The High Republic has perhaps been less adrenalized than the mind-blowing cinematics of Phase I as a whole, but Path of Vengeance proves that there is always the potential for moments of brilliant excitement in this era.
Path of Vengeance rounds out the second Phase of The High Republic with some of the most exhilarating action and some of the best written dialogue the initiative has ever provided. Although some of the plotlines falter from time to time due to the lack of ultimate surprise for seasoned readers, Scott’s execution of the narrative proves once more why he is one of the most exciting voices in Star Wars literature.
Path of Vengeance is out now wherever books are sold as well as on Audible.