Star Wars: Path of Vengeance review

Star Wars: Path of Vengeance Review – An Excellent End to High Republic Phase II

Over the years, Star Wars has always reflected our own world. At their best, the stories from a galaxy far, far away confront the evils of the time and give us hope that fighting for good will result in better days ahead. Star Wars: Path of Vengeance is no different in review. In the final novel of Phase II of the High Republic, Cavan Scott tells a powerful tale about the dangers of fanaticism and how easily people — even those closest to each other — can be turned against one another in the name of a charismatic leader.

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Phase I of the High Republic initiative was an action-packed clash between the Jedi and the anarchistic Nihil 200 years before the prequel trilogy. Dial the timeline back another 150 years, and we arrive at Phase II. This phase, though loaded with moments of action, also gave readers much more personal stories, culminating with the dark and meaty — it’s over 500 pages — Path of Vengeance.

The High Republic at Its Best

One of the best parts of the amazing High Republic initiative is the different perspectives incorporated into the storytelling. This is true in more than one way, with numerous different authors penning books and comics across the High Republic arc. It’s also true in how specific events in the story are told. Different books in the High Republic series can be portraying the same event through the eyes of other characters.

In Path of Vengeance, readers join Marda Ro, Yana Ro, and the Mother late in the Battle of Jedha. The events from George Mann’s excellent audio drama unfold from the point of view of the Path of the Open Hand. Star Wars: Path of Vengeance culminates with the Battle of Dalna, told from a different perspective than we experience the exact same event in Lydia Kang’s Cataclysm.

Marda’s Path of Vengeance

The Path of the Open Hand is the focal point of Path of Vengeance, but Jedi are certainly present in the novel. As Daniel Jose Older did in Phase I’s Midnight Horizon, Cavan Scott has brought some of the central characters from his Star Wars: The High Republic comic series along for Path of Vengeance. Matty, a young Padawan known for talking a lot, shines in this story, and Jedi Oliviah Zeveron plays a key role in the book’s third act. Both Jedi have left their posts on Jedha to travel to Dalna after The Battle of Jedha, and both play a significant role in the events of Path of Vengeance.

Despite the Jedi playing a significant role in Path of Vengeance, the real star of the story is Marda Ro. We first met Marda in the excellent Path of Deceit, where she was a naive and impressionable girl wrestling with her beliefs as part of the Path of the Open Hand and her affection for Kevmo Zink, a young Jedi Padawan investigating the Path on Dalna. In Path of Deceit, Marda is still searching for acceptance and to find her place in the galaxy. Her need for approval makes her the perfect target for a charismatic demagogue like the Mother.

Marda Ro wants to do more in the Path of the Open Hand, but the Mother holds her back. She constantly has to face the idea that she is not as good as her cousin Yana Ro, who is one of the Mother’s “Children,” followers who steal Force artifacts from other planets. The more desperate Marda is for acceptance, the more susceptible to fanaticism and indoctrination she becomes in an echo chamber.

However, even as Marda gets more entangled in the web of the Mother’s lies, we still want to cheer for her. We see the good in her and know she is being manipulated by someone who doesn’t have her best interests in mind. Every decision Marda makes in Path of Vengeance presents us with another opportunity to hope she will do the right thing.

Holding a Mirror to Our Own World

In that sense, Cavan Scott is telling a story that is deeply reminiscent of today’s “culture war.” A demagogue convinces a group of people that they are protecting their way of life and the Force as a whole, and anyone who disagrees with them is their enemy. All the while, the leader — in this case, the Mother — is manipulating the people for her own personal gain.

With that manipulation, she seeks to create and unleash uncontrollable monsters that will help her achieve her goals. When she feels cornered, she seeks to unleash more monsters and create more chaos, all while trying to be the only one who can control everything — literally and metaphorically.

Marda is our window into the experience of a member of the Path, and as she becomes more indoctrinated over the course of Phase II, we see the unfortunate results. First, we see families and those close to each other ripped apart over the Path’s ideology. Next, Marda becomes much more willing to condone violence, blaming it on the victims for not having the same worldview. Finally, she begins to openly advocate for violence against those who do not share her beliefs.

Central to fanaticism is the idea of othering — lumping a group of people unlike you into one overgeneralized group. That group becomes the “they” in the stories of ideologically charged people, and Star Wars: Path of Vengeance explores this idea in an interesting way. As Marda learns that different members of the Path are Force-sensitive, she continues to justify her beliefs by essentially saying, “I don’t mean you.” Marda ultimately reaches a crossroads where she must face what she has become and decide who she wants to be. In this moment, she must decide if the temptation power brings is strong enough for her to warrant doing terrible things to get it — and keep it.

Does Love Conquer All?

That crossroads is indicative of a fascinating question posed by Cavan Scott: At what point do bad actors stop being victims of a manipulative leader and start to show that is who they always were? Yana Ro turns away from the ideology of the Path early in Phase II. Marda Ro does not. The Herald, set up by the Mother to take the fall for the Path’s role in the Battle of Jedha, considers returning to her side when he recognizes an opportunity for personal gain. I found myself challenging my thoughts that many of these characters were victims when I saw their actions in Path of Vengeance.

Cataclysm demonstrated the power of love and empathy, as well as the ability of those things to overcome hate and fear. Path of Vengeance, which takes place concurrently, shows how powerful fanaticism can be and how easily one leader can mislead a group of people desperate for meaning and answers — or just someone to blame. When the Mother’s true motives and past are revealed, we learn just how manipulated the people in the Path of the Open Hand have been.

The Review Verdict on Star Wars: Path of Vengeance

As the final novel of Phase II, Star Wars: Path of Vengeance is a worthy and powerful conclusion to the prequel era of the High Republic. It is at different times personal, heartwarming, inspiring, and gut-wrenching. Cavan Scott and the other authors of Phase II have done a wonderful job creating characters that make us cheer for them through everything, hoping that at the moment of truth they will make the right decision. They have also created a powerful tale of the monsters we create and release when fanaticism becomes normalized. If you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ll love Path of Vengeance. It is an incredible story that showcases everything great about the High Republic initiative and makes readers look forward to Phase III.

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Tyler Erickson
Contributor at The Escapist and has been writing about games and entertainment for over 10 years. I love FPS games, action/adventure, and sports games. In entertainment, I write about everything Star Wars, comics, action and horror movies, and fantasy and horror books. I have also written for GameRant, TheXboxHub, and Strangely Awesome Games. Podcaster and streamer, and always happy to talk games or entertainment, so follow me on socials!