Book Review – “Star Wars: Temptation of the Force” Finally Achieves the Full Potential of The High Republic

Next month will see the release of the new novel from Lucasfilm Publishing and Random House Worlds, Star Wars: The High Republic – Temptation of the Force, and Laughing Place was provided with access to an early digital copy of the book for review. Below are my mostly spoiler-free thoughts on this release.

Let me get this out of the way right at the top here: I’m a fan of The High Republic, and I feel very close to this ambitious publishing initiative, having followed it (and covered it) from the very beginning. But up until now I wouldn’t necessarily have called any of the adult-targeted novels in the series great. I’ve honestly been more into the associated Marvel Comics title by Cavan Scott than anything else, and the closest I came to really loving one of the books was the 2022 young-adult effort from Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland, entitled Path of Deceit. But now, Gratton has stepped out on her own to pen an adult entry in the initiative, entitled Star Wars: The High Republic – Temptation of the Force, and having just finished its final chapter I can say that in my opinion she has finally brought this concept to its full potential. The story of Temptation of the Force centers around Jedi Masters Avar Kriss and Elzar Mann, the love they feel for each other, the grief they’ve both experienced over the death of their friend Stellan Gios, and whether or not it’s possible for two Jedi to be joined at the heart and not be burdened by the attachment issues that makes relationships among the Jedi such a verboten thing.

But that’s not all Temptation of the Force is about– not by a long shot. The narrative also follows Jedi Knights Bell Zettifar and Burryaga as they investigate a mystery concerning the potential reemergence of the killer dark-side plant monsters known as the Drengir, and Jedi Master Porter Engle and he doggedly continues his century-and-a-half-long quest to bring down General Viess. But perhaps the most interesting and intriguing threads of this novel are focused on the villains– namely former Republic Senator Ghirra Starros and (especially) Nihil leader Marchion Ro, the latter of which has become fascinated by a new threat to the galaxy known only as “the blight,” which was introduced in The High Republic – Defy the Storm earlier this year and reminds me a lot of “The Nothing” from The Neverending Story– in a wonderful way. The blight represents Ro’s twisted desires in such a pure, unsullied form that I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by it right along with him as he experiments with it and ultimately attempts to… well, I’ll let you discover that for yourself. Rest assured it feels like nothing we’ve ever seen or read before in Star Wars, and that’s a great thing.

But, as Gratton points out in her afterword, the core of Temptation of the Force is really about love and what a powerful ally it can be. I also don’t want to spoil how that theme is demonstrated time and again throughout the novel, but I’ll say that it's thrilling to read along as each of these characters journeys along their individual paths– paths that inevitably intersect– and strive toward their goals with passion and determination. This is one of those Star Wars books that had me covering up the bottom half of the page so that I wasn’t tempted (there’s that word again) to skip ahead and ruin the surprise of what was coming next. Gratton is great at writing action, character beats, and, yes– what many would call romance, though the melange of all these ingredients never strays far from the spirit of the Star Wars franchise. And yes, like most of The High Republic before it, this entry still has an awful lot of point-of-view characters, but the author juggles them masterfully, giving each an important role to play without taking away from the others. It’s almost as though Tessa Gratton is the pinch hitter (look at me, so excited about this book that I’ve resorted to sports metaphors) stepping in to clean up the admirable-but-sometimes-uneven work that the other authors have set up for her over the past three-and-a-half years. Phase I got off to an energetic start but wound up being too repetitive for me, and Phase II was more interesting but also predominantly made up of backstory about where the Nihil got their start. So it gives me great pleasure to inform everyone who has committed to The High Republic this far that here, in the midst of Phase III, appears to be where everything really starts to pay off.

Star Wars: The High Republic – Temptation of the Force will be published on Tuesday, June 11th, but is available for pre-order right now.

Mike Celestino
Mike serves as Laughing Place's lead Southern California reporter, Editorial Director for Star Wars content, and host of the weekly "Who's the Bossk?" Star Wars podcast. He's been fascinated by Disney theme parks and storytelling in general all his life and resides in Burbank, California with his beloved wife and cats.