The High Republic: Temptation Of The Force Shows That Love Is What The Jedi Need To Save The Star Wars Galaxy

There will be minor spoilers for "Star Wars: The High Republic – Temptation of the Force" by Tessa Gratton.

"Star Wars: Temptation of the Force" is a story about love. Not specifically romantic love, although it certainly has a strong element of that as well. The latest installment of the third phase of Lucasfilm's "The High Republic" publishing initiative threads themes of all different sorts of love — family, romantic, empathetic, maternal, parental, of country, of power, of control, and more. That's really what it comes down to. Picking up after the events of the "Star Wars: The High Republic – The Eye of Darkness" and "Star Wars: The High Republic – Defy the Storm," we witness a desperate Republic and Jedi Order. The Nihil, a group of marauding pirates, have locked off a huge portion of the galaxy to tyrannically rule on their own. But love persists in the galaxy and that means there is hope.

The two central Jedi characters in this story are Elzar Mann and Avar Kriss. We've been following their adventures through the entirety of "The High Republic" initiative, and it's the nature of love between these two people and how that affects them that drives their story. As the Jedi discover ways to defeat the Nameless — mysterious creatures that feed on the Force — and get through the Stormwall, the Republic launches an attack against the Nihil. Although they win the battle, the head of the Nihil, Marchion Ro, is still one step ahead of them and winning the war.

The power of love in the High Republic

I think more than any of the books in "The High Republic," this one wears its theme on its sleeves in really fascinating ways. Virtually every character in the book grapples with love in some form or another, good and bad. The villain, Marchion Ro, has an obsession with power and control, which manifests as his love for those things. For his chief political ally, Ghirra Starros, she's confronted with her love of her daughter over her duty to her boss. Cair San Tekka and Xylan Graff are a married couple who treat each other in the most horrible ways in the name of their love. Jedi legend Porter Engle, the Blade of Bardotta, pursues some sense of revenge. Each of their stories intertwine and each character struggles with what that desire means to them. Of course, there are the standard "Star Wars"-scale galactic conflicts through the course of the book. There are thrilling lightsaber battles, space fights, and adventure enough to go around, but this book really gets to the heart of what "Star Wars" really means.

Rian Johnson so perfectly encapsulated in the lines of Rose Tico in "The Last Jedi" when she told Finn, "That's how we're gonna win. Not by fighting what we hate. But saving what we love."

This is how Luke Skywalker saved Darth Vader. The inverse of this is how Anakin Skywalker transformed into Darth Vader in the first place. This idea is the thumping heartbeat of the entire "Star Wars" saga and Tessa Gratton so elegantly put it to work in this novel in ways that felt surprising, refreshing, and eloquent.

It's not neat and tidy, and it doesn't mean the same thing to every character, and that's part of what makes it so well wrought. Each character grapples with it in different ways and they each come to different understandings, allowing the reader to make up their own mind about which kinds of love are most important and powerful. Ultimately, though, it's the power of love between Elzar and Avar that becomes most meaningful.

The Jedi and the Nameless

Part of what makes the story of Elzar and Avar interesting and meaningful is that they're both Jedi coping with the fact that they are in love with each other — romantic, deeply personal love — and have been since they were young. Here we have Jedi who are forbidden attachments and are approaching, or trying to approach an unquestioned love for each other with open eyes and hearts without betraying their commitment to the Jedi Order. At least at this point — as there is no telling if this will go south — there is a lot Anakin could have learned from Avar and Elzar and how they handle their attachments, feelings in the Force, and romantic love itself. Even Master Yoda, when Elzar speaks to him, seems to be supportive of such a thing as long as it doesn't interfere or create the sort of attachment that could lead to the dark side. But they manage it, and are able to not only channel that connection into harming a Nameless, but to kill it completely.

It might sound like a cliché writing it out, that love is what killed the Nameless, but in the context of the book, it works quite well. Burryaga is the first to do it, and it's only because of his empathy, with translates to a love of all those around him. And this is the secret key the Jedi needed to win the battle against these Force-consuming monsters.

Unfortunately, Marchion Ro has other, bigger plans for everyone involved.

Details to watch out for in Star Wars: Temptation of the Force

There are many things to keep an eye out for as you read the book.

One of the big ones is Vernestra Rwoh, who is featuring heavily in "Star Wars: The Acolyte." There are actions and conversations with her character that seem like they are charting a very straight line between this younger version of the character and the one played by Rebecca Henderson on the live-action television series.

If you read this book and haven't read "Star Wars: The High Republic – The Blade" mini-series from Marvel Comics, I would highly recommend it. One of the important tertiary conflicts in this book is between Porter Engle and General Viess, whose first interaction was in that comic series. This feels like a direct (albeit a century plus later) continuation of that storyline and having read it previously helped me understand the stakes of their conflict. There's also hints as of to the fate of Barash Silvain, Engle's sister and the namesake of the Barash Vow, which is a tantalizing cliffhanger indeed.

The other big Easter egg that I found very cool was the fact that the San Tekka clan lives not far from Monument Plaza on Coruscant. That was the place where Dr. Pershing and Elia Kane saw the peak of the tallest natural point on Coruscant in the third season of "The Mandalorian." Seeing it still exists in a similar way 150 years prior is always a treat.

The Star Wars story continues

Though we do have some measure of resolution for some stories and conflicts, there is still more story to tell. With the Republic put in a position where the Nihil might be their only saviors, things look grim indeed for everyone, especially the Jedi. Charles Soule is writing the final book in this particular arc of "The High Republic," called "Trials of the Jedi," that will come next year, though there will be other books between now and then.

For Tessa Gratton, she's done an excellent job crafting a meaningful story inside the mess of the Republic with meaningful relationships. These are relationships that have been carried through many books, though, and I can't imagine this book being an excellent jumping on point for folks who haven't read any of the previous material. It specifically builds on both the two most recent books and previous phases of "The High Republic." But that's to be expected when you're coming close to the culmination of a story this large.

Despite that sprawling scope, Gratton manages to keep the focus on the characters and the theme in a way that shows her skill as a writer. Seeing how "Temptation of the Force" interacts with "The Acolyte" in subtle ways speaks volumes about the coordination between Lucasfilm and the writers, and it makes me very grateful that the "Star Wars" books and comics have a level of coordination with the franchise's live-action and animated projects that was simply non-existent before 2014.

"The High Republic" was an experiment to begin with, and with "Temptation of the Force" and "The Acolyte" both coming out this month, I think it's safe to say it's a success.

"Star Wars: The High Republic – Temptation of the Force" is available wherever you buy books starting June 11, 2024.