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Review: Lords of the Sith

The following is the Star Wars Report’s review of Lords of the Sith, presented by Joseph Tavano of RetroZAP!

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….

When the Emperor and his notorious apprentice, Darth Vader, find themselves stranded in the middle of insurgent action on an inhospitable planet, they must rely on each other, the Force, and their own ruthlessness to prevail.

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“It appears things are as you suspected, Lord Vader. We are indeed hunted.”

Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knight, is just a memory. Darth Vader, newly anointed Sith Lord, is ascendant. The Emperor’s chosen apprentice has swiftly proven his loyalty to the dark side. Still, the history of the Sith Order is one of duplicity, betrayal, and acolytes violently usurping their Masters—and the truest measure of Vader’s allegiance has yet to be taken. Until now.

On Ryloth, a planet crucial to the growing Empire as a source of slave labor and the narcotic known as “spice,” an aggressive resistance movement has arisen, led by Cham Syndulla, an idealistic freedom fighter, and Isval, a vengeful former slave. But Emperor Palpatine means to control the embattled world and its precious resources—by political power or firepower—and he will be neither intimidated nor denied. Accompanied by his merciless disciple, Darth Vader, he sets out on a rare personal mission to ensure his will is done.

For Syndulla and Isval, it’s the opportunity to strike at the very heart of the ruthless dictatorship sweeping the galaxy. And for the Emperor and Darth Vader, Ryloth becomes more than just a matter of putting down an insurrection: When an ambush sends them crashing to the planet’s surface, where inhospitable terrain and an army of resistance fighters await them, they will find their relationship tested as never before. With only their lightsabers, the dark side of the Force, and each other to depend on, the two Sith must decide if the brutal bond they share will make them victorious allies or lethal adversaries.

With Lords of the Sith Paul S. Kemp has written a wonderful book that is a true pleasure to read. (I told him so directly). I feel like Kemp must has relished the chance to write Vader and the Emperor doing something we have never seen before—going on an adventure. He nailed the voice of both of these characters, as well as the cadence of their relationship.

I see a consistency between the Palpatine of Revenge of the Sith and the Emperor of Return of the Jedi. His contempt and power are, well, palpable. Now deeply enmeshed in the dark side of the Force, this is the Emperor you expect: spiteful, challenging, and always in control.

Meanwhile, Darth Vader takes on the expected layers of complexity. Anakin is as gone as Anakin would ever be; Vader here is the personification of anger and a full devotee of the dark side. He accesses the Force only through anger, and any hint of his previous life brings only a cycle of pain and anger. What we, the audience, would see as a moment of clarity when Vader thinks of good things he once had, turns out to be a moment of distraction and confusion to Vader. It’s this turnabout of focus and worldview that shows us just how far gone Darth Vader is.

Internal struggle aside, Darth Vader is a mysterious wraith to the rest of the galaxy. He is the visage of death, unconquerable and rumored not to be human. Simply put—Darth Vader rips it up in Lords of the Sith. We see Vader the tactician; Vader the pilot; Vader the conquering warrior. Cham Syndulla and his crew are right to fear him. This isn’t the stiff figure of the OT, he can move with inhuman speed and power.

Kemp nails the relationship between the Sith master and apprentice.

Interestingly enough, Vader the Sith apprentice is a dual-edged sword. Again, Kemp nails the relationship between the Sith master and apprentice. The Emperor is forever needling Vader, stoking his anger and reminding him that he is a thrall to be destroyed at any time. And then there is Vader, who is an honest Sith apprentice; he is unflinchingly loyal to the power of his master, and at all times wondering if he can (and should) take him out. There’s more than a few tense moments where you wonder if the pot is going to boil over between these two. I’ll say no more.

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Maybe it’s just me, but I do feel like there is one thing lacking from the Palpatine-Vader relationship—when does Palpatine ever actually train Vader in the dark side? There is nothing of that in this story; Darth Vader is a complete and fully trained dark side adept. I had expectations that at this point in the timeline (less than halfway through the Dark Times), that the Emperor would be imparting more knowledge of the Dark Side to Vader other than reminding him that he needs to be obedient. Perhaps some discussion about Force lightning? If and when Vader can use it? Why purple energy wind escapes from Palpatine’s body when he dies? The dark side is a path many things some would deem to be unnatural, and I want to know more about that path!

There is one criticism I do have, and it has nothing to do with Kemp or the novel specifically. When the new canon was announced about a year ago, I welcomed it as the great opportunity that it is to finally tell one coherent, canon, and legitimate Star Wars story. Now, the medium did not matter; all stories put forth by Lucasfilm would work together to tell the complete history of the Galaxy Far, Far Away.

This changes the storytelling approach quite a bit. Authors did not have to be constrained to telling a Star Wars story where 1.) Things began in a familiar place 2.) New characters were introduced to tell a unique story and not overuse the major film players 3.) New characters take up a large portion of the book, but inevitably die or recede into the background 4.) The overall story of Star Wars is not impacted by the end of the book.

Why have the first four books in the new Star Wars canon not deviated from this formula? With the editorial input of the Story Group, these stories can be so much more. I want Star Wars books to answer canonical questions and tell powerful impactful stories that focus on the characters we love. I don’t want them to hint and scratch at such things—after almost forty years, it’s time to dive in. A cavalcade of new characters are on the way, you know. I think that authors would relish that opportunity, and I hope that this is a trend we are moving towards.

Read this book. It is a worthy entry into the new canon, and you will get a great perspective into the relationship between the Emperor and Darth Vader, and to me, that is always essential reading. Oh, by the way, there are also Royal Guards that get to see some serious action on the planet of Ryloth, a rebel cell lead by Cham Syndulla (you know, Hera’s father), and one of the most inventive attacks on a Star Destroyer I’ve ever read or seen.

Also, minor spoiler here:

Vader uses the Force to rip apart his enemies while flying a TIE fighter.

I hope Kemp gets the chance to write more Star Wars books. He has an ease with the galaxy far, far away that feels natural and intuitive. And, if we get to see more of the relationship between the Emperor and Darth Vader, I would want him to be the person to write it.

Trilogy, anyone?

-JT

 

Josh Trank is OUT – Star Wars Standalone Needs New Director.

In a statement to starwars.com, Trank sounded a little melancholy.

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“After a year of having the incredible honor of developing with the wonderful and talented people at Lucasfilm, I’m making a personal decision to move forward on a different path. I’ve put a tremendous amount of thought into this, and I know deep down in my heart that I want to pursue some original creative opportunities. That said, the Star Warsuniverse has always been one of my biggest influences, and I couldn’t be more excited to witness its future alongside my millions of fellow Star Wars fans. I want to thank my friends Kathleen Kennedy, Kiri Hart, Simon Kinberg, and everyone at Lucasfilm and Disney for the amazing opportunity to have been a part of this. May the Force be with you all.”

I have to admit, the only basis of judgement I have for any of Trank’s work is the new Fantastic 4 trailer. It was alright. I am surprised to hear the news though.

-Riley

Riley’s Bantha-sized Recap of Star Wars Celebration Anaheim

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in Star Wars land? Well, I found out at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim. What an incredible event. Seeing old friends, meeting new ones, Watching the Rebels season 2 premier, watching the TFA teaser 2 with thousands of other SW fans, there are so many highlights, I know I’ll never be able to commit them all to this post, but I’m going to do my best. Before jumping into the heart of this post, be sure to check out the very special “Audio Diary” edition of the Star Wars Report podcast. It’s a great way to hear what celebration is like.

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I flew out to Anaheim at some ungracious hour to be able to have as much time Wed. as I could to pick up my press badge, take a look at the scene at the convention center, and of course, see a bit of Disney. This was my 1st visit to California, and I figured that I couldn’t possibly get all the way to Anaheim and not see Disneyland. Continue reading

Star Wars and the Power of Costume Exhibit

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After Celebration ended I decided to keep the Star Wars feeling going by making a trip up to Seattle for the Star Wars and the Power of Costume exhibit currently running at the EMP Museum.  The exhibit features original costumes from all 6 Star Wars movies and explores the creation of and influences of the iconic Star Wars costumes.  As a Star Wars costumer there was no way I could resist this exhibit.

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I’ve been to the EMP before and always found their exhibits to be different than a typical museum.  The museum itself is one half dedicated to music, especially the music of the Seattle area, and the other half dedicated to pop culture with exhibits covering sci-fi, horror, fantasy, gaming and more.  It’s a very unique museum.

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As you make your way into the museum you are greeted by a display of Boba and Jango Fett’s costumes from Return of the Jedi and Attack of the Clones respectively.  These costumes are behind glass, but are encased and displayed in such a way that you can get very close to them to inspect the details.  These are just a taste of what is in the main exhibit.

Immediately upon entering the exhibit hall you are greeted by the classic Cantina Band music.  It’s a reminder that while this is a museum, this is also something fun for all to enjoy.  The entrance hall also contains the first display, a Yoda puppet used in rehearsals.  It’s a Yoda that is much closer to his Muppets roots than the Jedi Master we are all familiar with.

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Entering the main exhibit you are greeted by several displays including Queen Amidala’s iconic red dress from the beginning of The Phantom Menace and Old Ben’s Jedi robes from A New Hope.

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Each piece has a card explaining which character is presented, along with details regarding the construction and design of the piece.  The costumes are presented with minimal glass fronts and many costumes are able to be viewed from a wide variety of angles.

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Most of the costumes are presented in a thematically, we see young Anakin’s Jedi robes from the finale of The Phantom Menace alongside Luke’s Jedi robes from Return of the Jedi.

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There is the Jedi vs. Sith display with Luminara Unduli and Mace Windu’s robes posed in mock combat against the Emperor’s cloak from Return of the Jedi.

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The ornate dresses of The Phantom Menace compared to Leia’s more simplistic and iconic white dress.

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Even an original Threepio and Artoo are on display.

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There is more to this than just displays of the original costume pieces.  There are also reprints of original concept artwork from designers like Doug Chiang and Ralph McQuarrie alongside examples of native costume, dress and artwork that inspiration was pulled from.

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A majority of the exhibit is focused on the costumes of the prequel trilogy, which seems fairly obvious since those costumes are the most readily available and the most visually interesting.  However, that’s not to say the original trilogy is neglected.  One of the most interesting for me was an original set of Stormtrooper armor from Return of the Jedi.

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Getting to see all of these costumes up close was incredible, not only from a costumer point of view but also as a fan.  The symbolism and design work that went in is highlighted.  Even casual fans can see the deeper meanings and work that went into the saga.  All in all this was a fantastic exhibit and seemed to be enjoyed by children and adults alike.  My only complaint was that I wanted more.  I know that there enough different Star Wars costumes to do many exhibits like this, but I feel like this one hit the majority of the most important costumes of the saga.

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Star Wars and the Power of Costume runs until October 4th at the EMP Museum in Seattle.

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May the Fourth $1000 Scholarship to The Iron Yard

Howdy folks! Riley here, and I wanted to tell you guys about a really cool opportunity from our friends at the Iron Yard who provide a really cool code school and want to give Star Wars fans an amazing opportunity.

The Iron Yard – Learn to code. Life’s too short for the wrong career. from TheIronYard on Vimeo.

In honor of kicking off class on Star Wars day, The Iron Yard is offering a $1000 scholarship to members of select Star Wars communities (Including The Star Wars Report!). The discount is applied to the total cost of tuition. Apply now and provide a short, 250 word essay explaining what you would build if you graduated from The Iron Yard. Click here to start now!

-Riley