Darth Plagueis Review
Warning: This review may contain minor spoilers.
To be honest, when a Darth Plagueis novel was announced back in 2007 it didn’t really excite me. When the book was then cancelled it didn’t bother me. I had never really been that curious about Palpatine or his master. I had always thought of Palpatine as this power hungry politician who happened to be a secret Sith. Frankly, I didn’t like the guy. He seemed cowardly and purely evil, and if Anakin hadn’t walked in when he did, Mace Windu would have finished him off.
Then the book received new lease on life and was put back on the schedule for a 2012 release. I still wasn’t excited. Review copies went out and I started to hear good things. Very good things. “Best Star Wars book I’ve read in a long time” kind of things. I began to be interested. George Lucas had input? Howard Roffman helped shape the story? This wasn’t just another Star Wars novel. Here is some text found in the front of the review copy of the book.
THIS STORY IS CANON!: The back story of Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious was developed hand-in-glove with the highest authorities at Lucasfilm, to ensure that nothing contradicts George Lucas’s vision of his creations!
Now as a fan of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, I consider most of the books to be canon on some level, but the above statement seems to imply that this book is to be considered on par with The Clone Wars and the films. Now I found I wasn’t only interested, but very excited to read this book. So I got my hands on a copy!
Here is the text from the flap of the book.
Darth Plagueis: one of the most brilliant Sith Lords who ever lived. Possessing power is all he desires. Losing it is the only thing he fears. As an apprentice, he embraces the ruthless ways of the Sith. And when the time is right, he destroys his Master—but vows never to suffer the same fate. For like no other disciple of the dark side, Darth Plagueis learns to command the ultimate power . . . over life and death.
Darth Sidious: Plagueis’s chosen apprentice. Under the guidance of his Master, he secretly studies the ways of the Sith, while publicly rising to power in the galactic government, first as Senator, then as Chancellor, and eventually as Emperor.
Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious, Master and acolyte, target the galaxy for domination—and the Jedi Order for annihilation. But can they defy the merciless Sith tradition? Or will the desire of one to rule supreme, and the dream of the other to live forever, sow the seeds of their destruction?”
In short, Darth Plagueis is the story of Sith Lord Darth Plagueis, his rise to power, and his selection and molding of Palpatine as his Sith apprentice. The bulk of the story takes place in the 33 or so years leading up to the events of The Phantom Menace. In many ways, the book can be seen as a direct prequel to The Phantom Menace, although the book Cloak of Deception already holds that distinction.
The book is written masterfully by James Luceno. His writing is very intense and gritty, but not without humor. Lines like “I assure you, Captain, I am a Muun of my word” made me smile and an in-joke about Jocasta Nu and her lack of knowledge of Kamino made me laugh out loud. Since the book is a story of the Sith, it is expected that there will be a certain amount of darkness to it. Just when you find yourself rooting for the main characters they do something so heinous there can be no redemption for it. There is one scene in particular where the violence reaches levels not usually seen in Star Wars books. Palpatine is not a Sith to be messed with.
One of the more interesting aspects of the book are the philosophies of Plagueis about the Sith. Much of Sith history is talked about including many of the masters and apprentices in the Sith line from Bane to Sidious. The beginning of the book especially reminded me of the first Darth Bane novel in that it was a Sith’s journey to reinvent the Sith. It seems that Sith ideals change from master to master, and Plagueis is no exception. His view on the dark side, rule of two, and midi-chlorians have a new twist and are compelling to read about.
All the talk about “canon” and “George’s vision” had me a little worried that other Expanded Universe sources would be ignored. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Almost every character, planet, organization, and event in this book has significance elsewhere in the EU. I know that sounds like overkill, but it really wasn’t. Luceno wrote it in such a way that if you are in the know, you would get it, and if not, you would just see them as background characters in the book. That’s not to say that there wasn’t an advantage to having read the other EU sources., as I felt like my enjoyment of the book was multiplied because of my familiarity of the other EU material. Here is a list of some of the EU books and comics whose stories ran parallel to, and were weaved in seamlessly into, this book.
The novel Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter
The short story Darth Maul: Saboteur
The novel Cloak of Deception
The comic series Darth Maul
The comic Republic #64 “Bloodlines”
The comic The Stark Hyperspace War
The comic Jedi Council: Acts of War
There are cameos throughout from major and minor film characters from both trilogies. Even fans of The Clone Wars TV series will get excited over a couple of character mentions!
Overall, I loved this book and would highly recommend it to any Star Wars fan. I would almost go as far as saying it is required reading for anyone who wants to fully understand the machinations and politics in the Prequels. This book clearly lays out the overall Sith plan and makes connections you would have never expected. It leads right up to the end of The Phantom Menace, and my guess is you will never see the movie the same after reading it!
Go buy this book.
~ Aaron Goins