196 of 212 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? ) [Note: I tried to make this review 100% spoiler-free, but read at your own risk. Once the book is published, I will update the review to discuss a few plot points and characters in greater depth. However, I'm happy to answer specific questions in the comments section.]
I think it's fair to say that Star Wars: Darth Plagueis is the most eagerly anticipated Star Wars novel of the past 5 years. However, Star Wars: Darth Plagueis is also one of the most risky because it delves into the backstory of Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine, easily the most evil villain in all of Star Wars. Some fans were worried that the book might "demystify" Palpatine or humanize him a bit too much (just as Episode I made Anakin a bit too sympathetic a character).
So let me begin my review by stating that Star Wars: Darth Plagueis does not destroy Palpatine's character - it makes him even more evil and chilling. We do not see Palpatine as a cute little blond boy. While the book spends a good deal of covering Palpatine and his machinations, it's quite clear how the younger Palpatine presented in this book grew up to become the sadistic Sith Lord of the films. There were a few times when Palpatine's actions even sent a slight shiver down my spine. We do, however, learn a bit more about how exactly Palpatine rose to power and where his urges stem from.
As for the title character, I think James Luceno does a great job of bringing Darth Plagueis to life. I admit I was actually a bit worried because Darth Plagueis is a Munn (the same species as San Hill), and we all know that the Star Wars universe has a tendency to stereotype characters by race. I was worried the book would overplay the stereotype of Munns as bankers. However, Luceno handles this pretty well by giving Darth Plagueis a sort of Count of Monte Cristo personality (or alternatively a mix between Prince Xizor and Darth Bane). Like Sidious, Plagueis lives a double life, and he lives each life with a ferocious intensity. In a few scenes, Plagueis transforms from negotiator to killer with frightening speed. Overall, Luceno created a complex character stands out above most of the other Sith characters.
The plot is more of a political thriller and serves as a backstory for the movies. I personally dislike Star Wars books that throw in a bunch of battles just to see the characters whip out their blasters or lightsabers, so I thought Star Wars: Darth Plagueis was a welcome change of pace. There are only a few fight scenes, but those that are in the book are really emotionally intense and bloodcurdling (yes, I said bloodcurdling). More importantly, the action scenes reveal a lot about the characters and how much they enjoy violence. Again, without revealing too much, the book reminded me of The Count of Monte Cristo in how the plot develops.
There were two unique aspects to Luceno's writing style in this book that I want to highlight. First, unlike so many Star Wars books (come on, we know Luke, Han, and Leia aren't going to die!), Luceno does not try to build a false sense of suspense. After all, we know Darth Plagueis is killed and we know who killed him (it was revealed in Episode III, but even if you fell asleep during that scene the murder scene takes place on the first page of the book). Rather, Luceno toys with what we think we know about Star Wars history and holds readers' attention by focusing on HOW and WHEN events unfold. At his best, Luceno forces readers to rethink and relearn the events of the prequels. I for one thought the book filled in many of the holes left by the movies, even more so than the movie novelizations. I finally understand what happened in Episode II!
Second, the narrative style in the book is unlike anything I've seen in Star Wars novels, with the exception of Matt Stover's books. The narrator has a voice of his/her own, one that doesn't intrude into the story but rather makes it more epic. For example, the narrator places certain planets or events in historical context, even referring to events and places from the movies. My favorite line [mini-SPOILER Alert] in the book is: "Naboo and Gungan alike couldn't recall a colder winter than the one that followed [Plagueis'] autumnal visit..." [end SPOILER alert]. The narrator also provides a lot of physical detail making it easy to envision the characters and the scene. It's a different style for Luceno, whose previous books seemed a bit lighthearted, but I think this tone suits this book really well.
One more thing: Luceno worked closely with LucasFilm in writing the book. My understanding is that the book is as close as any novel can get to being canon (although the Star Wars Expanded Universe canon system is pretty confusing). In other words, this is THE story of Plagueis and Palpatine.
Overall, I was pleased to see how James Luceno built Darth Plagueis, Darth Sidious, and Darth Maul into truly compelling and evil characters. It easily stands head and shoulders above most Star Wars novels both for its character development and its storytelling. I haven't been the biggest fan of Luceno's books in the past, but it's clear he dedicated a lot of time, thought, and love to this book. A must read for any Star Wars fan!
54 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2012
"Everything I tell you is a lie. Every question I ask is a trick. You will find no truth in me. " ~ Vergere, to Jacen Solo (New Jedi Order: Traitor)
Expectations are a funny thing, they affect how we perceived things for good or ill. The danger that any book runs is that it's reviews will hype it up too much, that expectations will be set so high that they cannot possibly be met. In the Star Wars fan community, expectations usually outstrip that which is possible. Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace is a great film, but the expectations of fans after waiting 16 years between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace were simply too high. No matter what George Lucas delivered it would not have matched what fans wanted or expected. It is only with the benefit of hindsight that The Phantom Menace is placed in its proper context and can be judged fairly.
Before you ever begin or contemplate beginning to read Star Wars: Darth Plagueis, be aware that whatever I or other reviewers say, this book will receive tons of hype. I only have one thing to say to you, believe it. Darth Plagueis is simply pardon the pun, a tour de Force.
At 368 pages Darth Plagueis isn't the biggest novel in the Expanded Universe but of any EU work it may have the biggest impact on the story that George Lucas told in the film saga. Author James Luceno delivers his magnum opus with such skill and care that you can tell this was a novel years in the making. Originally slated for release in 2008, this book idea was shelved and then reclaimed. What Luceno delivers is a galaxy spanning masterpiece that takes place in three distinct periods of time and follows the Sith Lord Darth Plagueis as he navigates the Sith Rule of Two, searches and grooms an apprentice, and his subsequent fate. Along the way we are introduced to a young Palpatine who would go on to become Senator, Supreme Chancellor, and Emperor, all the while living a secret life as a Dark Lord of the Sith. The story revolves around the relationship between this Muun and this Man as they seek to enact the revenge of the Sith, bring about the destruction of the Jedi and the conquest of the galaxy.
Through the course of the novel Luceno manages to bring various threads of continuity together from novels, comics, video games, The Clone Wars animated series and the Star Wars films in such a way that is both seamless and stunning. Multiple times throughout this novel, I was stunned with how boldly Luceno went in his storytelling, treading on ground that I was surprised that George Lucas would allow anyone but himself to interpret. This book gets to the very foundation of Palpatine, the conflict between the Jedi and the Sith, Sith philosophy, and the immediate background facts surrounding Episode I.
Truth, lies, droids, clones, slaves, citizens, all of these are but tools to the Sith. With the Sith the ends always justify the means. The above quote by Vergere seems apropos given the scene in Revenge of the Sith between Chancellor Palpatine and Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker. Palpatine plays Anakin Skywalker expertly and manipulates the young man to get what Palpatine wants. How did Palpatine learn these skills, how exactly can someone be some fundamentally evil? This book goes a long way to pulling back the curtain on the mystery that is this man who has one foot in the world of the profane and one in the mystical world of the Force. The danger with telling Palpatine's back-story is that in giving them character more dimension, you diminish him, the more we learn the less imposing is the towering menace that we were introduced to in the films.
One of my favorite things about this books is the unique spin that Luceno puts on some of the Sith, each has their own way of viewing things, much like we have seen in the Expanded Universe with the portrayal of Jedi and how they view and access the Force. There is a ton of Sith philosophy in this book and while relatively light on action, this book is instantly one of my favorites in all of the Expanded Universe.
While there are still some questions this book leaves up in the air, one thing is for sure. You will never watch the Prequel trilogy in the same light again and I am fascinated about how the elements from TCW may come into play with the return of Darth Maul at the end of Season Four.
Well done Mr. Luceno, well done.
51 of 63 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? ) Star Wars: Darth Plagueis is not just the story of Plagueis, but also the story of the rise to power of his apprentice, Darth Sidious. Actually, the first chapter is the death of Plagueis. Then it reverts back to the time when he was an apprentice himself to Darth Tenebrous.
Plagueis is a Muun, and as such, has a much longer life span than humans. His master, Darth Tenebrous, is a Bith, also having a long life span. This being the case, he was given a lengthy tutelage in the Sith arts before finally taking his master down and earning the mantle of Dark Lord. Then he meets a young man, strong in the force and defiant. So defiant in his ways, that this young man shed his given name but kept his house name, Palpatine.
Plagueis decides that it is time to move away from Darth Bane's strict rule of two where the master possesses the power and the apprentice craves it. He sees himself as the one who will implement the Sith's ultimate plan of revenge and desires to forge a partnership for the Sith order. What ensues are the detailed plans and events that lead up to Phantom Menace.
This book does an excellent job in linking with other pre-Episode I books. There are numerous references to past Sith Lords, including Kaan, Darth Bane, and Darth Zannah, as well as hinting to some of the other Sith that came after them (including one who betrayed the order and turned to the light side, which will probably become another book that I will be interested in reading). Keep this in mind when reading because there are a few parts where it seems to skip over a section but the events actually happened in another book and they just did not get repetative. For instance, when Sidious dispatches Darth Maul to take down Black Sun, it skips to the aftermath. That's because this mission is covered in Star Wars: Darth Maul. When he goes after the mining companies, that is covered in Star Wars: Darth Maul: Saboteur (Short Story). So you get the idea.
Also described in here are the events that lead to Jedi Master Dooku's decision to leave the Jedi Order and his dabbling in the Dark Side, the beginning of his transformation to Darth Tyranus. We meet Master Syfo-Dyas, who is the one responsible for placing the order with Kamino for the clone soldiers. Even Jedi Master Jorus C'Boath (from Outbound Flight (Star Wars)) is mentioned here. Basically, this book is quite strong in linking with the other novels as well as the movies.
James Luceno's writing style is great. It draws the reader in and, though I have read several of his novels, this has easily become one of my favorites by him. This is a wonderful addition to the Star Wars extended universe and I highly recommend it. Matter of fact, even if you aren't into the novels, I think you will appreciate this book, although some of the significance of small events may escape you.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Over the last decade I have had a love/hate relationship with James Luceno's writing. At times I have found his work to be brilliant, and at other times I have found his writing to be uninspired and muddled. Upon reading the beginning of this book I was quite taken by just how well written an imaginative the story surrounding Plagueis was. I was surprised how well Luceno had laid out the character and how well the story had worked in a linear telling, something Luceno rarely does in his books. But as the story progressed, and after Palpatine was introduced, I was shocked on just how quickly the books solid story turned into sand and flowed through my fingers.
After Plagueis found Palpatine, a telling that was thin at best, Luceno parts from Plagueis's story to focus on the larger plan, a larger plan that centers around Palpatine. Little time is spent as to how Palpatine learns the Force from Plaqueis, and even less time is spent on grasping the connection the two men have to each other. In my opinion Luceno fails in bringing light to the wisdom and experience that Plagueis has to offer as both a Master and a teacher. Instead, we as readers, are exposed to a more simplistic telling of Palpatine's rise to political power.
The main bulk of this book focuses on the study of how Palpatine fits into the world around him. Every once and a great while we are exposed to scenes that ring familiar to what we know of other Sith stories but, for the most part neither Sidious nor Plagueis are great examples of the Sith we know and love. Darth Bane, and the teachings left by his reign, are spoken too often, however, neither of our Sith Lords completely fall into the Sith mold. As I read this book I often thought of both Lords as book smart but never street smart. Rarely are we exposed to either of them being mad or even taken by the power of the dark side. Rarely do either lash out when failure rises. Rarely do either bathe in the power of the dark side.
In the end the book's true purpose is to wrap up threads left from stories past. Scenes read like cliff notes as grand story arcs from other books and comics are horribly skipped over without either a brief description of events that happened, or the impact those stories had.
With all this considered the book reads as a long winded diatribe of internal analysis and shallow plotting. The characters, formed by experiences that are not addressed in this book, read like paper tigers as their power seems convenient and contrived. With scenes missing only Star Wars fans that have a vast understanding of the larger EU library will be able to follow the scenes skipped over. New fans, or those who haven't read that many books or comics, will be lost and confused. I, myself, have a good understanding of stories past and was able to process most of the plot points addressed, but even I still walked away from this book bitterly disappointed.
In conclusion, I feel that this book was overly hyped and under delivered. The classic feel gained by the Darth Bane chronicles was left void after the first fifteen percent of this book. Characters were left dangling in the wind blown by stories long since past. And after three-hundred pages the main characters of the book were left void of any real lasting impact.
Perhaps this book's only silver lining as that the audiobook's narrator has enough talent to deliver a better telling. But in the end the book lacks entertainment, enjoyment, and a competent ability to stand on its own.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 2012
One of my enduring issues with the Star Wars mythos, even through much of the Expanded Universe, is the treatment of the Jedi vs. Sith. Lucas created the problem when he depicted the Jedi as the bastions of all that is good and righteous, and the Sith as the servitors of evil. Even when the purity of the Jedi was challenged and their weaknesses were exposed in the prequels and beyond, the Sith were still agents of evil.
Other storylines have emerged over the course of the saga, trying to rectify this. Darth Bane, Jacen Solo, and others have been explored in great detail, all with various shades of reasonable justification for their actions. Ultimately, those justifications give way to extreme choices that can only be termed as self-serving evil, a desire for domination. It's as if there are imposed limits on how nuanced an author can get with the depiction of Jedi and Sith.
So when this novel was announced, I was more than a little intrigued. While it's always an interesting exercise to see how writers tackling the prequel era try to reconcile some of the discrepancies across the board, this was going to be about the Sith Lord that initiated the events of the saga as most of us know it. Could this, finally, bring some measure of balance to the characterization of the Sith, something more than sheer desire for power?
In some respects, it does; in others, not so much. This is as much the story of how the lofty goals of Darth Plagueis led to his own eventual downfall at the hands of his apprentice Palpatine, who gets more than enough page count of his own. It attempts to reconcile details from the prequels, the animated "Clone Wars" series (at least, up to a certain point), and whatever details from the novels that might still be relevant. (Much of "Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter" is rendered completely moot, for example.)
In the end, the book is better at fleshing out the motivations of Palpatine than anything else. I still don't see how the Sith philosophy is something that makes sense for anyone to adopt, especially the illogical Rule of Two and its implications. I realize that the author is constrained to work within the boundaries of what Lucas created, but that's the ongoing dilemma: it prevents anyone, even in an effort as solid as this, from truly developing a viable, logical Sith culture.
Even with that personal disappointment, I enjoyed the scope of the novel as it stands. The interplay between Plagueis and Palpatine is excellently done, and eventually pays off in an unexpected way. There's also good groundwork in terms of the politics of Naboo, the intrigues with the Trade Federation, the establishment of the cloning program, and the conversion of Dooku. Simply put, those of us who didn't overly mind the concepts behind the prequel trilogy (as opposed to the execution of those ideas) have plenty of nuggets to enjoy.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )Verified Purchase Since reading this book I have now read two other books that use the same timeline format. The books start out at some point in the Star Wars Universe timeline, address specific information that provides background filler for the Star Wars Universe story, then skips ahead any number of years (10 - 20 years ahead) and again fills in missing information. As such, these type books are really written for the specific reason of filling in missing pieces in the Star Wars Universe story. While very beneficial to better understanding future events already written, this style leaves me wondering what the heck was going on during all those years skipped in the story being told in such a book.
Darth Plagueis: Star Wars is written in this fashion: the prologue occurs at an unspecified time before the "events" of the book; Part One--Enlistment takes place 67 to 65 years before the Battle of Yavin (or BBY--as depicted in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (Two-Disc Widescreen Enhanced and Original Theatrical Versions)); Part Two--Apprenticed to Power occurs 54 to 52 years before the Battle of Yavin; Part Three--Mastery is 34 to 32 years before the Battle of Yavin, which is the events leading up to Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace; and the epilogue discusses the election of Palpatine to the chancellorship 32 years before the Battle of Yavin.
While the years included in the book are well written and exciting to read, I personally found jumping from period to period in the Star Wars Universe history to be very unfulfilling--I want to KNOW THE REST OF THE STORY (to borrow a phrase). That is, just what the heck were Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious doing during the years 64 BBY to 54 BBY and 51 to 32 BBY? This is basically 30 years of unaccounted for storyline! I find this extremely aggravating at the least, and very misleading at best. After all, this IS SUPPOSED TO BE the biography of Darth Plagueis. (Which this book or story I take for granted is supposed to be, given the books title).
This point--the skipped years in Darth Plagueis' biography--raises another problem I have with the book. Now that I am done reading it, I know a lot--filled with 30 years of missing story--about how Darth Sidious becomes the Dark Lord of the Sith, but I barely know a thing about Darth Plagueis or his biography because the bulk of what is written about is actually about Darth Sidious! Even in the parts where Darth Plagueis is present in the story, the focus is upon how the events shape Darth Sidious not Darth Plagueis.
As such, Darth Plagueis: Star Wars was clearly written to the specifications Lucasfilm set out for the author, James Luceno, and unfortunately entitled DARTH PLAGUEIS; it is NOT A BIOGRAPHICAL STORY of Darth Plagueis that I was expecting, like the Darth Bane: Star Wars 3-Book Bundle: Path of Destruction, Rule of Two, Dynasty of Evil books were.
So, while what is in the book, I would rate the book as a 4.5, I have given it a 3 due to the fact that the book is clearly not about Darth Plagueis and it skips thirty years of the story--regardless of my expectations. If you are a die hard Star Wars fan/reader or want to know about the key events that led to Darth Sidious' rise to power, then I highly recommend this book. But if you are just looking for good science fiction or a good Star Wars story, I would suggest reading one of the many other Star Wars books available.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2012
I consider myself more than a casual SW fan but not a great deal more. I've of course watched the movies multiple times, including the spinoffs, every TV series and the Christmas special, but I've only skimmed a few graphic novels and been VERY picky about the books, having read around twenty. Not because I feel the majority of the books are poorly written, I simply like to pick and choose what stories I want to get involved in and I don't much care for the post-RotJ era, though I have read the Thrawn trilogy.
I rate this book 3.5+ stars but will round up to 4. This is the fifth SW book by James Luceno I've read and I enjoyed every one of them. Having said that; however, at times his writing style can be a bit hard to follow because of his over-use of 'big words' when other, more recognizable ones would suffice. I'm not saying expanding one's vocabulary is a bad thing, I just don't like needing to refer to a dictionary and Wookieepedia at least once per chapter. I also noted SEVERAL instances of grammar/spelling mistakes, but I can let those slide since that would be the fault of the editor and I'm sure later editions will have the errors corrected.
If there's one thing I think everybody who reads this book can enjoy it's the numerous references to not only many other SW works, particularly Luceno's other stories, but also the parallels to real events and organizations; specifically Roman and American politics as well as secret societies like Skull and Bones and Free Masons. Although there were some references to the current Clone Wars series, I had to cringe with each one of them because they also happened to be sources of continuity errors longtime fans (like me) have issue with, but I digress...
One of the main criticisms I have with this book is the seemingly contrived plot. As many of the other reviews have pointed out, Plagueis is only in the limelight for about half of the book, slightly more if you add all the sections and mentions but in many ways he is not really the main character. This fact doesn't bother me as much as the main reason this book was written, to get a glimpse into Plagueis's midi-chlorian/Force knowledge! I am satisified with his personality and background information, but instead of getting to read about his experiments first hand we get after-the-fact monologs and completely wasteful chapters, such as his escape from Bal'demnic and beating us over the head with philosophy most fans already knew. I also didn't really care to know about Sith training, because I imagined it was similar to a Jedi's with more pain and suffering. Give us the good stuff James!
A few other minor points that caught my attention: It is mentioned that Naboo's governing body is an elected monarchy. Would it still be considered a monarchy if there's elections? Damask Holdings was initially drawn to Naboo because they have plasma than can be mined and sold as fuel. Is that even possible for an Earth-like planet to have plasma in its mantle? (I know it's fiction but come on!) I'm sure it's in other books, but I didn't know the rest of Jabba's name is Desilijic Tiure. To my surprise he spoke quite eloquently here; a bit out of character perhaps? The Bando Gora are mentioned as capable mercanaries in this book. Last I knew they weren't much more than zombie-like people with a collective mind of sorts (as seen in the Bounty Hunter video game). Nuclear weapons were used in a plot to kill Plagueis, which is a bit old-fashioned I think. Damask is injured in an assassination attempt and eventually self-heals the long-term wounds he received, yet he still needs a breathing mask for some reason.
All-in-all this book was an entertaining read and I would recommend to even more casual SW fans than I am. The book really does connect some long-standing dots and tie up several loose-ends from other stories, though it is not without its flaws. It does bring Palpatine down a few pegs, realizing that he wasn't the TOTAL mastermind behind the success of the "Grand Plan", but I don't see that as a bad thing. This telling was more believable IMHO. It's discussed more than once that the two Sith are concentrating on their own strengths throughout, and the last chapter has Sidious claim to Plagueis that many of his recent ideas were actually Sidious's, so it all works out in the end.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2012
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
Note: May contain spoilers. Proceed with caution.
Darth Plagueis found himself to be a kind of mystery within the Star Wars universe. His name is mentioned only once during the films, so fans of the series didn't really know much about him. Thankfully James Luceno decides to pull back the curtain to show the fans what happened. But how does the book hold up?
I will admit that I wasn't able to finish this book when I originally started reading it. This is because, no disrespect to Mr. Luceno, the book, especially the beginning, can be excruciatingly slow at times. What's worse is that it teases you into thinking that it's going to start picking up, but quickly hits another wall in which we have to break down to get to the good stuff again. Sadly this is kind of how it is throughout the entire story, but pulling through the slow parts is more than rewarding.
I say that because when the story does pick up it's very entertaining and quickly becomes a page turner, I just wish that it didn't continuously hit that wall I mentioned earlier. As I have already said the worst of it is within the beginning of the book, more specifically the first third of the book page-wise. Towards the end of part one Plagueis meets Palpatine and the excitement becomes a little more consistent.
One other thing that bothered me, aside from how slow the novel got at certain points, is the fact that after part one Plagueis' importance quickly starts to fade. After that the attention slowly begins to switch to Palpatine. Which is great because it gives us a little more insight as to what went on prior to Episode I, but the novel is titled Darth Plagueis. I assumed he would be in majority, if not all, of the scenes in here.
Overall Score: 8/10 - I must say that I am glad I decided to give this another shot. It still required determination to pull through the dull moments, but the ending was worth it. Not only did Luceno give us insight into Darth Plagueis himself, but also explained why some things happened in the prequel trilogy. If you're a fan of the Star Wars universe and you're curious about Plagueis then I would recommend checking this out.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
First, a disclaimer: I've read very few Star Wars novels written since The Phantom Menace came out. I don't like what's become of the expanded universe fanon since then, for the usual reasons. I'm not going to get into that here, except to say that, in reading Darth Plagueis as a reviewer, I resolved not to criticize this particular book for problems endemic to the continuity it's a part of. If I don't like the fact that, for instance, in a story that's supposed to be set in a society spanning an entire densely populated galaxy, the main characters keep running into the same few dozen people, each with roles to play in the saga that are unrelated to this particular story . . . Well, it's my own fault for reading a Star Wars book, I guess.
So judging this novel only on its own merits, it's a pretty enjoyable read. It's about the relationship between Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious (the Emperor). Despite the title, the latter is the one who steals the show, becoming more and more dominant as the book goes on until it feels more like the Emperor's backstory. That's not a bad thing; he's been a compelling and frightening character since Return of the Jedi premiered. We learned more about him in the prequel trilogy, but while we saw the whole story of the pressures and emotions which made it possible for Darth Vader to be corrupted, the Emperor's motivation was never fleshed out; he seemed like he was just evil for the sake of being evil. In this book he's seduced by the Sith from a place that is really the other side of the coin of Anakin Skywalker: an angry young man, weary of the decadence of his elders, confused about his destiny; but unlike Anakin, who had to have his concept of morality twisted around and turned on its head, his conscience has always leaned toward the Dark Side, and he's very willing to accept its seductive embrace. In fact, whereas Anakin was fooled by his Sith Master until he passed the point of no return, one gets the sense that Palpatine was manipulating Plagueis from the beginning. He appears as someone destined from birth to become a Dark Lord, someone fully embracing that destiny--and yet, his actions make sense from a perspective that is, if not sympathetic, then at least understandable. I wish some of this had been incorporated into the film canon, where, however memorable a character may be, he comes off as just some mustachio-twirling villain when it comes to motivation.
Plagueis, meanwhile, is portrayed as someone who wants to reform the Sith, who has a vision of getting the order away from its destructive routes and turning it into a force for progress . . . but still in a self-serving, arrogant way. He's still a Dark Lord; he doesn't come off as some tragically noble anti-hero. And yet at the same time he manages to be a genuine protagonist, who subtly sells the reader on his dream . . . Very well done!
Otherwise, most of the book is a lot of wheeling and dealing in the realms of politics and business. It's not all that interesting, I'm afraid, especially when the most important plots come to fruition offstage. Worse still is when the ramifications of some Sith fait accompli reverberate through the rest of the story, but, even though these things were done by the Plagueis-Sidious team, we get no scenes of the Sith Lords bringing them about or even explanations about what they are. Maybe if I were one of those people who pours through Star Wars novels by the dozen, I would know all I wanted to know about Yinchorr and . . . Eriadu, I think it was called? But I'm not, and even if I were, this is not a great way to write a novel whose plot centers so heavily on palace intrigue and conspiracy. However, the somewhat botched political thriller plot manages not to bog down, and strong character development carries most of it so easily that it's easy not to notice.
Also, there are a TON of what I assume are call-outs to other stories in the Star Wars fanfic continuity, and I didn't even feel like I was missing something that served a story point; just a gratuitous attempt to tie this book in with all the others. Ah for the days when Star Wars authors were only concerned with meshing with the source material, the films. . . . Ah well, I said I wouldn't get into it.
Otherwise, the only objections I can raise are a few stylistic choices. I found the over-the-top chapter names faintly annoying, for instance. But for the most part the book is stylistically very sound. It's well paced, and its own continuity within the story hangs together quite well. As I said, it's a strong character piece, and the glimpses it affords into the inner workings of the Sith are intriguing. An order which depends on passing knowledge from one master to one apprentice, with each master torn between the need to perpetuate the order's goals and the sure knowledge that some day the apprentice will challenge him for supremacy, as he did his own master before him--It's a rich dynamic to build a character study around. The parallelism of the first and last chapters of Plagueis's story really drive it home.
Oh, the life-extending, death-defying powers that Palpatine referred to at the scene in Episode III, when he seduced Anakin to join the Dark Side? We see them, but--despite a lot of press in the promotional material and blurbs--they're a very, very secondary subplot. Oh well; Star Wars, unlike Star Trek, was always careful to avoid having to make up a lot of fake pseudoscience, and there wasn't much of a way to get deeply into the life-extending studies without relying on that. Invented jargon and descriptions of biological experiments that could never occur in the real world are not the stuff that adventure stories are made of, and esoteric battles with the Force on some disembodied spiritual plane even less so. There's just enough of that stuff in the story to provide a bit of a red herring. I suppose I should ding it a point for that, too. But it doesn't detract from the fact that what we have here is a light, mindless, enjoyable read, good for killing some free time and perhaps giving the reader a new insight into, or at least a bit of nostalgia for, a galaxy far, far away.
21 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
"Did you ever hear of Darth Plagueis the Wise?" Palpatine asks, "No" answers Anakin. "I thought not, It's not a story the Jedi would tell you" Palpatine finishes.
The reason the Jedi wouldn't tell you this story is because it will BORE YOU TO TEARS!!!!!!! Forget for one second that this is THE historical telling of the man who would be king, so to speak, when he becomes Emperor many years later. Forget that the implications of how the Sith were able to hide in plain sight being borderline revolutionary in their explanation and as usual with Lucas' villain names being ludicrous..... a Sith lord invents immortality and his apprentice kills him before he shares the goods.... NO!!! I call bantha poodoo. Palpatine is notorious for investing countless amounts of time in extending his life throughout the entirety of his career, and his master actually had the secret but got killed because, what,? He got impatient? Ummm, not likely. But even all of that can be forgiven due to the fact that the Sith aren't exactly known for their decision making. No, my biggest problem is that this book spends half of it's length talking about Trade policy and embargoes. I get it, I get it: that's their path to getting their foot hold... but knock that out early, or possibly sprinkle it throughout a little better. I am not joking when I say I FELL THE HELL ASLEEP reading this book in the middle of the freaking day!!!!!! I can knock out a good book in a day if I'm really into it, I'll even sneak into the bathroom at work to read a chapter because I enjoy it so much. I actually had to force myself to finish reading it simply because i wanted to get my monies worth. The sad truth is that James Luceno's writing is excruciatingly slow in pace and long in the tooth. Frankly, I don't see it as being a good fit for Star Wars novels which are synonymous with action and adventure. I hate to say it, but this will be the last Luceno novel I purchase. I notcie btw that other reviews keep touting this book as amazing because of the reveals in the story in relation to the back story of the Emperor, but I'm sorry, in my opinion it's just not worth the trade off. Read the cliff's notes.