For any fan of Star Wars, there are a number of mysteries regarding Palpatine, his rise to power, and who his Sith master really was. There are also dozens of other questions that arise from his machinations. Was Darth Plagueis his master? Who was Master Sifo-Diyas? How did a kid from Naboo become a Sith Lord?
There’s plenty of others, but James Luceno takes some of those as just a start and brings us the incredibly well-crafted stand alone novel Darth Plagueis.
This book takes us through the life and times, the rise and fall of Darth Plagueis the Wise. Luceno deftly pulls back the curtain on what we’d never been able to see or even conceive as we watched The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. Is Sidious as brilliant as we thought him to be? Was he acting alone? Where exactly did Darth Maul come from? It’s these questions and many more that are explored in the book, but never in a way that reveals so much that you’re left with enough answers to sate your curiosity. That might be one of my favorite things about the prequels in that they raise as many questions as they answer, leaving you wanting more. Darth Plagueis works in much the same way.
For those very vocal few who have a harder time with the prequel movies, this book spells out everything in Phantom Menace they may have missed or dismissed as a plot hole in regards to Sidious’ plan.
And remember that line in the opening crawl of Phantom Menace, “The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute”? What seems like a yawn-inducing throwaway at the beginning of the movie is riveting theatre in this book.
Without giving too much away, I have to say I was incredibly blown away by this book and I had so much fun reading it that I just breezed my way through it. Palpatine might be one of my favorite characters in the Star Wars saga and he is thrust into the spotlight under the tutelage of his master and it adds an incredible depth to him and to the Star Wars movies themselves.
At their best, the prequel trilogy enhanced the experience of the classic trilogy by introducing new themes and forcing to reevaluate truths you took for granted. Darth Plagueis does that in spades for both sagas.
Let me also be the first to say this: I tend to be bored of the Sith. Reading their exploits later in the timeline (particularly the Fate of the Jedi series) is tedious. I really hate their arrogant jockeying, but part of that is that they’re the bad guys in the book. They have to deal with Luke Skywalker and all the rest so they have to be bad. The Sith presented in Luceno’s book are sympathetic almost. They make no bones about what they are but they have very real, tangible ambitions. You sympathize with them. They’re the heroes of the book.
When Palpatine tells Anakin the “tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise” that’s truly what this is.
I’ve not been the biggest fan of all the Star Wars books over the year, but if you’re going to pick one to read (other than the next Wraith Squadron book) this is the one you’ll need to read. Luceno’s prose is is at once elegant and graceful, keeping you turning pages and looking for mysteries to unravel. Sometimes he finds new mysteries for you to ponder, hints at other mysteries to come, or leads you along the path for the mysteries you’ve spent the last 12 years chewing on since the release of The Phantom Menace.
There’s so much about this book that I want to tell you and talk to you about, but the point is this: you’re just going to have to read it yourself. It’s fun. It’s a quick read. It opens up the Sith to… a larger view.
One thing I find brilliant about the release of this book is the timing: This month we are introduced to Darth Plagueis and have the events of The Phantom Menace unfolded before us from a different point of view. Next month we see The Phantom Menace released in 3D, adding a whole new dimension to the viewing experience. In March, we see the return of Darth Maul in the Clone Wars, bringing Phantom Menace full circle for audiences.
It has me excited. Very, very excited.
Darth Plagueis comes out January 10. I highly recommend it and suggest you get a copy now.