“The fight will go on, Isval, but after this it’ll have to fall to someone else to lead. I’ll do what I can even after today, but we don’t have enough tools left to do much more than what we’ve done. We’ll start first by killing Vader and the Emperor. It’s just that someone else is going to have to fan the flames and burn the Empire down.” — Cham Syndulla
I really liked this book. Lords of the Sith is by far one of the best things that the new Star Wars canon has to offer so far. It is one of my favorite Star Wars books I’ve read in the past few years. Paul S. Kemp, author of past Star Wars EU novels Crosscurrent, Riptide, and The Old Republic: Deceived, outdid himself with this one.
Lords of the Sith takes place five years after Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, and shortly before James Luceno’s 2014 novel, Tarkin. The new Galactic Empire is still rising to power, and Lord Vader is still relatively new to the lifestyle of the Sith. TIE fighters don’t seem to exist yet at this point, with the Empire still using V-wings, and with Vader himself still flying a Jedi Starfighter. The Empire is new, but it already has a strong hold on the galaxy, and there is no such thing as The Rebel Alliance yet.
The book opens and we immediately get inside Darth Vader’s head. He’s sitting in his mediation chamber, reflecting on what he has become since Order 66. He’s more machine than man now. He remembers Obi-wan, and Yoda, and uses his memories to fuel his hate. His hate is what gives him his power. It’s what makes him one of the most powerful and most feared people in the entire galaxy. It’s a fascinating scene that immediately pulled me in.
The scene quickly changes and we are now being introduced to Cham Syndulla, a Twi’lek man from the planet Ryloth who previously made two small appearances in The Clone Wars TV series, and recently appeared in an episode of Star Wars Rebels. He also happens to be the father of Hera Syndulla, one of the protagonists of Star Wars Rebels (though she doesn’t make an appearance in this story). Cham is the leader of the Free Ryloth movement. He had been fighting for the freedom of his planet since the Clone Wars. For a brief moment during the Clone Wars, the Republic stepped in and things seemed to get better, but the Republic quickly became the Empire, and under the rule of the Empire, nobody is free. Cham is a great character, and it’s fun to see a rebellion of a different type in this story. These are not the “rebels” from A New Hope or even from Star Wars Rebels. This group is fighting for their planet specifically, and not for the Republic or the galaxy as a whole.
Cham and his Free Ryloth movement are the story’s true protagonists, and throughout the book it feels like we see more of them than we do Darth Vader and the Emperor. This is a complaint I have with the story, because although I do like Cham and his team, I found myself always wanting to get back to the Lords of the Sith that the novel gets its name from. The Vader/Palpatine scenes are by far the more interesting and exciting scenes here. Getting inside Vader’s head is a huge highlight of the book for me, and provides some of the most fascinating moments of recent Star Wars writing.
Which bring me to another point: Darth Vader is awesome in this book. This is the most badass depiction of Vader I’ve ever seen. This isn’t the slow, weakened-because-of-his-injuries Vader that I grew accustomed to from the old Expanded Universe. This version of Vader is every bit as athletic and fast as any other Jedi Master or Sith Lord we’ve seen yet, and then some. It actually caught me off guard the first time the novel mentioned Vader running. Running? I honestly struggled to imagine it the first time, since the slow, clunky Vader is how I’ve been imagining him for years. He is more terrifying, and more powerful in this book than I’ve seen on-screen or in any other story so far. It felt at times like he had Starkiller-like Force abilities, for those of you familiar with The Force Unleashed, yet it never felt too over-the-top. There were so many moments in this story where Vader does something incredible that left me in awe. The depiction of Darth Vader is so much fun to read in this story, and it left me wanting more. If this is how the new canon is going to depict Vader from here on out, I am excited, because he felt like the true threat we’ve always been told (but never been shown) that he really was. The highest praise I have for this book goes to its depiction of Darth Vader. Kemp really nailed it in that respect.
Getting to see Vader working with, and fighting alongside the Emperor was also something that I’ve always wanted to see happen. The Emperor is insanely powerful, and incredibly intimidating, even to Vader. Vader is in complete awe of his master’s abilities and almost views him as an omnipotent being. He doesn’t understand how his master is so successful at everything that he does. Darth Vader respects his master, but when the author allows you to get inside Vader’s head and see what he’s thinking you realize that although Vader respects and wants to learn from the Emperor, he also hates the Emperor. The Emperor knows this, and he encourages it. Palpatine wants Darth Vader to hate him. It is a really fascinating look into the twisted relationship between a Sith Master and his apprentice.
In my eyes, Vader and the Emperor completely steal the show from Cham and his freedom fighters. Cham Syndulla is a good character, and I would honestly like to see more of him in the future, but I just wanted to read about Darth Vader in this book. Cham and his team really do have some great moments in the book, including a very well thought out plan that concluded with them taking out an Imperial Star Destroyer. I would love to see continuations of both Cham Syndulla’s and Vader’s stories set in this same time period between the trilogies, and I would be in full support of having Kemp return to write those stories.
Lords of the Sith is a great book. I loved it from start to finish. This book really shines as one of the best things the new canon has to offer, along with Lost Stars, and Battlefront: Twilight Company. I would definitely recommend this book to any Star Wars fan. I loved it.