Finished reading Lords of the Sith, one of the new canon books that came out about a year ago now, and I have to say, this was a really great book. Of course, if you read the tweet up there, you’d know that already, but still!
The book follows Vader and Palpatine as they are embroiled within a rebellion on the planet Ryloth. A lot is made of the time Anakin spent there in season one of the Clone Wars cartoon show – indeed, a lot is made of Vader’s past in general, and I have to say, I kinda like it! It feels quite similar to the flashbacks in Empire: Betrayal, an awesome comic book that I would recommend to anyone, even though it isn’t canon anymore. Only eight years have elapsed since the events of Revenge of the Sith, and Paul S Kemp has said in an interview that he wanted to show how Anakin became the badass Vader of the original trilogy, by purging himself of the memories of the past. It comes across really well, and I think it was one of the best parts of the book.
Vader and Palpatine are targeted by the Free Ryloth movement, headed by Cham Syndulla (also of Clone Wars fame, and father of Rebels’ Hera Syndulla). The resistance movement is really interesting, and while I am a bit dubious at seeing these various, localised rebels at this time, feeling like we’re being led to seeing a kind of grand alliance of all the various cells into the Rebellion of the movies, at the same time it seems utterly believable, especially on a world like Ryloth, that is being abused by the Imperials for the mining of ryll spice. The Free Ryloth movement manages to destroy the star destroyer on which both Sith Lords arrive in the system, leading to something of a cat and mouse act as they are hunted across the surface. It’s kinda cool to see the two survive in the wilderness like this, though I was much more interested in the dynamics between them than the action scenes. Something I thought was really nice was that the captain of the Emperor’s Royal Guard is a clone trooper – perhaps Commander Thire?
Another awesome thing about this book is how it seems to turn something of a tired trope on its head. At the beginning, we’re introduced to Moff Delian Mors and Colonel Belkor Dray – the Moff has become a hedonistic, pampered thing living in luxury on one of Ryloth’s moons in full abuse of her power, while Belkor is the archetypal scheming underling, with many officers in his pocket just waiting for the right time to leap to power. It’s something I feel has been done plenty of times, and is a little old, really. However, in Lords of the Sith, this is almost entirely reversed. Belkor thinks he can eliminate the spice-addicted Moff and take her place, by using the Free Ryloth movement to have her killed along with Vader and the Emperor. However, Mors realises just how absent she has been with her job, and over the course of the story, seeing her put herself back together, essentially, was a really intriguing character arc. Belkor, meanwhile, comes to realise he has been played by the rebels all along and, backed into a corner, resolves to go out in a blaze of glory by killing Vader, Palpatine, the Moff and the rebels, but Mors gets to him first…
Something that should probably be mentioned here is the fact that Moff Mors is the first canon homosexual character, and unlike Sinjir in Aftermath, it’s almost entirely natural. The only mention that is made of it is when her wife’s death is described as sending her off the rails a bit. I like the fact that we can have a diverse universe without it being made an issue out of, you know?
If I had to say anything against the book, there is something of a plot hole around Senator Orn Free Taa. I really liked seeing him again, it formed another nice bridge between the prequels and the new stuff. The Free Ryloth movement get wind of Vader and the Emperor’s visit, ostensibly by a traitor in the senator’s staff. It’s kind of the whole driving force for the plot. But Orn Free Taa isn’t really heard of again from the point where the star destroyer is destroyed. I think he’s described as making it to an escape pod, but we don’t know if he lives, and we never find out how Syndulla discovered the Emperor was coming to Ryloth. It’s hardly going to keep me awake at night, but I thought perhaps it should have been addressed? The book is quite short, 285 pages in hardback, so I feel there was plenty of room to tie up stuff like this.
But maybe I’m just being too picky – the story of these characters was otherwise excellent, and I can highly recommend it (despite kinda spoiling most of the storyline in this blog…erm…!)
But wait, there’s more!
In the May 2015 issue of Star Wars Insider, John Jackson Miller wrote a short story called Orientation that takes place as Vader and the Emperor are en route to Ryloth. It’s a nice little story that shows there are still people loyal to the Republic out there, and features Rae Sloane (of both A New Dawn and Aftermath fame) as a mere cadet. Definitely worth the time picking up if you can still find it!