Star Wars: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno – Book Review [Bane of Kings]

darth plagueis

Bane of Kings shares his thoughts on one of the most revealing Star Wars novels to date, the standalone Darth Plagueis book written by Star Wars veteran James Luceneo. Published in the US by Del Ray. 

“A good novel – Luceneo has managed to create a great and enthralling read that gives us not only an insight into Darth Plagueis and the origin of Darth Sidious, but also sets the stage for the Star Wars prequels.” ~The Founding Fields

“Did you ever hear the Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise? It’s a Sith legend. Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith, so powerful and so wise that he could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create life. He had such a knowledge of the dark side that he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying.”
—Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith

To say I was interested in buying this novel was an understatement. I’m one of the few who thinks that The Phantom Menace is not the worst Star Wars film of all time (Jar Jar Binks aside), and that honour actually goes to Attack of the Clones. Darth Plagueis is heavily tied into the original film, and even manages to actually have some parts that are set during the film itself. But that doesn’t make Darth Plagueis a bad novel however, as Luceneo has managed to not only establish create a novel that can arguably stand on its own without understanding of what happens in The Phantom Menace, but ties into the book as well.

The first thing that caught my eye about the book is obviously the title. I haven’t read a Star Wars book for a while and I didn’t want my return to the universe to be a negative one, especially after my last read was from Drew Karpyshyn, one of my favourite SW authors, so the choice of what to read had to be a good one. Darth Plagueis screamed awesome to me, and as I enjoy reading about the Sith as much as I enjoy reading about the Jedi, I really wanted to know more about a book that not only proves that Dark Plagueis was not a made up story by Sidious to get Anakin to join the dark side, but also learn what exactly forced Palpatine to turn to the Dark Side and partake in the Long War against the Jedi.

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?

Whilst Darth Plagueis may not have exactly been what I was expecting, focusing heavily on the political side of things rather than the action (although there is a lot of action in here as well), It was certainly a damn good read, and we get exactly as the blurb and cover advertised, which is great news. We not only see the story behind Darth Plagueis, but we also get to see the origin of both Darth Sidious and Darth Maul, the latter of whom is the saving grace for  the first Star Wars prequel film, and the novel is written really strong by Luceneo, even if I felt in some places the book was quite flawed.

darth plagueisThe main attention of the book is devoted to Plagueis and Sidious, as one would expect. They’re certainly interesting characters and the first issue here was that I didn’t really feel sympathy for any of them. I know they’re Sith, but still, I just couldn’t get behind either of the Sith Lords and this is pretty much the problem with all Star Wars novels with Sith as the main character, for not once has the author so far managed to get me to root behind them whilst reading the novel. Sure, it wasn’t probably Luceno’s fault – after all, there was no way I was going to root for Palpatine mainly because of Order 66.

Yeah, I’m a Jedi fan, but that doesn’t stop me from reading more Sith-centric novels than I have Jedi-centric books.

Luceno’s Darth Plagueis is written in a different tone to the rest of the Star Wars novels, and it’s written as though it was from a historical viewpoint rather than a current one. The pacing is a bit weak as well, for some parts I felt to be rushed more than others (particularly the confrontation when Sidious turns on his master), and this is probably because the novel was written from an historical viewpoint. It’s not until the end of the novel when Sidious begins to doubt his master for the first time, and I was really starting to wondering by that point if Luceno had just realised that he was running out of word count and had to rush the ending.

But despite its flaws, Darth Plagueis is still a gripping read, and the readers will be kept reading mainly because of the revelations on hand in Darth Plagueis. There’s lots of them, and I’m not going to spoil any of them for you but you should certainly check this book out. It’s a toure de force through the rise of power of one of the greatest Sith Lords in history and the fall from power of another iconic figure.

The action scenes, minus the confrontation between Plagueis and Sidious, are written strongly and you can tell that Luceno has experience in this universe. We never once feel like we’re reading the same thing again and that just makes the experience more enjoyable and entertaining.

Whilst Darth Plagueis may not do enough to change the reader’s minds about how good the prequel trilogy is, it’s certainly an important thing to note this book is well worth the effort to read. And there’s no Jar Jar Binks as well, which is always a bonus. It’s just a shame that it had to be let down by a case of a rushed ending, which was the main obstacle for a good book becoming a great one.

Verdict: 3.5/5

Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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