Star Wars: Maul – Lockdown by Joe Schreiber – Book Review [Bane of Kings]

maul-lockdown

Milo, aka “Bane of Kings”, covers Joe Schreiber’s Maul, the latest Star Wars tie-in novel focusing on the fan-favourite Sith character, Darth Maul – published by Del Ray Books and set before the events of the first Star Wars movie from the prequel trilogy, The Phantom Menace.

“A flawed but fun Star Wars novel, Joe Schreiber proves that he isn’t a one-trick pony and doesn’t have to rely on Zombie Stomtroopers to make Lockdown an entertaining read – but just don’t go in expecting a perfect one as the end result is quickly forgettable and not as excellent as it could have been.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields

A LONG TIME AGO, IN A GALAXY FAR FAR AWAY…

It’s kill or be killed in the space penitentiary that houses the galaxy’s worst criminals, where convicts face off in gladiatorial combat while an underworld gambling empire reaps the profits of the illicit blood sport. But the newest contender in this savage arena, as demonic to behold as he is deadly to challenge, is fighting for more than just survival. His do-or-die mission, for the dark masters he serves, is to capture the ultimate weapon: an object that will enable the Sith to conquer the galaxy.
 
Sith lords Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious are determined to possess the prize. And one of the power-hungry duo has his own treacherous plans for it. But first, their fearsome apprentice must take on a bloodthirsty prison warden, a cannibal gang, cutthroat crime lord Jabba the Hutt, and an unspeakable alien horror. No one else could brave such a gauntlet of death and live. But no one else is the dreaded dark-side disciple known as Darth Maul.

Darth Maul was easily the best thing about The Phantom Menace movie and given the fan reception to the character it’s easy to see why he has not only appeared several times since then in various different mediums, including the animated TV series The Clone Wars, but it’s always good to see a fully fledged novel devoted to a particularly awesome character with the only real worry being what happens if everything goes wrong. Joe Schreiber also seemed like a strong choice for writing duties as well – he has written both Sith, Han Solo and zombies before in his two previous Star Wars novels  (Death Troopers Red Harvest) both of which have been highly enjoyable – so the book seemed like a great chance to impress as the first book release in the franchise in 2014.

maul-lockdownHowever, the book isn’t quite as good as it looks on paper. That’s not to say it’s all bad though – there have been far worse Star Wars novels out there after all – it’s just that with the strength of other recent books set in the franchise, including John Jackson Miller’s Kenobi, Martha Wells’ Razor’s Edge, and the recent Timothy Zahn novel Honor Among Thieves, you’d expect Maul: Lockdown to reach the hieghts set by these two novels, especially given Schreiber’s reputation with his two previous very strong Star Wars books. However, Lockdown suffers as a result of this, with the end result being whilst still enjoyable, underwhelming and ultimately forgettable from a character who deserved much more. For starters, this could have easily been an original character in place of Maul and with a few changes you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. There’s nothing distinctive that makes Maul really standout, which is a shame. If he were a newcomer and this were his first book he would not be more memorable than the supporting cast, with the only reason his name being a standout is his reputation.

The book itself also suffers due to its decision to use Maul in a setting where he’s forced to keep his abilities hidden. Whilst it was interesting to explore how he handles things without the use of the Force, this came at a cost – if you’re not going to use what makes the character so memorable (his double-edged lighstabers) then why use that character at all? This is perhaps the biggest problem that is present in Maul: Lockdown, but if you put that aside the book itself turns out to be a very enjoyable read, and Schreiber manages to make use of his excellent pacing skills to create a book that you will not be able to put down. It’s fast paced, brutal and action packed.

Speaking of action, Schreiber manages to pull it off well. As the book is mainly full of fight scenes, this is a crucial element and whilst there is not much use of Lightsabers to be found here the book is still very much entertaining – it will have you captivated from the beginning and all the way through, even though the characters may not be that great. If you’re a fan of action then you should enjoy this – it’s quick and easy to read as well, like what most recent Star Wars books have become – so if you want something to read in order to break up two massive epic fantasy novels that’s fun and quick, then Maul: Lockdown will be right up your street.

As expected from a quick read, the plot is fairly basic. Sidious has tasked Maul to track down a weapons dealer, allegedly hiding on a prison in a space station, named Cog Hive Seven. In order to find the Dealer, Maul has to enter the prison – with the idea actually working quite well, and it’s interesting to see how the character reacts when in an environment where nobody can be trusted and everybody is out for themselves. It certainly will be a nice break for those who are sick of the endless Jedi vs. Sith novels that the Star Wars franchise has spawned, with the line between good and evil being more morally grey than it has been in the past in this book. 

However, the characters are not the only problem found in Maul: Lockdown. Despite it being enjoyable for the most part, The novel suffers from an ending that’s too underwhelming with all plot threads being connected in an ending that doesn’t really make it worth it. The book will also confuse readers who haven’t read James Luceno’s Darth Plagueis, as this book serves as a sort-of sequel as you’ll want to read that book in order to see why the mission was so important in the first place. If you read this book without knowledge of what goes down in Darth Plagueis then it’ll cause only confusion, and this isn’t blatantly clear at first especially as both books are written by two different writers so you should take this into consideration. Darth Plagueis also comes recommended if you haven’t got around to reading that novel yet – it is far better than Maul: Lockdown.

The novel itself has an interesting premise but is sadly underwhelming and ultimately forgettable. However, it serves as a nice quick read and a very entertaining one – even if it could have easily been somebody else other than Darth Maul in the lead role. The book also loses itself in the final act, but for the most part – the novel remains enjoyable and you won’t be able to put it down – so if you can get past these problems then you should end up enjoying it despite this.

VERDICT: 3/5

PREVIOUS STAR WARS BOOK: Cloak of Deception by James Luceno | NEXT STAR WARS BOOK: Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter by Michael Reaves

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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