This review contains spoilers for Lords of the Sith
Paul S. Kemp’s Lords of the Sith is a compelling, frequently chilling account of the ultimate Lords of the Sith, Darth Sidious and Darth Vader, as they are hunted on the planet Ryloth by a fledgling group of rebels (the story takes place well before the events of A New Dawn) that seek to assassinate the two alphas, and thereby, set about the demise of the Empire. The novel goes through a few different settings, almost in a serialized fashion, which seems fitting, considering the sandbox Kemp is playing in. The stakes are high for Cham Syndulla (father of Hera, from the animated series Rebels), the leader of this burgeoning rebellion, but the real battle is within Vader, the anti-hero of the novel.
The chief selling point of the novel is that Vader and Sidious are trapped on Ryloth, and being hunted, but that is only half of the book. Much of the first half sets up Vader and Sidious’ eventual crash landing on Ryloth, which may be even more interesting than the scenes on Ryloth (until the last few chapters). Cham’s main accomplice is Isval, a fellow Twi’lek freedom fighter, with a dark past that has a particularly cringing moment. Her redemption, at the intervention of Cham, plays nicely as a foil to the relationship between Vader and Sidious.
The book’s true artistry is in featuring Vader’s power and skill as a Sith Lord, and master of the Dark Side of the Force. In a dramatic scene (that is a bit drawn out, but no less effective), Isval and some resistance members proceed to bring about the destruction of the Emperor’s Star Destroyer. The scene is cinematic and intense, and Vader’s pursuit of Isval and her team feels like something right out of the classic Terminator film. The new story group has provided a number of stories that feature Vader in his prime, and Lords of the Sith is replete with notable, jaw-dropping moments.
The most captivating scenes, however, are the personal moments between Vader and Sidious, as well as the man verses self conflict that is prevalent to the Vader mythology. These moments, while not soliloquies, do help perpetuate the personal demons that Vader faces, and mold the armor that he is encased in. While not demonstrating major paradigm shifts in his psychosis, we are privy to some glimpses of intense disdain for the Emperor that hint towards loathing, but do not take over. This is largely a Vader who has mastered his Anakin Skywalker persona, and has some truly captivating opportunities in which to prove this to the Emperor, who is, as ever, all too willing to test his apprentice. The final chapter is truly haunting, and will not slip away easily into the recesses of your mind.
Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp has some truly pervasive , insightful moments that fans of the Dark Side will embrace. While not covering any particularly new ground, the book is a firm reminder of the machinations of Palpatine, the tortured gravitas of Vader, and how bad of an idea it is to cross either of them. The book takes some detours from what was initially advertised, but this actually adds to the narrative, as both Cham and Isval provide some intrigue, and the additions of both Moff Delion Mors (who experiences her own renaissance) and the madness of Belkor Dray serve to further personify the largely unknown Imperial Navy. Lords of the Sith has a few minor speed bumps, but is overall a good read, and a nice addition to the Star Wars mythos.
4 out of 5
Note: A big thank you to Del Rey for providing an advanced copy to review.Powered by Sidelines