‘STAR WARS: LORDS OF THE SITH’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Darth Vader and the Emperor with the Free Ryloth movement
“It appears things are as you suspected, Lord Vader. We are indeed hunted.”
I’ve read and heard ‘Star Wars: Lords of the Sith’ by Paul S. Kemp. This was my first go at reading/hearing a ‘Star Wars’ novel. It was recommended to me by Timelord007 when I was doing my ‘Star Wars Film Review Season’ on ‘Bradley’s Basement’ back in 2017. Was this worth the read/listen?
‘Star Wars’ is a strange beast of a sci-fi franchise. And I mean that in the best sense of the word. It has films that have divided a lot of fan opinion including the prequels; the original trilogy and the sequels. There are TV shows; books and audios based on the ‘Star Wars’ films by various writers over the years.
I’m not exactly into ‘Star Wars’ as I am with ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Star Trek’. I like watching the films casually as a home viewer and as a cinema goer. In preparation for seeing a certain film at the cinema in December 2019, I decided to tackle a ‘Star Wars’ novel to enhance my experience on the sci-fi series.
My issue with ‘Star Wars’ is its inconsistency in tone and delivery of storytelling. Sometimes it varies on what ‘Star Wars’ fans prefer whether it’d be light-hearted or dark and brooding. I’ve become accustomed to that inconsistency in ‘Star Wars’ itself. I expected nothing less when tackling this novel.
‘Lords of the Sith’ is a story set between ‘Revenge of the Sith’ and ‘A New Hope’. It was published in April 2015, eight months before the release of ‘The Force Awakens’ at the cinema. Apparently, it was the first of four novels published in the ‘Star Wars’ series after Lucasfilm had been acquired by Disney.
The book features the two main ‘Star Wars’ villains from the original trilogy: Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine. It depicts them being hunted by revolutionaries from the planet Ryloth. The Free Ryloth resistance movement attempt to assassinate Vader and the Emperor and destroy the Galactic Empire.
I read ‘Lords of the Sith’ via Kindle on my tablet and listened to the audiobook as a download via Audible. The story is divided into eighteen chapters in the book. The audiobook is read by Jonathan Davis, who has read plenty of ‘Star Wars’ audiobooks over the years which is pretty impressive indeed.
I like the audiobook for ‘Lords of the Sith’. As well as Jonathan Davis reading the story and there being sounds effects in the background, there are pieces of incidental music from the ‘Star Wars’ films composed by John Williams. It was nice to hear those pieces of John Williams whilst reading the novel.
I also enjoyed it when Jonathan Davis voiced Darth Vader and the Emperor in the story. He gives exact voice impersonations of the characters as played by James Earl Jones and Ian MacDiarmid in the movies. In fact, if this story was adapted into a full-cast audio drama, I’m certain it’d be very impressive.
From looking at the book cover and seeing the story’s title; I assumed this ‘Star Wars’ book was going to be a full-on extravaganza about Darth Vader and the Emperor. I hope we’d get to go deeper into Vader’s psyche and his interaction with the Emperor. There seemed to be a promise of that through this novel.
Sadly, and this is my personal opinion, I couldn’t help but feel let down by this book. ‘Lords of the Sith’ wasn’t what I was hoping for in being a Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine book. It didn’t feel like the two big ‘Star Wars’ villains extravaganza I was expecting and it should’ve been something I hoped for, right?
My main problem with ‘Lords of the Sith’ is that it takes a lot of focus on the Free Ryloth movement led by Cham Syndulla. Not that I object to the story having heroes and such. But again, it’s not what I was hoping for when I wanted the story to be focused on the characters of Darth Vader and Palpatine.
How amazing would it have been if the story of ‘Lords of the Sith’ was taken mostly from the viewpoint of Darth Vader? It seemed to be like that when the story started and when the story ended. You could still tell the same story with the Free Ryloth movement wanting to assassinate Vader and the Emperor.
But wouldn’t it be better if all of the story had scenes with Vader in them? I think that would’ve been amazing, in making Vader be the main character and having him to cope with the struggles he had in being Palpatine’s apprentice. The tale could’ve explored more of his anger issues and such throughout.
Sometimes that gets touched upon in the book, especially with Vader’s connection to the Force and him having visions of people from his past like Obi-Wan; Mace and Padmé. But most of the time we’re having to be with characters like Cham and Isval intending to assassinate Vader and the Emperor here.
And I know this sounds harsh on my part, but please bear with me here. I honestly felt the resistance movement part of the story dragged a bit. Every time I wanted to find out what was going on with Vader and the Emperor, I was prevented by having to read scenes with characters I didn’t know well.
Also the resistance movement part of the story felt too familiar for me. Like I’d seen it in another ‘Star Wars’ movie or something. In fact, wasn’t there a ‘Star Wars’ movie featuring some resistance movement overthrowing the Empire? I’m certain there was. What was it called again? Oh yes! ‘Rogue One’!
And yes, I know, I know. ‘Lords of the Sith’ was released before ‘Rogue One’ came out at cinemas. And maybe this book gave inspiration for that movie. But the point stands. The resistance movement part of the story got in the way in what’s supposed to be a story about two of the greatest ‘Star Wars’ foes.
I do feel bad about this because Paul S. Kemp is a very good writer. He gets the tone for the ‘Star Wars’ universe right and makes it bleak and foreboding throughout the story. Much like a proper space opera/war movie. The potential is there for ‘Lords of the Sith’ to be dramatic and very epic throughout.
There were occasions where I became interested in the story, especially when Vader was chasing after Isvar and her resistance members aboard the Perilous. It was especially tense when Vader killed people with his lightsaber and when he had his scenes with the Emperor who was testing his emotions.
But again, I would rather have the story mostly taken from Vader’s perspective in order for him to be developed as a full-on villain. I know there’s the argument you can’t reveal too much about a villain in the story as it would make him less interesting. But for me, it’d be good if Paul S. Kemp took that dare.
The hero characters of the story are also a struggle for me to connect with on an emotional level. Like I said, the leader of the Free Ryloth movement is Cham Syndulla who is a Twi’lek male. The Twi’leks are the dominant inhabitants of Ryloth. Cham used to be a former freedom fighter during the Clone Wars.
It’s interesting to note that Cham has been in ‘The Clone Wars’ and the ‘Rebels’ TV shows. In fact, this book is connected with stories from those TV shows. I wouldn’t have picked this up when reading the book and I decided to just read the book on its own without having watching Cham in those TV shows.
I do find it a bit annoying that certain ‘Star Wars’ stories feature characters that you’re expected to know already without having watched any the TV shows. It’s not so much an issue with Cham as I could read him fine in this book. I’m sure he was given enough background to establish his own character.
But it’s annoying when you’re a casual reader/viewer and you don’t know certain characters who have been in the TV shows beforehand. This happened for me when characters like Darth Maul appeared in ‘Solo’ without explanation and you had to watch ‘Rebels’ to understand, but that’s for another time.
But even if I had watched those shows, I don’t think it would’ve made me connect to the resistance movement characters even more. Maybe it would, I don’t know. Anyway, reading this book didn’t have me connect to Cham as a heroic character, despite the many good intentions he had throughout.
Like with ‘Rogue One’, there is this sense of the resistance movement characters not being exactly goody-good guys, especially when coercing Empire members into their pacts against the enemy. I’m not sure I could sympathise with a character who had a cold-hearted demeanour throughout the story.
Isval is a good example of that. She could easily be the Jyn Erso character of this story, despite being a Twi’lek female. In fact, a lot of the story takes the focus from her point of view in wanting to overthrow the Empire; wanting to kill Vader after the terrible things he did and being cold throughout.
I guess she’s meant to be a character we can emphasise with, especially when she has anger towards the Empire and its members. But it’s difficult considering she takes the cold-hearted approach. Mind you, resistance members can be like that when going to extremes. But it’s still hard to emphasise with.
There is a sense of close camaraderie between Isval and Cham, especially when she knows how important the movement is to him. It’s then revealed that Isval loved Cham. But I couldn’t get the sense of a romantic love from Isval as I was reading the book, even if the climax was so heart-breaking.
Other characters featured in the story include Steen Borkas; Breehld; Erstin Deez; Belkor Dray; Eshgo; Faylin (who is the only human character in the Free Ryloth resistance movement. Interesting); Goll; Kallon; Nordon; Ophim and Pok. Some of these characters survive the story and some of them do not.
There is a certain character in the story called Delian Mors who is the Moff to Vader and the Emperor here. Apparently, Mors is cited for being an openly gay character in the ‘Star Wars’ series. I wouldn’t have registered that when reading the story as there didn’t seem to be that much love-making throughout.
The book has special features attached to it after you’ve finished the story. There’s the short story ‘Star Wars: Orientation’ by John Jackson Miller that was first published in #157 of the ‘Star Wars Insider’ magazine. There’s also an excerpt, which is Chapter One, from the book called ‘Star Wars: Dark Disciple’ by Christie Golden.
So yeah, ‘Star Wars: Lords of the Sith’ was a disappointment on my part. It wasn’t what I hoped for in terms of a ‘Star Wars’ novel featuring Darth Vader and the Emperor. I hoped for this to be a full-on extravaganza on the two villains. Sometimes it had good moments, but I found them quite rare to find.
It’s a shame because I found Paul S. Kemp’s writing decent and the audiobook read by Jonathan Davis is very good. I hope this won’t put me off reading more ‘Star Wars’ novels as I would like to read the original ‘Thrawn’ trilogy by Timothy Zahn. I’ve heard good things about it. I hope to check them out soon.
‘Star Wars: Lords of the Sith’ rating – 5/10
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