Sunday, May 31, 2015

A SciFi Book Review: LORDS OF THE SITH

 **Warning Minor Spoilers**

I recently finished the newest Star Wars novel, LORDS OF THE SITH, written by Paul S. Kemp and found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable read.  Most of the Star Wars books I've read over the last few years have been pretty underwhelming and disappointing so I began reading this story without high expectations, but found myself pleasantly surprised by how much I really enjoyed this action packed novel.  I guess it takes a fellow Michigander like Paul S. Kemp to pen a quality story that will appeal to an adult audience of Star Wars fans like myself.  The novel starts out with an action packed space battle that reinforces why Darth Vader is a villain to be feared and wraps up with a jungle trek that shows why a menacing foe like Vader still bows down on one knee to Darth Sidious (aka Emperor Palpatine) as his Master.

LORDS OF THE SITH takes place a few years after the fall of the galactic republic and has Emperor Palpatine preserving order and allegiance to his imperial rule through military might.  The public, nor his military establishment,  realize that he is the powerful Darth Sidious and perceive Emperor Palpatine as an elderly and fragile politician.  On the other hand, Vader is not in the public eye but rather lurks in the shadows as an enforcer of the Emperor's most important mandates.  Rumors of Darth Vader's immortal feats are beginning to circulate throughout the galaxy adding a sense of fear to the public that the Emperor's minion is not one you want to cross.  The public doesn't really know if Darth Vader is fact or fiction until he is coming for them and by that time it is too late.  With this stage set, the Emperor finds himself with a firm grip of control over his Empire with only one person who could potentially challenge his dominion, Darth Vader.  So Darth Sidious sets out to test Vader's loyalty and demonstrate why the Emperor is the most dangerous and powerful of the two.

While the title would make you believe this is the principal storyline of the book, the relationship conflicts between the Lords of the Sith play a secondary role.  The main plot revolves around a character that was originally introduced in the Clone Wars animated television series named Cham Syndulla.  Cham appeared in two episodes of the Clone Wars leading a band of Twi'lek freedom fighters when their home planet Ryloth is invaded by the Separatist army during its battle with the Republic.  Now these freedom fighters are standing up against the Empire which has taken control of Ryloth and is abusing its population as a source of slave labor and depleting the planet's resources as the Imperials mine it for a mineral known as Ryll Spice which is a favorite narcotic used by many species throughout the galaxy.

Cham's efforts to bring down Imperial control of Ryloth are one of the first significant "rebel" challenges to the Empire's power and a spark for things to come in the Star Wars universe.  While no characters from the Star Wars: Rebels television show appear in this story, LORDS OF THE SITH does a great job of establishing a canonical bridge between that series and Clones Wars.  You see Cham's daughter is named Hera, who is one of the main characters in Star Wars: Rebels, and what transpires during LORDS OF THE SITH plays a big part in how Hera Syndulla gets to where she is at when the Rebels storyline begins.

You know Cham isn't going to win in the end of this story because it takes place well before the events of A New Hope ( aka the original Star Wars movie) but he provides a thrilling story that kept me enthused about finishing the book.  True Star Wars fans will appreciate  how this book lays a foundation for future events within the franchise and does a nice job of linking references from the prequel movies and Clone Wars tv series to the Star Wars: Rebels show and the original movies.

John Jackson Miller's book A New Dawn was supposed to be the setup book for Star Wars: Rebels, but because that novel really wasn't very interesting or well written I'd recommend skipping over that book if you haven't already read it and stick with Lords of the Sith as a bridge between the Clones Wars years and the Rebels time period.  Kemp really does a nice job of referencing other Star Wars events into the book, but it was also refreshing that he adds new characters, monsters, locals and scenarios into his book.  Too often authors writing Star Wars novels rely too much on the same established characters, creatures and settings that for me makes those stories uninspired and boring...I'm so sick of Rancors being used as monsters and stops on Tatooine - give us some new original monsters and locals please it is a big galaxy...and I was pleased that Kemp has done a nice job of using familiar but not over used elements while also putting his own original touches into the story.

So how does Cham and his band of Twi'lek freedom fighters get Darth Vader and the Emperor stranded in a dangerous alien jungle fighting against vicious Ryloth wild predators, treasonous Imperials, and Syndulla's forces hunting them down?  You'll have to read the book to find out!

LORDS OF THE SITH gets A Geek Daddy nod of approval because for casual Star Wars fans it provides a fun action packed SciFi adventure and for die hard fans it adds some great foundational elements to the canon of the franchise further tying together the movies and television series.  This book is suitable for tweens and up.

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