The Star Wars fandom is at an all-time high in 2015. The hype of a new movie is just one part of it all, though – the release of new novels, comic books, video games, and other media is coming at a rapid rate, much to the delight of fans all over the world. And with the recent purge/retcon of the former Star Wars Expanded Universe (rebranded Star Wars Legends) all future Expanded Universe material will officially be canon in the series timeline. One of the latest novel releases is Lords of the Sith, by Paul S. Kemp. How does the latest full-length Star Wars novel measure up, and is this one a worthy addition to the official canon?
On the hostile world of Ryloth, an insurgence is rising; the native Twi’leks are rising up in rebellion against the Galactic Empire. Hearing of the rising rebellion, Darth Vader and his master, Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine, embark upon a mission to the planet to deal with the problem directly. An attack from the Rebels leaves the Lords of the Sith, with some of their surviving Royal Guards, stranded on an unforgiving and harsh planet, where they find themselves hunted by lethal predators and the Rebels themselves. Will these Twi’lek freedom fighters succeed in assassinating the evil masterminds of the Empire, or will the Dark Lords live to fight another day?
Before moving on with the review, there are two things that need to be cleared up regarding this novel. First and foremost, the title and any description of the plot is extremely misleading. There absolutely IS a plot in this novel about Darth Vader and the Emperor being stranded on Ryloth and being forced to fight for their lives, but the Twi’lek Rebels are the main characters here, and the story primarily focuses on THEM. This makes the title and the cover art a bit deceptive; anyone expecting to purchase this novel and have it focus primarily on Vader and Palpatine may find themselves disappointed. That is NOT to say the novel is bad, however.
The other thing in regards to this novel is that numerous website articles and press releases state that this novel is noteworthy for introducing the female Moff Mors, the first LGBT character in the Star Wars universe (apparently Ziro the Hutt doesn't count). The character absolutely DOES appear in this novel and plays a fairly major role, but the lesbian nature of the character is given one minor mention on one page of the book, and it is never mentioned or touched upon again. The character is bound to appear in other Star Wars media in the future, but I cannot help but feel that this was just a press tactic to try to sell more copies of the book, considering the topic at hand is never touched upon outside of a brief mention on one page.
All right, now that all of that is out of the way, how does Lords of the Sith measure up? Since all new stories are going to be a part of the official Star Wars canon, there is a higher standard that fans and reviewers must hold these tales to. And Lords of the Sith, despite the misleading title and its primary focus being elsewhere, is a very well written story that adds to the mythos of the Star Wars universe in a number of ways. It is interesting to see the seeds of rebellion growing around the galaxy, in this tale that is set roughly five years after Revenge of the Sith, by which time the Empire is in power.
All of the characters in Lords of the Sith are compelling and interesting to read about, although I have no reservations in saying that the book has too many of them, and there were portions that were a bit drawn out and overlong. That said, when the heroes go to fight for the freedom of Ryloth and try to topple the Empire, we definitely sympathize with them, and when characters lose their lives in this conflict, perhaps most importantly, we give a damn. Even the Imperial characters in the story other than the Emperor and Vader get well fleshed out. The leader of the Rebel group that appears in this novel is Cham Syndulla, a character who previously appeared in The Clone Wars animated series. Further writing in the novel ties it in deeper to the events of previous films; this is especially evident with Darth Vader in scenes where he has visions of his past, depicted in the Prequel Trilogy.
If there is a weakness in this otherwise excellent story, it is what I had mentioned previously – despite the title, there is not enough emphasis on the Lords of the Sith! The group does not even crash on Ryloth until two thirds of the way through the novel, and by then too much of the story has already been spent focusing on the Rebels, rather than the eponymous duo. The relationship between the Emperor and Vader is one of the most interesting things in the Star Wars universe to explore, and when this novel does it, it does so better than nearly any other past Star Wars tale. It is just a shame that the Lords of the Sith are reduced to supporting players in their own novel.
Minor flaws and misleading title aside, Lords of the Sith is a fine Star Wars novel that makes a good addition to the new canon, and comes strongly recommended. You will find a number of things to enjoy about this story if you are a Star Wars fan, and it definitely ranks amongst the better full length novels to come out in recent years.