The Dark Side is strong with this novel. Lords of the Sith is one of the many Star Wars books where the plot is not overly important. The synopsis convenes a story of Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine being stranded on a planet and hunted by members of the local resistance movement. Every reader knows that the rebels will fail and that Vader and Palpatine will escape due to the events of the original film trilogy. With the plot being more or less predictable, our focus as readers turns to the characters. Individuals familiar with the old Expanded Universe (EU) are likely very familiar with Darth Vader’s character, as well as the Emperor’s. However, Lords of the Sith, as well as future Disney-era EU stories, could be used to reshape their personalities a little. Nothing drastic, since both characters are well established in the still-canon films, but the events that mold them into who they can now be revised and retold.
Paul S. Kemp does a fantastic job at characterizing Vader. This book takes place only a few short years after Episode III, so Vader still struggles with his past even as he carries out his role as right-hand and iron-fist of the Emperor. Vader has been completely lured to the Dark Side; he believes that anger is the true source of drawing power from the Force and uses his frustration and rage over his past to fuel his powers. His opinions of himself may make Vader seem a little egocentric, but the rebels describe Vader as “superhuman” and they are not wrong. Darth Vader’s displays of power may not be too over the top in this book, but the various Disney EU comics and other materials have shown us that the Sith Lord’s abilities have not diminished compared to his overwhelming feats within the old EU.
Our other main character is Emperor Palpatine, the true Lord of the Sith. The way Kemp portrays Palpatine is both clever and realistic when taking the Sith Master-Apprentice relationship into account, as well as Palpatine’s public role as Emperor. If he wanted to, Palpatine could have easily done everything he made Vader do but, for the most part, he does not because he cannot openly reveal his Dark Side abilities. Furthermore, Palpatine is not in the slightest worried about their situation. He uses it in order to test Vader’s loyalty. You would think that after having Vader march into the Jedi Temple and carve up Jedi Daycare with a lightsaber that he would trust Vader, but evidently there is no real trust among the Sith.
The other characters in the book are also very enjoyable. While Vader and Palpatine are the protagonists, we also see things from the viewpoints of the rebels hunting them and local Imperial forces that are attempting to come to the Emperor’s rescue. These characters, thankfully, are interesting. While not as interesting as Vader or the Emperor, they are by no means have flat, 2D personalities like many other single-appearance Star Wars characters do.
There was a point in this book where Vader reminisces about the Clone Wars and thinks of his former Padawan, Ahsoka Tano. While dwelling in his thoughts, Vader refers to her by his old nickname for her, “Snips”. Imagining Darth Vader with James Earl Jones’ voice uttering the word “Snips” is just a treat.
Next week our look at the villains of Star Wars will continue with the book “Tarkin”.