About the Author:
Drew Karpyshyn has worked as a writer/designer on numerous award-winning videogames including 'Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic' and the 'Mass Effect' series. He spent most of his life in Canada but now lives in Texas with his wife, Jennifer.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
4 out of 5
Star Wars: Darth Bane - Dynasty Of Evil
The conclusion to the Darth Bane trilogy, set 980 BBY. Ten years after the events of 'Rule of Two', both Darth Bane and Darth Zannah have begun to consider the future of the Sith Order. Bane, unhappy with Zannah's progress, decides to attempt to seek out a route to immortality. Meanwhile, Zannah begins to plot her master's downfall, but how does one kill the Dark Lord of the Sith?
Karpyshyn writes an excellent conclusion to his trilogy tying up the loose ends of the series as well as tying the story of the Sith into the larger Star Wars mythos. I particularly enjoyed seeing Darth Cognus, a creation of my Star Wars hero Abel G Pena, getting some page space. Perhaps my favourite element, however, was the inclusion of the Dark Jedi Set Harth. He was a minor character from several roleplaying sourcebooks but here we get to see how this vain and irreverent dark sider interacts with the serious and focused Sith Lords.
If there's a downside to this book it's that Bane's character seems surprisingly changed from the last two. Here he tries to subvert his own sacred Rule of Two with two separate plots, which simply didn't seem in keeping with the long-game he's been planning for the Sith through the previous two novels.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: Darth Bane - Path Of Destruction
Set 1,000 years before 'A New Hope' this book tells the story of a time when the Republic and the Jedi were engaged in a devastating war with the Sith Brotherhood of Darkness. More specifically it is the story of a miner named Dessel who goes on to rebuild the Sith Order according to his own design, as Darth Bane.
I will say first how pleased I was that Lucasfilm have finally decided to take the gamble of releasing a novel not directly tied to characters from the movies or from computer games. It means Karpyshyn gets to explore almost entirely new territory for much of the book and what better setting than a huge war between the Jedi and the Sith.
I really enjoyed Dessel/Bane's story itself too. He begins as a disillusioned and desperate miner with no love for the Republic which sanctions what is effectively slavery on his homeworld. Then he becomes a soldier, before finally beginning his training as a Sith. A Sith Academy was featured in 'KotOR' the game, but this is the first time we can read about the dark and deadly nature of the training of the Sith. Ultimately, Bane breaks from the Academy and begins a quest on his own which will eventually lead him to the creation of the Rule of Two.
The author has also included the cataclysmic Battle of Ruusan, previously told (rather poorly) in the 'Jedi vs Sith' comics. Arching across Bane's journey from uncertain apprentice to Dark Lord of the Sith is his relationship with the seductive and ruthless Githany. I really enjoyed the fact that at times, despite themselves, they seem to be truly in love.
Another great element of this book is Karpyshyn's efforts to link his work on 'Knights of the Old Republic' into the larger Star Wars universe, returning us to the Unknown World and having Bane learn the teachings of Darth Revan. I did find it odd (and perhaps a little petty) that the author studiously avoids any mention of 'KotOR II', which he and BioWare had no part in. Perhaps I'm reading too much into it. Basically this book is a tale of darkness and war that features all the essentials of a good Star Wars story (not least plenty of lightsaber action!).
Followed by 'Darth Bane: Rule of Two'.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: Darth Bane - Rule Of Two
The sequel to 'Path Of Destruction' begins amid the ashes of the Battle of Ruusan in 1,000 BBY. It's there that we meet the four main protagonists of the story. The first is Darovit, a young man whose failure as both a Jedi and a Sith have left him devastated. Then there is Zannah, an angry young girl who is spellbound by the possibility of wielding the dark side to it's full potential. Next we have Johun Othone, a headstrong Jedi Padawan obsessed with the destruction of the Sith. Finally there is the implacable Darth Bane himself. This mix of characters means that there's a variety of different perspectives and experiences to sink your teeth into here, which is a very good element.
A better element still is the fact that this book breaks into unexplored Star Wars territory, unlike the previous one whose ending was already established. Here even Bane himself is a potential casualty, meaning that there is a real element of threat to story.
The best element of this book is Darth Zannah. She starts off as simply an angry and confused child, struggling with the guilt of using the dark side. However, when the book skips forwards ten years, we are introduced to a Sith Lord every bit as good as Bane, albeit very different. Karpyshyn keeps us guessing as to which way Zannah will turn at various decision points and the fact that redemption is not outside the realms of possibility makes her easy to empathise with.
A final nod of the head should go to Johun Othone, who is a very different type of Jedi to those we're used to. He's not exceptionally powerful, he isn't deeply wise or serene, he's not a master of lightsaber combat. He's merely an average Jedi trying to live up to being a guardian of peace and justice.
The author also brushes on other elements of the Star Wars universe which will keep fans happy, be it the tomb of Freedon Nadd, the holocron of Belia Darzu or the Ruusan Reformations. Why didn't I give the book full marks? Simply because we know the Sith aren't exposed until 'The Phantom Menace', robbing the story of some of it's punch.
Followed by 'Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil'.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: The Old Republic - Annihilation
3,641 BBY. Set after the core story of 'The Old Republic' computer game and following on from Alexander Freed's 'Lost Suns' graphic novel, this book reveals a galaxy where the Sith Empire is finally on the verge of defeat. In a last attempt at supremacy, the Sith unleash a near-invincible warship causing the Republic to task spy Theron Shan and Jedi Master Gnost-Dural with destroying it.
I was a little bit worried about Theron being the protagonist of this novel but was pleasantly surprised by the way Karpyshyn writes this non-Jedi who was raised learning Jedi techniques. The character's curious mix of morality and ruthlessness reads a little like James Bond, something which I'm sure is intentional. Master Gnost-Dural complements this well by being a true battle Jed, rather than the sort to endless hand-wring over the lives he takes.
What I enjoyed most about this book was seeing events behind the scenes of the war, be it Darth Marr's attempts to hold the fragmenting Empire together, or the secret history of Jace Malcolm and Grand Master Satele Shan. Unfortunately these scenes are too few and far between, leaving the overall plot of the book feeling a bit shallow.
I also felt, since this is the last of the TOR novels, that an opportunity was missed to tie together the others. I know each was intended as a stand-alone, but would it really have hurt to have a cameo from Lord Scourge, to find out what became of Sith Apprentice Eldon Ax or to see how Zeerid Korr's life is going?
Followed by John Jackson Miller's 'Lost Tribe of the Sith: Spiral'.
3 out of 5
Star Wars: The Old Republic - Revan
3,956 to 3,951 BBY. Although part of the TOR merchandising, this book is actually set centuries earlier and is more of a follow up to the two KOTOR computer games. After defeating Darth Malak, the Jedi Revan (from 'Knights Of The Old Republic') is troubled by dreams of a new danger lurking out in deep space. Setting off to investigate, he discovers the long-hidden Sith Empire. Meanwhile, within that Empire, the Sith Lord Scourge enters the murky world of Dark Council politics and discovers a plot to unseat the Emperor himself. These characters are later joined by Meetra Surik (the Jedi Exile from 'KOTOR II: The Sith Lords') and they must unite to confront an unfathomable evil.
This book's strongest section is its middle section, where each of the three main characters embark upon their individual quests to unravel the mystery of the Sith. Here we're also treated to the return of Mandalorian badass Canderous Ordo and we get to see how his character goes from the renegade to the first KOTOR game to his somewhat different role in the second.
Curiously, considering this is a marketing tool to lead fans of KOTOR into buying TOR, it is this book's links to those two game franchises where it falls down. What I wanted from its KOTOR connection was to understand how the galaxy is coping with the events of those games (like the erradication of the Jedi Order) and what is going on with the companion characters in their aftermath. Karpyshyn shys away from this and Revan's companions (with the exception of T3) are quickly brushed over, whilst the Exile's are given no mention at all. At the other end of the story, I don't feel like I really learned anything new about the background to 'The Old Republic' either. I'd hoped for some grand revelation about the origins of the Sith Emperor, but it more or less just turns out that he's evil and he's powerful. Shocking.
The book's biggest letdown, however, is its rushed and anticlimactic ending. The author could have just written 'BUY THE OLD REPUBLIC' repeatedly across the last four or five pages and it would've given the book more or less the same level or resolution to what we do get.
Followed by Paul S. Kemp's 'The Old Republic: Deceived'.
3 out of 5