The fourth novel in Star Wars’ new canon timeline, as approved by the Lucasfilm Story Group, Lords of the Sith takes us to the planet Ryloth, home of the Twi’lek race. Taking place several years after the events of Revenge of the Sith, the Free Ryloth movement sees a group of freedom fighters take on the Galactic Empire. Led by Twi’lek Cham Syndulla, will this movement be enough to destroy Vader and the Emperor? Of course not, as we know from the films. It’s a hard thing to tell a story that takes place before an event that we’ve already seen and familiarized ourselves with. You know as a reader that the Empire will continue for some time still, as they must in order for the original trilogy of Star Wars films to make any sense, but Paul S. Kemp does an excellent job of keeping you on the edge of your seat regardless.
The story bridges one of the most crucial elements of the Star Wars saga. When we think of the years between Episode III and IV, we tend to assume this must have been a very quiet time for the Galaxy. Not so. Lords of the Sith introduces the very first roots of a resistance that will eventually become the much greater Rebel Alliance we know and love from the films. The Free Ryloth movement seems a perfect staging area for such an event, and we get to see the first domino fall towards the crippling of the Galactic Empire.
But another thing this book excels at is its ability to sympathize with the Dark Side of the Force. We know it as a negative energy, but it’s an energy nonetheless, and Kemp introduces it as merely another way of channelling the Force. This works especially well seeing that Vader is one of the primary POV characters. We get to see the anger and the hatred fuel him. We learn more about the almost symbiotic relationship of the Sith ‘rule of two,’ and how that’s a constant struggle of testing, prodding, and empowering each other further into the Dark Side. It’s sad to see how much of a lapdog Vader is in the Emperor’s grasp. The book soon quenches all sympathy you may have for the two.
But we also got to see Anakin shine through at the best of moments. Cue the sad Star Wars music, as he thinks of past friends, allies, and so on. The deeper he meditates into this well of sadness, the more profound his memories are. Of Obi-Wan. Of Padmé. The humanizing elements here were so beautiful.
We get to see a lot of action from both Vader and the Emperor, something quite rare; particularly from the latter. Where Palpatine is usually never seen using the Force, he openly embraces it when faced with a dangerous, treacherous planet. The two accomplish the impossible, and I hate to say it but I was totally rooting for them the entire time.
Another brilliant plot thread was the constant inner struggle with Cham Syndulla. How far was too far, in regards the Free Ryloth movement. At what point does a freedom fighter become an outright terrorist. The novel really makes you think, especially after the atrocities he sees accomplished by the end of the story. Well done.
But alas, not all the POV characters worked. Belkor Dray’s entire arc was avoidable and just plain painful to experience. Isval, the frighteningly violent Twi’lek woman, was a bit better, but it was hard finding any common ground with her train of thought. Between the two, the story goes on a bit too long in some respects.
Lords of the Sith is still an excellent book, full of great new ideas, and the fact that we can finally say with surety that this is a canon story makes it feel all the more tangible, believable, and important. Although the only books in the Star Wars canon are one-off adventures, it’s safe to say we can expect greater things from the universe after the arrival of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
For more books in the Star Wars canon, visit my handy dandy timeline.