Top critical review
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on 26 September 2013
Over the last decade I have had a love/hate relationship with James Luceno's writing. At times I have found his work to be brilliant, and at other times I have found his writing to be uninspired and muddled. Upon reading the beginning of this book I was quite taken by just how well written an imaginative the story surrounding Plagueis was. I was surprised how well Luceno had laid out the character and how well the story had worked in a linear telling, something Luceno rarely does in his books. But as the story progressed, and after Palpatine was introduced, I was shocked on just how quickly the books solid story turned into sand and flowed through my fingers.
After Plagueis found Palpatine, a telling that was thin at best, Luceno parts from Plagueis's story to focus on the larger plan, a larger plan that centers around Palpatine. Little time is spent as to how Palpatine learns the Force from Plaqueis, and even less time is spent on grasping the connection the two men have to each other. In my opinion Luceno fails in bringing light to the wisdom and experience that Plagueis has to offer as both a Master and a teacher. Instead, we as readers, are exposed to a more simplistic telling of Palpatine's rise to political power.
The main bulk of this book focuses on the study of how Palpatine fits into the world around him. Every once and a great while we are exposed to scenes that ring familiar to what we know of other Sith stories but, for the most part neither Sidious nor Plagueis are great examples of the Sith we know and love. Darth Bane, and the teachings left by his reign, are spoken too often, however, neither of our Sith Lords completely fall into the Sith mold. As I read this book I often thought of both Lords as book smart but never street smart. Rarely are we exposed to either of them being mad or even taken by the power of the dark side. Rarely do either lash out when failure rises. Rarely do either bathe in the power of the dark side.
In the end the book's true purpose is to wrap up threads left from stories past. Scenes read like cliff notes as grand story arcs from other books and comics are horribly skipped over without either a brief description of events that happened, or the impact those stories had.
With all this considered the book reads as a long winded diatribe of internal analysis and shallow plotting. The characters, formed by experiences that are not addressed in this book, read like paper tigers as their power seems convenient and contrived. With scenes missing only Star Wars fans that have a vast understanding of the larger EU library will be able to follow the scenes skipped over. New fans, or those who haven't read that many books or comics, will be lost and confused. I, myself, have a good understanding of stories past and was able to process most of the plot points addressed, but even I still walked away from this book bitterly disappointed.
In conclusion, I feel that this book was overly hyped and under delivered. The classic feel gained by the Darth Bane chronicles was left void after the first fifteen percent of this book. Characters were left dangling in the wind blown by stories long since past. And after three-hundred pages the main characters of the book were left void of any real lasting impact.
Perhaps this book's only silver lining as that the audiobook's narrator has enough talent to deliver a better telling. But in the end the book lacks entertainment, enjoyment, and a competent ability to stand on its own.