Review: Lords of the Sith

LOTS Reviews Author: Paul S. Kemp Publisher: Del Rey Release date: April 28, 2015 Pages: 320 (285 of content) Era: Rise of the Empire This review contains minor spoilers. The fourth novel in the new canon, Paul S. Kemp’s Lords of the Sith has an exciting premise: the Twi’leks, tired of being oppressed, have started to resist the Empire’s control. When these “terrorist attacks” begin to impact the production of a local narcotic known as spice, the Emperor and Darth Vader decide to personally travel to Ryloth to investigate the matter and set things straight. The Emperor rarely leaves Coruscant, so an entire novel about two of the most iconic villains in history going on a journey is filled to the brim with potential.
Lords of the Sith

Star Wars: Lords of the Sith

Unfortunately, while Lords of the Sith is an enjoyable story, it doesn’t quite deliver on this premise. Instead, the majority of the book is focused on Cham Syndulla and the Free Ryloth movement. Cham, of course, first appeared in the penultimate episode of The Clone Wars season one, “Liberty on Ryloth.” When Cham—now the leader of the Free Ryloth movement—learns that Vader and the Emperor are personally traveling to Ryloth, he decides to commit everything he has to taking out the Lords of the Sith once and for all. Most of the story is told from the perspective of the Free Ryloth movement—Cham, along with his right-hand and potential love interest Isval—and Imperial officers Belkor Dray and Moff Mors. Vader and the Emperor get a decent amount of time in the spotlight, but not nearly as much as one might expect given the novel’s title. It’s a bit disappointing, but the rest of the main cast are interesting enough that it doesn’t detract from the book too much. The way in which Cham manages to manipulate Belkor is fun to read, and Isval is a great character in her own right. Isval’s relationship with Cham is particularly interesting given that Cham’s daughter Hera will eventually grow up to lead the crew of the Ghost in the TV show Star Wars Rebels. Sadly, Hera is all but absent from the book. Her name is only referenced a scant three times, and early on Cham makes a comment about how he hasn’t seen her in a long time. We never learn who her mother is, and while Kemp never says so explicitly, it seems unlikely that it’s Isval. Hera, of course, isn’t the only connection to the films and TV shows. While the Empire is in full force now, old Clone Wars hardware like V-wings, vulture droids, buzz droids, and tri-fighters are still floating around. As one would expect, Kemp throws in a number of references to the Ryloth arc in The Clone Wars, and Vader’s thoughts sometimes turn to Padme and Ashoka, the latter foreshadowing the inevitable confrontation in Rebels season two. The biggest connection, however, is more thematic. Kemp makes numerous references to starting fires of rebellion and fanning the flames, a common theme in recent Star Wars works like Rebels (“Spark of Rebellion” and “Fire Across the Galaxy”). Of course, with the new Lucasfilm Story Group, it’s not surprising to see common themes emerge across storytelling mediums. The only reference that felt out of place was one moment when Vader’s line of thinking skirts awfully close to events that will eventually occur in Return of the Jedi. It felt a bit out of place given how specific it was. Of course, the big draw of Lords of the Sith is seeing the Emperor and Darth Vader in action. The two are as ruthless as ever, eliminating entire groups and villages without batting an eye. Emperor Palpatine is his usual all-knowing self, and he spends most of the story calmly watching events unfold as the situation deteriorates around him. He doesn’t miss a beat, and as usual everything proceeds as he has foreseen. The Emperor has to keep up appearances, so when he pulls out his lightsaber he means business—no survivors. Unfortunately, this means he’s typically left standing around and making the usual Sith Lord comments while Vader does most of the fighting. He’s only given one opportunity to show his true power, and it’s against a bunch of creatures native to the planet. This “big battle” leaves something to be desired, but Kemp is understandably constrained by the need to keep Palpatine’s true power a secret. Darth Vader, on the other hand, is under no such limitations. He’s at the height of his power, Force choking through space while behind the controls of a fighter, tearing ships out of the sky Force Unleashed-style, and decimating foes with “preternatural speed,” a phrase that begins to wear thin by the end of the book. It’s also fun to see how the pair are received when they arrive at a remote village with no knowledge of who they are. In the end, the biggest problem with Lords of the Sith is actually its marketing. The cover prominently features the Emperor and Vader shooting Force lightning and wielding lightsabers, backed by AT-ATs and Stormtroopers with the tagline “witness the power of the dark side.” The two, however, are never in open combat like this, and with most of the story centered on other characters it almost sets an unfair expectation. It isn’t the end of the world, but some fans might be surprised. That being said, the story is still quite enjoyable. The only other minor complaint is with the Emperor’s dialog, which sometimes felt a bit off. Not bad, but it was difficult to imagine Ian McDiarmid saying some of the lines. Lords of the Sith isn’t a game changer by any stretch of the imagination—spoiler alert: Vader and the Emperor make it out alive—but it’s a fun read that helps flesh out the various resistance movements cropping up across the galaxy and gives a little glimpse into the Emperor and Darth Vader’s unique relationship.

4.0/5 Kath Hounds

Advanced Review Copy (ARC) courtesy of Del Rey. All staff members can be contacted at contact@eucantina.net.

About the Author

William Devereux (@MasterDevwi) is EUCantina's administrator, as well as the host of the Ion Cannon podcast. When he's not talking about Star Wars, he works at Microsoft as a Program Manager.