Author(s): Drew Karpyshyn
Publisher: Del Rey
Release date: September 26, 2006
Era: Old Republic
Once the Sith order teemed with followers. But their rivalries divided them in endless battles for supremacy. Until one dark lord at last united the Sith in the quest to enslave the galaxy–and exterminate the Jedi. Yet it would fall to another, far more powerful than the entire Brotherhood of Darkness, to ultimately realize the full potential of the Sith, and wield the awesome power of the dark side as never before.
Since childhood, Dessel has known only the abuse of his hateful father and the dangerous, soul-crushing labor of a cortosis miner. Deep in the tunnels of the desolate planet Apatros, endlessly excavating the rare mineral valued throughout the galaxy, Dessel dreams of the day he can escape–a day he fears may never come. But when a high-stakes card game ends in deadly violence, Dessel suddenly finds himself a wanted man.
On the run from vengeful Republic forces, Dessel vanishes into the ranks of the Sith army, and ships out to join the bloody war against the Republic and its Jedi champions. There, Dessel’s brutality, cunning, and exceptional command of the Force swiftly win him renown as a warrior. But in the eyes of his watchful masters, he is destined for a far greater role in the ultimate Sith plan for the galaxy–if he can prove himself truly worthy.
As an acolyte in the Sith academy, studying the secrets and skills of the dark side at the feet of its greatest masters, Dessel embraces his new Sith identity: Bane. However the true test is yet to come. In order to gain acceptance into the Brotherhood of Darkness one must fully surrender to the dark side through a trial by fire that Bane, for all his unquenchable fury and lust for power, may not be strong enough to endure . . . especially since deception, treachery, and murder run rampant among the Sith disciples, and utter ruthlessness alone is the key to survival. Only by defying the most sacred traditions, rejecting all he has been taught, and drawing upon the long-forgotten wisdom of the very first Sith can Bane hope to triumph–and forge from the ashes of that which he must destroy a new era of absolute dark power.
The Star Wars Expanded Universe contains events dating back at least 25,000 years before the films, but until the publication of Drew Karpyshyn’s Darth Bane: Path of Destruction, these millennia were the domain of videogames and comics. The books kept a tighter focus, starting right before The Phantom Menace and moving out to forty-some years past Return of the Jedi. It was a delight to finally have fiction set in another time, and this era in particular (1,000 years before the Battle of Yavin) has not been well fleshed out. Prior to this novel, only one comic book series (Jedi vs. Sith) and a couple of short stories had been set during this time, as the Knights of the Old Republic games and comics take place several thousand years earlier.
Karpyshyn was the lead writer for the Knights of the Old Republic videogame, which had a plot I would rank comfortably beside the films themselves and the very best of the novels. By the midpoint of the game, the storyline was absolutely riveting as your character worked out his or her past and started to understand the underlying drift of the tale. With this game as a credential, I eagerly anticipated Karpyshyn’s first foray into Star Wars novels.
I wasn’t disappointed. Darth Bane’s origin tale is well thought-out and deftly written. Many elements of this story were clearly inspired by Revenge of the Sith. In some places, this story mirrors that film, as we see some similar events in Bane’s path as we experienced in Anakin’s, including a vaguely-defined notion of a Chosen One, an exploration of passion as strength, a need to wipe out other Force users (Light or Dark in this case), and some serious peril for children who get in his way.
However, the storyline differs sharply in many ways. Bane had a horrible childhood, abused by an alcoholic father and condemned to work in cortosis mines on the barren planet Apatros to pay off his father’s accumulated debts. Despite being a slave, Anakin’s childhood doesn’t look that bad in the movies; his mother clearly loves him and Watto doesn’t come off as a very harsh taskmaster. Bane forges his path to the Sith through hatred and anger; Anakin finds his through attachment and love.
I enjoyed the time spent on Korriban at the training facility for the Brotherhood of Darkness. Karpyshyn gives a strong sense of how the Sith have lost their way, and indeed, they come across as somewhat bad but not truly evil. There’s too much pretense of honor and equality in the Brotherhood to jive with the Sith we know such as Palpatine or Anakin. This segment of the story is a superb set-up to Bane’s determination to enforce his newly-conceived doctrine of the Rule of Two (no more, no less).
One aspect that sometimes holds the book back from being completely engaging is the sense of inevitability in the story. Anyone who has seen the films has an excellent idea of who will prevail in the Bane vs. the Brotherhood of Darkness with its hundreds of Dark Side users. Bane’s path to power and embrace of the Dark Side are also very carefully mapped out with no real surprises along the way. At points, the story reads more like a history than a ripping adventure yarn.
I’m thrilled to see Del Rey take the chance of publishing a book set in an entirely different era from usual. I hope it will pay off and more stories set further out (in both past and future) from the movies will follow. There is plenty of room at the end of Darth Bane: Path of Destruction for sequels, and to date we’ve gotten one with Darth Bane: Rule of Two and a third novel, Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil, confirmed for late 2010.
4.0/5.0 Kath Hounds
Review by Andrew P.
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