Author(s): Drew Karpyshyn
Publisher: Del Rey
Release date: December 26, 2007
Era: Old Republic
In the New York Times bestseller Darth Bane: Path of Destruction, Drew Karpyshyn painted a gripping portrait of a young man’s journey from innocence to evil. That man was Darth Bane, a twisted genius whose iron will, fierce ambition, and strength in the dark side of the Force made him a natural leader among the Sith–until his radical embrace of an all-but-forgotten wisdom drove him to destroy his own order . . . and create it anew from the ashes. As the last surviving Sith, Darth Bane promulgated a harsh new directive: the Rule of Two.
Two there should be; no more, no less.
One to embody the power, the other to crave it.
Now Darth Bane is ready to put his policy into action, and he thinks he has found the key element that will make his triumph complete: a student to train in the ways of the dark side. Though she is young, Zannah possesses an instinctive link to the dark side that rivals his own. With his guidance, she will become essential in his quest to destroy the Jedi and dominate the galaxy.
But there is one who is determined to stop Darth Bane: Johun Othone, Padawan to Jedi Master Lord Hoth, who died at Bane’s hands in the last great Sith War. Though the rest of the Jedi scoff at him, Joshua’s belief that there are surviving Sith on the loose is unshakable.
As Johun continues his dogged pursuit of the man who killed his master, Zannah, faced unexpectedly with a figure from her past, begins to question her embrace of the dark side. And Darth Bane is led by Force-induced visions to a moon where he will acquire astonishing new knowledge and power–power that will alter him in ways he could never have imagined. . . .
The second Star Wars novel by Drew Karpyshyn set in the Old Republic, Darth Bane: Rule of Two, picks up immediately after the climactic events of the first book Darth Bane: Path of Destruction. The detonation of former Sith leader Lord Kaan’s thought bomb has devastated the Jedi and Sith remaining on the planet of Ruusan. Darth Bane has survived and has just chosen a new apprentice, a girl named Rain who has recently killed two Jedi in a fit of rage. Her cousin Tomcat, who was brought to Ruusan with her originally to help the Jedi war effort, is also still around; turns out his Force powers were too weak for him to be greatly affected by the thought bomb.
These events were originally told in the Dark Horse comic series Jedi vs. Sith. In the first book, Karpyshyn retold part of that comic series, giving it a more realistic and grittier feeling (i.e., unlike the comics, Lord Valenthyne Farfalla wasn’t literally a satyr in the novel and his ship, while described as like an ancient sailing vessel, still didn’t sound as ridiculous as the actual imagery of it in Jedi vs. Sith was.) Apart from altering the feel of the comic series, though, Karpyshyn stayed largely faithful to its events. He completes the re-telling of the comics in Rule of Two, quickly sweeps in his own version of the older short story Bane of the Sith, and around one-third of the way into this novel finally has the opportunity to cleanly tell a brand new story of his own.
After some setup, the story takes a ten-year leap forward, so that Rain, now known as Darth Zannah, can become the young adult apprentice of Darth Bane and we can see how his plans for the new Sith Order of two individuals are progressing. Karpyshyn does not linger over Zannah’s training; some is told in flashbacks but from those short sections I believe he made a wise decision to jump forward. The few flashbacks he does include are powerful and give a potent sense of what Zannah’s training has encompassed.
I find it interesting with Bane’s character that as power-hungry as he clearly is, he is willing to sublimate his immediate desires for a longer-term view of building a Sith legacy. Instead of scheming to rule the galaxy, a la Darth Sidious, Bane focuses on building holocrons, acquiring forgotten Sith lore, and training Zannah in the ways of the Sith. I’m unsure as to whether Palpatine represents the culmination of the order Bane was trying to build or not; he certainly metes out revenge to the Jedi Order, but Palpatine was consumed by his own power and ambition, showing little concern for empowering the Sith that should come after him.
Another factor that differentiates this novel from others is the fact that Rule of Two may be the goriest and most violent Star Wars novel published to date. Telling a tale focused on a Sith Lord and his apprentice will naturally require a certain amount of this, but there are some scenes that may surprise readers who are used to the heroic tales of Luke Skywalker and his friends. The orbalisks covering Bane, taken from the Bane of the Sith short story, are a grotesque but fascinating concept, and Zannah’s scheming to convince her master to remove them and the protection they grant is quite interesting.
The Jedi characters in this novel are a bit enigmatic. There is an uneasy balance in trying to make Johun Othone into a fully-realized character while focusing on the story of Bane and Zannah. He and his allies acquire some distinguishing characteristics as the story progresses, but in the end Bane and Zannah are the memorable characters here.
The worlds featured in this novel are largely unused in other Expanded Universe stories and make a welcome change from the norm. The devastation on Ruusan underscores the impact of the Jedi and Sith battles waged there; we briefly visit Dxun and Onderon, introduced in the comic series Tales of the Jedi, a stop at Serenno, future home of Count Dooku, and there’s a fascinating and intense sequence on Tython, a Deep Core world legendary for being the supposed birthplace of the Jedi Order.
My concern with Rule of Two is it feels too much like the middle novel in a trilogy (which it has recently turned out it is). There is less resolution than I had hoped for, and while the characters evolve some, there’s not nearly the progression that we saw with Bane in Path of Destruction. When Karpyshyn completes the third Darth Bane novel, it may make me view this one a little more favorably as a transition.
3.0/5.0 Kath Hounds
Review by Andrew P.
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