Final Score: 7.6

    ★★★☆☆ Plot

    ★★★★☆ Characterization

    ★★★★☆ Writing

    ★★★★★ Star-Wars-iness

    ★★★☆☆ Personal Enjoyment


This book review contains spoilers for those who have not yet read Darth Plagueis by James Luceno.

The plot is interesting enough, and woven very well by Plagueis and Sidious, but ultimately failed to capture my full attention, and suffered from jumping around in the timeline, and between characters. The first half of the book follows Plagueis’s intent, the second half follows Sidious.

Because so much attention is given to both, certain devices are introduced and then moved past quickly, or not wrapped up with enough justification (merely satisfactorily) later in the story. The characterization paints each in their own light very well, but fails to flesh out Plagueis in full, which I had expected based on the title of the novel.

Like I mentioned, the writing jumps around a bit too much and could have done less to fill in the gaps leading into the story of Episode I. I found myself going back to previous chapters to remind myself who recurring characters were, and began giving the overly-numerous alien characters only half of my attention in favor of getting to more substance quicker.

Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars! No need to explain – the fan service is heavy and it’s nice to get a few origin stories from this book!

Overall I can honestly say I’m glad I read it, but I expected more of it to be solely about Plagueis. With such a great setup for Plagueis to be performing Sith alchemy and essence transfer, this and many other devices are unfortunately delivered off-page. Hopefully some other books in the EU can fulfill my desire for deeper motivations and explanations of the rituals of the Sith.

Pros:

The book excels in the chapters where Plagueis is the main focus, or when he and Palpatine are exacting revenge on their opponents.

Plagueis’s breathing mask is cool foreshadowing to Vader.

The action and Sith rage scenes where Palpatine and Plagueis unleash are well done. More Maul training would have been nice. The story of Plagueis is interesting enough in itself that the book could have spent more time developing him and his struggles with figuring out the essence transfer.

Good commentary on the will of the force and it bringing balance to itself. The way Plagueis sees the counterbalance forces that present themselves as obstacles as being what substantiates their ambitions is excellent character representation of it.

It’s pretty awesome knowing the origins of the Scimitar, Darth Maul’s ship in Episode I.

Plagueis’s foresight of Vader and the fact that he thinks killing Qui-Gon is the key to winning Anakin over is a cool reminder that the will of the force can only be swayed so far.

I like that the book emphasizes how leading double lives is expected of the Sith at that time, and the toll it takes on Palpatine.

Cons:

We already know the tale of Darth Plagueis the Wise, and even though this book provides extended backstory it is not compelling throughout. Luceno lays out his goals very clearly in the opening third of the story, but fails to drive his obstacles and motivations through the story. We learn that he happened upon the answer along the way, in chapters more devoted to Palpatine.

Yes, it is well established that the essence transfer is Plagueis’s main goal, that Anakin was likely a result of his experiments and with test subjects, and that he was literally the bankroll for nearly everything in that era. But I would rather more time be spent on the Sith teachings and how Plagueis went about performing the alchemy and transfer… there’s a lot that gets skipped over in favor of watching Palpatine play politics.

Reading about Palpatine’s political web is not as fun because we already know what he becomes. We don’t, however, know Plagueis’s full backstory and that makes his story more intriguing. I wish Luceno had stuck with that. Yes, it was fun seeing Palpatine as a boy, and his actions when jumped and kidnapped at the end of part two. I found most of the political stuff to be fairly boring.

I like the fan service that including known characters from the movie brings, but it makes the story a bit busy. It’s already hard enough to keep up with all the various side characters. It seems like some of the random alien and side characters are in here because they were included in other expanded universe things like games and comic books at the time.

-Will Reinhardt