I’m slowly working my way through the canon Star Wars novels, and Lords of the Sith is my most recent read. I just finished it today, so here are some thoughts.
I’ll do my best to keep this review spoiler-free, though I may mention a few minor plot points or details as examples. Any major spoiler sections will be preceded by a warning.
Lords of the Sith was, in my opinion, a polarized book. There were aspects I really liked and aspects I really disliked. Generally speaking, I’d say it’s action-packed and simple (in a good way), but it also has some stand-out problems, which I’ll discuss in a bit.
What I liked
The simplicity: I don’t tend to enjoy reading books that get too wrapped up in complicated politics and subplots, and though Star Wars novels can easily lean that way, Lords of the Sith doesn’t. The plot is very simple: try to kill Darth Vader and Palpatine. There aren’t a whole lot of subplots, and those that do exist are more for character development than anything else.
Isval: without a doubt, Isval was my favorite character. She has, in my opinion, the strongest characteristics, and towards the end of the book, she’s the one I cared about most.
Vader’s scenes: one of my qualms about the SW films is that we rarely get to see Darth Vader perform at his full capability. For the most part, he just walks around and looks intimidating. Lords of the Sith, however, shows us just how much absolute demolition he’s capable of singlehandedly.
Twi’leks in the limelight: finally! Twi’lek oppression and enslavement during Imperial times has always been a factor in the SW universe, but this is the most up-close and personal representation of that civilization we’ve gotten to date. I’ve always thought Twi’leks as a people group deserved more recognition, and now they have it.
What I disliked
The pacing: okay, the book IS action packed, especially in the second half. But the pacing is…wonky. Despite all the hack-and-slash action, the plot takes a long time to get going, and every now and then the author throws in some random scenes that feel out of place. For example, in the third act, I had to trudge through three or four chapters (chapters!) of Vader and Palpatine fighting giant bugs. Entertaining for a few paragraphs, but dreadfully dull for twenty pages. It wasn’t even that relevant to the plot.
The predictable outcome: [MAJOR SPOILER ALERT IN THIS SECTION] Okay, one big problem shared by all Star Wars books is that we already know, generally speaking, what the outcome is going to be because of what we know from the films and t.v. shows. In Lords of the Sith, that’s a glaring flaw.
Here’s what I mean: the premise of the book is that Cham Syndulla and his friend/partner Isval want to assassinate Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine. The whole plot builds up towards a big showdown between those four major characters. Anyone in tune with the Star Wars universe can VERY easily guess how that ends. Vader and Palpatine survive, obviously, as does Cham, because we see him in Rebels. But it’s safe to assume at least one major character will die, so that leaves poor Isval. Before I’d made it 1/3 into the book, I’d predicted that Cham’s plan would go horribly wrong and that Isval would sacrifice herself to ensure his (and others’) escape. That’s exactly what happened. It stinks when your favorite character in the book is all but guaranteed to die by the end. R.I.P. Isval.
If you know much about Star Wars and you pay attention to patterns, Lords of the Sith is 100% predictable, which is too bad, because it nullifies a lot of the potential tension (which was definitely there).
- The character names felt a bit lazy (Pok? Goll? Eshgo? Crost? Really? I know these are Twi’leks and secondary characters, but even Aayla Secura had a cool name, for crying out loud!)
- Palpatine’s dialog got on my nerves. Everything was ‘it seems’, ‘it would appear’, or ‘my old friend’. Seriously…everything. I know it’s consistent with his film character, but still. Annoying.
- The back-cover blurb is misleading. Based on the summary, I expected Vader and Palpatine to crash-land on Ryloth in the first act, but then I discovered that the space-battle that causes the crash-landing fills about half the book. (Refer back to the wonky pacing). I also thought there would be a lot more conflict between the two Sith Lords, but on that front, I was a bit disappointed.
- The author had a handful of phrases that he used over and over. Moving with preternatural speed, for instance. He used that exact wording at least five or six times, and those small things stand out as distractions.
My final rating: 3 out of 5 stars. I wanted to give it 3.5 (maybe even 4) for Isval’s sake, but I just couldn’t rate it that high with much honesty. I still enjoyed it and would recommend it to Star Wars fans, as long as you’re not too overhyped for it.