Lords of the Sith: Star Wars
by Paul S. Kemp
Cover Artist: Aaron McBride
Review by Jon Guenther
LucasBooks Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345511447
Date: 28 April 2015 List Price $28.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Lords of the Sith is the first of the books in the "official canon" of Star Wars fiction to rise above its predecessors. Not only is it well written, it's much closer to the films and basic concepts than the previous books. It's odd to think of this when one considers the subject matter. In some ways, it's almost as if the Emperor and Vader take on the roles of anti-heroes. I even recall a moment or two where I empathized with Vader.
The basic story is of a rising rebellion among the Twi'leks on their home planet of Ryloth. The Emperor is displeased with rising political and business concerns, coupled with the under-productive Imperial staff and ineffectual, slothful Senator from the planet. Determined to put things right, he decides to go to Ryloth and handle things personally with Vader and a handful of royal guards in tow. Meanwhile, Twi'lek native Cham Syndulla, father of Hera (from the TV-series Star Wars: Rebels) has put together a strike force, and is determined to eject the Imperial presence once and for all. When he hears of the Emperor's imminent arrival, he sees a chance to deliver a crippling blow to the Imperial war machine.
A very noteworthy point about this novel was the action. It was practically non-stop. There weren't pages of needless dialog and setup. The author takes us straight into the middle of the conflict and builds the tension from the start. We don't lose the sense of urgency.
The violence is another thing that sets this one apart. A lot of the novels I read in this series tend to not really show the high cost of war, but there's death and carnage aplenty in this one. Rebels and stormtroopers shoot each other at point-blank range; Vader decapitates enemies with his lightsaber; the Emperor fries Ryloth creatures with Force lightning until they implode. It's gory and bloody sometimes, and it makes no apologies for it. This also makes it much more like the prequel films (spanning the Clone Wars) in that the action is harsher, the brutality unchecked.
One con I found was some wasted time with Vader and the Emperor slaughtering a hoard of Ryloth fauna that felt somewhat derivative of Starship Troopers. I really think this narrative could have been better spent on the deeper issues, such as how the events on Ryloth would have an impact on the future creation of the Rebel Alliance, or even delve more into the reasons behind the Emperor's attentions on this seemingly insignificant planet. It just seemed like there were moments the book spent too much time focused on mundane matters. There were better story opportunities Mr. Kemp never explored. Unfortunately, with a story group at the helm, one can never really say the author is at fault.
What I can say is of all the Star Wars novels, I enjoyed this one the best. It just had more of the elements and mythical archetypes at its foundation than previous volumes. It certainly had much more action, and I was often reminded of Return of the Jedi as I read. I would definitely recommend Lords of the Sith as the one to pick up if you enjoy reading the Star Wars line of fiction.