Remember the Star Wars movie prequels? Yes, the ones most people try to forget. In Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine – aka Darth Sidious – tells Anakin Skywalker a little backstory about a previous Sith Lord named, Darth Plagueis.
That Plagueis story-tease has always intrigued me. I wanted Palpatine to tell the whole thing! As it turns out, in the expanded universe of Star Wars, the backstory of Darth Plagueis was told! The story-teller is author James Luceno.
You’ll never guess the name of the book: Darth Plagueis. It’s actually a subtle title because you might expect a boring biography of some fake Force wielding dude. But no. There’s much more to the story than just big bad-guy Plagueis.
The Force is with this book!
If you like Star Wars, then you’d like the story of Darth Plagueis, especially because it ties directly into the first three movies! It has characters you’re familiar with: Palpatine, Count Dooku, Darth Maul, Queen Amidala, and more. And it has new characters you might have heard of: Darth Bane, Darth Tenebrous, Darth Plagueis, and a lot more.
The story is steeped in the Dark Side of the Force. That’s the good part. The story is also steeped in politics; the bad part. But it’s not too bad.
Darth Plagueis has lots of action: spying, espionage, light sabers, force lightning, force chokes, running, hiding, sneaking, scheming, attacks, manipulation, scientific experiments, droid activity, cloning, midi-chlorians, life and death, etc. It’s all good stuff. It is the Star Wars universe you’ve come to know yet includes parts of the galaxy you don’t know.
What’s most fascinating about Darth Plagueis the book is how much the Force itself is a character, which is described in detail and nuance. You learn a lot about the subtle ways of the Force and its so-called dark side. Even better, you learn about it through the eyes of Darth Plagueis and Palpatine who are also learning as the story progresses. Plagueis delves deep, seeking the limits and true nature of the Force. I loved it!
This book is half about Plagueis. The other half is about Palpatine who becomes Darth Sidious. It’s basically the origin story of both Plagueis and his apprentice, Palpatine. The former focuses on the science and brute strength of the Force, the latter on the politics and people influenced by the Force. They are quite the dark side duo.
As you may know from the prequel movies, everything around Palpatine involves politics. There is a lot of political scheming and maneuvering in this story. That means following many names of people and places and the myriad connections between them all.
On some of those politi-parts, I admit I read faster to get through it because it was necessary political stuff. But some of it was extremely gripping! To watch Plagueis and Sidious masterfully manipulate important people around them was delectable.
Many characters involved were strong, high-ranking officials and magistrates with great power in the upper echelons of society. So there was often a feeling of high-stakes. Everything Plagueis and Palpatine did was delicate with great consequences, risky business.
Author James Luceno’s 3rd-person novel was written with cunning scenes and just-right tension building. His expanse of vocabulary was vast and varied throughout the book. Descriptions were precise, drawing me into settings on other worlds with alien beings. And the dialogue was tight. The overall tone was like sinister solemnity: Sithy.
Most importantly, as Palpatine mentioned in the movie Revenge of the Sith, you do read about how he was involved with the demise of Darth Plagueis. You’ll learn details of the greater context, the surrounding events, all leading up to the final moment. You feel the tension, the emotions, and the thinking behind it.
And rather than the story leading up to and ending right before the prequel movies, it actually overlaps quite a bit.
I really enjoyed my first Star Wars novel, Darth Plagueis. As I read, it was clear to me from the start that I’d found a new author I like. So I searched for other Star Wars books by James Luceno, trusting I’d find more good reads. And I did! Catalyst, a precursor to the Rogue One movie!
Luceno’s writing style is rich, and the story of Darth Plagueis is engaging Star Wars lore. If you’re a fan of a galaxy far, far away, then I recommend this book to you.
Goodreads rating: 4 stars.