– Spoiler Review –
The final throwdown is here: Darth Zannah takes on Darth Bane for the future of the Sith!
Twenty years after the fall of the Sith on Ruusan and Darth Bane’s revival through the Rule of Two, the survival of the Sith is threatened yet again. Darth Bane’s body is growing old, suffering under the strain of decades of dark side usage. But Bane is stuck: Zannah has made no challenge on his life or his leadership that she may take up the role as the Master of the Sith. If he makes a move against her first, he would be betraying his own feelings about how the Sith should operate. If he kills her, he is too old to train another apprentice. If he lets her win by proxy, she is not strong enough, in his mind, to take the mantle of Sith Lord from him.
Serra, the daughter of Caleb, the healer killed in the previous book, is awoken by nightmares of Darth Bane. She is a recent widow: miners, in a revolt against the royalty, have taken the life of her fiancee, the prince of Doan. As a Jedi Knight is dispatched to mediate the dispute, he notices his ability to sense the Force is weakened. He becomes sick, making it easier for him to be killed by an assassin. Serra’s bodyguard, Lucia, hired the assassin to help the miners, but did not expect the bounty hunter to kill a Jedi. This puts Serra and Lucia in conflict during the book, as both have to learn to harness their anger as Bane approaches. It is an interesting look at the “human” side of the galaxy and how the Dark Side hurts even those who don’t follow the teachings of the Sith.
As Bane gears up for the final battle with Zannah, he learns of another holocron, one created by Darth Andeddu. This holocron is apparently the key to continuing to construct his own holocron, but it contains more: secret Dark Side powers that would extend his life indefinitely. By his brute command of the Force, he is able to manipulate the holocron into allowing him access. The holocron teaches him about “essence transfers”, or the ability to move your consciousness to the body of another, extending his life and giving him new chances to continue the Sith lineage past Zannah, if she is the failure that he believes her to be.
As Bane leaves to find the holocron, he sends Zannah on a fact finding mission to Doan. She knows that his true intentions are to hide his trip for the holocron, and she realizes that it is almost time for their final showdown. She decides that, upon her return from Doan, she would challenge Bane for the title of Master of the Sith. While on Doan, though, she encounters Set, a former apprentice to Jedi Master Obba of the Order of First Knowledge (In the past, apparently, the Jedi fell very easily into niche groups which weren’t carried into the Prequel era). Set is a Dark Jedi now, using his Jedi training augmented by the Dark Side (We will return to my analysis of this concept in a few). Zannah decides to take Set under her wing that she might train him and use him to defeat Bane in a final showdown.
There is a lot more plot to the story than all of that, but to follow too much of the plot would steal space from my review. I’m not attempting to write another synopsis, after all! This book is extraordinarily plot heavy. Everything leading up to the final battle is interesting, but it is hard to shake the feeling that a lot is written to pad the time before the final showdown. Karpyshyn loads a lot into the novel which I enjoyed: Bane and Zannah’s final attempts to gather up a bit more strength before the final fight, Serra’s fate and reaction to Caleb’s killer, and Set’s caught-in-the-middle responses to the Sith power struggle around him are all interesting. I just couldn’t get into Doan’s plot as I waited for the final fight.
One of the concepts that ran through the novel was that of a “Dark Jedi”. In this case, a Dark Jedi is a former Jedi who has left the Order or who has started to adopt Dark Side practices. This is not somebody who tries to live in between the Dark and Light; rather, they have left the Jedi path but retain their training and power. Grey Jedi seem like a cheap concept (how do you balance Jedi ideals and pretend you can mix them with Sith ideals?), but a Dark Jedi is at least more honest: you’re basically going to fall to the Dark Side, but you can’t claim the title of Sith. Thankfully for Set, Zannah does invite him to take the title of Sith, and he becomes Darth Cognus.
Thankfully, the final fight lived up to the expectations I had for it and ended the trilogy on a fantastic climax. It is not always interesting to read a lightsaber battle: it is hard to capture the dynamic choreography, the movements, and the visceral imagery of a fight in print. And it may be wise to not always try and capture that! Karpyshyn does work a bit of lightsaber battling into the fight, but it is Bane and Zannah’s individual Sith focuses that come into view. Bane’s overwhelming Force mastery, focusing on attack and overwhelming the opponent, threatens to take down a defensive Zannah. Zannah’s Sith sorcery, her intellectual prowess, and her cunning, make her more than a match, meeting Bane’s force with her mind. The fight goes back and forth continually, making it hard to know who might win.
Finally, Bane attempts an essence transfer on Zannah. Personally, it is hard for me to accept this type of Force power. Seems far beyond the scope of the Force as we saw in the movies, and felt a bit overpowered and kinda crazy. Though, it may be a part of what the whole Dark Empire comic was about, so it is not like the power is new in the Expanded Universe. Zannah is able to overcome Bane’s essence transfer, leaving him prone to attack. Set, now Darth Cognus, approaches Zannah and the two become the embodiment of the Sith.
In the end, the Darth Bane trilogy was a great read. All three books, on their own, were great experiences. Taken as a whole, the trilogy may have been one of the most fun Legends experiences I’ve had so far – and probably will be one of the best when I come to the end of my long adventure. Thankfully, this is not the case: the final battle between Zannah and Bane was a great time, and lived up to the hype that the series built into it.
Dawn of the Jedi: Into The Void | Lost Tribe of the Sith | Revan | Deceived | Scourge | Red Harvest | Fatal Alliance | Annihilation | Darth Bane: Path of Destruction | Knight Errant | Darth Bane: Rule of Two
Canon Novel Reviews:
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Star Wars Young Reader Reviews:
Adventures in Wild Space: The Escape (Prelude)
So You Want to be a Jedi?
Beware the Power of the Dark Side!
Poe Dameron: Flight Log
Princess Leia: Royal Rebel (Backstories)
Darth Vader: Sith Lord (Backstories)
The Force Awakens: Finn’s Story
LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures Reviews:
“A Hero Discovered” 1×01 | “The Mines of Gabralla” 1×02 | “Zander’s Joyride” 1×03 | “The Lost Treasure of Cloud City” 1×04 | “Peril on Kashyyyk” 1×05 | “Crossing Paths” 1×06