A trilogy about a Sith Lord? Uh-oh! Thankfully, Darth Bane: Path of Destruction points us toward the movies as we learn the sordid history, and almost destructive end, of the ancient Sith Lords!
I’ll put this out there: Darth Bane is one of the most nuanced and well-handled Sith characters in Legends lore. Spoiler alert, but this trilogy may have pushed Darth Bane into my top five Legends characters list (Other candidates? Mara Jade, Thrawn, of course!). It is hard to not compare most Legends stories to the movies, so I will admit that Bane brings a lot to the table that reminds me of Anakin. The difference is Bane wants to be a Sith, but struggles with his power and ability, whereas Anakin was the opposite.
The novel marks Bane’s transformation from a simple miner to the only survivor of a Sith Purge. Origin stories tend to bog down novels: a lot of times, we don’t really care where they came from, if we’re being honest! But I thought Bane had an interesting backstory, and Drew Karpyshyn did a great job of weaving his origin story throughout his life. The novel starts with Dessel, a miner on Apartos. He mines for cortosis, the Legends answer to lightsabers (the crystal has the power to short out lightsabers). He lives with his abusive father, who blames Dessel for all of his problems. After accidentally killing his father and two Republic soldiers, Dessel leaves his home to evade the Republic. He gets involved with a Sith military group known as The Gloom Walkers, who are leading an assault on Kashyyyk soon.
Dessel’s incredible ability with the Force allows him to turn the tides of hard fought battles. These executive decisions put him at odds with his field officers, but put him in the crosshairs of the Sith Lords on Korriban. Dessel begins his training on Korriban, where the Lords explain all of the different academies he could have been sent to. These academies (like the Sith assassins trained on Umbara) would have been quite a treat to see expanded on their own, I imagine. Instead, we are shown a twisted alternative to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. Here, Dessel takes the name Bane, a nickname that his father used to call him to degrade Dessel. Lords Qordis and Kas’im take interest in Bane, especially after he kills another student.
His prestige rises, until he starts doubting his abilities. He challenges the most promising student in school, but is beaten within an inch of his life. In response, he starts to study the ancient texts, discovering the ancient Sith Lords and the ways that they ran the Order before the current Masters. Notice how I haven’t used the word Darth in my synopsis yet? That’s because the modern Sith have abandoned the title in favor of a more equitable Order. Bane finds the holocron created by Darth Revan, sapping away at its secrets, where he learns the thought bomb. In a tale of intrigue and deception, we learn how Bane was able to convince the Sith to wipe themselves out.
I’ve been a little overloaded with villains. How many times can I beat this point home? But the great thing about the trilogy is that it didn’t just show us the Sith, it changed the Sith up a bit. Some of the Old Republic stories seemed to ask: “How many Sith can we shove into a single story when we’re not encumbered by the Rule of Two?” The answer for far too many was: you can fit a lot of Sith Lords, but you can’t make them compelling characters! In this novel, the characters are given time to breathe, and they have something new to offer the mythos. When Sith discuss power in most of the stories we’re familiar with, we hear grandiose discussions about how to kill Masters or gain an army. In the Bane trilogy, the Sith are concerned with holding their power by making everybody equal! This would both save their lives from potential usurpation and, allegedly, give them a much grander army than they would have if everyone was killing each other. I really appreciated this new look at the Sith, and wished more Legends novels would have explored Sith philosophy in new ways like this one.
One of the interesting things that this book can accomplish is how much lore it can explore in a single setting, focusing even on tertiary characters. Even though Knights of the Old Republic covered a lot of interesting material on Revan, this novel adds a lot more, such as his final resting place and the existence of his holocron. All of the information on Revan becomes especially interesting considering I have just finished The Old Republic: Revan not too much earlier. I loved seeing Darth Bane learn from Darth Revan, despite knowing Revan returned to the Jedi and fought against the Sith Empire. For some reason, this made me all giddy and was one of the biggest motivators to continue reading in the Legendary Adventures.
As Bane’s training is sidelined due to his recent slipping, he trains on the side with Kas’im and a new love interest, Githany. Githany is an interesting character, inasmuch as she is a double-crosser who fell in love with Bane. Sure, we’ve all heard this story before. But the way that Bane uses her, and vice versa, cooks up an interesting romance that deserved its time in the spotlight. As Githany pulls Bane into the front lines of the war, as a Sith rather than a grunt soldier, their relationship heats up in more ways than one.
Most romances fall flat for me: I can’t get into them as they feel more like plot devices rather than true character progression. This is not the case here: I really sensed a growing chemistry between the two characters. Decisions they make together, or separately about their relationship, feel real; nothing feels like it was written merely to advance the plot. For example, Padme and Anakin’s relationship. We knew it had to happen, and watching it unfold over the course of the movies, it felt like it was more out of compulsion to move the plot. I never really liked their relationship. Bane and Githany though, have a thriving relationship with believable motivations and likable chemistry.
We also get a look into Lord Hoth and the Army of Light, a Jedi military force. These Jedi aren’t given a lot of time, but I enjoyed seeing the friction between Hoth and his centaurian-Jedi friend Lord Valenthyne. It was cool to see Jedi who didn’t get along, and maybe get more of a glimpse what it is like to be a Jedi in wartime. This may not be as in-depth of a look on this subject as, say, The Clone Wars, but it brings up a lot of questions about what it means to be a hero in wartime. I really liked seeing this particular aspect of the ancient Jedi, in more of a grey area than anything else. Whereas the series shows a different view on the Sith, we didn’t really see anything truly different in the Jedi. Sure, we saw them in a gray area, an aspect I liked a lot, but that wasn’t enough to differentiate the Old Republic Jedi from the PT Jedi. This may be the trilogy’s only major weak point.
You probably noticed that I spent more time here on the plot than I do with most novels. Most of the time, the novels that I don’t recount the plot of have either too much going on, or not enough. Bane sits right in the middle of being both plot- and character-driven. Few characters stay flat in the novel, and the plot is able to move along without sidelining the characters. This is pretty remarkable, and not a lot of authors can handle this. That adds a lot to this book, and it makes the trilogy indispensable!
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