The Sith are ready to strike at the heart of the Republic as a Cold War becomes a full-fledged Galactic War! Sound familiar? Found out why Annihilation is fun a sort of re-imagining of the Original Trilogy.
I tell you what, I have been exhausted on the Legendary Adventures with SO MANY of the novels focused on villains. Now, don’t get me wrong: I love me a good villain. Grand Admiral RAE SLOANE, Darth Vader, and Darth Caedus proved to be exciting villains at a time. But I will admit: I’m not a huge fan of stories which focus too heavily on characters who are villains for the sake of being villains alone. Characters like Darth Bane and Darth Zannah, whom we will encounter soon on the adventures, feel more well rounded than a lot of the villains we have experienced before, like Chratis. That made reading Annihilation a breath of fresh air: a hero! Theron Shan, estranged son of Jedi Grand Master Satele Shan, proves to be an interesting foil to characters like Luke Skywalker. More on that below.
Here’s what I mean by saying these feel like a sort of “reimaging of the films.” If you’ve been following the Legendary Adventures with me, you might feel the same way I do about The Old Republic tie-ins. We’ve got an Empire, ruled by a Sith, a Republic, Jedi Knights, Sith Lords, even people related to Prince Xizor or certain royal houses… These tropes can get tiring, honestly. This one leans even further into the Yavin-era storyline by including super weapons and even using the word “rebellion” in the book’s description!
Part of why I enjoyed this novel so much was because it felt like the answer to a question we may have asked ourselves silently: Have you ever wondered what the Original Trilogy might have been like had we seen the Prequel Trilogy released first? Would the Rebellion still fight Stormtroopers, or would we have seen the Sith triumphant as Palpatine gathered an army of Force users instead of grunt soldiers? This book is a fun take on that question, even if it was never intended to be.
Thankfully, this book is not simply a cookie cutter approach to Star Wars. I think The Force Awakens proves that we desire our Star Wars stories to coincide more with the heart of the franchise that we saw in the OT. This book nudges us closer to that territory with a few more toys in the toy box. Drew Karpyshyn has always been a home run writer for Star Wars, both due to his character work and his exceptional plotting. This book is no different. Even better that he can meld familiar elements of the franchise with new contexts.
The plot follows Theron Shan as he works to destroy a Sith superweapon. The Emperor has gone missing, and is presumed dead. Interestingly enough, if you’ve been reading chronologically, you may remember that his story was about his attempts to gain eternal life. The Sith Empire is in chaos, but they are emboldened by upstart Sith Lords to begin fighting the Republic as they vie for the ultimate power in the galaxy. I’m assuming this takes place in the game, which utterly alienated me from the start. You can catch up on the game’s plot on Wookieepedia, but be warned: it’s daunting.. He starts the book with an operation to save a bounty hunter friend named Teff’ith, putting him in the crosshairs of a Hutt and the Republic Strategic Information Service. The Hutt wanted to kill Teff’ith for ruining a spice run, while the SIS was watching the Hutts to save some AWOL soldiers. Theron’s rescue puts a hamper on both of their plans. As Theron returns to Coruscant, he is tasked with destroying the Sith weapon, a ship called The Ascendant Spear.
If you read Deceived, you are in for a treat. Darth Malgus’ legacy lives on with Darth Karrid, the commander of the Ascendant Spear. Using brutal battlefield tactics to dupe a fellow Sith, she is able to assume a seat on the Dark Council, despite not coming from a pure Sith or human line. We learn about her as a Sith, both through her relationship to Darth Malgus and the Dark Council, and by her relationship to her former Master Gnost-Dural. At one point, she captures Gnost-Dural alive and takes him in for questioning, really opening up her character.
While the plot is fairly straightforward, there is a lot of intrigue which spices up a few key parts of the book. I won’t go into much detail on these, but they paint Darth Karrid and Theron as foils for each other in really interesting ways. This all falls short of the true emotional core of the book: Theron’s relationships with his parents. As one of the main characters is revealed as his father, and as Satele deals with being a Grand Master and mother, all three characters grow a lot. I can’t remember a book that really expands one-shot characters nearly as much as this one does.
All in all, Annihilation is a fun romp in the ancient galaxy. It recaptures the heart of the OT while repainting it with new toys and new contexts, but retaining some of the soul of the original films. This book may not become essential reading (and, for the most part, The Old Republic might as a whole fade into faint memory), but it is worth the fun ride.
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