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A novel by Drew Karpyshyn (2009, Ballantine Books)
Darth Bane, book 3
1000 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

Disappointed by his apprentice, Darth Bane searches for the secret of eternal life, while Zannah searches for an apprentice before challenging her master.




Read August 14th to 24th, 2013  
    A solid outing and fitting conclusion to the trilogy. It finished some stories, but also leaves some ends open, leading me to believe future stories may be in the works, too. It must be difficult to write from an evil person's point of view and make it seem logical and allowing readers to still relate to the characters. This author manages to do it quite well. A number of possible apprentices also show up, and it was fun trying to guess at which one would end up as the next in line in the Rule of Two -my guess was wrong.

Full spoiler review:

It's really a wonder that Bane can continue his Dark Side training, when he lives in a huge mansion isolated on a remote planet. I suppose the fact that he doesn't have any servants means that he needs to keep himself in shape to do it all. As in the last book, Bane is still disappointed that Zannah, his apprentice, has not tried to kill him and take the mantle of Dark Lord of the Sith, master, for herself. Zannah, for her part, doesn't want to do this until she has an apprentice in sight. To have searched for twenty years and not found a candidate seems unlikely, and makes me wonder if Bane is right -maybe she just isn't worthy. In this book alone, she encounters three!

The story really has three elements. In one, the prince of Doan, a remote mining planet with an elite royalty and a sub-poverty mining class, is killed, and the servant of Serra, the princess, hires a bounty hunter to kill the rebels responsible. When a Jedi is killed in the same attack, Serra travels to Coruscant with the body, to apologize. There, she sees the monument of the Jedi's last battle against the Sith, which also took the life of her father, Caleb-the healer who saved Bane's life twice in two books. His name is inscribed in the monument, which fuels the fire within her, since she now believes that Bane killed her father. She has her servant hire the Huntress bounty hunter again to capture Bane, which she does.

But unknown to everyone is that Lucia was once part of Bane's regiment in the Army of Darkness back in Path of Destruction, and when she sees him, she is at once drawn to return the sacrifices she believed he made for her people.

Serra obviously has Force-powers, like Caleb, but she doesn't know how to use them properly, so she remains completely unaware of them. She uses her hatred well, however, in torturing Bane with various of her father's medicines, which can induce shock, numbness, heightened awareness, and others. Lucia is so shocked at Serra's behavior that after the princess leaves, she injects him with something that will awaken him, after which he stampedes throughout the stone prison searching for Serra.

The second element is Bane's story, which begins earlier. Believing that Zannah will wait until he dies to inherit the title of Dark Lord from him, without battle, Bane takes matters into his own hands. He is too old, now, to train another apprentice, something he should have thought about years earlier. But then he comes across a reference to Darth Andeddu's holocron, a Sith master who was believed to have found the power to overcoming death. He sends Zannah off to Doan to investigate the Jedi's death, and leaves in secret to Andeddu's homeworld, somewhere lost in the Deep Core, where the hyperspace routes collapsed and relocated, making it almost impossible to find.

It seems the Jedi have indeed changed, at least a little, from Bane's time to Yoda's. After the war with the Sith, the Jedi tried to remove all knowledge of the Sith from society, including almost all reference to Andeddu. Yoda, however, finds the secret to immortality intriguing when he learns of it from Qui-Gon.

Here, the Jedi are none the wiser, but Bane steals the holocron, and forces his way past the gatekeeper to gain all the knowledge, which turns out to be transference, like what Palpatine does in Dark Empire. Later, the Dark Jedi Set Harth agrees to go through all the tests the gatekeeper presents to him, in order to learn the technique. Presumably this will take a long time. I wonder which one Darth Sidious' master learned it from...

It is when Bane returns from his journey, exhausted and weary from figuring out new hyperspace routes, as well as his battle with the gatekeeper, that he enters his mansion and has to fight The Huntress and her soldiers. The Huntress can disrupt the Force in some beings, while the soldiers, supplied from Doan, were using stun nets. Combined with Serra's poison, they manage to take him down, and back to Doan.

In the third element, Zannah had traveled to Doan to search for the Dark Side artifacts that the dead Jedi was there for. But she also finds the Dark Jedi Set Harth, who she finds to be an intriguing candidate as an apprentice. She follows him to his home on Nar Shadda, a luxurious apartment where he can live the life of freedom and lawlessness, using the Force for profit and having no responsibility. Not quite the ideal apprentice, but Zannah thinks she can mold him. They arrive back at the mansion and find it ransacked, Bane gone, but the find a clue that the soldiers were from Doan, so they head back there.

The climax of the book brings all three elements together, as all parties converge on the cell in the stone prison where Bane is being held. Each party meets separately, but it's a natural separation, not simply waiting for one group to end before the next begins. Bane kills Lucia, and chases after Serra, but Serra starts the timer that will destroy the prison complex, bringing down thousands of tons of stone on top of the cells. In the meantime, Set disobeys Zannah and sets out on his own, drawn to the power of Andeddu's holocron, even through the stone. Bane fights Zannah, a match she should have won given that he was still drugged, tired, and without a lightsaber, but the ceiling gives out before they can conclude their duel. Set then faces the Huntress, who is hanging around because she feels her life has no purpose, and she wants to train with Bane. Set wins the battle with subterfuge, eventually destroying all but two of the remaining transports until she yields, letting him take one, saving the other for herself and Bane. Zannah makes it to her own transport before the prison collapses.

The final duel takes place at Caleb's abandoned hut, where Serra retreated, and gives herself to Bane to kill -I thought this was a waste, since I really thought Serra would become the next Dark Apprentice. On the other hand, she does what Luke did in Return of the Jedi -refusing the darkness that gripped her in her anger in the stone prison. While Bane waits for Zannah, he accepts the Huntress as an apprentice. Zannah gives all she has, and she is a match for Bane, in different ways. When she tries to meet him with the Force and bodily strength, she loses ground. When she uses her Sith magic, she wounds his body enough that he realizes he will die if he doesn't use the knowledge he gained from the holocron. So he starts to transfer his essence into Zannah, but it seems she had the stronger will -though the book leaves us with some doubt, as some of Bane's traits stay with her, even after the battle.

I think I enjoyed this book more than the other two, but I'm still not sure Zannah is the stronger character. We are told she is, but given her thoughts, I would say Bane's spirit is the tougher one. Still, we got to visit more interesting planets, and the final battle is definitely worthy of Star Wars. The only weak parts, I found, were Serra's interaction with the Jedi, and any time spent with Set Harth, but I think he was meant to be annoying.

There are enough loose ends, with Set, Zannah's wounded spirit, her acceptance of the Huntress, now Darth Cognus, as her apprentice, and all the Dark Side knowledge still around, for another story, and this author writes it well enough that I think it would be fun to read.


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