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A novel by James Luceno (2005, Del Rey)
Set 19 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

Obi-Wan and Anakin's search for the Separatist leaders leads them to discover that Sidious is real, and the hunt for the Sith Lord begins.




Read March 1st to 7th, 2008  
    Well written, and great character work, but I'm not sure what the point really was. Without a real conclusion, the book ends on a rather unsatisfying note.

This book could be considered the first of a trilogy, continuing with Revenge of the Sith, and concluding with Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader. Most trilogies contain an overall story arc, divided up into three stories. Each of the three stories, however, has its own conclusion. This is not necessary, but it helps. The book feels more like a string chase, from one point to the next, and it doesn't have enough of a buildup to be bereft of a conclusion. It ends on a cliff-hanger, which can be exciting, but the continuation, Revenge of the Sith, doesn't carry on its main storyline, which is the hunt for Sidious.

The plot for this novel is rather simple, despite the title, and it is thoroughly enjoyable. While chasing Nute Gunray back to his home planet of Cato Nemoidia, Anakin and Obi-Wan discover that Gunray has left behind the walking chair with the holoprojector that contains a message from Darth Sidious. Previously, the Jedi thought Sidious was a lie manifested by Dooku in Attack of the Clones. Now they have to face the truth. Of course, not all the Jedi believed that Dooku was the only Sith -Quinlan Vos spend a lot of time searching for the second Sith, through Light and Dark to The Last Siege, the Final Truth.

Obi-Wan and Anakin follow a trail that leads them to the Xi Charan designer of the chair, from whom they learn about the Bith who designed the hyperspace relay that allowed private communications. He actually built two of them (shouldn't there have been one for each Separatist leader?), one of which ended up on Darth Maul's Sith Infiltrator. They get the name of the Twi'lek pilot who flew the ship to Coruscant, from which they discover the building that Maul and Sidious, then Dooku and Sidious in Attack of the Clones, secretly met in, was owned by a company that also owned and ecologically destroyed a planet before disappearing.

Each of those stops along the trail to Sidious is met with action and adventure. From a diplomatic incident by chasing the designer through the roof of his workshop, to a jailbreak when they allow themselves to get captured in order to rescue the Bith, to a trap they have to escape through ice tunnels and ice fields, the action is a lot of fun, but the characters are very much in character. Along the way, they also learn of Grievous' plans to take a world by force for the Separatist leaders, so they take part in that battle as well, harassing Grievous until he flees. I do find it strange, however, that Grievous decides to take the leaders to Utapau without a fight. If he had a planet like that already, why did he try to invade another one? It makes it seem like a battle for a battle's sake.

Most of the fun in this book is trying to figure out where all the references to other stories come from. This author must have a database of information from the other books, or must be a fantastic fanatical fan. He has come a long way from his poor start in the New Jedi Order stories Hero's Trial and Jedi Eclipse. I have been impressed with his book since then. Here he references often Dooku's meeting with Yoda in Dark Rendezvous, as well as Vos' murder of a Senator in Light and Dark, the Battle of Jabiim, the events of Jedi Trial, a Medstar frigate, and several other stories I didn't even recognize, some of which undoubtedly come from the Clone Wars animated micro series, which I haven't watched, yet. Intelligence director Isard (Ysanne Isard's father) and advisor Sate Pestage (who outlasted Palpatine, all the way to Mandatory Retirement) also make appearances.

My favorite line in the whole book, though, goes to Obi-Wan. He declares, "not a skill I expect to use again," after being shown how to disable a tractor beam to allow them to escape with the Bith!

The character work extends to Dooku and Grievous, who wonder about things and explain things that were inconsistencies when isolated in the movies. We get a backstory on Grievous, from a living being, through a shuttle "accident" (unknown to him, caused by Dooku), and his resurrection by the Geonosians into a hybrid man/machine. He trains with the lightsabers of the Jedi he has killed, and teaches his elite droids with those shock-sticks we saw in Revenge of the Sith. Did the author not know about Grievous' coughing fits at the time of writing? There is no sign of a health problem at this point.

Obi-Wan gets to wonder if they would have a clone army at all if he hadn't been so quick to find Kamino. This is a question I've been asking ever since Attack of the Clones. As Yoda says, the war would have been bloodier and more one-sided, but the cloners would have come to see them eventually. Incidentally, who built all the hardware the clone troopers used in Attack of the Clones? That seems to be the only question unanswered in this book.

At their final stop on Tythe, Obi-Wan and Anakin set about to capture Dooku, who sends an army of droids against them. His only purpose is to keep them away from Coruscant while the last act of the war begins. Grievous attacks Coruscant. Even at nearly a hundred pages, the attack on the Republic's government world and the capture of Palpatine seemed overly complicated, and not nearly as exciting as the invasion of Coruscant in Star by Star, which I admit is colored by memory only -and a great one at that.

Palpatine, of course, doesn't flee to his shelter, but remains in his stateroom, as that would be the easiest way to get captured. The flight to the train and subsequent battle between Mace, Kit Fisto and Grievous was entertaining, but too long. I wondered how Grievous was to set off the beacon broadcast to Anakin if the man/machine had captured Palpatine before he arrived? But I think it was fitting that Shaak Ti was one of the Jedi guarding Palpatine, seeing as she ends up on Grievous' ship in Revenge of the Sith.

Padmé gets a few scenes in this book. It is hinted at that she is pregnant, but I wonder how nobody can notice, as she's quite visible in Revenge of the Sith. She is part of the Loyalist party, with Bail Organa and Mon Mothma. They visit Palpatine once, and worry what will happen if he is killed by Grievous. There is a funny line by C3PO, who sees Nute Gunray's protocol droid and gets a sense that doom is coming -accept a memory wipe, indeed. At first, I thought it was the droid from Medstar, but unless TC-16 was actually destroyed by Sidious in the communication chamber, I think it was him.

The trail to Sidious was undertaken by Mace Windu on Coruscant, after they find out about the building in The Works that the Sith used to train. Droid scanners, more sophisticated than we've seen before, actually trace out Sidious's footprints (amazing that they couldn't get hair samples or fingerprints) to the basement, into a subway tunnel, and all the way to 500 Republica, where the trail disappeared. The invasion occurred exactly at that moment, because Sidious thought they were getting too close. With Mace gone, the intelligence agent was free to discover Sidious' lair, because he didn't have to make it into the next movie. Sidious departs, and Palpatine arrives in his quarters (though rather quickly, since his advisors didn't issue an alert when he wasn't around as the invasion started). Funny how Palpatine was much too busy to see the Loyalist Committee at the start of the book, but had no appointments the day of the invasion.

There was a lot to like about this book, but I wish the author had chosen a story that he could conclude properly, even while leaving the invasion and capture as a cliff-hanger. Still, the ending was exciting, and made me want to read Revenge of the Sith immediately, rather than another book I had in mind. That's definitely a good recommendation.


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