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A novel by Drew Karpyshyn (2006, Ballantine Books)
1000 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

A young Force-user is seduced by the Dark Side, promising to destroy those who taught him their ways, to preserve the Sith.




Read July 17th to 24th, 2008  
    A very good read, especially considering that it takes place without Luke, Han and Leia. Who knew we could sympathize with a bad guy? There were several weak parts, though, and these all took place on Ruusan, where the story was rigid, because that part of the tale has been told before.

I liked the character of Bane right away, and thoroughly enjoyed his personal story. Growing up on a planet whose sole purpose was to mine cortosis, with a greedy mining company and grumpy fellow workers, Bane assaults somebody right from the start, somebody who was obviously looking to fight. Punished by being sent home for the rest of the day (with no pay), he goes to gamble, and takes a huge money pot from the crew of a Republic cruiser on the planet for a shipment. Ambushed by the ensign later, he kills the man, and thus has to flee. Never mind the Republic campaign slogans, Bane has to go to the Sith, because he will be sent to prison or death for his actions.

Thus the story of Bane starts out tragic, and we can agree with his reasoning completely. In a world where nobody cares for anybody else, how can competitors care for each other? Only the strongest survive. That is also a rule of the Sith. It makes a lot of sense to him. Add in his occasional ability to know things, like when a good hand of cards will come up, or when a punch will arrive, and he can sometimes orchestrate events to his advantage.

The galaxy is embroiled in a vast conflict, Jedi vs. Sith, the end of which is detailed in the comic Jedi vs. Sith. Both sides have troops and armies, and both sides take and retake planets in this war. This is the last open conflict between the Sith and the Jedi. The next time the Sith will attack, it will be in subtlety, as the Clone Wars, which open in Attack of the Clones. Bane becomes a trooper for the Sith, leading his fellow troopers better than his commanding officer, and pulling some incredible feats. His last feat as a trooper, using a sniper rifle he has never seen before, while completely blind, and killing all enemy snipers, brings him to the attention of the Sith Lords.

It is here that he begins his training, and he learns that the Brotherhood of Darkness had twisted the teachings of the Sith, so that they can never win the present conflict. He learns in an academy, under several instructors. There are rules that prevent irreparable damage during lightsaber challenges, and nobody reads the ancient texts- except Bane. It seems to Bane that the Brotherhood of Darkness is simply a twisted version of the Jedi, and I would agree. Although a loner, which is really what a Sith is, Bane excels, but then kills a student in a lightsaber challenge. He withdraws from the Force, feeling the guilt of his actions, realizing also that he killed his treacherous father with the Force after a massive beating, before he even knew what the Force was.

Then enters Githany, an incredibly beautiful Jedi who falls to the Dark Side, for no apparent particular reason. It seems that she just felt like it, that deception and cruelty were more her ways. It seems more that she wants to get back at her teacher after being discovered in an illicit relationship with another student. Apparently she slept around in the ranks, because when she defects to the Sith, she tells them of the layout of the Jedi forces, so the Sith can win a huge victory. She didn't Fall for love, like Anakin does. She fell because she felt like it. Her motivations seem weak.

Githany is brought back to Korriban, where she trains with the Sith Lords, and secretly teaches Bane. This way, he rises in power again, diving back into the Force, and easily defeats his chief rival, the best student in the class. But he does not kill the rival, which angers Githany, so she plots against him with the rival. All this maneuvering serves to show Bane how inept the academy is for Sith. He searches for answers in the tombs of Korriban, which have been pillaged for centuries, without finding any answers.

But he refuses to go to Ruusan, where a Jedi Army of Light battles with the Sith Lords of the Brotherhood of Darkness, and has been doing so for a long time. Instead, he goes to an unnamed planet, and investigates a temple that was the scene of a titanic battle between the Republic and Sith a thousand years ago. This was apparently the focus of the game Knights of the Old Republic, which I never played. Here, he finds an ancient Sith holocron, which teaches him some lessons that the Brotherhood never learned, because they refuse to read the ancient texts. One of the philosophies the Brotherhood has adopted is the equality of Dark Lords, because they feel that is the only way to defeat the Jedi and the Republic. Bane, through his holocron mentor Darth Malak, however, discovers that his true feelings about the Brotherhood are correct. The Sith gain strength through conflict among themselves, but if there are too many, then the students will overpower the masters. Here he learns the Rule of Two, that there should only be one master and one apprentice. I wonder where Yoda learned about this rule, as he states it in The Phantom Menace.

Where Bane had already decided to wipe out the Brotherhood, he now finalizes that decision. But he needs an apprentice. He thinks possibly his old lightsaber master, who tracks him to the unnamed planet and duels with him. But Lord Kas'im believes Bane should lead the Brotherhood, so Bane kills him. Then Githany is sent to poison Bane, and because she used stealth and secrecy to overpower him, he thinks she could be his apprentice. But she also believes that he should lead the Brotherhood.

Here is where the story, already weak on Ruusan, becomes weak in itself. The story is constrained by what occurred in Jedi vs. Sith, and it is here, after being poisoned, that Bane encounters the two boys and their father, whom he kills so he can draw off their agony in death. He goes in search of a healer, finds the man, who is a strange enigma, strong in the Force, but drawing on neither the light or dark side of the Force. Perhaps a precursor to one of the Fallanassi? Still, Bane threatened his daughter, so he relented and saved Bane's life.

The story of Ruusan is, as I have said, the weakest. I didn't care for the characterization of Lord Hoth, or any of his other Jedi followers in the Army of Light. Neither did I care for Dark Lord Kaan, leader of the Army of Darkness. All of the scenes with these two people were difficult to get through, except where Bane deceives Kaan, and tricks him into using the Thought Bomb. When Kaan finally gets the upper hand, Bane allows the Jedi fleet through the blockade, so that he can have as many Jedi and Sith together when the bomb goes off. But when Kaan orders a retreat to the caves to execute the Thought Bomb, several Dark Lords find themselves doubting their leader. Githany almost survives, but doesn't quite make it out in time. Kopecz, the Twi'lek Jedi who found Bane, also escapes, and tells the Jedi of Kaan's plan before fighting to the death, a match he loses.

Thus Hoth arrives and takes a hundred Jedi into the caves with him, in order to convince Kaan to detonate the Thought Bomb, so that Kaan cannot escape and use it somewhere else, like Coruscant. These Jedi sacrifice themselves for this purpose. It will take until the time of the Rebellion for somebody to release their souls from this event, as Kyle Katarn arrives here in Dark Forces: Jedi Knight.

Bane, of course, escapes, as do most of the Jedi. And who does Bane find as his apprentice? As shown in Jedi vs. Sith, a little girl, who was taken by the Jedi to fight on Ruusan, but was stranded after her ship was shot down, is so full of anger that she draws Bane's notice, and he takes her away. Rain, she was called. This seems as disjointed in the book as it sounds here. We must know the other story to figure out why this would occur, as it is not set up anywhere else.

I really liked the depiction of Bane's discovery of the Dark Side of the Force. I only wish there was more mention of Exar Kun and other characters from the first Knights of the Old Republic series. Still, that's a minor complaint. It has been shown that the Sith have risen several times, only to fall back in defeat, either through infighting or because their army was insufficient. Bane discovers that there should only be two, and through patience, deceit and subtle manipulations, they can win. And Darth Sidious proved him to be correct in Revenge of the Sith.


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