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A novel by Drew Karpyshyn (2007, Ballantine Books)
1000 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

Darth Bane teaches his apprentice how to manipulate the Republic through the Dark Side, while he attempts to build a holocron.



Read December 3rd to 13th, 2008  
    Some parts were more enjoyable than others, the second half of the book being far more interesting.

This book is divided into two parts, which are separated by ten years. The first half of the book takes place immediately after Path of Destruction ends, as Bane searches for survivors of the Thought Bomb he seduced the Army of Darkness into detonating, and his apprentice Zannah, only ten years old or so, tries to figure out why she wants to follow this man into the realm of darkness.

I didn't really enjoy the first half of the book at all. My only thought was for them to get on with their lives, get on with the story. In fact, I found that this book lacked a lot in the way of story. Bane leaves Zannah on Ruusan, to find her own way to Onderon, last seen in The Sith War. That is where Bane goes to find the tomb of Freedon Nadd, and where he finds a Sith holocron, and gets covered by Dark Side creatures that feed on his Dark energy, while providing him with near-impenetrable armor and augmented Dark Side energy. Zannah is found by a group of people scouring Ruusan for survivors and those who need help. She inadvertently kills one of them, then kills the others to cover her mistake and then because they won't help her get to Onderon. When she arrives, with a terrible landing on autopilot, she is assaulted by the descendents of the fierce beast riders of Nomi Sunrider's time. She manages to hold them off, but is saved by Bane, who has tamed a beast of his own and managed to survive coasting across the nearly-joined atmosphere of Onderon and its moon Dxun.

On the Jedi side, Johun is a Padawan who can't accept that his master, Lord Hoth, walked into the trap of the thought bomb willingly. He wants to hunt down the last of the Sith, though his leaders, like Farfalla, strangely believe that all the Sith died. I find it hard to believe. Down on Ruusan, Johun meets two mercenaries who claim a Sith Lord still lives, but nobody believes him, so he lets the matter drop.

Is Chancellor Valorum a relative of the Valorum from The Phantom Menace? He has passed sweeping reforms that disband the Jedi army and bring them under the control of the Senate. Johun is almost enraged (as much as he can be without going Dark), but comes to understand why it is necessary, with the Jedi and Sith starting wars that have occurred every couple of centuries for millennia.

Ten years later, the story gets a little more interesting. Bane has set up a bunch of political machinations, with the intent of leading to the Republic's destruction one day. Does he know it will take a thousand years to complete that? Zannah helps him, not knowing the full extent of his plans, but enjoying herself, anyway. She helps bring down a Separatist group on an outer rim world, which happens to be Count Dooku's future homeworld. Is there no other imagination in these authors that they must always have a separatist agenda, or dreams of Empire? Or is it supposed to be foreshadowing? Bane feels that, now that the Jedi have been leashed, the Republic needs to stand until he and Zannah have completed their training. One large enemy is easier to keep track of than many tiny enemies.

Johun, however, is now a bodyguard to former Chancellor Valorum, who visits other worlds as a statesman, especially worlds that might consider separating from the Republic. Valorum is attacked, and Johun saves him, but only barely. Johun is a poor excuse for a Jedi, though he seems to know it. He realizes that he should have practiced more, as a Twi'lek with two knives defeats him in combat against his lightsaber. Apparently, he can't truly hear the force anymore.

Meanwhile, Bane tries several times, always unsuccessfully, to create a holocron. His rage is always terrifying when he fails, amplified by the creatures forming his armor. It is into this rage that Zannah brings another Sith, one untrained, but who shows interest in becoming her Padawan. Bane comes close to being killed, but kills all his attackers and almost kills Zannah for bringing this upon him. But she reminds him that she will defeat him one day, and if he had died at the hands of his attackers, he would have been unworthy of being a Sith, throwing his own words back on him. She brought the man there because he had information on the location of another holocron, this one created much more recently than any other.

The climax of the book is predictable, though the ending is not. Zannah travels to the Jedi Temple to try and find a way to remove Bane's symbiotic armor, using the Dark Side to hide her Dark nature, much as Palpatine must have done throughout the prequel trilogy. As she finds the information she seeks, her cousin from childhood, whose hand she chopped off ten years earlier to save him from Bane, and who was transplanted from Ruusan by Johun to the Jedi Temple, recognizes her. Darovit had been acting as a healer on Ruusan for a decade, sick and tired of both the Jedi and the Sith. But he knew about Zannah and Bane, knowledge that Johun seized upon.

Bane had gone to a deep core world to find the lost holocron, and discovers the error of his methods in creating his own. He has to fight strange half-cybernetic creatures like Rancors and others before he can get his hands on it. I wonder how a Bantha could have wandered into the room with a regular-sized doorway, unless somebody left the freight entrance open.

Zannah leaves the Jedi Temple so quickly that she leaves the map with her destination in the data reader for the Jedi to find. Johun, Farfalla and three other Jedi follow her and face off with Bane. Even against five Jedi, Bane wins, though not terribly easily. His armor protects him, but the Jedi are still powerful, and one has the gift of Battle Meditation. Fortunately, Zannah herself has been practicing Sith witchcraft. I have never been a fan of Sith witchcraft, as it is more magic than the Force. But she convinces one of the Jedi he is being attacked by nightmare creatures, which turns the tide of the battle (Johun is little threat anyway, and is killed quickly).

Bane is critically injured, fatally so, except that Zannah and Darovit take him to the hermit who saved Bane in Path of Destruction. The hermit refuses to help Bane, except that Darovit convinces the man that Zannah will become worse than Bane if her master dies. So in exchange for disabling her ship and sending a message to the Jedi, she gets his help, and Bane survives.

Only she uses her Sith power to deceive everybody, turning Darovit mad and slicing up the hermit. Without even checking the surroundings, the Jedi quickly surmise that the remaining Sith Lord went crazy and killed the hermit. They never notice Bane and Zannah hiding in the secret underground room.

The Jedi are quick to jump to conclusions, and are gullible and stupid for that, but maybe they are so sick of war that they must take the easy way out. It's still annoying. If I didn't know that there was a third book coming out, I would wonder how anybody knows that there must only be two Sith, as Yoda states in The Phantom Menace. I suppose we might find out in that sequel.

Zannah, on the other hand, thinks her decisions through thoroughly. She has several opportunities to turn away from the Sith path, but she justifies everything she does and remains Bane's apprentice. It's not that she's afraid of Bane, but that he still has so much to teach her, that she can't even let him die when she has the chance. Several times she thinks that she might turn away, but she then eliminates that possibility, like when she drives Darovit mad at the end. I never got a sense of really why she wanted to be a Sith so bad, except possibly to drive her own fate, unlike the way the Jedi dictate their will on their trainees.

I can't say I truly enjoyed this book, but it did pick up in the second half, and was worth reading, nonetheless.


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