Science Fiction

Star Wars: Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader

Author: James Luceno

Published By:
The Ballentine Publishing Company

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            I’ve always wondered just how Darth Vader became the evil monster he was by the time the events of A New Hope take place.  Even after seeing Anakin Skywalker’s transformation in the prequel movies, I still wondered about this.  Anakin, although presenting a cocksure attitude most of the time, was actually very conflicted and uncertain about his actions.  By A New Hope, the same man is now completely certain of his path and takes full responsibility for his actions. How did he get to this point?  Star Wars: Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, a novel by James Luceno, seeks to shed some light on the matter for us.

            Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader begins in the very last moments of the Clone Wars just prior to the issuance of Order 66.  We are introduced to Jedi Masters Roan Shryne and Bol Chatak and Padwan Olee Starstone who are on a mission with Clone Troopers on Murkhana in the Outer Rim.  Things are difficult, but still going well when Order 66 is issued.  Fortunately for Shryne and his companions, not all of the Clone Troopers are compelled to carry out this command and their lives are spared by a small commando unit in the hopes that all will be sorted out after the mission has been completed.  Of course, we know how that works out - we saw it all unravel for the Jedi in the film Revenge of the Sith.

            Shryne and his companions manage to disguise themselves as Separatist sympathizers until a new enforcer for the Emperor’s army comes to Murkhhana.  His name is Darth Vader and somehow Padawan Starstone recognizes right away that this being in black armor is a member of the Sith.  Bol Chatak, in an effort to rid the world of this new menace, attacks Darth Vader and pays for her insolence in death.  Shryne and Starstone agree that staying hidden from Darth Vader until they can get off planet would be a wise decision.

            Undercover and on the run, the two find their way aboard a transport piloted by none other than Shryne’s own mother who he hasn’t seen since he was three years old.  As the two Jedi learn more about what has happened to the order, they realize they have conflicting views on how to proceed.  Should they search for surviving Jedi and find a way to unit against the Emperor or should they stay hidden, fighting the Emperor in more discreet ways?

            While it may seem that this novel is centered around the Jedi Master Roan Shryne and Padawan Olee Starstone, the real focus of this book is Darth Vader.  James Luceno offers us a rare view into just how Anakin Skywalker feels about his life now that he is encased in a suit surviving via the use of life support systems.  The only other time we’ve been given such a glimpse is in the novel Shadows of the Empire.  We now learn that some slight traces of Anakin still exist in Vader at this point.  He is angry about his situation, especially now that he realizes that the Emperor’s manipulations are partially to blame.  Even worse, the ease with which he used the Force prior to his fight with Obi-Wan Kenobi on Mustafar is gone.  He feels clumsy and inept and doesn’t know he can ever attain greatness while encased in this less than human body.

            This is a side we rarely see of Darth Vader and James Luceno goes a long way in explaining how each of these issues, coupled with his obsession for the Jedi who have escaped Order 66, changed Vader.  He eventually lost every shred of the man he had once been in favor of the hard shell - half-man/half machine - he had become.  His anger and despair only served to make his Dark Side powers that much stronger once he learned how to harness those feelings into something he could use.

            The “side story” about the survivors of Order 66 was equally enjoyable and went a long way in explaining how the Jedi Order survived by going to ground.  They could never be fully extinguished if the Emperor and Vader couldn’t find them.  Despite the fact that they hated the Empire and all it stood for, by the end of this novel, the survivors realize that direct confrontation would mean extermination.  This also explains why Luke Skywalker was able to find so many Force users for his Jedi Academy .

            I absolutely loved Star Wars: Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader.  I was so engrossed in this book that I actually read it in less than two days.  The writing is totally captivating, the characters realistic and the story amazingly engaging.  James Luceno has a firm grasp on the Star Wars Universe and all of its nuances and it was an absolute pleasure reading yet another novel from this excellent science fiction author.  Star Wars fans in general will love this book, but it is an absolute must read for all Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader fans - an informative novel that fills in a lot of gaps in the Darth Vader storyline.


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