[Retro-Review] Star Wars: Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader (2006)

Or, the Sith’s Guide to Getting Your Groove Back

The sequel to Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith picks up a few weeks after the events of the film. Vader is still adjusting to his suit, which was hastily made and of poor quality. His confidence has also been shaken, and Emperor Palpatine sends him on a mission that he believes will reignite Vader’s strength in the Force. Meanwhile, a few Jedi survivors of Order 66 attempt to evade stormtroopers and get off-world, in order to find other survivors. Inevitably, Vader’s and the Jedi’s paths will cross.

The Good: Dark Lord has a number of great scenes in it. Early on, Vader is contemplating the damage to his body, and runs through the functions of the suit, juxtaposed against his dismay. Later, Bail Organa’s suspicion over Vader’s identity and his anxiety concerning Vader meeting Bail’s wife and adopted daughter was well-written. Bail gets a decent amount of time here and is better developed than anything we saw in the Prequel Trilogy. Vader’s character arc through the novel is the highlight, as we see him fully move on from being Anakin to being a Dark Lord of the Sith. The novel also clarifies some items from Episode III (involving Darth Plagueis, among other things). There is one “cameo” that came as a surprise, and worked very well within the context of the story. Luceno’s writing is smooth and breezy. It is not a complicated novel; in fact, it is straight-forward in the storytelling. While this made the novel easy to get through, it also makes for a hollow feeling at the end. And Shryne’s character arc was decent, and considering half the novel focuses on him, he is capable of sustaining the book.

The Bad: Outside of Shryne, the other original characters of the novel never fully come to life. They come off as generic and by-the-numbers. The connection between Jula and Shryne is a groan-inducing cliche. And the other cameo at the end of the novel comes off as not only being odd, but stilted (I don’t want to spoil it). It would have also been nice to spend more time on Vader, instead of switching back and forth with a new set of characters that the reader has zero attachment to.

The Ugly: Vader beheading two Jedi in one swoop. That’s gotta’ hurt.

Rating: 8.0 out of 10

Conclusion: Dark Lord is a good novel, but doesn’t offer anything terribly complex or compelling. Rather, it feels safe- the obligatory telling of the aftermath of Episode III. While some parts work great (the aforementioned scene with Vader assessing the damage to his body), and there is no shortage of action, the novel never attempts to be more than its most basic parts. And that’s not an awful thing, but when compared to a lot of the other books put out by Del Rey in the Star Wars range, it falls a bit short. Recommended, but don’t expect a classic.

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