Book Review | Star Wars: Shadow of the Sith
Author: Adam Christopher
Length: 465 pages
EE Critic Score: 7/10
Shadow of the Sith, by Adam Christopher, is a novel telling the story of Dathan, a failed, Force-insensitive clone of Darth Sidious who is trying to escape his "father's" reach along with his wife, Miramir, and their young daughter, Rey. Along the way they cross paths with Jedi Master Luke Skywalker and retired General Lando Calrissian, who is searching for his own daughter who has been kidnapped by unknown parties. The former Alliance heroes help them to escape Ochi of Bestoon, Sidious's agent who has been dispatched to capture Rey and bring her to the Sith citadel on Exegol. The book serves as a lead-in to The Rise of Skywalker, and is one of the best looks we've seen of the Sith in the Disney era.
It's been a while since I've actually read a Star Wars book. I've largely given up on the Hight Republic stuff (though The Acolyte does seem to have potential) and The Princess and the Scoundrel didn't really grab my attention either. And, to be honest, neither did Shadow of the Sith, at first. It's a tie-in to Episode IX, the one Star Wars film that I'd describe as plain bad. But the film was mostly bad in execution, rather than in concept. As I said in my review, the story was told in a beyond-barebones fashion, so a tie-in novel or two to flesh out that story could be welcome. So I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised to have seen Shadow of the Sith ranking high on the year-end Star Wars book round-ups.
The best way I could describe this book is as a throwback to the old Bantam EU books. It features Original Trilogy heroes, lots of different, crazy locations, and mysterious villains with ties to a returning Palpatine, just like the '90s EU books often did. It also features direct references to some of the more offbeat things from these books, like the Errant Venture and Lando's love of hot chocolate.
And it comes at a time when future Star Wars films seem like a far-off dream. So if you're a fan of that era of Star Wars books, and have missed them in recent years, this book might scratch that itch.
But is it a good book? I enjoyed it, but there were some elements that annoyed me. For one thing, Christopher is a very visually descriptive writer. Detailed accounts of what, exactly, the characters are seeing at a given moment tend to disrupt scenes.
This person—a woman—was also dressed in black, but not in the robes of a cultist. Instead she wore a long, close-fitting outfit, part tunic, part cloak, that flared out to form a tattered, scalloped edge that swept around her boots, the whole thing looking old and worn. Her hands partially bare, the thumb looped through the ends of her sleeves revealed the woman’s blue skin. In one of her hands, she held a cylinder of black metal about thirty centimeters long. She wore a mask of burnished bronze, which was framed by a cascade of long, dirty deep-blue hair.
There's also this bit, wherein out heroes and villains are both trying to get to a spaceship first:
"Now they were in a race against time, them versus the CSA."
That's just idiomatically incorrect. A "race against time" isn't you versus anybody; it's where you're trying to do something before a short window of opportunity closes. So it isn't written amazingly well, to a degree that might annoy readers.
But the story itself is exciting and engaging. It was a real breath of fresh air to have the Sith acting openly as the villains. They aren't just the shadowy figures behind the scenes that we had in the films, these are honest-to-goodness sorcerer cultists like the villains of an old Tom Veitch comic. Ochi of Bestoon, who was only sort of a character as introduced in Ep. IX, shines here as the main antagonist. I understand that he's a big player in the Darth Vader comics by Greg Pak, but I don't really follow the comics so this book is the first thing I've really seen him in. This drunken, washed-up Jedi hunter was just pathetic enough to be interesting while still being threatening. The fact that he seems to be Sidious's most capable remaining agent really goes to show how little is still going as the Dark Lord had foreseen, and how much he's been backed into a corner and is being forced to improvise.
The way Luke and Lando are brought into the story without ever really finding out what's going on with Dathan and his family was cleverly handled. They aren't too stupid to figure out what's happening, and there isn't some crazy, contrived situation keeping them from figuring things out. They know just enough to know that Ochi is trying to kidnap Rey; they never get a chance to find out why. Lando assumes Ochi is part of the same group that kidnapped his daughter, while Luke assumes he's just another Sith cultist like what he's encountered before. It works.
The only complaint I really have about the story itself is that it doesn't really resolve, but that's mostly just because it's leading into a film. Dathan and Miramir did with their daughter still stranded on Jakku, and Lando never does find his daughter, so it ends on kind of an open downer. The only real narrative solution comes for a couple of side characters with ties to the Sith. Again, there's not much Christopher could have done to address that, but this book doesn't tell a full, standalone story.
Recommendation & Rating
Shadow of the Sith is not a book that I'd really push someone into reading, but I thing most Star Wars readers would enjoy it. It has its flaws, but it's very well paced and adds a lot of depth to the universe, especially in regard to the Sith and their allies. I even think that the experience of watching The Rise of Skywalker would be improved by reading this book first. Of the Star Wars books released last year, that I read, Shadow of the Sith was the best. 7/10