The Darth Plagueis novel was very unlike many other Star Wars literature I’ve read. It was light on action and heavy on political machinations by the Sith as they tipped the force inexorably in their favor. I was under the impression that Plagueis died well before Palpatine started his foray into politics but alas I was very wrong. I also assumed that the book would start with Plagueis training Palpatine from the start and again I was proven wrong. The book not only chronicles the apprenticeship of Sidious to Plagueis but also touches on the relationship between Plagueis and his own master Darth Tenebrous. There are a few other Darths mentioned throughout, but learning further about the Sith succession line is only a small portion of what makes up a fantastic book by Star Wars veteran James Luceno.
SPOILERS FOLLOW! BEWARE! MAJOR ONES!
As I said, the book is big on plot and filling in numerous information gaps between multiple stories over the years. The whole book might feel like a huge retcon to some, but as an avid Star Wars fan I loved all of the small “guest” appearances and nods to other Star Wars tales and mediums. They touched on stories from Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter, the Star Wars: Bounty Hunter video game, the early Republic comics and a couple other James Luceno novels to name but a few. The most interesting character of the book was of course the title character, Plagueis. That’s not to say that Palpatine wasn’t a mighty fine read as well though.
But back to our title character Plagueis. Or Hego Damask as the galaxy at large would know him. ‘Magister’ Damask of Demask Holdings is a very rich and influential being amongst the galaxy’s elite, especially those having to do with finances such as the Techno Union, Corporate Alliance and the Commerce Guilds. This of course includes the Intergalactic Banking Clan made up of his own species, the Muuns. You are able to learn of Damask’s early life up until he was discovered by Darth Tenebrous and then the story kicks into high gear upon his discovery of a young man on Naboo by the name of Palpatine. After seizing the opportunity to eliminate his master, Darth Tenebrous, Plagueis then decides that Darth Bane’s rule of two must be improved upon. It is his intention upon the discovery of Palpatine to bring new meaning to the rule, by making himself and his apprentice the last Sith in existence… by living forever.
Plagueis has a fascination that is glimpsed throughout the books and that is of course with the midi-chlorians in life forms which he is constantly attempting to bend to his will in order to become immortal forever. Plagueis and Palpatine utilize the dark side in such ways that has never been seen before. They flat-out tip the balance of the force by harnessing the dark side and Plagueis using the midi-chlorians in his experiments to regenerate and resurrect creatures and beings. Plagueis even comments at one point that he is not certain whether or not the Force will strike back due to all of their manipulations and the harnessing of the Dark Side by just two beings. Which brings us to the next big issue that many readers including myself had wondered since our introduction to Plagueis: Was he indeed the creator of Anakin Skywalker who was conceived by the force?
The answer is yes and no. If you were like me imagining that Plagueis made a random sojourn to Tatooine and picked a random human named Shmi Skywalker to midi-chlorian date-rape then you were wrong. Plagueis inadvertently created Anakin, fulfilling the Jedi prophecy of the chosen one. Plagueis’s constant tampering directly with the source of the Force did indeed cause it to strike back by balancing itself out with the creation of Anakin. The scenes where Plagueis realizes this (during the events of Phantom Menace) and his subsequent observing of Anakin with Qui Gon before they depart to Naboo are simply chilling. Who would have thought that Darth Plagueis was not only alive whilst Anakin Skywalker was, but watched him closely trying to figure out how best to derail him from fulfilling his prophecy as the Chosen One. His solution was simple…Kill Qui Gon Jinn. After peering into the future he was certain that this was the best course to assure the Sith’s victory. How ironic that he did not live to see the short lived glory of the Sith due to Palpatine/Sidious’s treachery and that Anakin would still be the downfall of the Sith eventually. Suck it Dark Side.
Palpatine was not nearly as interesting as Hego Damask, but it was intriguing nonetheless to see the origins of a character we were introduced to before I was even born. Palpatine was the typical noble born son who wanted nothing more than to rebel against his respected father, which he of course eventually does in a horrifying fashion. The Naboo corruption and politics angle in the book were very well done and Mr. Luceno most definitely has that angle covered no matter which Star Wars book he happens to be penning. I suppose it’s left up to reader interpretation in the end, but we are under the impression that Sidious is so far beneath Plagueis in regards to power that he would follow his master through until the end. It is revealed however that Palpatine never took Plagueis’ lessons and humiliations over the years in stride. Plagueis was so blinded by his new rule of two philosophy of Master and Apprentice working in tandem with no betrayals that it allowed Sidious to catch him off guard. Sidious held to the fact that even though he was nowhere near as powerful nor wise as Plagueis that in the end, the strongest mind prevailed over might through force talent. In the end Sidious is not the strongest Sith ever… just the only one left. Plagueis was perhaps the most powerful Sith in existence able to manipulate the very being of the force but he was far too trusting of Sidious.
The book fit plenty in, but felt a little bit rushed towards the end. Even that didn’t stop me from enjoying it. It just left me wanting even more! With plenty of questions answered and new canon once again laid at our feet, the Darth Plagueis novel was perhaps the best Star Wars book I’ve read in the last few years. Not to mention the appearance and mention of such characters as Qui-Gon Jinn, Jabba the Hutt, Count Dooku (Master Dooku in the book), Ko-Sai, Mother Talzin, Darth Maul and Master Sifo-Dyas. This was actually the most we’ve seen of Sifo-Dyas in the Star Wars universe and it was masterfully done with Darth Plagueis using him years earlier to help create the clone army for the Republic that would be used during the Clone Wars. Come to think of it, there wasn’t much of anything that Plagueis didn’t have a hand in during the 40 or so years leading up to Revenge of the Sith. If you’re a Star Wars fan of any caliber I highly recommend this book. Aside from the length, which I’m sure some will be thankful for, I give the book a 4.5 out of 5 lightsabers. I know James Luceno has written about 8 Star Wars novels by now but they need to have him doing at least one per year because the man is BRILLIANT!