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Darth Vader and his master, the Emperor, travel to Ryloth to evaluate an underperforming Moff and to inspect imperial operations on the home world of the Twi’leks. Ryloth is a growing source of slaves and the narcotic known as spice. There is a growing insurgent movement and Imperial leadership wants it squashed at any cost. Meanwhile the insurgents are hoping to pull off an attack that will spread the flames of rebellion across the galaxy. The insurgency is led by Cham Syndulla and his second in command, Isval, a former slave herself. This story takes place when these two groups face off in a struggle not just for Ryloth, but possibly the future of the galactic Empire.
This is not Kemp’s first foray into the Star Wars universe and I hope it is not his last. Kemp has actually gotten to the point as an author where the appearance of his name will get an extra star or two on a review. He hasn’t gotten lazy with success, this is more of something his legions of fans have done. The Star Wars Universe is in flux. Under new management and with the upcoming film being so eagerly anticipated, things are in a very strange almost limbo like state. The erasure of the Expanded Universe makes things even more complicated at this point, but greatly simplifies things in the future. Kemp’s willingness to write a novel during this tumultuous time is a testament to his skills as an author and follows his pattern of being willing to take a risk.
I am a Star Wars fan and the Extended Universe or EU was just what I needed in a time when there was no new Star Wars material to satiate my appetite. I had been wandering in the Star Wars-less wilderness for years and those books came into my life, those amazing books! It was like cool water in the desert, like a double bacon cheeseburger with extra bacon! Sure after about seven or eight trilogies, things started to feel like wash, rinse, repeat but it was Star Wars! The second set of movies came out……
Fast forward to now. More movies are coming out and the slate has been wiped clean and thankfully the Mouse and crew are trying to give us plenty of appetizers so that we will throw our money at them right around Christmas time. Kemp was placed in a sandbox on this one based on the time period it had to take place in. I’m not sure if he was given additional information that might be revealed in the next movie to base some of his story on or if he received the new guide to Star Wars according to the Mouse. Whatever the inspiration, Kemp was able to craft a book that while falling short of the actual title was a really great futuristic insurgency story.
Well the title actually is accurate, just kinda misleading. This book includes the two Sith Lords who are alive and operating at the time of the story. Both Vader and the Emperor play a big role in this story, but the real focus of this story are the actions and goals of the insurgents on Ryloth. If you enter this book expecting to be wooed by the extensive knowledge of Sith lore you think you are going to learn, you will be a sad panda. Kemp gives us a glimpse of the tumultuous relationship between Vader and the Emperor which apparently is typical for the Sith.
Vader had plenty of flashbacks during the course of the story with varying degrees of success as far as giving the reader a peek behind the mask. Vader as late has become the type of character that readers want to know more about and after reading this novel one could argue that on a very base level, he was physiologically bullied by his master the Emperor. Kemp really sold their relationship and to watch the Emperor bully one of the most feared people in the galaxy was actually refreshing. The “tough love” that was shown did teach Vader a few lessons along the way and it was very easy to see how this shaped his actions and responses to certain situations in the future. Beyond a few emotional and physiological issues, you won’t learn much more about the Sith.
Speaking of the Sith, the force was uber strong with them and really lame. Force choke, force throw, lightning, and deflecting things with light sabers…. that was about it. I was expecting something new or different, something cool and Sithy, instead I got exactly the same things I’ve seen and read about again and again. Oh yea there was a bit of a Jedi mind trickery used a few times, but again nothing new. Kemp is a clever guy and I almost had to wonder if there was a tight leash on him to keep from creating new canon bloat before it’s time.
The insurgency parts of this book were classic Kemp. He took his time, did some research, and wrote about an insurgency that was in the early stages rather than what we saw the rebel alliance had transitioned to in the movies. In this day in age with operations ongoing in the Middle East, the actions of these rebels made sense. Kemp was able, in a very astute way, to show how a small motivated group could negate the overwhelming firepower of say a star destroyer by using good tactics and repurposing captured military equipment. Kemp’s writing made the rebel plan look easy, but when you backwards plan their actions, then try to figure out how to write something like that, explain the plan and create action, things are not as easy as they look.
After the epic action in the first part of the book, the rest of the story turns into a Predator like situation on a hostile planet. Kemp was at a disadvantage here because we know that Vader and his Sith Daddy make it out alive. I actually would have liked to have felt like either one of them was more in peril, I mean Vader could have say lost another body part or something, it would have been interesting to see exactly what Sith “healing” looked like. There were a few twists and turns during this “hunt,” but not enough to take this book over-the-top.
Should this book be on the NYT bestseller list? Yes. It could have been better, but it was just the fix I needed. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I would love to play the first part of this story in a tabletop game. There is a reason Kemp is chosen to write for big franchises, because he’s good! This isn’t his best work by any stretch of the imagination, but people have gotten much better reviews for writing much worse books. Don’t read this book for the Sith Lords, read it for the insurgents… One other rather odd note, in the past most things in the Star wars Universe were made of plastasteel, everything in this book was made of plastic…. The times they are a’ changing.