Century, out now
The Emperor and Lord Vader make a highly unusual visit to the rebellious planet of Ryloth…
For those who followed The Clone Wars TV series (deemed to be part of the new Star Wars continuity, as shown in the considerably shorter “Story of Star Wars” that now prefaces the novels), this is a sequel to a major three-parter from the first season, which was revisited periodically. Thankfully, for those of us who didn’t watch every episode of that earlier animated series, this story stands alone, and while there are various references back to those events, Paul S. Kemp ensures that they make sense within context.
At its heart, this is a story about how far someone will go for what they believe in. Palpatine (or Vader’s “Master” as he’s referred to pretty much constantly throughout this) knows what the former Anakin Skywalker is capable of, and there are various situations where Vader’s past could (and sometimes does) lead him to actions that aren’t necessarily what a Dark Lord should do – and other times when the Emperor almost seems careless of his own safety. Vader is returning to somewhere he visited as Anakin and this brings back memories of other difficulties he has faced.
Meanwhile, resistance leader Cham Sydulla sees an opportunity to cut off the Empire’s head when he learns that Vader and the Emperor are visiting, and it becomes a race against time to kill the two Sith before they can be rescued by Imperial forces. Those forces themselves are in disarray, thanks to incompetent and/or corrupt leadership…
We know going in that neither Vader nor the Emperor will die during the course of this story but seeing what they will do to survive makes for a great tale, and while the cackling of the Emperor gets a bit wearing after a time, the scenes from Vader’s point of view show the development of the character from the figure we see at the end of Revenge of the Sith to the one who’ll turn up in A New Hope. Kemp conjures up the hostile jungle environment of Ryloth well, and has a knack for describing space battles in a way that utilises all the dimensions and focuses on the characters rather than the hardware.
Verdict: An appropriately dark journey alongside two of the best movie villains. 8/10