Del Rey Books
In Star Wars: Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, James Luceno sets out to follow-up both the film and Matthew Stover’s wonderful companion novel/novelization of Revenge of the Sith. Luceno picks up the story almost immediately after the events of Sith, as Anakin Skywalker’s mental transformation into Vader catches up with his physical transformation.
There are two ways to approach this book – as a novel unto itself and as an installment in the larger saga of the Star Wars Expanded Universe (SWEU). Readers in the SWEU camp are already probably familiar with James Luceno, he has published extensively in the Star Wars Universe, most notably the capstone book to the expansive New Jedi Order saga. Many of those fans will have either already read the book at this point or at least own it. Nonetheless, on the grounds of what Luceno set out to do in the novel – follow-up Vader’s story from donning the infamous black armour in Revenge of the Sith – he did a decent job. Some portions of the novel were a bit choppy with the fleeing Jedi interchangeable, and served more as stand-ins for the greater galaxy rather than fleshed out individuals. However, as word of his power and actions filtered through the galaxy the sense of dread Vader inspired increased in the hearts of the characters who would later Rebel against the Empire.
As a novel unto itself, it isn’t without flaws. At times, I found myself stumbling over the prose, as Luceno’s overuse of the word ‘had’ niggled at me, depriving the story of a real sense of flow. There were other instances where the story simply didn’t flow. I also found it somewhat difficult to fully distinguish the troopers from each other and the fleeing Jedi from each other. I think the strongest parts of this novel were Vader’s introspective moments and the scenes involving Emperor Palpatine. The only problem with these scenes is they take a bit too long to occur in the story. Luceno starts off story showing some of the few remaining Jedi after the fateful Order Sixty Six, which turned Clone Troopers on their former allies, the Jedi. While I was hoping for more Vader in the early portions of the book, there were some interesting scenes involving the troopers questioning their orders.
I don’t know that I could recommend this novel to readers with less than a passing interest in the Star Wars Universe. While it does follow the events of Revenge of the Sith, the story and writing didn’t quite live up to Stover’s stellar adaptation. I also feel the novel isn’t as strong as some of the other entries in the Star Wars Universe, like many of the New Jedi Order novels. I wanted to like the novel and was hoping it would focus more on Vader, rather than from afar or at the emerging galaxy from afar. Ultimately, the novel was more of something that could have been rather than something that actually was.
© 2006 Rob H. Bedford