The new Star Wars canon has turned on some stellar stuff (Lost Stars) and some less than entertaining stuff (Aftermath), but Paul S. Kemp’s action-packed novel falls very comfortably in the stellar category, bringing us a very satisfying tale, that ties a number of Star Wars properties together through references and characters.
Taking place before A New Hope, when just the barest seeds of rebellion are beginning to take root, the story follows Lord Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine as they find themselves ambushed and hunted on the planet Ryloth by Cham Syndulla, introduced in Star Wars: Clone Wars, leader of the Free Ryloth movement, and whose daughter, Hera would lead a fight of her own in Star wars: Rebels.
With trouble brewing on Ryloth and Moff Mors falling into a hedonistic lifestyle, leaving a power hungry Imperial, Belkor, filling her troops with his own men, but he’s also bartered an agreement with Cham and the movement, Vader and the Emperor elect to visit the planet and deal out some justice.
Learning of their imminent arrival, Cham blackmails Belkor, and uses the opportunity to launch an all out assault on the leaders of the Empire, but with two Lords of the Sith, the struggling group may have been off more than they can chew.
Filled with fantastic action beats, the entire novel feels like one long fantastically choreographed sequence that plunges the reader from a space battle, to the insectoid tunnels, as Cham and his group pursue their targets.
Their hope is to eliminate Vader and the Emperor and spark a rebellion, but Palpatine is using the whole incident as a test for Vader, his loyalty, his abilities, and he seems to be a step ahead of everyone the entire time.
I greatly enjoyed this novel, and loved the way it tied all manner of threads together, we get a look at the master/apprentice relationship between the Emperor and Vader, and Palpatine is truly as evil as we think he is, the final moments of the book are pretty chilling.
Kemp has a great handle on the characters, each of them experiencing their own arcs, and just as important he knows the pacing and style of Star Wars films and shows, this feels like it is part of the whole, which is good, considering this is now canon.
I’ll be honest, I was a bit anxious about reading a story that, from its cover, seemed to only focus on Vader and the Emperor (to me he’s always been the least interesting character), but the interplay between the two, as well as the rest of the characters, moments and dialogue wowed me over in just a couple of chapters. And once the attack begins… wow!
This is Classic Star Wars! Check it out!