Saturday, April 16, 2011

Shepherd492 reviews: Star Wars: Darth Bane: Path of Destruction

Star Wars: Darth Bane: Path of Destruction (Drew Karpyshyn)

Plot Summary
The novel starts by giving us insight into Bane's childhood. Raised by an abusive, alcoholic father, Bane has worked for the ORO for 10 years. ORO has kept him deep in debt since his father died and it seems he will never leave the barren planet known as Apatros. All that changes one day when, after a heated game of cards with some Republic soldiers, he is jumped by an angry ensign who believes him to be a cheater. After the ensign pulls a knife on him, Bane turns the tables by disarming him and stabbing him through the chest. Now a wanted man, Bane's only hope of escaping the law and the world of Apatros is joining the Sith as a common soldier. Bane distinguishes himself in combat time and again, unknowingly using his gift for the force time and again to avert disaster. After he incapacitates a senior officer to better fulfill a mission, the Sith Lords want to take him to the academy on Korriban for formal training.

 Here he is embroiled in schemes and treachery between students, while learning the ways of the dark side. He proves to be a quick learner, but, after slaying a boastful student in the training ring using only the sheer power of force, he loses his focus in the force. After nearly dying in the training ring himself, Bane resolves to regain his focus. He enlists the help of Sith blademaster Kas'im and Jedi defector Githany. He trains in secret, planning to take revenge against his rival Sirak. When the time finally comes to face Sirak he is successful, but grants him mercy. Shortly after, Bane heads into the wastes of Korriban, determined to learn something from the tombs of Lord's of the past. Upon finding nothing, he returns to the academy only to be encountered by Sirak shortly before the students were to embark for the planet of Ruusan. With Githany's help he kills Sirak for good, but does not follow the other students to Ruusan, having become disillusioned with the Brotherhood of Darkness.

Instead he heads to the unknown world where he finds power beyond belief in the form of a holocron of Darth Revan. He uses this holocron to bolster his own abilities, and in his meditations, decides that the only way the Sith can be successful is if there is only two, a master and an apprentice. He begins plotting the destruction of the Brotherhood when Kas'im shows up, trying to re-recruit him to the Sith. He fails and is killed, but Bane, planning to deceive the Brotherhood, moves to a planet near Ruusan and offers to make amends. After meeting with Githany and nearly being killed by a deadly poison, Bane heads to Ruusan with a gift for the leader, Kaan. This gift, though reckless in its nature, is eventually all that Kaan can use against the Jedi, calling all Sith into the caves beneath Ruusan, he evokes its power, and wipes out the Sith order. With the exception of Bane, who is far from the epicenter, already seeking a new apprentice and, at the end of the book, finding one.

Plot Analysis
The plot of this book was excellent, it offers a view into the workings of a Sith academy and the rise of a revolutionary Sith lord. Bane's origin is quite unlike anything we have seen in Star Wars and he is a very strong addition to the lore. The constant betrayal and backstabbing among the Sith is also a treat, as the facade of brotherhood deteriorates right before our eyes over the course of the novel. Even the Jedi are not without their infighting in this book, as PoV shifts to the main Jedi leaders frequently display a rivalry not seen among the Jedi of the Old Republic. The thought bomb itself was also a fearsome weapon, being somewhat of a "superweapon of the force" instead of just another extension of a pre-existing ability, as most force powers are. The two (minor) complaints i have with this novel are that it refers entirely too much to KoToR (the author's previous work, set two thousand years prior)-Revan is referenced far too much compared to other long gone Sith and revisiting the unknown world felt a bit too self-referential for me, especially considering the gap in between these time periods. I also felt the ending was a bit sudden. Bane randomly finds an apprentice (A character we had never seen prior) while walking through the forest after the thought bomb's detonation. This character could have been better integrated into the rest of the story, although I am certain her character will be expanded on in the next two novels in the series.

I really liked the characterization, each character felt unique, and the author does a great job of writing them like real people. Nobody in the book is without their shortcomings and doubts, and the novel is much better that way. Bane himself is written very well, his transition to all powerful Sith lord being a lengthy process with its fair share of bumps in the road. Also of note are both the leaders of the Jedi and the Sith. Jedi master Hoth starts as an altruistic, prototypical Jedi but eventually becomes jaded and bitter before making the final sacrifice to destroy the Sith by provoking the thought bomb's detonation. Sith lord Kaan starts as a smooth talking, cunning figure but by the end of the novel he had become an illogical lunatic, keeping his follower's trust only through the power of the force.

The author does a great job with the prose, he makes every sentence count for something and ensures that the reader can get a clear mental picture of the proceedings. He doesn't interrupt dialogue with meaningless exposition, nor does he spend too much time with technical details. Although he does not really explain the technology of this era (one thousand years before A New Hope) it doesn't matter because there are only a few sequences with tech being featured. This is very much a character driven story and the author does a very good job with character interaction and structuring. The only real flaw with the writer's prose is, once again, his eagerness to reference KoToR. On rare occasion he would sprinkle in names with little context and where another comparision would have served to diversify things.Though I am really stretching here, this book is accessible and enjoyable due to the author's talent for conciseness.

Path of Destruction is a must read for fans of the Sith, anti-heroes, and deception. It is a highly reccomended read due to its concise prose and epic scale, shedding light on the Rule of Two and the workings of the previous Sith faction, not to mention a Sith Lord far different than those we saw in the prequel trilogy.

Final Score