Saturday, April 23, 2011

Shepherd492 reviews: Star Wars: Darth Bane: Rule of Two

Star Wars: Darth Bane: Rule of Two (Drew Karpyshyn)

Plot Summary
The book begins where Path of Destruction left off. Bane takes his new apprentice Zannah to investigate the thought bomb, in the chamber where it is detonated, we see Zannah's cousin Tomcat. Zannah, knowing Bane would kill him, severs his arm and leaves him to die. Bane returns to his ship and tells Zannah that her first task is to find her own way off world. Thankfully, a Jedi ship has returned to the surface to look for survivors, after the Jedi run into hysterical mercenaries that claim to have escaped death at the hands of a surviving Sith (Bane himself), Zannah is left with an oppurtunity. Since the Jedi left on a different ship, the ship he came down on is manned by only a farmer and his two sons, and one soldier. Zannah gains access by pretending to be a war orphan, then kills everyone on board and takes the ship to Onderon. Meanwhile, on Dxun, Onderon's moon, Bane is seeking another holocron, this time that of Freedon Nadd. Things don't go as expected however, and, even though he is successful in finding the holocron, he is attacked by creatures called orbalisks that latch onto his torso, feeding off his dark side energy while granting him an invulnerable suit of armor and heightened senses. Zannah arrives on Onderon, only to encounter a tribe of bloodthirsty beast-riders. Bane swoops in on and saves her, and the book moves forward ten years.

Ten years later Zannah is on a mission to infiltrate an Anti-Republic movement on the planet Serenno and convince them to attack before they are ready. She successfully convinces them to attack the former Supreme Chancellor of the Republic during his upcoming visit. Back at Bane's encampment, he has failed yet again in constructing a holocron of his own and his orbalisks (which now encase his entire body minus his head) cause him to go into a dark side rage, destroying the entire camp. The book next shows what becomes of the separatists that attempt to kidnap the Chancellor. They are unprepared for the presence of a Jedi in his bodyguard and are killed, save two who manage to escape. Those two eventually capture Zannah and bring her before their leader, Hetton. After an impressive display of the dark side, Hetton begs Zannah to teach him the ways of the dark side. Agreeing, Hetton shares secrets with her, among them the location of the world where both Jedi and Sith originated-Tython. Hetton takes his eight shadow assassins with Zannah to kill Bane, however it is a trap, Bane slaughters the guards and Hetton, and takes the secrets for himself. Heading to Tython, he sends Zannah on a mission to the Jedi temple to discover a cure to the orbalisks, which he now believes to be killing him.

At the Jedi temple, Zannah finds her information, and her cousin Tomcat, who survived the removal of his arm and is now a healer. Zannah forces him to go with her to Tython so that he can attempt to cure Bane of his orbalisks. Unfortunately the Jedi are able to piece together bits of information that they left behind, and follow them to Tython. On Tython Bane has defeated an army of "techno-beasts" and found yet another holocron, this one detailing the secrets of making holocrons. Zannah arrives with the Jedi hot on her tail, and Bane and Zannah have no choice but to fight them off. The five jedi combatants are no match for the duo, but, as the last one falls, he creates a shield around Bane, causing his force lightning to reflect in on himself, burning off many of his orbalisks and nearly killing him. Time is short for Bane and Zannah takes him back to Ambria to search for the healer Caleb (whom saved Bane from Githany's poison in the previous novel). She is successful in finding him, but he refuses to heal Bane unless the Jedi are informed so that they may arrest him. Zannah agrees and Caleb heals him, however Zannah has no intentions of letting Bane get captured by the Jedi. She slaughters Caleb and drives her cousin insane with her ability to produce nightmares using the force. When the Jedi arrive, they find no trace of Bane or herself, and only Caleb's desecrated corpse and a crazed Tomcat. Killing him, they piece together an entirely different story and leave the world convinced they have finally put an end to the Sith.

Plot Analysis
The plot of this novel is focused far more on Zannah's growth as a Sith apprentice. Bane's role, while important, is certainly reduced a good deal in this novel, however I can understand the need to focus on Zannah after barely featuring her in the previous novel. How well her character is fleshed out will be discussed in the characterization section, but I have no problem with her being the main character, even if it is a "Darth Bane" novel. What i do have a problem with, is the tacked on "good guys" that do nothing more than fill pages and waste time. Johun, the Jedi featured in this novel, is a thoroughly unlikeable protagonist, he is revealed numerous times as being a rather incompetent Jedi, and, outside of a nice fight scene when he is trying to save the Chancellor, he is given nothing to do other than get killed off at the end of the novel. Another needless character is Tomcat, although he serves to illustrate Zannah's absolute alignment with the Dark Side at the end of the novel, this could have been accomplished just as well by having Zannah kill him at the beginning. Pointless plotlines aside, the rest of the novel is very good in terms of plot, the orbalisks are really interesting, and Bane's evolving relationship with them is also a high point in the story. I also thought Zannah's solution to the conflict at the end of the book was perfect, cunning and definitely suited to a book as dark as this one is. The other plot points are somewhat forgettable, but overall it works fairly well.

Characterization is a bit sketchy in this book, Bane remains interesting as Zannah's master, pulling the strings of the galaxy from behind the scene. Zannah, however, does not connect with me in the same way Bane did. You never really get a sense of her motives or what kind of person she really is. When she does things she does it in the service of Bane and that's just about it. Her evolution as a Sith is charted well through flashbacks and comparisons, but her evolution as a character is non existent. Tomcat is somewhat interesting, becoming a hermit after Ruusan is evacuated, and attempting to sabotage a memorial to the Jedi who died there, he could've been a more effective "good" character than Johun if he was more developed, as it is we barely see him. Johun was awful, there was really no reason to put him in the book other than to act as a foil to the Sith characters. However he isn't much of a foil, we never get a sense of his philosophy and most of the dialogue with him has him being just as reckless and headstrong as the Sith are *supposed* to be. Plus he was written off at the final duel anyways, we are explicitly told that the only reason Zannah wasn't killed by the other Jedi was because they had to be careful or they would kill this guy, what kind of Jedi is that inept?

Karpyshyn does a very good job again with writing sequences so that they feel concise and to the point. He takes a markedly darker tone with his writing and decisions in this novel. Choosing to kill off every single character besides the main two (like the first novel) but doing it in such a brutal manner makes this a much darker tale. His descriptions of new characters (especially the orbalisks) was spot on and really added to the story because it didn't take much imagination to get a good picture on what was going on. There were some really silly typos involving a character's first name but I can't say it hurt my enjoyment of the novel. The dialogue was decent though not exactly spectacular, but the author's writing style and the story itself put more of a focus on scheming and power struggles than it did character relations.

Not quite as good as Path of Destruction due almost entirely to some unnecessary and ineffective plotlines (but also due to Zannah's stagnation as a character), Rule of Two is nevertheless a very good anti-hero story and highly recommended, especially if you enjoyed the first book in the series.

Final Score