Review: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno

Title: Star Wars: Darth Plagueis

Author: James Luceno

Format: Audio (downloaded from Audible.com)

Reader: Daniel Davis

Rating:

Publisher: Random House Audio

Review:

One of my most guilty pleasures is reading novels from the expanded Star Wars universe. It’s a diversion that I haven’t treated myself to in a number of years, but after receiving a subscription to Audible.com, I thought it was a good opportunity to revisit the space opera that shaped much of my childhood.

I have read some previous James Luceno Star Wars titles in the past and when I saw that Darth Plagueis received high marks, it made for an easy decision. Even though the prequel trilogy has been panned by most fans (and rightfully so for a number of reasons), I still find the rise of the Empire to be the most fascinating era in Star Wars history.

For those desiring an introduction to Star Wars novels, Darth Plagueis is an excellent place to start. The novel begins with Plagueis, a pallid-fleshed Muun, killing his Sith master. Plagueis, unlike his master before him, does not use violence and strength to subdue his enemy. He is wise and cunning, playing puppet master in the galaxy’s political system.

Quite by circumstance (or led by the dark side of the force), he ends up becoming acquainted with a young boy named Palpatine. After urging an already maniacal Palpatine to embrace the dark side of the force, the two Siths embark on a quest to rule the universe.

The title of the novel, Darth Plagueis, is a bit misleading. The novel is more of a coming of age story of Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious. It tells of him murdering his family, orchestrating many alliances for political gain, and growing strong in the dark side of the force. The novel also tells of the origin of Darth Maul’s introduction to Palpatine (as an infant), the conversion of Count Dooku, and the initial plans for the clone army in subduing the Republic.

Daniel Davis does an excellent job of narrating. There are many voices (and I think he ran out of them by the end), but he does a nice job of acting out the different roles. There are also some nice sound effects and music that help build a sort of ambiance to the story.

I don’t think it would be a stretch to call Darth Plagueis the definitive novel of the rise of the Republic. It spans a long time period, from Palpatine’s beginnings as a boy, through much of Episode I: The Phantom Menace where Palpatine takes an interest in Anakin. Darth Plagueis is primarily told from the viewpoints of Plagueis and Sidious, but the novel still remains light as in most Star Wars novels.

There is not much to criticize, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the novel lacks the action of other Star Wars novels. Even though there are very few Jedi appearances or light saber duels, I never found the story to be lagging. It was interesting to see how the political takeover of the Empire was actually accomplished. One thing I could have done without is the lengthy discussion on the nature of midi-chlorians. This is not something to fault Luceno for, as Plagueis’s manipulation of them to create and prolong life is one of the few things we knew about him. So as the saying goes, it is what it is.

Darth Plagueis is an essential novel for anyone who is reading the Star Wars expanded universe. It ties in very well to the prequel trilogy and provides a backdrop for many of the events that lead to Sidious becoming Emperor. As evil and self-serving as he is, Sidious credits Plagueis as being wise and that the rise to power could never have happened without him. Even so, the novel provides a rich portrayal of the greatest enemy in Star Wars history.

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