James Luceno’s new book, Darth Plagueis, largely re-tells the story of Episode I – The Phantom Menace but from the Sith perspective of Palpatine’s master and then of Palpatine himself. It also adds some very interesting details about the Sith’s ‘Grand Plan’ for destroying the Jedi and how the plan evolves based on opportunities and obstacles encountered by the dark lords. You get a peek into plots which evolve and succeed or fail as the Sith masters probe the defenses of the Jedi.
As the book opens, we see Plagueis (like all good Sith) seizing an opportunity to assassinate his master Darth Tenebrous when they are betrayed during a business dealing. Although Tenebrous doesn’t stick around very long in the book, it’s clear that there is mistrust between Plagueis and Tenebrous and that Tenebrous doubts that Plagueis has the stuff to cut it as the future of the Sith – a common tendency among the Sith masters. Darth Plagueis later finds out just how little faith Tenebrous had in him when he has to dispatch an alternative apprentice Tenebrous had selected – another common tendency of Sith lords.
While the story moves along, another interesting Sith characteristic becomes apparent, the propensity for each Sith lord to regard the ‘Grand Plan’ and their role as Sith in the prism of their own culture or species. For example, Tenebrous is a Bith and focuses on Bith science in combination with the dark side where as Plagueis, a Muun, prefers to work through financial manipulation to seed instability throughout the Galaxy. We see this characteristic repeated when Palpatine comes into the picture with his political acumen.
Probably the most interesting and enriching aspect of this book are the details that it provides to supplement the story in Episode I – The Phantom Menace. We learn how Plagueis and Palpatine manipulate galactic governments and trade rivalries to place Padme Amidala in the throne on Naboo and how they manipulate Sifo-Dyas and Dooku to lay the groundwork for the Clone Wars. Luceno also reveals how Palpatine is discovered by Plagueis and how Palpatine ultimately makes his leap to the dark side. On a side note, Luceno also makes an interesting implication that one’s propensity towards the light or dark side may be inherent rather than the choice it is often presented as. One thing that comes through perfectly though is that Palaptine is a complete sociopath who is unbelievably well-suited for the role he is to play in the downfall of the Jedi.
While some may be done with the Phantom Menace’s storyline, this book does a great job of resuscitating if not completely redeeming that narrative and is well worth the time. As the book concludes with Palpatine’s ascension and Plageuis’ death, I had to wonder if this would have been a better telling of Episode I.
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