Palpatine: the early years
Release Date: 19 January 2012
368 pages * £18.99 (hardback)/£35.25 (audio CD)
Author: James Luceno
As the Star Wars prequels return to the cinemas, this timely novel covers the decades up to The Phantom Menace . Indeed, its final chapters overlap very gracefully with Menace itself.
Darth Plagueis, whose story was alluded to in Revenge Of The Sith, carries the Sith line in secret and shadow. He’s also a Muun, a Star Wars alien who has more presence and dignity in print than his fellows had in CGI. His interests include immortality and creating Jedi-killing armies. After bumping off his Sith master, Plagueis seeks his own apprentice. Eventually, he turns up a wily youth with a very dark side on the world of Naboo, by the name of Palpatine…
The most powerful part of the novel is its middle section, where Plagueis brings out the worst in young Palpatine, drenching him in his family’s blood, training him on brutal landscapes, and seducing him with ringing rhetoric. However, it takes more than a hundred pages to get to Palpatine, and frankly you could skim some of them. Luceno is gifted at describing the worlds and denizens of the Star Wars universe, but his early chapters are pretty plotless.
But perhaps that’s the point, as we slowly see events coalescing and cohering and faces we know emerging: Jabba, Dooku, Darth Maul… It may not convince you that the prequel films were much good in themselves, but the book does weave them into a compelling, satisfying history.
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