Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp


It’s a Star Wars book release day! Today, April 28th, marks the debut of the fourth officially canon Star Wars novel from Del Rey Books, Lords of the Sith. The story is written by veteran author Paul S. Kemp, who has penned three Legends novels prior to this one, including The Old Republic: Deceived, Crosscurrent, and Crosscurrent‘s sequel, Riptide.

Here’s a summary of Lords of the Sith from Amazon:

"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . . .When the Emperor and his notorious apprentice, Darth Vader, find themselves stranded in the middle of insurgent action on an inhospitable planet, they must rely on each other, the Force, and their own ruthlessness to prevail.“It appears things are as you suspected, Lord Vader. We are indeed hunted.”Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knight, is just a memory. Darth Vader, newly anointed Sith Lord, is ascendant. The Emperor’s chosen apprentice has swiftly proven his loyalty to the dark side. Still, the history of the Sith Order is one of duplicity, betrayal, and acolytes violently usurping their Masters—and the truest measure of Vader’s allegiance has yet to be taken. Until now.On Ryloth, a planet crucial to the growing Empire as a source of slave labor and the narcotic known as “spice,” an aggressive resistance movement has arisen, led by Cham Syndulla, an idealistic freedom fighter, and Isval, a vengeful former slave. But Emperor Palpatine means to control the embattled world and its precious resources—by political power or firepower—and he will be neither intimidated nor denied. Accompanied by his merciless disciple, Darth Vader, he sets out on a rare personal mission to ensure his will is done.For Syndulla and Isval, it’s the opportunity to strike at the very heart of the ruthless dictatorship sweeping the galaxy. And for the Emperor and Darth Vader, Ryloth becomes more than just a matter of putting down an insurrection: When an ambush sends them crashing to the planet’s surface, where inhospitable terrain and an army of resistance fighters await them, they will find their relationship tested as never before. With only their lightsabers, the dark side of the Force, and each other to depend on, the two Sith must decide if the brutal bond they share will make them victorious allies or lethal adversaries."

From the summary, the book promises non-stop action and a look into the minds of the galaxy’s most famous (canon) Sith lords. But it goes much deeper than that; having been given the opportunity to read and review an advanced reader’s copy, I can attest to the fact that the story is more layered and the cast of characters more varied than the title might suggest.

But don’t take my word for it. Gathered below are excerpts of reviews from all over the Star Wars internet fandom that showcase the wide range of opinions on this novel.

Johnamarie Macias from The Wookiee Gunner and Making Star Wars didn’t have glowing things to say, but her opinion was not negative:

"“The freedom fighters of the Twi’lek planet Ryloth endeavor to strike a debilitating blow to the Empire, with Darth Vader and the Emperor as their main targets. Fast-paced, action-packed, and filled with diverse and familiar characters, Lords of the Sith is an entertaining–yet safe–read.”"

The Wookiee Gunner contributor Elisa, however, was blown away.

"“I highly enjoyed this book. Going in, I was expecting a Sith version of a buddy cop movie, and while the wacky hijinks weren’t exactly present, the interactions and the story revolving around the title characters and other storylines present in this book were solid.”"

Jonathan Baker from Force Cult also had a positive opinion.

"“Lords of the Sith is a book that took me absolutely by surprise. I went in not expecting much and I came out on the other side with it being my favorite of the new canon novels written so far. Even though it was an isolated story, Lords of the Sith felt much more connected to the universe than any other the previous three novels did. I feel like the effect of the Free Ryloth Movement’s attack on the Emperor will be felt in other media down the line. Likewise, I think the groundwork that was laid for the relationship between the Emperor and Darth Vader will be important in things to come. Kemp did a wonderful job with this book and I hope he comes back to write Star Wars in the future.”"

Others, however, found Lords of the Sith lacking in some crucial areas. One of these areas involves Delian Mors, the first officially canon female Imperial Moff, and also the first officially canon lesbian character in the Star Wars universe.

Brian from Tosche Station was not impressed with how she was handled.

"“Much has already been written about Moff Mors, the first LGBT+ character in the story group era canon. I was wary about how Kemp would handle her and, unfortunately, I found myself not overly pleased with how she was handled. While she does go through a decent arc that shows her tactical skill and smarts, her initial framing is rather awful. She’s described as being visually akin to a Hutt (and this isn’t the only instance of body shaming in this book, several characters are guilty of this). Then there’s the drugs and harem of female Twi’lek slaves.So while she overcomes that initial characterization to prove competent in this book, I have to question whether or not that setup was necessary. It hits a bunch of iffy tropes and overall felt like a huge disservice to her character and the LGBT+ readers who will pick up this book. Can this arc be accomplished without this framing? I think so, which makes her portrayal in this book disappointing.”"

Brian Cameron from Jedi News, on other hand, felt Mors’s portrayal was beneficial to Star Wars as a whole.

"“The character in question, Moff Delian Mors’s sexuality is largely irrelevant to the storyline. Mentioned once to establish her history and emotions in the plotline. At first I questioned this, as why introduce a lesbian character and not promote this or make it a central plot of theme. On reflection, Kemp has actually handled this brilliantly. It could have been easily triumphed out as a landmark event; however in the way it is handled and conveyed they actually hit home the real reason for introducing the sexuality of the character. Someone’s sexuality is irrelevant, its no more important than Vader or Palpatines’ assumed heterosexuality. Kemp addressed it best on twitter where he referred to her sexuality as being an aspect of her character just like the fact her hair is brown. By having the sexuality irrelevant it normalizes it more than trying to show that this is normal in any kind of storyline. This is the first I assume of a much richer and diverse Star Wars universe, and perhaps the last time we even need to acknowledge or discuss it.“"

There are a lot of different perspectives on this book, as there seem to be with all new works of Star Wars literature. My opinion is no less mixed than those I highlighted in this post. I thought it was a solid story featuring quality character development, though thick action and a sense of detachment from Darth Vader’s perspective prevented it from reaching a 10. You can read my full review on Making Star Wars, where I post all of my Star Wars reviews.

Do you want to go out and pick up this book? Yes, I would certainly recommend you doing so. It has a lot of great things to offer, including a good story and fascinating, unique characters. Besides, what may have bothered or delighted some people may or may not effect you in the same way, so it’s best to read the book for yourself and form your own opinions. Not only that, but Paul S. Kemp’s Lords of the Sith is a part of official canon, and as such it necessarily enriches the Star Wars saga.