Warning: This article contains spoilers from Shadow of the Sith.
Ever since The Force Awakens, Star Wars fans have been eager to learn more about how the First Order rose to power. After the years of tyranny and horrors inflicted by the Empire, how could the galaxy allow another version of the Empire to rise?
Stories like the novel Bloodline by Claudia Gray and the animated television series Star Wars Resistance have helped show the gradual rise of the First Order. Adam Christopher’s new novel Shadow of the Sith now sheds further light on the First Order’s ascent to power, even earlier in the timeline than Bloodline or Resistance.
These new insights into the First Order come from the perspective of Enric Pryde in Shadow of the Sith. Played by Richard E. Grant in The Rise of Skywalker, fans will remember him as a stoic, ruthless, ambitious, and cold leader of the First Order.
13 years before The Force Awakens, both Pryde and the First Order are a long way from being the formidable villains that fans see in the sequel trilogy films. Pryde is assigned to oversee a Corporate Sector Authority (CSA) mission on the freezing planet of Basta Core. Pryde hates every minute of it and spends most of his time standing around, feeling listless, drinking Abrax from his flask, and when the Abrax is gone, wishing he had death sticks instead.
As Pryde stands around and resents what he’s been assigned to do, he thinks “A mission like this, on a planet like Basta Core, embedded on mysterious orders that filtered down from the obscure skeletal command structure that was, at last, forming deep in the scattered Imperial hideouts in the Unknown Regions.”
This shows how 17 years after Return of the Jedi and 13 years before The Force Awakens, the Imperial remnants are only just beginning to organize their leadership. The structure that is beginning to form is also rather vague and mysterious as Pryde doesn’t seem to know whose orders have assigned him to oversee the CSA mission. This is also the case when Pryde is told to give every assistance possible to Ochi of Bestoon, as according to CSA Viceprex Coromun, “The order comes from the highest level.”
The lack of structure and clear command is further reinforced by the fact that Pryde has the rank of high colonel, but it is a rank that he gave himself, not one that he earned or that was bestowed on him by any system of leadership. In fact, he even thinks about how he should have given himself the title of Moff. These once highly coveted positions of power in the Empire are now just titles that Pryde can give to himself on a whim.
While some of this is due to the Imperial remnants only just beginning to find their footing, it is likely also intentional on Palpatine’s part. With the First Order being a key part of his master plan, he needs them to be obedient and to unquestioningly obey orders.
Keeping his return a secret is also vital to his plan, so Palpatine must keep Pryde and other members of the Imperial remnants ignorant of where some of their orders are coming from. There is no mention of Snoke in Shadow of the Sith, so it is unclear if Snoke is part of “the obscure skeletal command structure” or if Palpatine has begun using Snoke to control the Imperial remnants.
One of the other key insights is that the Imperial remnants do not yet have an army of stormtroopers. When the Sith Eternal send Ochi to Pryde for reinforcements, Pryde’s only option is to give Ochi CSA troops.
At this point, the First Order is still kidnapping children, and these children are a long way off from being the stormtroopers shown in Resistance and in the sequel trilogy. The First Order is not yet strong enough to stand on its own and needs the CSA for troops and other essentials.
As Pryde notes to himself, the CSA “existed for profit, pure and simple.” Similar to the wealthy on Canto Bight who sold weapons to the First Order, It is because of greedy and immoral companies likes the CSA that the First Order is able to rise to power.
While the First Order is not the focus of Shadow of the Sith, it is thrilling to learn more about their rise at an earlier point in the timeline and to see it through the perspective of an established character.
Star Wars: Shadow of the Sith is available now from Del Rey.