Warning: This article contains spoilers from Shadow of the Sith.
With focus on Rey’s parents, Ochi of Bestoon, Exegol, and the Sith Eternal, Adam Christopher’s novel Shadow of the Sith is most closely tied to The Rise of Skywalker out of all the sequel trilogy films. However, the novel has plenty of meaningful connections to The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi as well, including how it sets up Luke Skywalker’s most controversial moment.
Luke’s most controversial moment occurs in The Last Jedi. Through the movie’s Rashomon-style flashbacks, the audience sees three different versions of what happened between Luke and Ben Solo the night Luke’s Jedi Temple was destroyed. The last of the three flashbacks reveals the truth, that Luke sensed the darkness in his nephew and the horrific pain, death, and destruction he would create across the galaxy.
Luke’s fear got the best of him and he briefly considered killing Ben and putting a stop to the evil, with Luke even igniting his lightsaber as he stood over Ben. Luke didn’t go through with it and quickly changed his mind, but Ben awoke with his uncle standing over him, lightsaber in hand, the damage already done.
Many fans struggled with the idea that the heroic Luke Skywalker would consider killing his own nephew, especially after Luke refused to give up on his father Darth Vader, who had already committed many unforgivable deeds.
Luke’s story in Shadow of the Sith adds more context to his actions during that fateful night with his nephew. In Shadow of the Sith, Luke senses a resurgence in the dark side of the Force. He is plagued with visions of the Sith planet Exegol and while meditating on the seeing stone on Tython, he is faced with dark forces that he cannot overcome, only managing to be saved by the Force ghost of his father Anakin Skywalker.
Things get even worse from there as Luke faces Kiza, a former Acolyte of the Beyond possessed by the mask of deceased Sith Lord Viceroy Exim Panshard. Kiza is consumed by the Sith artifact, and unlike another Acolyte of the Beyond (Komat) who Luke saved from the dark side, he is unable to save Kiza, and she ultimately dies.
Despite being at the height of his power, Luke cannot save Kiza, and his failure haunts him. The darkness he faces from the possessed Kiza is formidable and unlike anything he has faced since Palpatine’s defeat 17 years earlier.
After the Sith Lord’s mask is destroyed, Luke stops seeing visions of Exegol and no longer senses the resurgence in the dark side of the Force. Yet, in the aftermath of this conflict, Luke also feels an emptiness in his connection to the Force, as if he is somewhat disconnected from it. Luke knows the fight against the dark side is unfinished, but that emptiness and disconnect is preventing him from figuring out what it all means. Luke mistakenly thinks this emptiness will be temporary and will soon pass.
Fast forward seven years later, and Luke still doesn’t have answers…until he senses the profound darkness in his nephew. Imagine Luke’s fear upon realizing that the darkness he was unable to defeat all those years ago, the darkness that had evaded him for so long, the darkness that would terrorize the galaxy once again if Luke didn’t stop it, was in his nephew all along.
It is important to recognize Palpatine’s role in all of this as well. Just as he manipulates the darkness in Ben Solo and uses this to manipulate Luke’s greatest fears, Palpatine is also behind Kiza and the mask of Exim Panshard in Shadow of the Sith. He uses Kiza and the Sith artifact to distract Luke and to hide the true darkness resurging in the galaxy.
While none of this justifies Luke briefly considering killing Ben, Shadow of the Sith makes Luke’s fear more understandable. The darkness he sensed in Ben and the fear that almost drove Luke to make a horrific decision did not come out of the blue. Luke mentions in The Last Jedi that he’d sensed the darkness building in Ben for a while, and now the reader understands that Luke had also known about a terrible darkness across the galaxy that had been building for a while as well, only to sense that all of this darkness was in his nephew.
Luke is only human and it is human to briefly panic and almost make a terrible decision. It is also not unprecedented for him as his fear and anger nearly drove him to kill Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi, until Luke realizes his mistake, cast aside his lightsaber, and declares that he is a Jedi like his father before him.
What defines Luke is that even when his fear and anger initially get the best of him, he does not let those emotions define him, and ultimately makes the right choice, just as he does in the throne room with Darth Vader and Palpatine in Return of the Jedi, and during the Battle of Crait in The Last Jedi.
Not only does Shadow of the Sith set up the Luke Skywalker flashbacks in The Last Jedi, but it also sets it up for Ben Solo. The book features a couple of interactions between Luke and young Ben Solo at Luke’s Jedi Academy on Ossus. These interactions make it clear how much Ben trusts, admires, and respects his uncle, and Ben is always eager to help and please him.
Imagine waking up to see one of the people you love and respect, someone you look up to and strive to be like, standing over you with a weapon drawn. It makes the moment even more heartbreaking than it already was after seeing how Ben interacted with and felt about his uncle Luke, making Luke’s betrayal all the worse.
This does not justify the many cruel and appalling deeds that Ben goes on to do as Kylo Ren, but it allows Ben’s turn to the dark side to make even more sense than it already did.
Through these scenes and development with Luke Skywalker and Ben Solo, Shadow of the Sith not only enriches The Rise of Skywalker, but also enriches The Last Jedi and the entire sequel trilogy as well.
Star Wars: Shadow of the Sith is available now from Del Rey