Today is a very special day for Star Wars fans as May 4th has become somewhat of an international holiday. With this year marking the return of the classic franchise to theaters, this year’s May the Fourth is more special than ever!! This past week the latest in-canon Star Wars novel, Lords of the Sith, was released. Author Paul S. Kemp, who has dibbled and dabbled in the Star Wars universe previously with his novels Crosscurrent, Riptide, and Old Republic: Deceived, has delivered a tour de force with this book! I was a little skeptical about the novel, especially coming off the high of reading the previous one to this, Heir to the Jedi (review here), but this book was like Pringles, “once you pop, you can’t stop!”, and I found myself not being able to put it down.

The biggest issue for me was reading a book about Darth Vader and the Emperor that basically painted them as the “protagonists” and I was worried that maybe it would be boring because we know their fates. Of course I was VERY wrong about this and you quickly learn that while they play a big role in the book, there are many other great characters involved that make this book complete and fit perfectly into the new canon that Lucasfilm and Disney are working to build. Especially when it comes to “redeeming” the character of Darth Vader. What do I mean by that? In my opinion the Prequels took a classic villain and basically ruined him. Yes there are aspects from those films that I am fine with but overall it tarnished how I felt about one of my favorite villains of all time. But forget all that. Forget the cheesy lines spewed out of Hayden Christensen’s mouth, forget the terrible acting, and forget the green screens. Darth Vader is back and he is kicking ass all over the galaxy! But I’ll geek out about that in a little bit, let’s get an idea of why this novel is so special to the Star Wars universe.

The word canon keeps getting thrown around so let me explain why the events of this book are important when it comes to the “rebooted” Star Wars universe. When Lucasfilm and Disney decided that MOST of the Expanded Universe stories would be scrapped and redubbed ‘Legends’, a lot of fans were upset. I was a little bothered by this because I had grown up reading the great storylines from Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy, the Dark Horse Comics, and Shadows of the Empire. To me this was MY Star Wars, but the big wigs decided that it would be too difficult and confusing to new fans wanting to jump on the bandwagon to understand the years of storytelling, hence we have this new timeline. Lords of the Sith coverLords of the Sith takes full advantage of this by including a character that appeared on the Clone Wars cartoon. His name is Cham Syndulla. Do you recognize that last name? You should, especially if you’ve been watching Star Wars Rebels. Hera Syndulla, a Twi’lek, is a main character on that show and now we have a better idea of why she is so passionately fighting against the Empire. What Lords of Sith does best is show us where this fire started, with her father. Cham is the leader of the Free Ryloth movement, a group that fights against the Empire’s occupation on their planet. Cham began his days in the Star Wars lore as a revolutionary during the Clone Wars and you can read his bio here. Cham and his followers are the protagonists of this book as they plot to take down the Empire by striking at its core with an assassination attempt on the Emperor and Darth Vader. I have always been a big fan of the Twi’lek race, beyond the over-sexualization of them, and I am very happy to see them continue to play a major role in the formation of the Rebellion.

BUT remember this book is called Lords of the Sith, and it gets pretty Sithy. Like I said before, I have forgotten the days of a whiney Anakin because Darth Vader IS BACK BABY! Kemp does an awesome job of portraying the powers that Vader unleashes upon his enemies, but also a great job at humanizing him when appropriate through his inner dialogue. We all know the rule of two and that eventually the apprentice will try to kill his master to take the mantle. These ideas are expressed very well throughout the book along with how much of a servant Vader truly is to his master and the dark side of the Force. One of the questions I asked myself was how can the Emperor hide his power for so long? Well when you have Vader as your ‘Hand’ it becomes pretty simple. There are plenty of times that the Emperor uses his powers, so rest assured we get to see Darth Sidious in action once again. Fans of Darth Vader will not be disappointed and one of my favorite sequences is early in the book when he is going after a stolen starship. Basically Vader steers his TIE Fighter at the ship and sets it on autopilot to crash into it to create a hole. Vader then launches himself out of the TIE into space and as his ship hits the freighter it creates a hole for which he can enter! It is so badass, and I’m sure I did a bad job at explaining it, so go read the book yourself! He does these amazing feats that no one can understand, it’s a recurring theme throughout the novel, and the characters who witness these acts can hardly believe it themselves. Remember, the idea of the Jedi is a thing of the past, near forgotten and not many have lived long enough to remember what they were capable of. Now you have this agent of evil who everyone fears, and rightfully should, killing his opposition with “God-like” powers. Vader has no remorse when it comes to protecting his Master and following his orders.

Reading Lords of the Sith is like waiting for an inevitable car crash to happen. We all know that both of Sith Lords live beyond this story, so the real mystery is who lives and who dies outside of those two. There are some small surprises that tie neatly into the Star Wars lore, including the identity of one of the Emperor’s Royal Guards. The supporting characters of this story are all wonderful additions to the Star Wars universe from Moff Mors the first LGBT character in Star Wars canon, to the many Twi’leks who stand faithfully at Cham’s side. Kemp does a great job making you care about the cast. Because of this, I was able to look past my initial feelings that the book would be TOO predictable – making it one of my favorite Star Wars novels to date. I more than recommend this book to any Star Wars fan out there, old or new. Don’t feel obligated to read the other novels, though of course you can and I urge you to. Lords of the Sith is a great standalone story that pays great homage to characters that we know and love, creates roots for the Rebellion, and sets a precedence for the Star Wars stories that will follow down the line.

May the Fourth be with you!