Review: Darth Bane: Path of Destruction: A Novel of the Old Republic

I'm a sucker for Star Wars books. After reading Timothy Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command) captured the frenetic, everything-is-happening-at-the-same-time pacing of the original Star Wars trilogy and provided an engaging story to boot, I bought any post Return of the Jedi book I could get my hands on. When Darth Bane: Path of Destruction crossed the review desk, I read the dust jacket and was intrigued: the central character is an anti-hero and the story revolves around the organization of the Palpatine-era Sith. Into the reading pile it went.

The story starts on Apatros, a desolate planet where all industry is owned by the Outer Rim Oreworks Company, ORO for short. Dessel (or Des as he's called throught the majority of the book) works for ORO mining Cortosis ore, a mineral that is "immune to both heat and energy", which makes getting it out of the ground a bit difficult. Cortosis is used by the Republic in everything from tools to armor to ship hulls and, since they're currently engaged in a war with the Sith, it is in very high demand. Des eventually breaks out of the meager existance of the mines to join the Sith army and, from there the Sith Academy.

The story is decently written and moves at a moderate pace introducing enough part-time allies, teachers and adversaries to keep Des constantly distracted; there's even a love interest. Writing stories from an anti-hero's point of view can be difficult, as the character must be evil but still sympathetic. While Karpyshyn manages to walk that fine edge with Des, the rest of the characters are stereotypical two-dimensional characterizations. Even the Jedi come off as charactures of do-gooders and, when General Hoth shows some obsessive "dark side" behavior while dealing with the Sith and his own command, it feels like a gratuitous plot device rather than a true moral struggle.

Unlike most books in the Star Wars universe, Path of Destruction takes place entirely on various planets. Space ships are used only as a method to get from here to there and any battles between the Sith and Republic fleets are hinted at but not described. The lack of outer space interludes give the book an almost sword and sorcery feel rather than science fiction. The few descriptions of star flights from one planet to another are almost jarring but did help to remind that the book is not a dungeon crawl.

From the Star Wars history perspective, the story helps to flesh out some portions of Sith legend. Explanations for Sith always existing in pairs, the lack of Sith artifacts and what happened to the pre-Republic Sith are thought out well and explained in the book. True lovers of everything Star Wars will appreciate the attempt at telling the story almost exclusively from the "bad guy's" side, but readers looking for an epic Star Wars roller-coaster should probably look elsewhere.

Darth Bane: Path of Destruction: A Novel of the Old Republic, by Drew Karpyshyn
Published by: Del Rey (September, 2006)
ISBN: 0345477367
Genre: Science Fiction, Star Wars Series

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