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Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil

Wes’s Rating

0.6 / 4

Adrick's Rating

1.7 / 4

 

Twenty years have passed since Darth Bane, reigning Dark Lord of the Sith, demolished the ancient order devoted to the dark side and reinvented it as a circle of two: one Master to wield the power and pass on the wisdom, and one apprentice to learn, challenge, and ultimately usurp the Dark Lord in a duel to the death. But Bane's acolyte, Zannah, has yet to engage her Master in mortal combat and prove herself a worthy successor. Determined that the Sith dream of galactic domination will not die with him, Bane vows to learn the secret of a forgotten Dark Lord that will assure the Sith's immortality -- and his own.

A perfect opportunity arises when a Jedi emissary is assassinated on the troubled mining planet Doan, giving Bane an excuse to dispatch his apprentice on a fact-finding mission -- while he himself sets out in secret to capture the ancient holocron of Darth Andeddu and its precious knowledge.

But Zannah is no fool. She knows that her ruthless Master has begun to doubt her, and she senses that he is hiding something crucial to her future. If she is going to claim the power she craves, she must take action now. While Bane storms the remote stronghold of a fanatical Sith cult, Zannah prepares for her Master's downfall by choosing an apprentice of her own: a rogue Jedi cunning and cold-blooded enough to embrace the Sith way and to stand beside her when she at last wrests from Bane the mantle of Dark Lord of the Sith.

But Zannah is not the only one with the desire and power to destroy Darth Bane. Princess Serra of the Doan royal family is haunted by memories of the monstrous Sith soldier who murdered her father and tortured her when she was a child. Bent on retribution, she hires a merciless assassin to find her tormentor -- and bring him back alive to taste her wrath.

Only a Sith who has taken down her own Master can become Dark Lord of the Sith. So when Bane suddenly vanishes, Zannah must find him -- possibly even rescue him -- before she can kill him. And so she pursues her quarry from the grim depths of a ravaged world on the brink of catastrophe to the barren reaches of a desert outpost, where the future of the dark side's most powerful disciples will be decided, once and for all, by the final, fatal stroke of a lightsaber.


Reviews

Wes: The third book in Drew Karpyshyn's Darth Bane series, Dynasty of Evil, is arguably the best. Unfortunately, in a series of duds, that's not saying a lot. Mostly, the newest entry about the Sith Lord who invented the famed "Rule of Two" is just more of the same, with new problems thrown in that make an already pointless series feel even hollower.

I like Mr. Karpyshyn. He was the lead writer on BioWare's mega-hit role-playing videogame Knights of the Old Republic, one of the best additions to the Star Wars Expanded Universe and something that is as close to universally loved by Star Wars fans as a product can get. With that in mind, there seems little doubt that Karpyshyn knows how to tell a good story.

That is what makes the Darth Bane stories all the more disappointing. I want to like Karpyshyn's Star Wars books, but they just haven't been very good.

Dynasty of Evil takes place ten years after the events of the previous novel in the Darth Bane saga, The Rule of Two. It finds Bane and his apprentice Zannah living in luxury on the planet Ciutric, where they pose as brother and sister "Sepp and Allia Omek," wealthy importer/exporters(The fact that the Sith Lord's cover story is the same as another follically-challenged angry man may leave Seinfeld fans picturing George Costanza as Darth Bane for the duration of the book... "Bane is gettin' upset!"). The decade that has passed between books has left Bane dissatisfied with Zannah, who like all bad apprentices, hasn't attempted to kill her master yet.

Believing that Zannah is now too weak to become the Master of the Sith and troubled by the deterioration of his own body, Bane decides the best course of action is to learn the secret to immortality so that he can live long enough to find another apprentice who can kill him. There are all sorts of logic problems with this (such as "if Bane learns this secret, why would he want to be killed? Couldn't he just live forever, learning everything about the dark side and becoming more and more powerful to achieve his painfully vague goal of ruling the galaxy?) and I'm certain many will feel that Bane is essentially spitting on his own "Rule of Two," defeating the entire purpose of this series, and, the very reason for the character's existence in the Star Wars Universe.

What's good about Dynasty of Evil is that it is at least focused on the central conflict between Master and Apprentice, which is an improvement over the previous Bane installments that had a tendency to wander aimlessly from one meaningless conflict to the next. What's bad is that this conflict is just as meaningless.

There is no reason to care who wins in the battle between Bane and Zannah. Karpyshyn has never given us any reason to care about either. There is nothing interesting about them, no depth, no compelling story that surrounds them or anything that might invest the reader in their fates or aspirations. They are both absolute evil, uncaring of every living thing around them, and have the exact same philosophy about the dark side and the Sith's role in the galaxy, and ultimately, the same objectives.

So why does it matter? If Bane wins? If Zannah wins? What's the difference?

There isn't any. And there's no reason for the reader to care about any of it.

After three novels, it's become clear that there just isn't a point to this series at all. I don't want to spoil the end, but I will say that the outcome of the Bane/Zannah conflict somehow leaves one feeling as though this meaningless story is even more irrelevant.

And it's ambiguous enough, and leaves enough loose ends that it's clear Karpyshyn is aiming to write another one of these things.

My question to Del Rey, LFL, and Mr. Karpyshyn is: why? What is the point of this story? Why am I supposed to care what happens to Bane or Zannah? The outcome is the same. The characters are the same. We know where this story of Bane's Sith ends ultimately, we all saw it in Return of the Jedi (or read it in Dark Empire, if you'd like), so there has to be something else... What is it?

Dynasty of Evil does introduce two new characters who are by far the most interesting in the series to date: Set Harth and "The Huntress." Both are essentially two-dimensional and there isn't a lot of time spent on development, but they at least provide distinct personalities and agendas in a story filled with otherwise bland villains.

There are problems that arise with the Huntress's role, however. The Huntress is an Iktotchi, a species which possesses both telepathic and precognitive abilities. As he does so often with Bane's powers, Karpyshyn takes this to the extreme, allowing the Huntress to see very detailed events of the past and present, so much so that it makes finding Darth Bane, something no one else has been able to do, a cinch. The plot hinges on these abilities at several points, and given how heavily the story already relies on coincidence, it becomes pretty hard to swallow. One wonders why the Jedi didn't use an Iktotchi Jedi to figure out what exactly happened to Bane at the end of the Rule of Two.

The writing itself is pretty lackluster. If you've read Path of Destruction or Rule of Two, you probably have a pretty good feel for Karpyshyn's style, but Dynasty of Evil is hampered by a new, reoccurring problem throughout. Often, Karpyshyn makes a point in a sentence and then repeats it in the very next one. For instance, on page 110, when Bane encounters a group of cultists desperate to protect the holocron he is seeking and begins slaughtering them, a sentence reads, "Only those at the very rear of the crowd were able to see the danger and pull up in time to save themselves." The next sentence reads, "Of the more than twenty cultists who had attacked him, only a handful were able to save themselves." See how they sound the same? The next sentence is, "They stood at a safe distance, hovering on the edge of the deadly field with weapons raised, uncertain how to proceed," again, essentially giving information from the first sentence.

It's almost as though Karpyshyn was trying to decide which of the two sentences he wanted to use and settled for throwing them both in. This happens again and again throughout the novel.

But what bothers me the most about this book (and the series as a whole) is how mean-spirited it seems. Most of the characters, even the Jedi throughout this saga, have been at least slightly scummy, and characters with any redeeming qualities at all are always killed, usually in pretty gruesome ways.

Let's examine one character's story through three Bane novels: As a child, she is threatened by a scary Sith Lord who will haunt her dreams into adulthood. Her father, a kindly healer who decides to send her away for her own protection, is butchered limb from limb. Ten years later, her husband dies in a speeder wreck, her best friend is murdered in a grisly fashion, and then finally, this girl is executed.

Star Wars has always had its share of tragedies, but what in Yoda's name is this?

I get that this is a novel that focuses on a villain, and thus, one shouldn't expect the "heroes" to win. I can accept that and even enjoy it. But every hero and innocent being in the series getting slaughtered, their lives essentially one tragedy after another if we follow them long enough... What's the moral of the story?

Like the point, I suspect there isn't one.

People who have enjoyed the Bane series so far will probably find more they like in Dynasty of Evil. Those who have not, are probably better off just steering clear.




Adrick: So let’s recap some of the major events in the Darth Bane Trilogy. In Path of Destruction, Bane journeyed to an ancient world to find a Sith holocron that would shape the destiny of the Sith. In Rule of Two, Darth Bane journeyed to an ancient world to find a Sith holocron that would shape the destiny of the Sith. Ten years later, Darth Bane journeyed to an ancient world to find a Sith holocron that would shape the destiny of the Sith.

Now that we’re all caught up, let’s move on to the latest installment: In Dynasty of Evil, Darth Bane journeys to an ancient world to find a Sith holocron that would shape the destiny of the Sith…

Ok, ok, this plotline, like those in the other books, is just one part of a larger and more complex story…but to be fair, it is a pretty large part. And since it’s been an integral part of every Darth Bane novel thus far (it even happened twice in Rule of Two), the books are starting to seem more than a little repetitious. Were this not the final book in the series, the Darth Bane novels would be in serious danger of becoming the Die Hard series of the Star Wars novel universe.

But like the Die Hard movies, just because the story is becoming formulaic doesn’t mean that it’s not an enjoyable experience. Karpyshyn pulls out all the stops in for the events leading up to the final confrontation between Darth Bane and his apprentice, Zannah. I enjoyed the twist of having Bane kidnapped before Zannah can kill him, which leads the apprentice to rescuing her master so that she can ensure his death. Bane’s kidnapping ties back to earlier events from the previous novels and Jedi vs. Sith, which helps to tie all four stories together…although the events may, on closer examination, prove a tad too convenient.

Karpyshyn also brings life to characters that haven’t been seen before in novels, such as a certain Ikotchi assassin and the playboy-turned-Sith-follower Set Harth. Harth in particular comes across as the most well developed new character—I look forward to seeing more of him. We also have a few inconsistencies from Bane’s history cleared up here, although at least one of them is sure to prove controversial.

All things considered, Dynasty of Evil doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the first two books in the series, but it does provide an action-packed conclusion to the story of one of the galaxy’s most infamous Sith Lords. In the end, I was certainly glad that the series didn’t follow the Sith’s own Rule of Two.


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