Darth Bane: Rule of Two
2.7 / 4
In the New York Times bestseller Darth Bane: Path of Destruction, Drew Karpyshyn painted a gripping portrait of a young man's journey from innocence to evil. That man was Darth Bane, a twisted genius whose iron will, fierce ambition, and strength in the dark side of the Force have made him a natural leader among the Sith--until his radical embrace of an all-but-forgotten wisdom drove him to destroy his own order--and create it anew from the ashes. As the last surviving Sith, Darth Bane promulgated a harsh new directive: the Rule of Two.
Two there should be; no more, no less. One to embody the power, the other to crave it.
Now Darth Bane is ready to put his policy into action, and he thinks he has found the key element that will make his triumph complete: a student to train in the ways of the dark side. Though she is young, Zannah possesses an instinctive link to the dark side that rivals his own. With his guidance, she will become essential in his quest to destroy the Jedi and dominate the galaxy.
But there is one who is determined to stop Darth Bane: Johun Othone, Padawan to Jedi Master Lord Hoth, who died at Bane’s hands in the last great Sith War. Though the rest of the Jedi scoff at him, Joshua’s belief that there are surviving Sith on the loose is unshakable.
As Johun continues his dogged pursuit of the man who killed his master, Zannah, faced unexpectedly with a figure from her past, begins to question her embrace of the dark side. And Darth Bane is led by Force-induced visions to a moon where he will acquire astonishing new knowledge and power–power that will alter him in ways he could never have imagined. . .
Adrick: It's safe to say that I've been waiting for this book since I finished Karpyshyn's first Bane novel, Path of Destruction. Star Wars is all about the "hero's journey", and Karpyshyn did an excellent job of putting a dark mirror to a familiar scenario. Unlike Darth Vader, Bane never really felt the light side before embracing the dark. He had been previously established as a man of brute strength and great vision, two seemingly irreconcilable traits that Karpyshyn managed to blend together into a strong, believable character.
Of course, Path of Destruction only covered Bane's rise up to the famous Battle of Ruusan, in which the rest of the Sith army was destroyed, and I was anxious to read more. I re-read Kevin J. Anderson's short story Bane of the Sith, the first tale involving Bane, but it was far too short. Bane planted the seeds for Palpatine's takeover of the galaxy'there was so much more to be told.
Fortunately, I didn't have long to wait. Rule of Two briefly picks up right where Path of Destruction left off, and then continues ten years later. I was excited to see the relationship between Bane and his apprentice Zannah expanded upon, and it's unlike that of most Sith Lords we've seen. Whereas Sidious considered his apprentices to be expendable, Bane has far fewer resources and he knows he can't afford to lose his apprentice, or to make himself her enemy. Bane is also an inexperienced teacher, having never had an apprentice before. Likewise, Zannah respects Bane and realizes that he has much left to teach her. Unlike the Vader/Sidious relationship, Zannah and Bane's hatred is directed outward--the Sith are just barely surviving, and they don't have the luxury of hating themselves or each other. Of course, one day one of them must kill the other--but it's nothing personal, just the Rule of Two.
It's an interesting dynamic, but Zannah is thrown a few curve balls in the form of a devoted follower who wants to be her apprentice, and the unexpected reappearance of her cousin Darovit, which threaten her devotion to her master and the dark side, respectively. Zannah makes a few surprising choices that might keep you guessing.
While continuing the villain's journey of Bane, Rule of Two brings us to some exciting new planets that haven't been explored much outside of a few lines in reference works. There's Tython, the Jedi home world, now dominated by an old Sith fortress and an undead army of cyborgs, and Serenno, Count Dooku's aristocratic homeworld. Some monumental events are visited in novel form for the first time too: the reformation of the Republic into the government we see in the prequels, the construction of the Valley of the Jedi from the Jedi Knight video game, and more. It's exciting to see these events chronicled outside of a sourcebook.
As in Path of Destruction, Karpyshyn plays a little fast and loose with continuity here. His interpretation of the events in the aforementioned Bane of the Sith short story differ considerably from the original text, and perhaps he uses the Chiss species a little too off handedly. But overall, Rule of Two is a sweeping adventure story that does a great job filling up some of the blank spaces on the Expanded Universe's long timeline. Those expecting all of Darth Bane's mysteries to be revealed in this book may be disappointed, but I have the feeling we're in for a trilogy--I certainly hope so!
Stephen: Here we are, for yet more Dark Side fun. No, I'm not talking about another Holiday Special, I'm talking about Drew Kashpryn's sophomore Star Wars novel, Darth Bane: Rule of Two. This was a hardcover released on Boxing Day 2007, and came in at 336 pages. Not bad for a novel that was ordered and produced within six months. Unfortunately, you can see that rush in a few places, but over all the book is a grand addition to the SW mythos. One additional note, I thought that the original Darth Bane novel was one of the best pieces of Star Wars EU in years. That was a trait I was truly hoping would continue on in this novel. Fortunately, Drew almost managed. While it did not live up to the glory of the first novel, it far, far surpassed the dismal reading I'm getting out of the LotF series.
Now, if you've read my earlier reviews, you'll know I like to begin with a look at the blurb. Fundamentally, this one's not bad. It gives a lot of hints of things, though they are in a slightly disjointed order from the events of the book. Of course, that's not important. What's important is does it make one want to purchase this novel. To that, I have to say, possibly. This was written towards those who had read the first novel. Not a bad approach to take with a sequel, but still, there is information in this blurb that just doesn't need to be. For example, do we need to knowHoth's name here? No! He doesn't appear in this novel. A better take on that sentence would have been: Johun Othone, whose Jedi Master died at Bane's hands in the last great Sith War. It provides the same information, without dragging the reader down in pointless facts.
Anyways, on with the proverbial meat and potatoes of the review. I had trouble picking out a single, overarching plot for the story. The closest would probably be Zannah's struggle to accept what she has chosen to become. This is not a classical plot-line where a number of macguffins have to be recovered before the battle against the evil wizard. Their was no climatic scene where the protagonist struggled against the antagonist to save the day. Since the protagonists here are the Sith, one can't expect that type of story--they are after all, the bad guys of the Star Wars universe. It would be like having a Hero's Journey tale about the Ring Wraiths. What you do have are a number of smaller plots, weaved around the main characters over a number of years, and then what happens when they all collide. It's not a bad way to take the tale, and it happily glosses over the decade where Zannah is learning how to control her powers, and drops us neatly into the most important bits of her character arc.
And since I've stumbled onto talking about the characters, let's take a look at them. There are four primary characters here: Zannah, Darth Bane, Johun Othone, and Darovit. Personally, it's my opinion that their importance in the novel is in that particular order. For despite the fact that Bane's name is in the title, it's really Zannah that runs the show here.
As I said above, Zannah is the main character of this novel. Much in the same way the PoD displayed in stunning glory Bane's own descent into the Dark, this shows Zannah's transformation from the happy girl at the start of the Jedi vs. Sith comic to a Sith. Additionally, she's well on her way through the proverbial Hero's Journey, and despite the fact that she's a Sith, she successfully fulfills the needs of the Journey in this novel.
Next on our list is Darth Bane himself. Bane is the mentor/father figure for Zannah in this story. That's not to say that he doesn't have things to do himself, but frankly, his bits in the story appear more like nods to dealing with continuity issues than any overt need for him to interact with the plot. In fact, his main goal was to gain and then lose the orbalisks and gain the ability to create holocrons. Beyond that, he was merely a force of nature, destroying things when the need arose. Of course, that was okay, because he carried out his Hero's Journey in PoD.
Then there was Darovit. You kind of have to feel sorry for Darovit here. He was happily building himself a life on Ruusan, harming no one, and occasionally healing folks. Yet the Jedi, once more appeared and thoroughly trashed his life. Oddly, this is something of a standard theme in Star Wars stories: if you interact with a Jedi, your life becomes something bad. Frankly, though, of all the characters, I think I liked him the most. He was a touch acerbic and bitter. Of course, you would be to if your beloved cousin happily smashed your hand to bits before leaving you to die.
The final member of the gang is Johun Othone. The lone Jedi who believes that some of the Sith survived Kaan's thought bomb on Ruusan. Frankly, that the Jedi don't believe this is somewhat insane if you ask me. I mean, what makes them think that every Sith Lord & Apprentice was on Ruusan when the bomb went off? Not every Jedi was. That alone should have been enough to make them realize what a stupid mistake not believing Johun is. Of course, stupid mistakes are something which Jedi excel in so I guess it's not that surprising. Beyond that, Johun is pretty much a standard Jedi. He reminds me a bit of a young Obi-Wan mixed with Ulic Qel Droma. But, sadly, I don't think he has the same sort of impact on his era that either of them did in their respective times.
Beyond there are a host of secondary characters including Jedi Master Farfalla and a Chancellor Vallorum. These characters fulfill various needs within the story, appearing and disappearing when the time is right. Some of them have high impact on the outcomes, while others only impact a specific character. In the end, while these are not fully defined, they have enough definition that one can get behind what they're saying, and worry over them when they come into danger.
Settings were varied and well wrought, from the devastated plans of Ruusan to the desert world of Ambria. Finally, there was the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, and of special note here are the bronze statues of the Lost Ones.
Mechanics in this piece were great. I could not remember finding any typographical errors, nor where there any glaring continuity errors that jumped out at me. In fact, all of the continuity nods were well-placed, tying into somewhat obscure references without being patronizing. Which is a very good thing as my prime complaint about the original Darth Bane novel was the continuity mistakes. Probably the greatest issue I have with this novel is its reliance on the macguffin to power subplots. Sure, we know that there are only two Sith left, so they have to learn via holocrons, but the repeating quest to find the next holocron is a bit annoying.
Overall, I liked this book. A lot as it happens. Unfortunately, the lack of a unified plot was a slight detriment. It read more like a series of comic books: each distinct chapter has its own plot and arc, and then a bunch of these have been collected together and shoved into a hardback book, and marketed as a novel. This is not necessarily a bad thing--the original Foundation novel had a similar structure. The problem here is that only the last few sections really had a strong enough plot and conflict to hold together for this type of format. Everything else just read like the short character building cut-scenes that are often found in RPG video games. While those scenes were interesting (especially when dealing with things such as Dark Side training) they were not particularly exciting to read.
Beyond that, the characters were fun, and we have a solid Hero's Journey fulfilling Sith in the person of Zannah. Which I have to admit is something that I never thought I'd see.
Basically, what we've got is a book with great characters, interesting information about the Dark Side, pretty scenes, a handful of new spaceships and finally a weak overarching plot comprised of a handful of strong ones. I'm having to give this a 2.7 out of 4.