BOOK REVIEW: Star Wars – Book of Sith

book of sithOver 150 pages of tips and tricks for becoming the greatest Sith of all time, how can you possibly resist the power of the Dark Side?

 

 

The central conceit of this hardcover from Titan Books/Lucasbooks is that it contains the writings of various Sith from over the entire span of the Star Wars Extended Universe which have been gathered by Darth Sidious (AKA The Emperor) during his rise to power. These he has collected together and annotated with his thoughts on the various teachings within. Various other characters from the Star Wars mythos have also scribbled on the pages, and finally these are being reviewed by Luke Skywalker, who yes you guessed it, writes on the pages.

Due to this, there’s a certain amount of suspension of disbelief that’s required to enjoy your reading of Book of Sith. You have to accept that in such a high-tech galaxy (even the oldest Dark Jedi had interstellar travel), the secret teachings were held on paper and not as encrypted data files, you have to accept that these have survived or that they’ve been transposed time and again to conserve them and you’ve got to go with the fact that these precious historic documents have been scribbled all over. It’s like someone finding a folio of Da Vinci’s sketches and taking a biro to them.

They do go quite some way to sell the illusion. The book opens with a “handwritten” note from Luke explaining that these pages are all that remain and what follows are half a dozen different sections each in their own style on differently cut pages, e.g. some have a torn look, some have and angular motif along the edge. The book is also devoid of the credits you’d expect to see, a single indicia page tucked away at the end of the book is the only mention of Daniel Wallace and the artists who illustrate the text within only get a mention on a removable dust-jacket sleeve which also contains the price and bar-code. You’ve got to give them credit for the effort taken.

The book itself contains the writings of Darth Sidious, Sorzus Syn, Darth Plagueis, Darth Bane, Mother Talzin and Darth Malgus. I realise these names may mean nothing to you, but to the avid Star Wars fan they’re pretty infamous. In each chapter you get a different aspect of Sith teachings, Sidious talks about how he’s using Sith techniques to establish the Empire, Plagueis is obsessed with the use of the Force to create or extend life, Syn details the establishment of the Sith etc. Each section is illustrated with pictures from simple pencil sketches through to lavishly rendered paintings.

Whilst I’m a big Star Wars fan, I wouldn’t claim to be encyclopaedic in my knowledge of the EU, it’s just too big. What I will say is that this book draws together lots of different narrative elements from both canon and EU and tries to show how they’ve been folded into Sidious’s thinking. It’s pretty successful in doing so and much credit has to go to the author and editors for making sure the whole thing ties together.

I won’t try to recapture here all of the points of Sith philosophy that are made within, but there’s one element which really struck home with me. Darth Bane talks of the Force not as a fire which can be used to kindle flames for others to carry but as a venom which is diluted when shared between many cups. Bane was the Sith responsible for establishing the “Rule of Two” law for the Sith. This is a really neat encapsulation of the different philosophies of the Jedi and Sith and that’s where the book is most effective. The Sith authors aren’t moustache-twirling villains, they each see the world through a particular lens and use the Force to achieve their aims.

Having Palpatine’s thoughts on these teachings enables you to explore a lot more of his scheming that didn’t come to light through the films themselves. There are even sections where he reflects on his own writings some 20 years later, which provide an interesting look at how he’s changed as a character in that time.

The Jedi comments on the passages are less successful for me, and often amount to little more than refuting Sith claims by saying things like “Only a Sith would see the Force this way.” Whilst it rings true with the platitudes of Obi-Wan from Revenge of the Sith it makes for a slightly annoying read and doesn’t add much. I’d have rather had the Sith teachings with Sidious’s comments only.

The book also ties in elements from the Clone Wars TV series, particularly those of Mother Talzin who has become a prominent character in the show. Her discussion of the shamanistic religion of the Nightsisters of Dathomir ties directly into the more “out-there” mythology established in the show. These might not sit too well with those who choose not to embrace matters past the original trilogy.

The only point where the book really lost me is an extended piece on midi-chlorians which felt like having salt rubbed vigourously into an Episode I wound.

Book of Sith was originally published as a Vault Edition which came in a Sith Holocron and sold for a mere $100.

 

 

This version doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, or holocrons and talismans as it were, but at £12.99 it’s considerably more affordable. It differs slightly from the one above, the cover’s not embossed and doesn’t have any inserts, but the design is essentially the same and you’re getting the same content at a fifth of the price.

I’d highly recommend this book to all Star Wars fans, you can get it online for under a tenner and it will look great on the mantelpiece, plus you might pick up a trick or two!

 

Writer: Daniel Wallace
Artists: Paul Allan Ballard, Jeff Carlisle, Chris Reiff, Chris Trevas, Russell Walks, Terryl Whitlatch & Aristia/Hive Studios
Rating: 4/5
GS Reviewer: Dave W

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