Drew Karpyshyn isn't exactly a real prominent name when it comes to the Star Wars expanded universe. He's written only a handful of books, but his contributions have been pretty notable: He is responsible for the storyline in the Knights of the Old Republic video game. He also wrote the Darth Bane Trilogy, which set up the universe of the Old Republic Sith Lords in the way that fans of the more mainstream Star Wars media came to know it: Rule of Two, one master, one apprentice, at any time, no more, no less. Or as Darth Bane himself put it, one to wield the power, the other to crave it.
Apparently Karpyshyn has a great fascination with the canonical history of the Sith, because he sure seems to write a lot about it. After writing the story to the Knights of the Old Republic video game, it seems like Karpyshyn wanted to give gamers at least a little bit of a sense of closure. Revan is a sort of sequel to the legendary video game. Karpyshyn had a lot to live up to in trying to fill in some of the gaps to the story of Revan, because Knights of the Old Republic is considered the best Star Wars game available bar none, and one of the greatest video games ever made. Fortunately, anyone familiar with Karpyshyn's work in the expanded universe knows the author is easily up to the challenge. Karpyshyn's books tend to vividly depict the worlds inhabited by the characters, and Karpyshyn does more than a lot of the other Star Wars authors to fill us in on the backgrounds of The Old Republic's history, current events, and culture. Karpyshyn's books have always been engaging and quick reads.
With Revan, Karpyshyn succeeds in nearly every way. However, while the book may have Revan's name and image slapped on the cover all by himself, Revan actually presents us with two main characters. The first is Revan himself, and the second is actually a Sith Lord by the name of Scourge. If you peruse reviews of Revan, a lot of them make the argument that Scourge is actually the main character of Revan, and it's certainly easy to understand that assessment; Scourge gets at least as much coverage as Revan. The story feels like it's going to be two different stories through the first half of the book, as Scourge and Revan spend the entire first half alternating chapters before Karpyshyn finally brings their intersection into the book, thus making his point.
That means a lot of the narrative is nonlinear, but I actually like it better that way because it allows Karpyshyn to introduce to us a wider expanse of The Old Republic series universe. He gets to expound on little details of the Mandalorian culture, the Mandalorian Wars, the Great Hyperspace War, the background of the Sith Emperor, and the Sith Empire.
Revan's story begins with him having nightmares. He's married to Bastila Shan, still part of the Jedi Council but only in title, and pretty much a pariah with no trace of exactly what happened beyond the Outer Rim which turned him into Darth Revan for a brief period. He's dying for answers, and the members of the Jedi Council who are still pissed off at him aren't much help. So he seeks out his friend Canderous Ordo to help, hoping to find answers by seeking out an ancient Mandalorian artifact he had buried in order to destroy their culture. In the process, he finds the lost Jedi Exile, Ordo's rightful place in the universe, and the memories the Jedi Council stubbornly refuses to let him in on.
Scourge starts out turning himself over to the employ of a Sith Lord called Darth Nyriss. He basically begins as Nyriss's little errand boy, there to gather information. Nyriss wants a certain Sith Lord wiped out, Scourge does the job with the assistance of a non-Force Sith named Sechel who managed to attain a high rank despite his lack of Force sensitivity basically making him an untouchable among the Sith castes. He learns that Nyriss wants to knock off the Sith Emperor, and after being taken to a planet which is devoid of any sense of The Force, he gets disgusted and joins the cause…. Only to get disgusted at Nyriss because she's inactive and scared to death to actually go through with anything. He eventually throws his lot in with the one person he believes may be powerful enough to destroy the Sith Emperor.
While Revan is one of the greatest characters in the expanded universe, this book is placed in his timeline in such a way that the different sides of him can't be explored in much detail. We get his love for his wife and how he's disturbed by his lost memories and his understanding of the way The Force works, but considering that the book only covers a relatively brief couple of events in his life after the, ahem, interesting parts, there's not much Karpyshyn can do with him in the general timeframe without taking him out of character. Scourge, on the other hand, starts out as a regular old Sith Lord, but he begins to show an extra dimension later in the book. In particular, he wants to learn the ways of The Force the way Revan knows them, and his pure fascination with what he is as compared to what he could be leaves him with an open end which makes readers believe he may have a real capacity for change.
I can't say I was especially wild about the twist ending, but I was satisfied with it, because it fit the ethos and left a few things wide open. I would have also liked to see more about Canderous Ordo. I've also noticed in my expanded universe readings that the legendary Jedi Council - originally depicted as a group of wisdom seekers on high who always knew what the light, moral path was - is really fucking corrupt, full of petulance and petty grievances, more concerned with its own self-image that anything, and frequently not at all concerned with justice for those beyond the Republic. In Revenge of the Sith, Darth Sidious tells Anakin Skywalker that the Jedi and Sith are alike in almost every way. Mainstream audiences, of course, brush this off as a lie Sidious is telling to lure Anakin to the Dark Side, but expanded universe patrons see a lot more truth in that statement than movie watchers would realize. The only notable difference I can consistently see between the Jedi and Sith is that the Jedi use their credo to be smug and self-satisfied while the Sith make absolutely no bones about what they really are.
Still, though, I'm not complaining about anything. Karpyshyn does more than any other Star Wars author I've read to satisfy my curiosities about the expanded universe of Star Wars, especially The Old Republic Era. In the original movie, Obi-Wan spoke wistfully of a time "before the dark times. Before the Empire." More and more, readers of the Star Wars expanded universe are learning that there was no time before the dark times. They were pretty much always hanging around. Thank god for that, though, because without that, The Old Republic just wouldn't be as interesting.
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