Given the size of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, there are shockingly few villains with the sort of depth and character development we see amongst the heroes (only Darth Vader and Grand Admiral Thrawn come to mind). Given this, Drew Karpyshyn's Darth Bane series is a welcome treat. It not only explores the rise of an ancient Sith lord, it is also extremely well written and focuses on character development rather than simply action.
The first book, Path of Destruction is almost like the anti-Harry Potter. The story begins with Bane's dreary life on the mining world of Apatros. As he flees, he joins the Sith army and rises through the ranks. Like Harry Potter for magic, Bane is discovered to be particularly strong in the Force and trained at the Sith Academy on Korriban. Only, in this anti-Hogwarts, the apprentices engage in cutthroat competition and learn how to harness their hatred.
Unlike his peers, Bane forges his own path to the Dark Side, which makes him all the more interesting. Like Vader, Bane wasn't irredeemably evil, yet his transformation is both complete and chilling. After suffering so many setbacks and traumas, Bane adopts a Darwinian philosophy proclaiming that only the strongest Sith should wield power. Path of Destruction juxtaposes this with the reigning Brotherhood of Darkness, which stresses unity and equality against the Jedi. At times, Karpyshyn displays a somewhat worrying insight into the nature of the Dark Side. But this insight also allows readers to see Bane as more than a twisted villain and understand the choices he makes.
The one thing really lacking in Path of Destruction is a strong secondary character or foil to Bane - except perhaps Githany. Bane's character seems so overpowering that none of the other Sith holds our attention for long. When he does develop their characters, Karpyshyn does a solid job. I particularly liked Kas'im, the swordmaster and Bane's favorite instructor. I just wish he had taken this further and chosen one or two other Sith to really explore and contrast with Bane.
Drew Karpyshyn's Darth Bane saga is right up there with the best of the Star Wars novels, including Timothy Zahn and Michael Stockpole's, and Path of Destruction is probably the best of the series. This feels like Star Wars. Yet, this achievement is all the more impressive given the difficulty of the subject matter. After all, not only does this time period lack the familiar characters from the Star Wars movies, but the books is manage to tell the story of an evil villain without either dehumanizing him or justifying his actions. If only more Star Wars novels were like this.
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About the reviewer
Dominic J Nardi (FreeDom4)
I am a recent law school grad with an interest in Southeast Asia legal issues. Unfortunately for my checkbook, ever since high school I have been addicted to good books. I have eclectic tastes, although … more
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