Darth Plagueis by James Luceno is a satisfactory prequel to a move reviled the galaxy over. While the Phantom Menace may have claimed exclusive rights to all the negative criticism ever thrown at the Star Wars franchise as a whole, Darth Plagueis manages to rise above that with a story that is both fulfilling and exciting. I owe much of my praise to Daniel Davis, whose narration of the audiobook I found engaging and very much spot on with his choice of voices, inflections, and tones.
The tale begins with the namesake of the book challenging and defeating his master. This is part of the natural order of the Sith and ensures that their overarching mission to destroy the Jedi is someday accomplished since it was well recognized hundreds of years ago that such an endeavor would take many lifetimes. Death being what it is, a master passes on his knowledge and training to an apprentice, who then becomes the master and so on. But Darth Plagueis has a different idea. In secret, he has been researching ways to achieve everlasting life. Once accomplished, he will have no need to pass his knowledge on to an apprentice. In this way, the Sith’s mission to destroy the Jedi becomes his and his alone.
Fate intervenes, however, and soon Plagueis finds himself with not so much an apprentice but perhaps an acolyte by the name of Palpatine. So begins a relationship that is entirely based on fear, greed, and opportunity. It should come as no surprise that the very thing Plagueis is trying to avoid comes full circle as he falls to the same vicious cycle that has plagued the Sith from the very beginning. At that point, and even before actually, we begin to see the machinations of Darth Sidious, the Sith Lord Palpatine will one day become.
I would recommend picking up the audiobook version of Darth Plagueis if only for the movie like narration which made the experience much more delightful than if I’d read the book myself. As noted above, Davis does an excellent job bringing the characters to life, with just the right tones to distinguish each character and make them instantly recognizable.
I’m giving Darth Plagueis four rockets because I found it engaging and entertaining. In many ways, it’s the prequel we should have gotten instead of Phantom Menace. Not that it’s all good—there are still midi-chlorians to read about and a science based approach to mastering the force which robs it of its mystical qualities. But, that aside, it’s a good read that I recommend.