Matthew Stover is the latest author (after Terry Brooks and R.A. Salvatore) to be given a chance to adapt one of the Star Wars films to a novel. Stover is no novice to the Star Wars universe, having written the excellent prequel novel "Shatterpoint" and the New Jedi Order volume "Traitor". Considering how dark and gritty "Shatterpoint" was, Stover appeared to be the perfect author to give the novelization for Episode Three to. Episode Three was said to be the darkest of all 6 films, and Stover is good at going dark. This was one of the few Star Wars novels which I was actually looking forward to reading.
The basic outline of "Revenge of the Sith" has been known for years, even before "The Phantom Menace" was a glimmer in the eye of George Lucas. This is the one fans have been waiting for. This is the fall of Anakin Skywalker. This is the film, the book where Anakin Skywalker is seduced by the Dark Side of the Force, turns his back on the Jedi, helps destroy the Jedi and becomes Darth Vader. We know the history. We know what the end result is, that Luke and Leia will end up being separated with no knowledge of each other or their father. What we don't know is exactly how this all goes down. When the first two prequel movies were not what the audience had expected, "Revenge of the Sith" had to contain all the fans had wanted for the prequel trilogy. Since the release date for the movie is still a month away, I can't say if the movie will deliver the goods. I can say that the book does.
The Anakin Skywalker that we know from "Attack of the Clones" is more than a little brash and angry at times, but he is dedicated to the Jedi. The other prequel novels give little foreshadowing hints to the fall, as does the scene in Episode Two where he slaughters the Tusken Raiders who kidnapped his mother. But how does he fall from the Jedi to the Sith? Matthew Stover does an excellent job at showing the reader the inner workings of Anakin's mind regarding the Jedi and how much of a friend Palpatine is to him, how important Palpatine is and how little Palpatine judges Anakin. He is exceptionally close to Obi-Wan, but Anakin still feels judgment from the Jedi. Through tightly described scenes of conversation and battle, we see Anakin slipping closer and closer to being able to accept the Dark Side. We see Palpatine continue to manipulate Anakin so that when he finally does reveal himself Anakin doesn't see the monster, but his friend who also happens to be a Sith Lord and might the Sith really not be as evil as the Jedi have taught?
I can only hope that George Lucas proves to be half as good of a director for this final Star Wars film that Matthew Stover is a writer. If so, we can be looking at one very, very good movie. I'm skeptical, of course. Stover set the bar pretty high with this book. Including this book I have read forty of the Star Wars novels and this is easily one of the best. The story is gripping and one which I wanted to keep reading to find out exactly what happened next. Stover is very good at describing the lightsaber battles as well as making the dialogue feel natural (something that we don't often get in Star Wars). The only thing that felt off was the use of the trademark "I have a bad feeling about this" that must be contractually required of every Star Wars author. If Stover is this good playing in somebody else's world, I can imagine how good his original work must be. Not all Star Wars authors seem capable of writing this good of a Star Wars book. One could even skip all of the other prequel novels that fill in the story and having seen the first two films just jump right into this book and read arguably the best Star Wars novel out there (Stover's "Shatterpoint" and Karen Traviss's "Republic Commando" must also be considered). If you are looking to read a Star Wars novel, this might be the place to begin.
One of the best things that I can say about this is that this book is one of the most satisfying stories that I have read in the Star Wars universe.