Once again a Star Wars author gives us two half books for the price of one. From the title and cover art the assumption here is that this book is going to be about Darth Vader and his rise to power. You wouldn’t be wrong with this assumption as all of that is in the book. But Darth Vader doesn’t appear in the first 50 pages. Instead we are given a story a small group of Jedi who where ambushed when Palpatine’s Order Sixty Six was given to eliminate all Jedi. Three had survived specifically because a squad of Clone Troopers thought for themselves and gave the Jedi a chance to escape. Early on in the novel these Jedi are trying to figure out why they were attacked and what is going on in the galaxy...they learn of Vader’s massacre at the Jedi Temple and that the Jedi are all but destroyed. This brings us to Vader and his initial uncertainties and frustrations with his body and being more machine than man. Luceno has a nice passage where Vader analyzes various parts of himself with “this is not seeing” “this is not breathing”, “this is not living” and it’s a very well written and moving passage for this former Jedi turned Dark Lord.
Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader suffers from the issue that Luceno is telling two different stories. They connect and intersect and it allows us to care for some of the Jedi that Vader is cutting down, but I feel that the novel loses quite a lot because of it. This is it, this is the behind the scenes story of Vader that Star Wars fans have always been hoping for and it’s only half the book. It’s the good half, but that doesn’t excuse the other hundred and fifty pages. There could be a great novel about the Jedi who survived the Purge and how they dealt with what happened. This is only half of that novel, too. So here’s the thing, we are given half of two good books, one of which has been eagerly awaited for years. The complete novel is nothing special. Perhaps it is my expectation of what Dark Lord would be, that it would this grand Darth Vader novel where we get all of his inner thoughts and more Purge killing of the hidden Jedi. So the novel did not live up to what I expected and hoped it would be because Vader was only in half the book. But this is like Yoda: Dark Rendezvous. When a character is the title character of a book, that character should be the overall focus of the novel with maybe some side events going on but most of the book should be about that title character. This is not truly the case with Dark Lord. I felt cheated out of Vader.
Still, this was a very fast paced novel. I finished the book in two or three days and the plotline moved along at a pretty good clip. What Vader material was there was interesting and is worthing picking the book up for. It just could have been so much more.