Synopsis from Goodreads)
The Book of the Sith is split into six sections, which are meant to represent the remaining pages of six different books, written by various people with connections to the Dark Side. Gathered together, they form a collection of knowledge and perspectives about the Dark Side and about what it means to be Sith. This is a fun idea, and the book itself is extremely well made and thought out, with paper themed to look like different textures for each section, and paper edges cut into different patterns. There are also plenty of great sketches and illustrations, making this a beautiful and colourful book to flick through too.
On every page there are notes scrawled in the margins in different handwriting, showing what the books’ various owners have thought of their contents over the years, including Palpatine, Mace Windu, Quinlan Vos, Yoda and Luke. The book really does have the feel of recovered manuscripts, bound together, passed down and studied, and it would be easy to imagine that you are just another of the book’s owners, researching information about the Dark Side. Parts of it are a little cheesy, but that’s exactly what I want from a Star Wars book. I think any fans of the greater Star Wars universe will find this both interesting and fun.
The book has obviously been very well researched by Daniel Wallace; there is information taken from a number of sources – the films, tie-in books, games, and more. I haven’t read all the Star Wars novels (not by a long stretch – there are so many!), but I did recognise some of the references, in particular the ones taken from games (a nice mention for Revan and Korriban in there). People who are familiar with the tie-in fiction will enjoy spotting the references, but even fans who have only seen the movies will still be able to understand this, as there’s nothing too obscure that isn’t explained. I do think, however, that those who are interested in the deeper lore will get the most out of this, as there are sections that go into a lot of detail that might be hard for the more casual fan to read through.
Overall, I enjoyed the extra information the book gave me, in particular about the Rule of Two, which really helps to add context to what happens in the films, and to show why Palpatine acts and thinks as he does. I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more discussion about the Force and how the Dark Side practitioners view it, though. It would have been fascinating to see a different perspective on this, as we largely see the Dark Side through Jedi bias. I’ve always thought that the Jedi seem too quick to dismiss all emotion and to label the Dark Side as evil. Life is usually a little more complicated than that. We do get some discussion of the Force in this book, but this is unfortunately a little lost amongst too much information about weird creatures and weapons.
The book also suffers at points from Evil Villains who are evil because they’re evil. I’ve often heard writing advice that, to write a good villain, the antagonist should believe that they are the hero of their own story. This came across with some of the perspectives in this book – Palpatine, Darth Bane and Darth Plagueis – but others felt a little one-sided and flat to me: “What a delight to have landed amidst fellow twisters of life!” – This phrasing, ‘twisters of life’, sounds like something a Jedi would say about a Sith, but do the Sith really think of themselves this way? Might they not look at themselves as ‘improvers of life’ instead of ‘twisters’? That line makes it sound like they are evil and revelling in being evil for the sake of it, which, at least for me, doesn’t make a very interesting bad guy.
One really brilliant aspect of the book was the way that various characters interacted with the text and with each other in the comments, as I thought the author did a brilliant job of capturing the characters’ personalities. Mace Windu is appropriately pompous, Yoda is... Yoda, Palpatine reveals a self-obsessed and power-hungry intelligence, and Luke is the most balanced and sensible in his approach. Vader’s notes were particularly good, hinting at his distaste for his master’s methods, but also suggesting a man who has gone too far down the path of the Dark Side to turn around and is now desperately trying to justify it to himself. I also really enjoyed Quinlan Vos’ little asides, which provided a nice note of humour.
My favourite exchange from the whole book involves a rather superior sounding Mace Windu dismissing the need for ritual, followed by this observation from Palpatine:
“This is the most outrageous thing I have ever read! With their Council, their trials, their ranks, and their Temple, the Jedi are nothing but ritual.” Heh. Yes.
This is a fun and well-made book that Star Wars fans will certainly enjoy. It provides an incredible amount of extra information about the universe, the worlds, the characters, weapons and creatures of the Dark Side. Despite my disappointment that it did not go very deep into the philosophy of the Force, it’s still left me with lots to think about, and plenty of fodder for discussion. The amount of research into the expanded Star Wars universe that has gone into this is impressive, and it’s handy to have it all in one beautifully-presented book. Characters are spot on, the book is very well written, and the author has captured that ‘Star Warsy’ feel perfectly.
Thank you to Titan Books for providing a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.