Luke Skywalker and Lando Calrissian return in this essential novel set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. The Empire is dead. Nearly two decades after the Battle of Endor, the tattered remnants of Palpatine’s forces have fled to the farthest reaches of the galaxy…
For further details in Matt’s spoiler review, you can listen here.
Let’s put it out there from the get-go – I have been looking forward to this book for a long time (well, since it was announced, anyway). More stories set approaching and/or during the Sequel Trilogy era will always be welcome but with the characters involved here and the potential for some seriously beefy canon enhancements, my anticipation for Adam Christopher’s Shadow of the Sith was high…very high.
However, anticipation and expectations are there to be met, so did Shadow of the Sith live up to my hopes? Yes, very much so. Shadow of the Sith is packed full of adventure, action, emotion, and more than a few connections and easter eggs along the way.
Set thirteen years prior to the events of The Force Awakens, the novel is in a prime position for storytelling – there’s plenty of room to maneuver with classic characters, such as Luke Skywalker and Lando Calrissian, as well as minor characters (with huge significance) such as Rey’s parents, and show their progression without being overly-shackled by the confines of the existing story. Of course, we know the fates or journeys of pretty much every character in the book, but Christopher wrote them and their situations in such a way that I was locked in and eagerly awaiting their next move. Crucially, because Christopher knew the fates of certain characters, he had the opportunity to add retroactive emotion and depth to them that hugely pays off upon rewatching future movies, specifically The Rise of Skywalker.
Weighing in at a meaty four-hundred and ninety-six pages, this is no small novel. However, such is the (almost always) consistently solid pacing, the book never lacks any momentum, and there’s a real urgency in the story which is matched by the desperation felt by most of the characters throughout. Everyone is haunted by something or someone – whether that be Rey’s parents and the fear of capture, Luke’s dark visions of the Sith’s return, Lando’s pain in searching for his daughter, or Ochi of Bestoon’s need for healing – and the way the narrative twists and turns to bring these to a head or a resolution is honestly done fantastically well. A mystery dark side villain also acts as an antagonist throughout, and…well…this character is absolutely haunted by something – no spoilers here other than to say that this character may not be entirely new to the canon.
Connections are to be found throughout the book that ties together existing stories from varying mediums and my canon-loving heart couldn’t get enough of them. Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy again proves to be a crucial foundation for this era, and characters and locations from comics, video games, and streaming series all appear throughout in such natural ways. Additionally, Sequel era characters are sprinkled throughout, and, fear not, the Prequels and Clone Wars are shown some love as well. Christopher does a fine job of connecting varying dots and making the canon feel like one big story (similarly to books such as Resistance Reborn managed to).
The strongest aspect of Shadow of the Sith is how it manages to add further development for the Sequel Trilogy era, its major and minor characters, and locations too. No longer is Exegol just a random, quickly-drawn-up Sith stronghold, we are given further information on the dead planet throughout and the character’s frantic need to get there. No more are Rey’s parents just “no one”, mere victims of Ochi’s Sith dagger, here they are vital parts of the story, and their determination to survive and protect Rey provides the heart and soul of the book as well as a powerful gut punch when their fates are sealed. Ochi himself is no longer the tangerine-headed goon from a hologram and a flashback, here (alongside the recent Vader and Crimson Reign comics) he is shown to be a ruthless, vulnerable, and desperate assassin (and, yes, that blade receives greater significance also). Characters from The Rise of Skywalker such as Beaumont Kin and Enric Pryde appear also in ways that enrich the overall story for them, the book, and The Rise of Skywalker.
If it is indeed possible to enhance the story of a movie that was generally criticised upon release, Shadow of the Sith manages to do that excellently. Christopher was able to take characters from The Rise of Skywalker and develop them naturally which allows for newly-garnered emotion from what were previously quickfire scenes. The Rise of Skywalker genuinely becomes a better experience after having read Shadow of the Sith. That’s no slight on the movie, and the flaws of that will always remain, but certain choices now make more sense or come across differently now – Lando on Pasaana, the dagger, the Sith Eternal to name a few. Additionally, sequences such as Lor San Tekka fronting up to Kylo Ren will always feel that bit stronger now.
For balance, Shadow of the Sith isn’t a perfect book. Certain chapters feel rushed at times and sequences can sometimes feel overly detailed in their descriptions which derailed some of the momentum slightly. However, there is nothing within this book that caused me any dissatisfaction. I genuinely had a great time reading and was engaged throughout. The emotion Christopher eked out of so many moments was fantastic, the characters were all well-written and felt progressed from start to finish, and there was a genuine sense of scope and adventure to the book which imbued it with a real cinematic feeling.
Is this Episode 6.75 of the saga? Maybe. Whatever the case, I can’t wait to go and watch The Rise of Skywalker again. It’s been a journey to get to this point and to be able to say those words
**** 4.75/5Thrilling, emotional, and wonderfully written, Shadow of the Sith delivers big moments that will ripple throughout Star Wars storytelling for years to come. Highly recommended.
Thanks to the team at Del Rey UK and Penguin Random House for the advance copy of Shadow of the Sith- it’s massively appreciated as usual!