I am a big fan of James Luceno`s (prequel-to-the-prequel books Cloak of Deception and Labyrinth of Evil, along with Dark Lord are among my top 10 favoI am a big fan of James Luceno`s (prequel-to-the-prequel books Cloak of Deception and Labyrinth of Evil, along with Dark Lord are among my top 10 favorites of all time), and I must say while Darth Plagueis is good, it`s not up to his usual standards. To sum it up: Narrative-wise, i was disappointed, story-wise i was more pleased but theres a few things that annoyed me.
I`ll try to do a spoiler-free quick review, then more details under the SPOILERS heading below.
Luceno has a very good writing style, and obviously has done his research. But overall I was put off by the overexplaining of several descriptions and dialogue, and a lot of times it feels really simplistic in order to appeal to people who havent read all the other EU materials covered (i.e. the story goes through and references Jedi Council: Acts of War, Darth Maul: Saboteur, Cloak of Deception, Darth Maul comic series, Darth Maul shadow Hunter, etc...) I will write a list of what source takes place between which chapter. But there is a lot of dialogues especially towards the later parts as it gets closer to the time of Phantom Menace, to the order of "Palpatine, meet Senators Ainlee Teem from Malastare, Bail Antilles of Alrderaan, etc..." then replies "Nice to meet you Bail Antilles of Alderaan, I heard about..." (this and this event). Overexplaining, oversimplified, repetitive (I noticed **3 times** Plagueis mentions he`s the one taking care of Sith affairs behind the scenes while Palpatine is the public face) and uneven narrative shifts (the first half is from Plagueis` POV, then unevenly switches sometimes to Palpatine, and once or twice to Maul) really made it disappointing narrative-wise.
As for research, it seemed Luceno is confusing comlinks with holopads. Several times, characters are using comlinks to record and playback holograms, bring up astrogation data and plot hyperspace trips (???) I think if you replace every mention of comlink with datapad that would fix the issue... but its so annoying for some reason.
As for the story, I really liked the background of the new character Plagueis. As I am a huge fan of Palpatine (hes my favorite SW movie character) its great to finally learn about his origin and background. also to see how far back the Sith Grand Plan goes and all different events and stories are tied to it. There are moments equivalent to the scene in Phantom Menace when Qui Gon says "Obi-Wan Kenobi, meet Anakin Skywalker" such as Plagueis` first meeting Palpatine, Palpatine first meeting his future-advisers (Greejatus, Doriana, Pestage), Palpatine finding Maul, both Sith meeting Dooku and Sifo-Dyas, etc... And the way the various previous books and comics mentioned above are interwoven is almost masterful. ( I especially liked the coverage of the events from Republic #64 comic with the death of Vidar Kim, one of my all-time favorites) and it`s great to learn more about minor characters such as Vidar Kim, King Veruna of Naboo, and many others.
The book is in three parts, the first one about 40 years before TPM starting when Plagueis kills his Master, Tenebrous and later meets Palpatine on Naboo, the 2nd part 20 years later during Palpatine`s training as a Sith and finding Maul, then the 3 part 20 years later a year before and up to the end of TPM. But two major things really irked and disappointed me:
1) We still dont know anything about Anakin`s "birth" or "creation". IMHO, this was the whole purpose of the book. There are about 3 vague references to it. The first time, Plagueis seems to hint that about 9 years before the Battle of Naboo the two Sith were able to experiment with creating life out of midichlorians. Later, seems to hint that the experiment failed. Later, when Palpatine meets Anakin on Corsucant, he seems to think that maybe midichlorians created Anakin in response to the two Sith playing so much with midichlorians and overall taking control over the Force in the galaxy. The reason I say this seemed as it was the purpose of the book, is because the whole first part of the story is so emphasizing Tenebrous and Plagueis spending their lives studying midichlorians and the Force, and how life and death affect them, and that whole concept is completely abandonned half-way through the book. I think maybe thats the reason the first version of the book was nixed by Del Rey in 2007 and he had to start over again, but we`re still left unsatisfied where anakin is concerned.
2) This is more of my own personal opinion, but I think Having Plagueis being involved right up until the end the events of Phantom Menace is a mistake. Mostly because it creates the infamous "ronto effect" where there are so many sources and stories, some even exploring the deeper thoughts of Palpatine, where there is absolutely no mention of Plagueis` existence, and even when he was first referred to in Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine made it feel like his Master died a while ago and we were left to assume probably he died before Maul became a Sith because of the rule of two. Also, after the events 20 years before the Battle of Naboo, after Plagueis is crippled and becomes some sort of recluse, he is not even involved in the story anymore and his appearances and actions feel like an afterthought. Even if Luceno says Plagueis helped influence votes to get Palpatine elected as Grand Chancellor, Palpatine could have done it on his own and Plagueis feels pretty useless during that whole last part. Hes always trying to get involved in scenes from the Phantom Menace movie but always arrives on the scene after the events already happened, or the people have left the scene. Basically, it feels very forced to have him alive in that period....more