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Rule of Two by Drew Karpyshyn
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's review
Jan 11, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: xstar-wars, xsw-novel
Read in March, 2009

The second Star Wars novel by Drew Karpyshyn set in the Old Republic, Darth Bane: Rule of Two picks up immediately after the climactic events of the first book Darth Bane: Path of Destruction. The detonation of former Sith leader Lord Kaan's thought bomb has devastated the Jedi and Sith remaining on the planet of Ruusan. Darth Bane has survived and has just chosen a new apprentice, a girl named Rain who has recently killed two Jedi in a fit of rage. Her cousin Tomcat, who was brought to Ruusan with her originally to help the Jedi war effort, is also still around; turns out his Force powers were too weak for him to be greatly affected by the thought bomb.

These events were originally told in the Dark Horse comics series Jedi vs. Sith. In the first book, Karpyshyn retold part of that comic series, giving it a more realistic and grittier feeling (i.e., unlike the comics, Lord Valenthyne Farfalla wasn't literally a satyr in the novel and his ship, while described as like an ancient sailing vessel, still didn't sound as ridiculous as the actual imagery of it in Jedi vs. Sith was.) Apart from altering the feel of the comic series, though, Karpyshyn stayed largely faithful to its events. He completes the re-telling of the comics in Rule of Two, quickly sweeps in his own version of the older short story Bane of the Sith, and around one-third of the way into this novel finally has the opportunity to cleanly tell a brand new story of his own.

After some setup, the story takes a ten-year leap forward, so that Rain, now known as Darth Zannah, can become the young adult apprentice of Darth Bane and we can see how his plans for the new Sith Order of two individuals are progressing. Karpyshyn does not linger over Zannah's training; some is told in flashbacks but from those short sections, I believe he made a wise decision to jump forward. The few flashbacks he does include are powerful and give a potent sense of what Zannah's training has encompassed.

I find it interesting with Bane's character that as power-hungry as he clearly is, he is willing to sublimate his immediate desires for a longer-term view of building a Sith legacy. Instead of scheming to rule the galaxy a la Darth Sidious, Bane focuses on building holocrons, acquiring forgotten Sith lore, and training Zannah in the ways of the Sith. I'm unsure as to whether Palpatine represents the culmination of the order Bane was trying to build or not; he certainly metes out revenge to the Jedi Order, but Palpatine was consumed by his own power and ambition, showing little concern for empowering the Sith that should come after him.

Rule of Two may be the goriest and most violent Star Wars novel published to date. Telling a tale focused on a Sith Lord and his apprentice will naturally require a certain amount of this, but there are some scenes that may surprise readers who are used to the heroic tales of Luke Skywalker and his friends. The orbalisks covering Bane, taken from the Bane of the Sith short story, are a grotesque but fascinating concept, and Zannah's scheming to convince her master to remove them and the protection they grant is quite interesting.

The worlds featured in this novel are largely unused in other Expanded Universe stories and make a welcome change from the norm. The devastation on Ruusan underscores the impact of the Jedi and Sith battles waged there; we briefly visit Dxun and Onderon, introduced in the comic series Tales of the Jedi; there's a stop at Serenno, future home of Count Dooku; and there's a fascinating and intense sequence on Tython, a Deep Core world legendary for being the supposed birthplace of the Jedi Order.

My concern with Rule of Two is it feels like the middle novel in a trilogy. There is less resolution than I had hoped for, and while the characters evolve some, there's not nearly the progression that we saw in Bane in Path of Destruction. If Karpyshyn gets the chance to write a third Darth Bane novel, it may make me view this one a little more favorably as a transition; however, if this is the conclusion of Bane's saga, I had expected to learn more about him and the eventual handoff of his power to his successor. Rule of Two is an entertaining novel but I hope there is more to come.
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01/08/2009 page 15

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