This novel, Dark Lord Riise of Darth Vader, really is a transition period for the fallen knight. The catalyst is not surprisingly, surviving Jedi, a struggle he’s wrestled with before. After all, his choice was predicated on saving his wife and he lost her and his health at the same time.
Formerly the Jedi Anakin Skywalker, he’s been in emotional limbo since Revenge of the Sith and this was explored in various comics. Here we see his thought as he struggles internally, raging at what he’s lost and wrestling with self justifications. The Dark Lord has lost much of the confidence he had as a Jedi Knight.
Meanwhile a Jedi Master, Roan Shryne, is struggling with his own failing abilities with the Force and his place in it. When Order 66 goes down, the fight to survive leaves him with an idealistic padawan not his own, and a debate where to go from here.
The primary characters, new and old are well fleshed out. Roan’s struggle is a counter balance to Vader, both seeking a path forward.
Olee Starstone is a young firebrand of an apprentice, unwilling to accept the Order’s defeat. And the crew they hook up with are interesting enough I regret there isn’t more story to know them better.
There are three highlights to me, that stand out from other stories.
I liked how some of the clones resisted the order, simply out of legitimate confusion. These were the Commandos, the ones specifically with less genetic alteration and therefore, more independence.
There are people in the real world with the ‘just following orders’ excuse. These men hesitate because in their experience, these Jedi have had their back. Also there are cases of the Separatists having cracked their codes and issued false orders before (see Jedi Trial).
In Dark Lord Rise of Darth Vader we get to visit Alderaan, a rare treat even in the expanded universe. Bail Organa has a serious struggle going on between upholding Alderaan’s ideals, pretending to support Palpatine as Padmé told him, protecting his new daughter and putting off Rebellion until the right time. He can’t tell Mon Mothma everything to explain why he isn’t ready. It was fun to see the droids R2 and 3PO have a small but important role in Dark Lord too, however briefly.
Finally it’s the return to Kashyyyk tragic though it is. The harboring of Jedi is just an excuse for the evil done there. It shows how far little Ani, the slave boy who would be Jedi, has fallen in Dark Lord. While the details might be as a surprise to some, the fact that the wookiees are enslaved is well told in other stories and this is how it begins. It was all the more tragic given that Anakin did have a good relation with Wookiees. This was both in the novelization of Revenge of the Sith and in a video game.
I greatly am sorry that we got no follow up for some of these characters. I’d have liked the adventures of the survivors with a certain favorite Wookiee. After all, Han is just a kid and won’t be available for years!
Dark Lord: Rise of Darth Vader Continuity
This is set after the first several issues of Dark Times and Purge, both featuring Vader. Novelwise it’s right after Revenge of the Sith and before Kenobi, by John Jackson Miller. In the Dark Times comics, Vader received the shock of discovering the Empire was going to deal in slaves, so this novel having him go along shows his continued descent into the darkness. It’s apparently before Darth Vader and the Lost Command although this I question. I see it on starwarstimeline.net, but this story suggests his memory of Anakin is fading, while the Lost Command has it still very much alive.
It’s was also included in the Dark Lord Trilogy, with both Labyrinth of Evil, also by Luceno, and the Revenge of the Sith novelization. As for audio books, it only has an abridged version.
It doesn’t have a huge amount of references, but those that are there or implied are pretty accurate. The only hiccup I found was the statement that Vader’s first meeting with Tarkin was over the Death Star framework. This is technically untrue. In Rogue Planet, Anakin was a padawan who, with Obi-Wan was investigating a strange planet with organic ships. Tarkin kidnapped him to get the organic ship that was mentally bonded to him as it’s pilot.
Chewie’s home of Rwookrooroo is mentioned as well as his family there. At this time this would include his father (who was cut from the film’s battle at Kachiro), and his sister at the very least. His beloved Mallatowbuck he didn’t marry until he met Han Solo in Han Solo Trilogy by A.C. Crispin.
Quinlan Vos and Luminara Unduli are mentioned as being on Kashyyyk and presumed dead. (In reality Vos barely escaped, badly injured, with the aid of Villie, in the comics. The wookiees however would’ve seen the attack and assumed the worst, natually.)
Senator Fang Zhar was in the cut scenes in Revenge of the Sith, in what could be considered the first Cantham House meeting
Anakin in his pre Vader days not only hated slavery, but also had a respectful relationship with the Wookiees due to helping them when Dooku tested a weapon on their moon in Clone Wars XBox 2002.