© 2009 Drew Karpyshyn
Twenty years ago, a disgruntled miner-turned-revolutionary-turned Sith Lord destroyed the whole of the Brotherhood of Darkness and became the sole Dark Lord of the Sith. Taking the name Darth Bane, he quietly eradicated the remnants of his old life. Taking a young girl named Zannah with him, Bane transformed what it meant to be a Sith, beginning a new order that maintained only two Sith should ever exist -- a Master to embody power and and apprentice to crave it, seek it, and claim the title of Master for herself through a challenge to the death. The weak perish and the strong survive; this is Bane's way of the Sith.
A lifetime of wielding the dark energies of the Force have atrophied Darth Bane, but his apprentice -- an accomplished Sith sorceress whose manipulation of the Force can drive her enemies insane -- has yet to challenge him and claim the title of Dark Lord for herself. Disgusted by her apparent lack of ambition, Bane searches for a way to lengthen his own life so that he might find and train a better apprentice. Dispatching Zannah on a mission to investigate the murder of a Jedi knight -- for anyone who can overcome a skilled Jedi is of interest to Bane -- the Dark Lord himself travels to the galaxy's perilous deep core to look for a planet where a Sith lord once ruled for centuries, relying on arcane knowledge to achieve near-immortality.
Zannah takes opportunity of her liberty to find her own apprentice in preparation for her overthrow of Bane, and she is not alone in seeking a confrontation with him: a woman who witnessed her father tortured at the hands of Bane in The Rule of Two has come into money, and is using it to pay a talented bounty hunter and assassin to track Bane down. The characters' journeys come together in the depths of a mountain prison, where the five stalk each other -- some looking for salvation, others for revenge and glory.
Although somewhat short -- fontsize is fairly large, making the page count misleading -- Karpyshyn succeeds in giving his central character a fitting resolution, a demanding task considering the amount of tension Karpyshyn has been developing since The Rule of Two. His cast of characters is strong and must be so, for the novel is dominated by character drama: while Bane, Zannah, Princess Serra, and the others all have action-laden jobs to fulfill, they're only background. Two of the new characters held my attention: Serra, the royal princess whose hatred and desire for revenge against Bane draws her into the dark side, a move contested only by her faithful bodyguard Lucia -- who once idolized Bane during his revolutionary years in the Sith army. The fifth character makes the ending almost unpredictable: before completing the novel, I could not say with surety which resolution Karpyshyn would choose.
The Darth Bane trilogy has been a pleasure throughout, and its capstone is fitting if a bit light.