Bloody and violent, just the way I like it!
Cover Art By: John Van Fleet
Written By: Drew Karpyshyn
I can’t help but look at Darth Bane: Rule Of Two as one giant missed opportunity, or a series of small missed opportunities to be more precise. The two main characters are very appealing to me, the Old Republic Era as I have mentioned previously is also very appealing to me. Drew Karpyshyn already crafted one very good novel around the same premise in Darth Bane: Path Of Destruction. The pieces were all in place for a very satisfying reading experience, instead I spent most of my time cringing at one thing or another. There isn’t one single moment that is the downfall of Darth Bane: Rule Of Two, although there is one moment near the end that is worse than most, but there are many moments that hold the novel back from ever reaching its potential.
The problems start right off the bat, the chapters that take place on Ruusan drag and don’t feel like a progression in the story. Rather the first six chapters feel like the story is stuck in place following the events of Darth Bane: Path Of Destruction. Luckily we only spend six chapters on Ruusan and are then on our way to new territory. Unfortunately once again one of Mr. Karpyshyn’s faults as a writer rears its ugly head on Dxun. Darth Bane’s quest to find the holocron of Freedon Nadd feels like a side quest in a video game. Instead of coming across as real and full of life the entire sequence on Dxun plays out like the gameplay mechanics of a quest based video game.
We don’t stay on Dxun or Onderon for long, but sadly we don’t stay in the future for long either. Karpyshyn adopts the maddening approach of moving the story ahead ten years and then immediately dragging it back into the past with extended flashback after extended flashback. The novel lacks any momentum through these next chapters, every time the story begins to move forward the author feels the need to thrust the narrative back to the past where all forward progress is lost.
At this point the story does pick up a bit and takes the narrative to a few places that I was quite happy with. First we are presented with the idea of the Jedi as blind followers of the Republic. I love the idea of a Jedi Order completely oblivious to the attachment they have formed with the government of the Republic and how this makes them blissfully unaware of the realities of the world around them. It’s also around the middle Ambria portions of the novel that the action becomes very, very violent. Of the Star Wars novels I have read I have no qualms labeling Darth Bane: Rule Of Two one of the bloodiest and thoroughly violent of all. I love this aspect of the novel, these are Sith we are dealing with as well as outlaw terrorist cells and war torn Jedi, things should be violent and they are in glorious fashion.
Unfortunately this respite of good tidings doesn’t last as Darth Bane: Rule Of Two makes its way back to Ruusan and falls off the tracks. When I spoke earlier of missed opportunities, the Ruusan segment with Johun Othone confronting an older Davorit had oodles of potential squandered. The Jedi, in the form of Johun, are acting holier than though, disregarding any of the wrong they have committed in the destruction of Ruusan, ignoring the feelings of the Ruusan people in a quest to deify fallen Jedi and generally acting like stuck-up dicks. Karpyhsyn offers a taste of exploring this scrumptious territory and then pulls back, leaving me with the feeling of being cheated. I wanted that controversy, I wanted Karpyshyn to take a chance, instead he glosses over the moral drama at his fingertips and trudges ahead with his Jedi moralizing and I begin to tune out for a long while.
A well structured and written showdown between Jedi and Sith on Tython momentarily alleviates my pain. This is more like it, well skilled warriors not just fighting, but analyzing, finding weakness, taking chances, and brutally dying or almost dying in the case of the Sith. By this point in time I already knew that Darth Bane: Rule Of Two was far inferior to it predecessor Darth Bane: Path Of Destruction, but at least there was hope for it to end strong and salvage some of its promise. Then the Jedi Master Tho’natu shows up and all hope is lost on my part. Not only is the resolution we are given for Davorit and Caleb weak sauce to the extreme, but the way that Tho’natu so easily accepts what he sees at face value paints the Jedi as idiots when that was not the intention at all. That’s not even to mention the fact that we are expected to assume that Johun and Valenthyne Farfalla left for Tython without bothering to tell anyone else the specifics of who they were chasing? A quick verbal description is all it would have taken for Tho’natu to show up and realize that something was amiss with this so called crazed Sith that attacked him. Instead Karpyshyn opts for lazy and uninspired writing that leaves the resolution very hard to read through.
I wanted to like Darth Bane: Rule Of Two, I really did. But, I was constantly disappointed as each new word crossed my eyes, with even the few bright spots not offering anywhere near the respite necessary to save the novel from drudgery. But, based on the aspects that I did like; the violence, the fight scenes and some of the new characters, I can’t call Darth Bane: Rule Of Two a complete wash. It’s not inspired in any way, it is a very weak effort, nor can I recommend it for consumption, but at the very least Darth Bane: Rule Of Two isn’t a unremitting blight upon the Star Wars landscape. But, it is a lesser work, and Darth Bane: Rule Of Two feels like one big missed opportunity and leaves me less than enthused for the next novel in the series.