- Author: Matthew Stover
- 398 Pages
- Published in 2005
- Canon–Sort of?**
- Novelization of the Film
What It’s About:
As ever with novelizations, I will assume that since you’re here, you’ve seen the movie and don’t need a detailed synopsis of the plot. Especially this one–simply put, this is the culmination of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, when Anakin Skywalker falls to the Dark Side and becomes Darth Vader. The Clone Wars end, Palpatine/Darth Sidious ends the Republic to form the Empire, and the Jedi Order is destroyed by Order 66.
I’ve seen from several sources that the ROTS novelization is considered a “masterpiece”–not just as a Star Wars novel, but simply in general. And having read it, I must agree; it’s an exceptional work of fiction. Matthew Stover not only relates the events of the film–subtly altering and adding to the story we love–but makes it beautifully poetic and unbearably heartbreaking.
This is Shakespeare in space, my friends.
Truly, this is Anakin’s book. The central plot point is the emotional/spiritual tug-of-war between the Jedi Order and Darth Sidious for Anakin’s very soul.
The beginning sets us up for the inevitable end:
This story happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. It is already over. Nothing can be done to change it.
It is a story of love and loss, brotherhood and betrayal, courage and sacrifice and the death of dreams. It is a story of the blurred line between our best and our worst.
It is the story of the end of an age…
The Introduction, called the Age of Heroes, is a paean to the partnership of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi; a love letter to their relationship, their legend, their heroics. They are a unit, heroes of the HoloNet, and fight side by side, two sides of the same coin. Though this is the end of the age of heroes, it has saved its best for last.
The book is divided into three parts: Victory, Seduction, and Apocalypse. At the beginning of each part, a few paragraphs describe the dark as opposed to the light (and at its simplest, this is the ageless story, the only story there is, of the dark vs. the light).
I mention this because I love everything about how the book is set up, its structures and rhythms. Throughout, it contains asides that begin with This is Anakin Skywalker, or This is Obi-Wan Kenobi, or even This is Dooku, Darth Tyrannus, Count of Serreno: and each goes on to relate what is deep within each character’s heart at that moment. Their thoughts, their fears, their secrets.
Anakin’s deepest fear is the “dragon” that lives in his heart. His fear of death. Not just of himself, but of everyone he loves, of everything period. Even stars die. He learns this as a boy when he witnessed the death of a star, and it floored him. It haunts him.
In contrast, Obi-Wan does not fear death. He tells the boy Anakin, “It is the way of the universe, which is another manner of saying it is the will of the Force. Everything dies. In time, even stars burn out. That is why the Jedi form no attachments: all things pass. To hold onto something–or someone–beyond its time is to set your selfish desires against the Force. That is a path of misery, Anakin; the Jedi do not walk it.” There is no death. There is only the Force.
This is a lesson Anakin never learns, never comes to accept. This entire story is about Anakin refusing to accept death. The fear-dragon coils in his heart, eating away at him. He is ripe for Palpatine to set his trap. Later, Vader will crush that dragon beneath his bootheel.
But the journey to that moment is rife with pain and suffering. The nightmares of Padme dying undo him. It is his attachment to Padme and his refusal to trust in the Force which brings him to his ultimate decision and downfall.
There are so many other interesting things I can mention about this book; my copy looked like some yellow-feathered bird with all the sticky notes jutting out of it. What I found most interesting is that instead of some of the familiar action scenes from the movie, the author instead shows a conversation about them instead.
For instance, instead of the turbo lift adventures and other antics of Obi-Wan and Anakin on Grievous’ ship, there’s a conversation between Dooku and Sidious about them as they make their way to Palpatine. Or, instead of Anakin struggling to land the burning ship on Coruscant, there’s a conversation between Yoda and a Lt. Needa (father to Captain Needa in Empire?) on how to help them land it safely. We don’t get Obi-Wan’s legendary “Not to worry, we’re still flying half a ship!” and his iconic “Another happy landing.” But we can simply watch the movie for those great lines. Here, we get deeper into the story.
Also, I found it interesting that when Anakin is denied the rank of Master, we don’t get his whiny reply of “It’s outrageous! It’s unfair!” Instead, we get a much more arrogant, yet powerful Anakin when he replies, “How dare you? No Jedi in this room can match my power–no Jedi in the galaxy! You think you can deny mastery to me?” Whoa.
I’m also happy that Padme had a bit more to do in the book. I think she got short shrift in the movie (probably from time constraints), and that’s a shame. Here, she’s more involved in the Senate doings, as Bail and Mon Mothma try to muster a response to Palpatine’s growing power. Like Anakin, she is caught between two powerful forces: the Senate and her loyalty to it, and her love for Anakin. The suffering of these two people in love being torn apart by opposing forces is painful to read.
And I haven’t even mentioned the love between Anakin and Obi-Wan. The disintegration of their relationship is nothing short of heart-rending.
In a sense, love destroyed Anakin, but it’s also love that saved him in the end, when his son didn’t give up on him. This is beautifully captured in the last words of the book:
The dark is generous, and it is patient, and it always wins–but in the heart of its strength lies weakness: one lone candle is enough to hold it back.
Love is more than a candle.
Love can ignite the stars.
This is probably the best novelization I have ever read, and so very much deserves five lightsabers. Highly, highly, highly recommended.
Rating: 5 out of 5 lightsabers
**I had been under the assumption that the novelizations of the prequels were canon, as they were based on the movies (which, of course, are canon). But I’ve since learned that because the books were written and published before the Disney era, they’re now considered Legends under the new rule–that everything written before 2014 are now Legends. Even the novelizations. However, even newer editions of the prequel novelizations (such as I have) aren’t labeled with the Legends golden banner, nor is it stated anywhere within the book that they are Legends. So…I dunno.