Star Wars: Shadow of the Sith Does More Than Fill the Gaps | Book Review

The latest Star Wars novel, Shadow of the Sith, brings a thrilling new Luke Skywalker story during the time period we’ve all wanted. It’s essential reading.

Star Wars: Shadow of the Sith
Written By: Adam Christopher
Published By: Del Rey
Release Date: June 28, 2022
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Pretty much since it was first announced, Shadow of the Sith has been sitting firmly among my most anticipated books (not just Star Wars books) to read this year. A new novel set in the time between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, focused almost entirely on Lando Calrissian and Luke Skywalker; filling in the story about Luke and Lando’s run-in with Ochi of Bestoon mentioned in The Rise of Skywalker; Rey and her family given more backstory?! Hell yes, sign me up for all that.

That’s not to mention it’s written by Adam Christopher, who wrote the fantastic Stranger Things prequel novel, Darkness on the Edge of Town. Shadow of the Sith already had a lot going for it, and the hype only seemed to increase with the cover reveal and subsequent excerpts over the past couple months.

Thankfully, the novel not only lives up to those lofty expectations, but exceeds them in grand fashion. The result is a novel that forges its own path and keeps you invested, but also feels like an essential companion to the movies themselves.

Feel free to proceed with this review as I won’t be diving into any big story spoilers.

Story Basics

Shadow of the Sith picks up the story roughly a couple decades after the end of Return of the Jedi, and Rey is only six years old. If you’re trying to keep your timelines in order, this would be at least a decade-ish from where we are in The Mandalorian, and about 13 years before The Force Awakens. This gives the story plenty of buffer room between all the known media at this point; allowing it quite a bit of freedom, while also giving space for future adventures.

We get a Luke Skywalker who’s still very much in his prime, but essentially done with his time roaming the galaxy for artifacts and knowledge. He’s now firmly in his role of Jedi Master, running his new academy and working to train the next generation. The Empire is long dead, and The First Order isn’t really a thing talked about yet.

By and large…it’s a time of peace.

Even as things seem to be in order, however, there’s a darkness looming and it’s beginning to make itself known. Things kick off as Rey and her parents, Dathan and Miramir, are being hounded by “pirates” who’ve tracked them down and are looking to capture them. Dathan escaped Exegol long ago, but now they want him (specifically Rey) back.

As they continue to elude capture, however, the Sith Eternal enlist the aid of an old Sith ally: Ochi of Bestoon. The bounty hunter/Jedi killer has been lying low since his time during the reign of the Empire (the latest Darth Vader comic series features him prominently), and even the Clone Wars, but he’s not been idle. He’s been putting together old Sith legends and searching for a way to return to Exegol, where he’s been once before. With the promise of getting what he seeks, Ochi agrees to track down the family.

Lando Calrissian has been out and about in the galaxy searching for his daughter who’s been kidnapped when a sojourn in a casino provides an unexpected tip. Ochi has a big mouth and as he’s trying to gather a crew to aid in capturing Rey and her family, Lando manages to overhear mention of “kidnapping kids.” After years of searching for his daughter, it’s the lead he’s been hoping for.

Meanwhile, Luke has been dealing with disturbing visions, and an ever-present sense of darkness on the rise. As his visions become more frequent, and even dangerous, he sets out from his Academy in order to try and find some answers. Guided by the Force, he finds himself meeting up with his old friend, Lando, as their paths converge and bigger mysteries begin to unravel.

Ultimately, the story focuses on Luke and Lando doing everything in their power to stop Ochi and his goons from getting to this family on the run. Along the way, they uncover clues that could lead them deeper into the mystery surrounding Exogol, and uncover a deeper threat.

Ochi isn’t the only villain at the Sith Eternal’s disposal, however, as a new(ish) enemy rears their head and threatens a return to the Sith days of old. I won’t spoil the details about this villain (who adorns the cover), but suffice it to say they both are, and aren’t, what you’re expecting. Definitely loved how they were handled.

Think of Shadow of the Sith as a galaxy-hopping adventure. One big chase that presents new threats, familiar faces, and some unexpected twists that open up a world of story possibilities in this particular period of time.

On the surface, the overall purpose of the story is, ostensibly, to fill in some gaps. While it does that handily, it does so in a way that still manages to tell a story that works on its own. It feels like it doesn’t even need the movies to be enjoyable for what it is, but in some ways the movies need it to be even more impactful.

I loved it. I loved seeing how Adam Christopher weaved this story around the confines of the details we know from The Rise of Skywalker, and crafting something that still feels unique. Every time it felt like the story was coming up on an element that would seemingly contradict things, it threw in something unexpected, yet completely in line with the story being told.

Despite the fact we know how things ultimately shake-out (Ochi dead on Pasaana and Rey dropped off with Plutt on Jakku), I was constantly on my toes with where the story was going. Even knowing certain things, I couldn’t tell you how the pieces fell into place while I was reading it. It’s a tough balance for a prequel to strike, especially one hemmed in on both sides, but Adam Christopher makes it look easy.

Characters and Lore

More than the engaging story, Shadow of the Sith brings some of my favorite character exlporations. The new canon novels have only just started to explore the lives of these legacy characters in the time period after Return of the Jedi, so it’s nice to get a feel for how these characters have grown during this time, while retaining the core traits we all expect.

As I said, Luke is firmly in his role of Jedi Master and there’s the sense of awe and confidence to his interactions that feel closer to how us older fans remember from some of the old Expanded Universe stories. He’s got an insane amount of power, but it’s tempered by the ideals of wanting to help everyone and picking up his lightsaber against others as a last resort.

Lando is still very much his suave/savvy self; more than happy at the gambling table all while looking his best. The tragedy of losing his daughter, however, has clearly changed him. He’s more focused/driven, and there’s an ever present sense of guilt that he’s not doing enough. It’s an interesting caveat to the ultra-cool, always composed, character, but one that speaks volumes.

Again, it’s impressive how well Shadow of the Sith captures the voices of these iconic characters, while showing how they’ve changed due to time and events over the years. The novel also does great by all the new characters as well (and those we’ve seen but knew nothing about).

Dathan and Miramir pretty much steal the show and left me wanting even more of their story. While Ochi has been explored in the comics, the novel does a good job of getting into his head/mindset and introducing him to a new audience. The villain is particularly great; equal parts tragic and terrifying that does a great job of posing a legitimate threat to the Jedi Master.

There are a host of other important characters, one of which came out of nowhere (I won’t spoil it here) and ended up being among my favorite aspects. Every single one, no matter how big—or small—their role might be, feel fully fleshed out and “real.”

One of the things Adam Christopher does so well in his writing, is giving a sense of history/backstory, in a relatively short amount of time. Within moments of meeting certain characters (sometimes just hearing them mentioned), you get the feeling they’ve been around in this galaxy for a while; living their own lives and stories. They don’t feel “one and done” meant to move a certain plot point forward, only to fade away into the background once more. Rather, there’s a feeling we’re only seeing a sliver of their life within this story with much more to them.

This ties into another aspect of the novel I love: the lore. Pulling from the movies, TV shows, comics, and even the Expanded Universe, Shadow of the Sith really dives deep into the galaxy far, far away. We get details on ancient Sith legends, strange uses of the Force, deep cut references to older material, and even some payoff of story threads introduced in previous books. ALL of it meshed together in a way that feels cohesive and engaging.

I took a bunch more notes in this book than normal, mostly the references to other things, so I can come back later and look more into them. None of them feel superfluous, however. Even if they were tossed in there as fun Easter eggs, the way they’re integrated into the prose makes them feel rooted within the story.

The overall effect, is it makes the galaxy feel dramatically bigger. It provides a sense of scale/history that throws into focus just how big this universe is and the wealth of stories that are possible within it. This makes certain aspects of the bigger Star Wars story feel a bit more natural, as this new sense of scale makes it feel more believable to have a whole planet of Sith going unnoticed, along with the a rising First Order.

Pacing and Action

Even among all this lore and character development, Shadow of the Sith maintains an impressive pace. There aren’t any big exposition dumps that slow down the story. Instead, these bits of history are integrated smoothly into the story being told. Between offhand comments, even a couple visions, the novel feeds you all this deep information while keeping the story moving forward at a breakneck pace.

Sure, there are quieter moments in the novel between characters, but there’s an ever-present sense of tension throughout. It’s a race against the clock as their enemies inch closer to their goal, and you’re always aware of the danger looming. Between this tense pacing and the impressive character moments, it makes the action sequences (of which there are many) all the more impactful.

I won’t belabor this point, but Shadow of the Sith brings all kinds of impressive action for Star Wars fans to enjoy. Epic lightsaber battles, Force-fueled showdowns, plenty of lasers going pew-pew, and ship-to-ship combat…it’s all there, and it’s all ridiculously cool.

To be entirely honest, I had no idea how big this novel was until I had it in my hands. I read a digital galley for my review and didn’t get the physical copy in until later and I couldn’t believe its size. Coming in just a hair under 500 pages, it’s one of the largest novels in the new canon, but it never once feels like it. I seriously thought it was a normal 250-300 page book based on how quickly I breezed through it!

It’s a testament to Adam Christopher’s writing skill, how he crafts characters and paces the plot, that I finished this up in just a couple days. I was compelled to keep reading. I had to know what happened next (even though technically I already did), and there are already parts I’ve found myself revisiting.

Shadow of the Sith is the total package. It delivers excellent new characters, offers new angles on iconic characters we all know and love, all while telling an engaging, emotional, story filled to the brim with great action. It works well as a standalone novel, but for long time fans, it provides answers to many questions, while filling in some crucial gaps.

More than expounding on story points from The Rise of Skywalker, Shadow of the Sith feels like it deepens (and strengthens) the entire Sequel Trilogy. With certain things thrown into context, now knowing certain backstory elements, I know my next re-watch of all the films are going to feel very different.

I won’t go so far as to say the novel “rehabs” any of the movies. I, generally speaking, enjoyed all of them. If you didn’t, I’m not sure anything will really change your mind. However, the novel certainly increases my appreciation for certain story points; expanding them in ways that will shift my perspective on scenes the next time I watch.

That said, this feels like a book every Star Wars fan will enjoy (regardless of how you feel about the recent movies), and feels in line with some of the very best stories from the similar time periods in the Expanded Universe. In all, Shadow of the Sith feels like essential reading. Don’t miss out on this one.

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Jordan Maison
Editor-in-Chief: Writer and cartoonist who went to college for post-production, he now applies his love of drawing, movie analysis, filmmaking, video games, and martial arts into writing.