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[A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far, Far Away...]
Events that occur before Episode IV: A New Hope.

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Lords of the Sith
Paul S. Kemp
Del Rey

Story published as:
Hardback Book (2015)
e-Book (2015)
Audio Book (2015)
Paperback Book (2016)

If you have read this book, please rate it:
2 reviews [Review score: 4.75 / 5]

When the Emperor and his notorious apprentice, Darth Vader, find themselves stranded in the middle of insurgent action on an inhospitable planet, they must rely on each other, the Force, and their own ruthlessness to prevail.
Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knight, is just a memory. Darth Vader, newly anointed Sith Lord, is ascendant. The Emperor’s chosen apprentice has swiftly proven his loyalty to the dark side. Still, the history of the Sith Order is one of duplicity, betrayal, and acolytes violently usurping their Masters—and the truest measure of Vader’s allegiance has yet to be taken. Until now.
On Ryloth, a planet crucial to the growing Empire as a source of slave labor and the narcotic known as “spice,” an aggressive resistance movement has arisen, led by Cham Syndulla, an idealistic freedom fighter, and Isval, a vengeful former slave. But Emperor Palpatine means to control the embattled world and its precious resources—by political power or firepower—and he will be neither intimidated nor denied. Accompanied by his merciless disciple, Darth Vader, he sets out on a rare personal mission to ensure his will is done.
For Syndulla and Isval, it’s the opportunity to strike at the very heart of the ruthless dictatorship sweeping the galaxy. And for the Emperor and Darth Vader, Ryloth becomes more than just a matter of putting down an insurrection: When an ambush sends them crashing to the planet’s surface, where inhospitable terrain and an army of resistance fighters await them, they will find their relationship tested as never before. With only their lightsabers, the dark side of the Force, and each other to depend on, the two Sith must decide if the brutal bond they share will make them victorious allies or lethal adversaries.

The Trade Paperback edition includes the short story Orientation.

This story occurs approximately 14* years before Episode IV: A New Hope.
*The story's opening crawl states "Eight years after the Clone Wars ravaged the galaxy" implying that this story occurs 8 years after Revenge of the Sith (i.e. 11 years before A New Hope), however Pablo Hildago (Lucasfilm Story Group) confirmed[External site - opens in a new window/tab] to Nathan P. Butler (Star Wars Timeline Gold) that the "eight years" refers to from the start of the Clone Wars not its end thus placing the story at 14 years before A New Hope.

Related Stories (in chronological order):

Review by Darth Kondorr, Poland, 2016:

"I am not too fond of long descriptions of battles and skirmishes. They tend to lose my interest at a point when they go on for far too long. Many Star Wars books had these kinds of sections and seldom were they really what I expected from a Star Wars book. I was in it for the characters, the progression of the story, the force related legends and yes... the battles also… but they mostly seemed so long.
At the heart of this book is one such epic battle, but I have never read something that exhilarating, so focused and brilliantly described from both sides perspectives. This thing must have been easy from 60 to 80 pages long, and I would not stop reading, I would not get to sleep, unless the battle was done. This one grand battle, and the much shorter intrigue leading into it alone catapult this book into the realm of absolute awesomeness.
Nothing comes close to my all-time favorites Darth Plagueis novel by Luceno (which should get at least a 6 in 5 as a rating) but this has a similar theme to it: Sith Lords. But the focus is not really the inner workings of Vader's and the Emperor's relationship, although there is enough of that in here too. No, this book is rather about how Vader and the empire is perceived by those who oppose them, those who conspire against them and ultimately those who die by them.
Another great gem is the fact, that the main protagonist of this is Cham Syndulla. A character, who, if you have not paid attention to Filoni's amazing The Clone Wars or even his Star Wars Rebels, might be a nobody to you. But those who follow the new expanded universe closely will feel the interconnectivity of Disney's new vision for Star Wars very much. This gives this story additional gravitas. It is not yet another new planet with completely new species and characters. This story does not exist in its own bubble, like many of the old EU stories did. These characters and this planet have a very much established history that is not only referenced, but even more importantly: it is remembered by the reader, because it is something each one of us could witness.
Although the breathtaking speed slows down after the initially mentioned battle, and we get to some less interesting skirmishes, the book retains its quality and is a true page turner to the last sentence.
I just regret it is already too late today to reach for the next title on my shelf..."

Rating: 5 / 5

Review by Ewan, Star Wars Books & Comics, 2015:

In Lords of the Sith, Paul S. Kemp's fourth Star Wars novel, Kemp explores two surprisingly not dissimilar master/apprentice relationships. As well as the titular Sith Lords, Palpatine and Vader; the story also focuses on the relationship between Cham and Isval: two Rylothian "freedom fighters". While many will be familiar with Palpatine and Vader's relationship from the films: Vader subservient to his Master's wishes, Kemp's examination concentrates more on the teacher/student bond as Palpatine demonstrates to Vader the importance and value of planning rather than his apprentice's usual brute force methods. Kemp imitates the Sith Lords' pact in the protagonists' relationship: Cham is forever conveying the value and importance of forward planning to his protégé, Isval.
Added to this dichotomy is the examination of the relationship between Imperial Moff Mors and her senior officer Belkor. First appearances suggest that Mors is a governor who has distanced herself from all aspects of governorship and daily administration, living a somewhat decadent lifestyle closetted away from the populace - even going as far as to associate with Hutts; while Belkor is a loyal, career-driven Imperial readying himself to usurp his corrupt master whenever the appropriate moment suggests itself. However, Kemp rapidly extinguishes these preconceptions, especially in the case of Belkor, who rapidly finds his own little world collapsing right before his eyes.
Perhaps the weakest point is that although titled Lords of the Sith, this story is fundamentally told from Cham and Isval's point of view and our interactions with the titular Lords is restricted to how they cope with the situation they find themselves in. However, even then Kemp tends to overuse the clichés regarding their Force powers: both are always able to react with "preternatural" speed. Knowing from the Prequel films that Palpatine is the consummate planner and tactician and for those expecting more of his machinations will be disappointed. However, what makes this story really interesting is that we see Vader (and the Emperor) from Cham and Isval's preconceptions of people that they have heard of but never met nor seen. For Cham and Isval, Vader is the archetypal "bogey man". Their first confrontation is early in the story but it is not face-to-face as they witness audibly Vader's ruthless and systematic destruction of fellow freedom fighters over a radio communication.
Occurring just five years* after Revenge of the Sith, Kemp uses his story to examine Vader's transition from Jedi Knight and hero of the Clone Wars to Dark Lord and the Emperor's enforcer. Vader is troubled by memories of his past: Anakin, Obi-Wan, Mace, Padme; all of this adds to Vader's pain, not just the emotional but there is also the physical pain he suffers due to his artificial limbs and the suit he forced to wear just to keep him alive. Throughout this story we are reminded that Vader is certainly "more machine than man".
The second half of Kemp's story becomes more of a chess game as all the players attempt to manoeuvre each other into the best positions for the final showdown. While there can be no doubt as to the story's final conclusion, Kemp's writing style ensures that Lords of the Sith maintains its fast-paced, high-octane narrative throughout.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

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