My chronological journey through the Star Wars canon continues this month with Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover. The final installment of the prequels, I read this (or in the interest of full disclosure, listened to the audio book, read by the talented Jonathan Davis) with high expectations. I had heard nothing but good things about Stover’s novelization. And I’ll say right away that this book completely blew me away. I enjoyed the other prequel novelizations (read about them here http://www.unmistakablystarwars.com/focus-determine-reality/ and here http://www.unmistakablystarwars.com/so-i-hate-sand-but-i-still-love-attack-of-the-clones)and felt they added significant character development and depth to the films. But Revenge of the Sith is a novelization on another level. I don’t watch Sith much–I have an aversion for sad movies and Sith is about as sad as they come: the fall of Anakin, Order 66, the death of Padmé. I cry every single time I watch it, then drift around in the haze of an emotional hangover afterwards. The film has tremendous emotional power. And the novelization only adds to this power. I’m not exaggerating when I say that every single aspect of the movie: the characters, the plot, the story are all enhanced by Stover. I don’t know that I can do justice to how masterful this book is. But since I can’t write a GIF of me flailing and saying “IT’S SO GOOD!” I’m going to try.

Characterization

Stover writes each of the characters: Dooku, Obi-Wan, Grievous, Padmé, Mace Windu, and Yoda so well. You get an intimate look at the characters’ minds and relationships. The focus on Obi-Wan and Anakin’s relationship truly shows the deep love the two share: indeed, they are brothers. Additional insights into Anakin and Padmé’s relationship are gained also. We also get glimpses into the hearts of other characters in a way that makes them multi-faceted and enriches their portrayals on-screen. Characters like Count Dooku, Mace Windu, Yoda all gain from this added perspective.

Plot

Stover manages to add multitudes of fine details to the overall plot of the film. We get perspective on the tensions between Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, the Jedi Council, and Senate. We get more information about the strain between the Jedi Council and Anakin. Padmé is part of a group of Senators that will later grow into the Rebel Alliance, rather than just being pregnant and worried all the time. Anakin’s jealousy of Obi-Wan with Padmé, his anger at not being made a Master; all of these moments in the film are fleshed out in a way that is extremely emotionally satisfying.

 

Two areas in particular where this stood out to me where Palpatine’s machinations and manipulations. Stover showed the Sith Lord’s duplicity in such a convincing manner, I felt myself understanding how he deceived Anakin and an entire Republic for so long. Palpatine’s tangled web of lies would ensnare any he chose to. A master at gas lighting and every other kind of psychological warfare, Palpatine earns his Empire through infinite patience and cruelty.

The other area that is irrevocably changed by reading Revenge of the Sith is the character development of Anakin Skywalker. I think it is safe to say I will never look at Anakin or Darth Vader the same way again. When I first saw Revenge of the Sith over a decade ago, I remember feeling like I didn’t understand and completely buy in to Anakin’s fall. Why? Why would he do what he did?  For the first time I understand his choices, his fall. I’ve thought about it before, I’ve pitied him for his decisions in the past; but now I understand why he chose the Darkness. Stover depicts the toll that years of warfare have taken on Anakin. The mounting pressure of being a war hero and “the Chosen One” added to the resentment he feels for having to hide his relationship with Padmé. The duality of his life: having to be the Perfect Jedi while knowing he can never give up what makes it impossible for him to be the Perfect Jedi. And all the while Palpatine whispering poison into his heart, waiting for Dark to take hold and choke out the Light.

Reading Revenge of the Sith has added so much to my Star Wars experience: I wouldn’t have thought one movie novelization could accomplish so much. Not only does it magnify the prequels, but the rest of the Saga is amplified through it. It makes Luke’s choices in Return of the Jedi stand out as even more starkly brave, it makes Anakin’s final sacrifice more impactful.

I will undoubtedly return to this book again and again. It is one of the best Star Wars books I’ve read, period. And in a time where the real world feels like a dark place, it gave me hope.

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.

(Excerpted from the novelization). Have you read the Revenge of the Sith novelization? What are your thoughts about it?