Review: Revenge of the Sith Novelization


It’s become clear that Star Wars has almost become a genre unto itself. There’s drama, romance, sci-fi, horror, fantasy, non-fiction—and then there’s Star Wars. It’s hard to just drop it under Sci-Fi because it’s more of a dramatic space opera than a futuristic fantasy book. That said, the Star Wars brand demands its own classification and one has to embrace a certain stylistic approach to write within that universe. This approach was created by George Lucas but ultimately expanded to include outside influences. All these styles combined make up this Star Wars genre and Matthew Stover’s adaptation of Revenge of the Sith quite handsomely takes them all and puts forth a cohesive and compelling novel which bridges many gaps in the saga’s timelines.

I knew right away I was going to like this adaptation because when I opened it, I thumbed through the pages like I usually do before starting a book, and realized it was broken out into sections that contained little poetic verses before each of them. Most have to do with the theme of darkness and how it’s pervasive in all aspects of life. Stover does a good job at introducing you to a few ideas throughout the book, like darkness, shadow, Anakin’s “dragon” and others, and reprising them at key moments to keep those threads moving as you read. These ideas are like the veins of the novel that constantly carry blood to and from the heart of the book, which is basically Palpatine. All veins lead to Palpatine, and this is definitely his book (and film).

Of course, this is actually supposed to be the story of the fall of Anakin Skywalker, but without Palpatine there is no fall of Anakin Skywalker. Stover definitely realizes this and does an excellent job of reinforcing the notion that Palpatine is really the motivation behind everything. I have a feeling that other authors might have given less attention to Palpatine and more elsewhere, but that would be a disservice to the book.

As I mentioned, Stover uses recurring themes throughout the novel but also uses a few interesting literary gimmicks that I really liked. For example, he’ll stop the novel for a minute and say something like, “This is Count Dooku,” and then go on to describe the man and how he got to where he is in the novel. It’s like a little flashback sequence that morphs you away and then brings you back to the action after a minute. It’s a fun way to dish out some back story without tying up the regular narrative. I’ve never read Stover before so I’m not sure if this is part of his usual style but I liked it because it broke you out of the cliché novel formula. There are enough little asides like this to keep the book moving at a fast pace so you don’t get bored.

I’ve heard a few criticisms that the beginning of the novel seemed too long and it took a while to get into the meat of the transformation of Anakin. You might even get the impression that Stover started out very detailed and then as the book progressed,  you can see the deadline looming over his head, resulting in a rushed feel. I don’t necessarily agree with all the criticisms but the facts are there. There isn’t much of the whole Wookiee battle in the book, “Order 66” is reduced to a paragraph, and the opening rescue is a majority of the first half of the book. One could surmise that these were creative choices by the author or Lucasfilm. I’m not so quick to condemn Stover when he did such a fantastic job writing the book. If he had failed miserably writing it, then I might have some more issues, but ultimately, the book is extremely well-written for its intended audiences. Star Wars is its own thing, though. You have to make sure that anything you write is well-written but also enjoyable to not only adults, but young people as well. That’s not an easy thing to do.

Although I liked the adaptations to The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, I felt that they simply spat out the films with a few extra scenes added. I remember that Terry Brooks’ TPM novel had two pages of Sith back story which was great at the time because there wasn’t much outside of the Expanded Universe on that subject. The AOTC novel by R.A. Salvatore felt a little rushed and didn’t quite have that “umph” I was looking for. It was just right; not overdone and not underdone. Both were good adaptations and I gave them well-deserved high marks in my reviews. I’m rating Stover’s Episode III adaptation as the best of the three, though. It seems that just about anything to do with Episode III is being ranked as “the best of the prequel trilogy” and it’s hard to argue with that logic. It’s the thing fans have been waiting for for years, decades even.

I suppose a fair review wouldn’t be “fair” without mentioning something I didn’t like about the book.

*** Minor non-impactful spoilers  ***

There was one part of the book when Anakin heads to Mustafar, the lava planet, to “take care” of the Separatist leaders who have outgrown their usefulness to Darth Sidious. In the screenplay, and I assume in the film, Anakin does his thing and doesn’t say much. In the book, he’s loaded with action movie tag lines more suited to James Bond or Arnold Schwarzenegger. To be honest, I didn’t feel they were all that witty. At one point, one of the trembling separatist leaders tells Anakin/Vader that they were promised a “handsome” reward, then after killing the separatist, he asks, “Don’t you find me handsome?” I cringed just a little at that one, and a few others. Other than that, and the usual plethora of Expanded Universe references, I couldn’t find much else I didn’t like in this adaptation. I’m one of those guys that thinks that Expanded Universe should really just stay “over there” otherwise it just confuses those who don’t know what a “shatterpoint” is or don’t know about that time Anakin and Obi-Wan had some adventure on some other planet. Thankfully, the references to the Expanded Universe were few and far between. They didn’t take me out of the book at all.

The Revenge of the Sith adaptation is an all around good read, even if you’re not a Star Wars fan. It captures the Star Wars spirit and, more importantly, the dark mood of the film. It’s a worthy piece of Star Wars literature as well as a great adaptation.

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