Holding absolutely nothing back in his Star Wars novel debut, Adam Christopher brings a bold new adventure to the galaxy. Shadow of the Sith is a thrilling story taking place roughly thirteen-years before The Force Awakens. It not only sets the stage for each of the sequel trilogy, but has callbacks and necessary tie-ins to each film. It’s truly a Skywalker story. In the same way Claudia Gray’s Bloodline felt like an episode 6.5 for Leia, Shadow of the Sith pours out the same energy, only with a multitude of characters who will impact the closing acts of the Skywalker Saga. I won’t get into any spoilers yet, so feel free to read on for a brief synopsis. I’ll be sure to warn you before the spoilers start arriving.
Shadow of the Sith is, at its heart, a Luke and Lando story. While that alone would be enough for a compelling tale and spirited adventure, Christopher takes some massive steps forward. Yes, Luke and Lando are the heartbeat of this novel, but it also follows characters whom we have never seen fleshed out in this form before – Rey’s parents: Dathan and Miramir. Tackling legacy characters like Luke and Lando, while fusing them into a story with virtually unknown sequel-era characters is a tall order, but one Christopher seems to relish.
Telling a story this large with such a direct connection to an existing trilogy is challenging. Keeping readers enthralled in a story like this takes ingenuity, which Christopher possesses. One of the major villains in this book is the “big mystery” character Christopher has been teasing, and it won’t disappoint you. I won’t go into spoilers right here, but this mystery antagonist gives the book the edge of your seat storytelling I needed as well as opens the door into Sith lore.
The importance of this adventure means something drastically different for each character. For Luke, this is a quest for understanding and ultimately one for justice. Luke has been haunted by dark visions of the hidden Sith planet of Exegol for some time when we meet him. This dark cloud creates a growing disturbance in the force. Reuniting with Lando is born out of his need to understand what it is, but our hero will also be on a quest to prevent further suffering. In this book, he is the Jedi Master you want him to be.
For Lando, this journey is born out of desperation. It’s been six years since his daughter, Kadara Calrissian, was kidnapped. He has been searching the galaxy far and wide for her. His hope is nearly extinguished as he meanders about, hoping for just a whisper of her whereabouts. The famed gambler gets his wish after a game of sabacc, when a conversation he overhears reignites the fire of old.
With Dathan and Miramir, everything centers around their quest to keep Rey safe. They both know exactly who is searching for them and why. Miramir is as capable a character as we have seen in Star Wars. She can engineer explosives to take out the enemy just as easily as fixing a hyperdrive in disarray. Completely aware of who Dathan is and where he comes from, she holds an unconditional love rarely seen. On the other hand, Dathan wrestles daily with the horrors of his past. Haunted by his heritage it’s actually a great parallel to what we see Rey go through in The Rise of Skywalker. Rey’s parents know at some point they will have to be daring in order to escape for good. Their story is about survival.
Shadow of the Sith is a power-punching novel filled with bold storytelling. While I wouldn’t place it atop the upper echelon of Star Wars books it’s certainly earned its place within our beloved canon. Somehow, it perfectly interlaces each era of the saga into its pages. It strikes a balance of being its own unique story while also serving as a direct plug into the sequel trilogy. There has been so much discord surrounding Luke Skywalker in recent years. This book tells a wonderful Luke story by paying respect to the hero we see at the end of Return of the Jedi and setting the stage for the Luke we see in The Last Jedi. It’s another step in this iconic character’s journey. There is truly something in here for everyone to enjoy. Callbacks to each era in the Skywalker Saga, new characters birthed from the brilliant mind of Adam Christopher, and the ever growing cloud of the dark side ready to engulf the galaxy in darkness.
For those who stuck around, we are going to get into some SPOILER territory as I dissect more of the story itself.
The opening chapters probably gave me my most pleasant surprise. Seeing the book cover you expect it to be a story of Luke and Lando following this mysterious saber wielding villain. And yes, it is their story, but the opening pages tell us it’s going to be much more than that. We open up with Rey’s parents: Dathan and Miramir. Christopher not only names these two, he gives them a compelling story. In The Rise of Skywalker, we only see these two for a handful of seconds before they are killed by Ochi of Bestoon. After reading Shadow of the Sith, that scene will resonate on a much deeper wavelength with myself and likely most fans.
On the run from the Sith Eternal seeking to bring Rey to Exegol, the family is desperately seeking any sense of safety in the galaxy. Fleeing in a run-down ship with a finicky hyperdrive it’s a wonder they haven’t been captured already. For those unfamiliar, the Sith Eternal are a band of secret Sith cultists residing on Exegol, the hidden world of the Sith. We know after watching the sequel trilogy that Dathan is a clone of Emperor Palpatine that failed to have the same force sensitivity of his father. Dathan’s daughter Rey, however, we know to be flush with force sensitivity. The Sith Eternal, under orders from Palpatine himself, will stop at nothing to retrieve them.
In a wild ride across the galaxy, it’s truly a heartbreaking journey for this family. They’ve spent years not knowing who to trust and have seemingly been burned several times before. Potential allies will turn against them and without that burning desire to keep Rey safe they may have lost all hope. Hope is a common theme throughout Star Wars, and it’s what the family clings to like a life preserver.
We know how this chase concludes for Rey’s parents. Dathan and Miramir are doomed in the end, but Christopher’s writing really compels you to cheer for them. He attempts to warp your mind into figuring out an alternative outcome other than the one you know is coming. Similarly to watching Clone Wars and knowing the tragedy on the horizon, but holding onto a glimmer of hope in spite of that. Dathan and Miramir are characters already established in canon, but they feel like Christopher’s original characters seeing as he brings them to life.
We know who is famously hunting the family: Ochi of Bestoon. A relatively unexplored character outside of the comics, Christopher is able to give us an older and desperate Ochi. A legendary Jedi hunter from the days of the Republic, Christopher treats us to a flashback of a time he hunted Depa Billaba during the Clone Wars only to be attacked by Mace Windu.
For those familiar with Ochi’s comic arcs, you’ll know he was not always enveloped by the cybernetic implants we see in The Rise of Skywalker. No, this happened to Ochi during the time of the Empire. Long ago, when Ochi traveled to Exegol with Vader, his body was desecrated. Since that horrific day, he has been desperately searching for a way back. He’s certain the only way to heal his body is returning to the source of his mutilation. There are a couple of pure evil antagonists in this book, and Ochi is one of them. His bloodlust is only fueled by the Sith dagger (yes, the same dagger we see in The Rise of Skywalker) gifted to him by the Sith Eternal as Palpatine gives him his mission.
The search for a young girl is not only being taken on by Ochi. Lando has been searching for his daughter, Kadara Calrissian, for six years. She was kidnapped from him and he has no clue where she might be. Lando’s arc in this book is my favorite of any character. His desperation at finding his daughter is so palpable and not a side of him we are used to seeing. We get a look at a truly vulnerable Lando. One struggling with the loss of his beloved daughter, but also a Lando in the midst of a mid-life crisis. Multiple times throughout the novel we engage with his inner struggle of feeling he’s lost it. Feelings of inadequacy in this new time in his life flood his thoughts as loneliness continues to take hold.
Desperate for any clue to his daughter’s whereabouts he overhears Ochi mention “kidnapping a girl” and “the Sith”. At once, this begins to ignite the flames of the famed Rebellion leader. He reunites with Luke to begin a quest to find this family. Locating and assisting this family is more than just an opportunity to gain a clue to his daughter’s kidnappers. It’s a projection of his own shame and hurt as he wants to help this family protect their daughter since he feels like he was unable to protect his. This book is a journey of self-discovery for Lando. He reckons with the daring young charmer he used to be and the more experienced man he has become. Fusing the two of them together proves to be an insightful view into the legacy character.
Without further ado, the legend himself: Luke Skywalker. Christopher pays a tremendous amount of respect to both the Luke we see in Return of the Jedi and the man we see in The Last Jedi. Luke’s struggle is more spiritual than anything physical, as you would expect from a Jedi Master. A dark shadow has been cast over him, and this is first felt in two instances.
First, when he comes into possession of several red kyber crystal shards when accompanying longtime friend Lor San Tekka to an archaeological site. He witnesses their power and feels the presence of something ancient and sinister. Before moving on I must point out how enjoyable it was for Luke and Lor to share time together. I can’t be the only one mired by the mystery of the character we saw briefly in The Force Awakens. Shadow of the Sith shows us some of the depth of this relationship, as he is not only someone Luke completely trusts, but someone he calls on for mentorship.
The second early instance we see this is during his travels to Tython. Many of you will remember the seeing stone from The Mandalorian. In season two, Din Djarin takes Grogu there in order for him to commune with the Force and decide his own fate. There are no Dark Troopers for Luke to take out this time. It’s here Luke goes for answers and it’s here Luke’s mind is almost lost. You may have read the excerpt for the battle that takes place already, but if not, I will let Christopher’s words set the stage for you. What’s important to note is Luke’s savior is none other than his father, Anakin Skywalker.
This was one of the most emotionally captivating moments in the book. The conversation between Luke and Anakin was gripping. Something is terribly wrong and Luke knows his father can’t stay, but the poise of the Jedi Master is lost for a moment, and we simply see the son who yearns for time with his father.
Luke’s journey throughout this book sees him come face to face with a Sith of legend, wrestling with failure, and embodying the “legend” he casts aside in The Last Jedi. There is a moment near the end where he has accepted the outcome in the fight for someone’s soul, but the book reads this: “He will never give up. Luke Skywalker will never give up.” Emphatic moments like this make his eventual retreat into seclusion all the more devastating.
Shadow of the Sith also connects the past to the present by the way of Sith lore. The shroud of the dark side oversees everything and its growing threat percolates through the air. The secondary antagonist is Sith Acolyte of the Beyond, Kiza of Corellia. She pursues the kyber crystals in Luke’s possession. The power they have when joined together with the ones she currently has will possess the ability to light the way to Exegol.
Kiza’s is a tragic tale. One which I won’t delve into much here, but know she is in possession of a mask imbued with the spirit of an ancient Sith Lord. This Sith Lord is hell bent on returning to power and Exegol holds the secrets he needs. While Kiza is under his influence since putting on the mask, that isn’t the true tragedy of her story. She willingly chooses to put it on. It’s the drug she hates, but also loves. The addiction she knows is eating away at her soul, but she must feed it. She also wields a legendary weapon, the scimitar styled lightsaber of Darth Noctyss. After Luke and Kiza’s first meeting ends abruptly, Luke visits an original character of Christopher’s making to get answers.
They travel to the Polaar system to seek out a rehabilitated Acolyte of the Beyond named Komat. Do not confuse the Acolytes of the Beyond with the Sith Eternal. They are not one and the same. Mostly subservient of the Sith Eternal, the Acolytes are fanatics obsessed with the dark side, its users, and its relics. Not interested in wielding that power for themselves they instead focused their worship on those who did. Komat was once one of these individuals. She was saved by Luke long ago and has since entered into a hermitage as she reconciles and atones for the crimes of her past.
Luke and Lando go to her not just for information on Kiza, but because Komat has the ability to track Dathan and Miramir’s ship. I really enjoyed getting to know this new character Adam Christopher brought to life. The Acolytes of the Beyond, up to this point, have been a faint interest of mine, but now a fascination. We see the perspective of the Acolytes through the eyes of someone who used to walk their ranks as well as dive into Sith lore from the perspective of one who used to worship it. Now a secluded farmer, she is reluctant to get back into the fight, but decides to join Luke and Lando in their quest.
The final third of the novel sees Lando and Komat, along with droid dueling specialist KB-78 attempt to find Rey and her parents. The three of them race against Ochi of Bestoon, who now has enlisted the help of High Colonel Enric Pryde. Fans know Pryde, who later becomes a general in the First Order and ultimate servant to Palpatine in The Rise of Skywalker.
Dathan and Miramir take the offensive in their quest for safety with a bold move against Ochi. The two go to hefty lengths to ensure the safety of their daughter. In the sequel trilogy we get only a glimpse of a six-year-old Rey pleading with her parents to come back. After reading Shadow of the Sith I fought back tears as the scenes from the movie became all the more impactful. This doomed race against the forces of evil is a remarkable adventure overcast in sorrow.
On the other side of the coin, Luke seeks out Kiza to attempt to pull her out of the torment she is in and assist her in the same way he did Komat years ago. His battle will be against an evil so sinister and palpably evil it brings the Jedi Master to a near breaking point.
Before concluding here are a few smaller items from the book I found fascinating.
- Ben Solo! We get a few glimpses of the young apprentice in the book. Luke sees his apprentice as a blooming flower ready to grow into something magnificent. The holes in Luke’s teaching are briefly seen and the impending failure is in its earliest stages of manifesting in this book. I hope we get more Ben Solo content in the future.
- San Tekkas and Grafs. Fans of The High Republic will understand! The two families are often at odds in that era of storytelling and in Shadow of the Sith they are both giving Luke a helping hand. I already touched on Lor San Tekka, but a member of the Graf family, Lina, is name dropped as she lends her starship to Luke.
- Clone Wars references!!! A major confrontation takes place on a crashed Separatist Core ship.
- The return of the Calrissian Chronicles. Not only do we find out Lando made it all the way to chapter seventy-three he even starts anew. Can we get a full copy of all the Calrissian Chronicles? Please? Thank you.
- Leia is referenced. I was hoping there would be at least some mention of Leia in this book. It does come when Luke is mentioned as simply being “A senator’s brother”.
- Battlefront II fans will be pumped when their favorite Duros from the campaign appears.
In conclusion, Shadow of the Sith is a delectable tale bridging two eras of Star Wars together. The impending doom you know is coming for the galaxy and our protagonists is not enough to keep you from trying to will a different result. This book surprised me in how much depth it gave to Lando. I left the pages with an entirely new appreciation for the character. In regards to Luke, Christopher channels just the right infusion of the compassionate Jedi Master meshed with his immense power he is hesitant to wield. There are several original characters brought to life who leave a lasting impact on you such as Komat, and I am going to include Dathan and Miramir in this list as well. While this book in its entirety won’t be for everybody, I am confident in saying there is something in here for every Star Wars fan. Shadow of the Sith promises to be a foundational piece of Star Wars literature.
Shadow of the Sith is currently available for pre-order from online retailers and available June 28 wherever books are sold. Special thanks to Courtney Mocklow from Del Rey for the advanced copy used in this review.