The resident EU expert on Old Republic Sith, Drew Karpyshyn is back with his newest book, Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan.
Revan is the third in a line of Old Republic novels tying into the soon to be released MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic. At 3954 years before the events of Episode IV: A New Hope, Revan is the earliest novel in the EU timeline and set approximately 300 years before the other two Old Republic novels and the new The Old Republic video game.
While the novel has a handful of companion or supporting characters, there are two main characters, Revan and the Sith Lord Scourge.
Revan will be familiar to Star Wars fans who have been exposed to the Knights of the Old Republic video games and comics. Before this novel, I would say I fell into the middle of EU fandom in terms of how familiar I was with Revan. I had read his Wookieepedia entry, played KOTOR (but didn't finish it), played KOTOR II all the way through, and was familiar with the general outlines of the characters story. Let's face it, the use of the Mandalorian mask makes Revan one of the coolest looking Sith or Jedi ever created. This cool visual look is one of the keys to him becoming such a fan favorite. If I was a casual Star Wars fan, the cover of this novel would have me excited and intrigued and definitely would make me want to read this book.
In this novel Karpyshyn makes the character of Revan accessible for new fans, at key points along the way, we learn more and more about the character and his history. For fans familiar with the character, as Revan learns more about his past, we also get new information that adds depth to his story and changes some of our understanding as to "why" he turned to the Dark Side.
I quickly bought into the character of Revan and was pulling for him throughout the novel. He is hardly a perfect hero, one scene in particular in the Jedi Temple reveals a petty or grudge holding streak that makes clear even the redeemed Revan is hardly a lily white hero.
Revan is a much more realistic hero then the austere Jedi that would seem to be the Jedi Order's ideal. Revan has some similar strengths and weaknesses as a character that Anakin Skywalker has. Comparing these two characters provides some interesting similarities and differences. But while Anakin is never able to find that balancing point on the precipice of the Dark Side, Revan has found a path in life and is mature enough to do what is right even if it is not what he would desire in his heart.
In exploring Lord Scourge we get to learn more about Sith society during this period of time, get an interesting new character, and learn a lot about the mysterious Sith Emperor.
Scourge isn't as compelling an anti-hero as Darth Bane, and while it is clear Scourge goes through some character growth in the novel, he felt a little two-dimensional to me. It also seemed like his expertise and skills where attributed to him to fit the story instead of the other way around. I can understand the limitations on character development because Revan is the star of the book, but perhaps 10 more pages could have been added to flesh out Scourge a little more and get inside his head the way Karpyshyn did with Darth Bane. I am left to wonder about the character true intentions and his ultimate fate. I have a feeling we will be hearing more about Lord Scourge at some point.
I am very intrigued to learn more about the Sith societal structure, politics, and particularly the Emperor. The Sith society we see here feels a bit like John Jackson Miller's Lost Tribe of the Sith, only more extreme. The Emperor in many ways seems like the ultimate Star Wars Sith Villain. I am not sure how they could craft a character that would top this one in power.
Some of my favorite scenes in the novel involve Revan and the Mandalorians, the relationship between Revan and Canderous Ordo is well done and gives us a much needed look at Revan the man instead of the myth.
One of the strengths of Karpyshyn's writing is his ability to craft an intense and entertaining duel or fight. This skill was used to great effect in the Darth Bane series as well as this book. In Revan we have a number of fights, that each had their unique aspects. I particularly enjoyed one of the penultimate duels between Revan and another character.
One of my pet peeves with recent EU materials is the use of Force visions and the way characters interpret and react to them. I can see why it is used, because it appeared in the movies and as such is one of the more canonical Force abilities, it would seem to be a safe one to play with. It just seems that lately we have seen a familiar scenario play out regarding Force visions, and I think they are being over utilized as a MacGuffin.
There is one character that fans will be very disappointed to not see in the novel, but overall this is a novel fanboys and fangirls will embrace. It's got Revan, Sith, and Mandalorians, what more could you ask for?
There is a very short excerpt in the back of Revan for James Luceno's forthcoming novel Darth Plagueis.
All in all Revan isn't a perfect novel, but it gives fans of the central character some sense of closure, not necessarily the one you are hoping for or expecting, and ends on a note that is both happy and bittersweet. Revan is a solid stand alone novel full of little geek out moments. For fans who have read the previous Old Republic novels, I liked it more then Fatal Alliance, and almost as much as I enjoyed Deceived.
Star Wars: The Old Republic Revan is available in Hard Cover, eBook, and Audiobook formats on Tuesday 11/15/11. For more information visit Random House's Revan page.
You can also learn more about author Drew Karpyshyn on his website: http://drewkarpyshyn.com/