Star Wars: Shadow of the Sith Is the Prequel the Sequel Trilogy Needed

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In 2019, Lucasfilm releases Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker into theaters, bringing the Star Wars sequel trilogy and the Skywalker Saga to a close. The film proved divisive with fans, with one common criticism being that it felt overstuffed. Rather than build on what was done in Star Wars The Last Jedi, the film introduces several new elements into the trilogy's story, including the Sith planet Exegol and the role of Ochi of Bestoon, retrofitting a new narrative framework onto the story of the three films. Star Wars: Shadow of the Sith, the new novel from Adam Christopher, takes measures to create a more organic means of integrating The Rise of Skywalker's late additions into the mythology, creating what feels like a missing chapter of the sequel trilogy's story.

Shadow of the Sith begins 13 years before Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and begins as a two-pronged tale. As previously revealed, Shadow of the Sith names and focuses on Rey's parents, Miramir and her husband Dathan, the strand-cast son of Emperor Palpatine. Their story soon draws Lando Calrissian into their orbit. Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker and Lor San Tekka are still searching the galaxy for Jedi and Sith artifacts. Their quest soon brings them into conflict with a Sith foe unlike any other that Luke has previously met. These paths eventually cross and this becomes the story of Luke and Lando's adventure together mentioned briefly in The Rise of Skywalker.

Through these stories, several key plot devices from The Rise of Skywalker are given a sense of backstory and history that was, arguably, lacking in the film itself. The relevance and nature of the Sith Wayfinder and Sith Dagger and expanded on, as is Exegol's mythical nature. That Rey's parents get some actual characterization here is welcome as well, providing a much more satisfying explanation for why they left Rey on Jakku (and why there seemed to be so much confusion about who they really were) than previously allowed.

But recontextualizing movies is one thing. Does Shadow of the Sith stand up as a Star Wars story worth reading on its own merits? Yes, it does. It's a bit slow to start since it shifts perspective to different characters from chapter to chapter. Since the characters are so spread out across the galaxy to start, it takes a while to get all of the major players together. According to my e-reader, I was still seeing chapters from new characters' perspectives as far as 20% into the book, and the fact that some of these characters only ever get one chapter told from their perspective feels a bit indulgent. But ultimately, once Luke and Lando meet up, Shadow of the Sith becomes good Star Wars, full of action and adventure and focusing on a pair of heroes whose relationship hasn't been given a lot of space elsewhere. There's at least one bold swing involving a surprising character that may divide fans, but all in all, it's a pretty good time.

It's fascinating to view Star Wars: Shadow of the Sith as a prologue to the sequel trilogy. I wouldn't recommend reading it before seeing those movies -- doing so would take all the mystery out of Rey's identity, and obviously this book is written in response to the existence of those films -- but taken together with those movies, Shadow of the Sith plants seeds that now feel like they're paying off in The Rise of Skywalker rather than, arguably, being shoehorned in. Give it a read. Even if it doesn't change how you think about the sequels, it's a fun Star Wars adventure in its own right.

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