By:Pat Ferrara, Columnist
Review Date: Friday, January 18, 2008

Drew Karpyshyn is no stranger to Star Wars, or sci-fi in general for that matter. An award-winning video game writer / designer, Karpyshyn penned the tremendously successful Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect video games as BioWare’s lead writer. He’s also the New York Times bestselling author of the Star Wars Darth Bane saga which began in September of ’06 with Path of Destruction.

Now Karpyshyn is back to his Old Republic roots with Star Wars Darth Bane: Rule of Two, the follow-up to Path of Destruction. Rule of Two continues the quest of Sith Lord Darth Bane and, once again, offers readers a refreshing look into the Sith Order outside of the familiar Anakin-Vader paradigm.

The calamitous battle between the Army of Light and the Brotherhood of Kaan has ended on Ruusan. After Kaan and his Sith followers disregarded the primeval rules of the Order Darth Bane betrayed them for their weakness, and the thought bomb that was supposed to tip the war in the Brotherhood’s favor instead decimated both sides. Now Bane is the only remaining Dark Lord in the universe, and to rebuild the Order he implements the Rule of Two by taking on the young Zannah as his apprentice. Together they embody the core functional unit of the old Sith, but they’ll need more help from the long-dead Lords of the ancient order if they are to survive.

Johun is a Padawan under the former General Hoth and the epitome of a Jedi-in-training, yet one who’s known only war. Having been tempered by the harsh battles with the Brotherhood, Johun doesn’t give up the fight against the Sith easily, especially when there are rumors on Ruusan’s surface of a surviving Dark Lord. But the same bomb that obliterated the Army of Light ground forces also destroyed the Brotherhood, and now all the Jedi must make the difficult transition from war-time soldiers to peace-time counselors. The ensuing years test both Jedi and Sith, as one order struggles to find its niche in a changing universe and the other does all it can to perpetuate its name.

What I enjoyed most about Rule of Two, aside from Darth Bane’s sheer badassity, is the novel’s ability to draw you into the Star Wars universe. Like Michael Reaves and Steve Perry’s Death Star, Karpyshyn’s Darth Bane saga adds texture to an already vivid tapestry. Unlike Death Star, however, Rule of Two extrapolates upon an important yet largely unexplored section of the Star Wars lore: the near extinction of the Sith during the time of the Old Republic. Through the eyes of Darth Bane and Zannah we get a personalized look at what it means to be Sith. The reasons for joining the Dark Side are fully illuminated, and they prove to be more visceral, more real, than most of those offered by Lucas’ archetypes.

Although Zannah does face her own set of moral dilemmas as she walks down that infamous Path, Karpyshyn wisely avoids the tired Anakin “seesaw effect” that seemed so forced in the prequel Episodes. Instead we get well-written action, fascinating backstory, and extremely believable character development.

Could Karpyshyn have pushed the envelope a little further? Yes. The book simply lacks “more” to be truly awesome, but this is a common weakness of any follow-up to a strong series opener. The pacing is also a bit interrupted by a jarring fast forward and some of the latter plot details seem a bit contrived, but even so Rule of Two spins an entertaining tale that’s sure to please both fans and newcomers alike.

Mania Grade: B
Title: Darth Bane: Rule of Two
Author: Drew Karpyshyn
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pages: 318
Price: $17.13