Set before the events of Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, this new novel is a thrilling follow-up to Star Wars: Darth Plagueis.
It’s kill or be killed in the space penitentiary that houses the galaxy’s worst criminals, where convicts face off in gladiatorial combat while an underworld gambling empire reaps the profits of the illicit blood sport. But the newest contender in this savage arena, as demonic to behold as he is deadly to challenge, is fighting for more than just survival. His do-or-die mission, for the dark masters he serves, is to capture the ultimate weapon: an object that will enable the Sith to conquer the galaxy.
Sith lords Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious are determined to possess the prize. And one of the power-hungry duo has his own treacherous plans for it. But first, their fearsome apprentice must take on a bloodthirsty prison warden, a cannibal gang, cutthroat crime lord Jabba the Hutt, and an unspeakable alien horror. No one else could brave such a gauntlet of death and live. But no one else is the dreaded dark-side disciple known as Darth Maul.
Tying into the game changing reveals of Darth Plagueis, Joe Schrieber brings us a tale of Darth Maul, detailing just how lethal the sith lords servant really was.
We’ve spent tha last decade and a half learning more and more about the sith warrior who killed Qui-Gon Jinn and fell before the blade of Obi-Wan Kenobi. We’ve learned that he is cunning, relentless, deadly and sly. We saw in latter seasons of The Clone Wars that he never gives in and has his own ambitions. But in this Joe Schrieber tale, set after the events of Cloak of Deception, parallel with the back end of Darth Plagueis and before The Phantom Menace we take another insight into the trials that he went through to prove himself to and ultimately serve his master, Darth Sideous. And Schrieber spares no detail in showing that Darth Maul was pretty much the deadliest weapon in the galaxy at that time.
The story takes place in a hellish location, the space bourne penitentiary Cog Hive Seven, within which are housed many of the galaxy’s vilest scum. It’s here that Maul is dispatched by Sideous, to hunt down the elusive weapons dealer Iram Radique. He is embedded swiftly into the system, taking part in the games that the prison runs regularly in a high profit gambling network, and through these fights we see once again what we already know but the prison owners don’t. He is a lethal weapon. All I’ll say is there’s a scene with a tooth that once read, you won’t forget.
Further to this Maul is fitted with a detonator which could eliminate him at any time, and he is forbidden to use his Force skills. And yet, without all of his obvious weapons, he is still more than capable of holding his own. The story’s supporting characters are all compelling. Galactic Gaming Commissioner Dragomir Chlorus, a typically slimy Muun who oversees the fighting operation is an annoyance to Vesto Slipher, the stations correction officer and her silent brother Dakarai Blirr. They all watch Maul’s actions with growing fascination as he works his way through fight after fight as all the while Cog Hive Seven twists and grinds around them like a malevolent Rubiks Cube.
Schrieber – who we spoke to in the January 2014 episode of RADIO 1138 – was a great choice for this novel, inbuing the story with a dark, forboding tone while never quite stepping into the horror territories that Death Troopers and Red Harvest took us. And it’s a brisk read, for a 330 page novel. The chapters are short, rolling the story along at a fair clip, and there are few preambles. Schrieber seems intent on throwing you right into Cog Hive Seven alongside Maul, and it’s your mission to keep up. That’s a great way of pulling the reader in as we roll with the action and the blood.
Don’t be fooled, this isn’t a follow up to Darth Plagueis, but it does touch on a handful of that books elements. Go in expecting Darth Plagueis part two and you will be disappointed. Go in with the expectation that you’ll be taken along on a grim, gritty ride and you certainly won’t be.
Many thanks as always to Random House for the advance review copy.
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