Welcome to Fireside Fri—er, Saturdays. Normally, I post about books on Fireside Fridays, but because of NaPoWriMo, I ended up posting two poems yesterday and decided to push F.F. to today. I apologize if this totally messes you up—it has me all discombobulated—but thanks for bearing with me!
So, today’s topic: The unexpected beauty of The Revenge of the Sith—the book version, of course, by Matthew Stover. Warning: If you have not read/watched The Revenge of the Sith (Star Wars Episode III), do not read this. There are spoilers.
Anyway, I haven’t read too many book versions of Star Wars before, so when I spotted this one while browsing the library, I was a little unsure if it would be worth my time. But I do love Star Wars, so I decided to try it—and I am so glad I did.
One of the (many) advantages books have over movies is that they can delve deeper into a character’s emotions, thoughts, and motivations. Movies can only go so far with facial expressions, dialogue, and action. In this book, I loved witnessing Anakin’s inner turmoil and the fears and passions that drove him to the Dark Side. Stover described his fear for Padme as his “dragon,” and referenced it clawing at Anakin from the inside, never letting him rest, driving to do what he didn’t really want to do. To his credit, Stover maintained a careful balance between helping the reader understand why Anakin did what he did without excusing his actions.
Anakin’s and Obi-Wan’s relationship was portrayed beautifully, and I realized more than I ever had just how close they were. Because of that passionate depiction of their bond, I felt far more deeply the pain of Anakin’s betrayal. Obi-Wan’s anguish over asking Anakin to spy on Chancellor Palpatine was also highlighted, a fact you never really see in the movies. There were so many tear-jerking quotes, like this one:
“To keep watch over Anakin’s son—” Obi-Wan sighed, finally allowing his face to register a suggestion of his old gentle smile. “I can’t imagine a better way to spend the rest of my life.”
I also enjoyed watching Padme struggle between her love for Anakin and her convictions about what was right and just. All the relationships and emotions were heightened more than they are in the movies without it being melodramatic.
The book is split it up into three parts—Victory, Seduction, Apocalypse—and each begins with a musing on light versus darkness. Each musing points more and more to the fact that darkness is triumphant. Stover writes in the beginning of Apocalypse:
The darkness is generous, and it is patient, and it always wins.
It always wins because it is everywhere. …
The brightest light casts the darkest shadow.
It becomes increasingly depressing, mirroring Anakin’s journey to the Dark Side, and the downfall of the Jedi and the Republic. I loved how these musings heightened the tensions in the books. However, I would have hated them had they ended with the quote above.
But they didn’t. And that was what I loved best about this book. Like the movie, there was so. much. darkness. It was horribly depressing at times. But, also like the movie, it ended with hope. At the very end of the book lies one last musing about light and darkness:
The darkness is generous, and it is patient, and it always wins—but in the heart of its strength lies its weakness: one lone candle is enough to hold it back.
And on the page before, these beautiful images are depicted, tiny, flickering candles of hope:
But even in the deepest night, there are some who dream of dawn.
On Alderaan, the Prince Consort delivers a baby girl into the loving arms of his Queen.
And on Tatooine, a Jedi Master brings an infant boy to the homestead of Owen and Beru Lars—
Then he rides his eopie off into the Jundland Wastes, towards the setting suns.
Lone candles, new hopes.
Another thing I loved was the theme of the book. It is, quite simply, love. It’s obviously not biblical love, which is far stronger and deeper than the comparatively shallow and insubstantial love portrayed here, but I still appreciated how Stover recognized the importance of it. I loved how, in the end, it wasn’t wonderful Jedi skills, political talent and schemes, or the best gadgets that offered hope. No, instead it was love. After the last musing on light versus darkness, Stover pens these words:
Love is more than a candle.
Love can ignite the stars.
This idea appears throughout the book, such as when Bail Organa offers to take baby Leia home:
“I know little about the Force, but I do know something of love.”
Another high point of the book was how it portrayed the wickedness of the Dark Side. In an age where black and white are often blurred and when authors are afraid to starkly set good and bad opposite each other, the clear depiction of evil was refreshing. When Palpatine is encouraging Anakin to kill Dooku at the beginning, Dooku (whose perspective was a fantastic addition), thinks:
Who side was [Palpatine] on, anyway?
And through the cross of their blades, he saw in Skywalker’s eyes the promise of hell, and he felt a sickening presentiment that he already knew the answer to that question.
Treachery is the way of the Sith.
In one of the most powerful scenes, where Anakin wakes up as Darth Vader and realizes that he was wrong, that he had killed Padme, that he has doomed himself, Vader realizes:
And there is on blazing moment in which you finally understand that there was no dragon. That there was no Vader. That there was only you. Only Anakin Skywalker.
That it was all you. Is you.
You did it.
You killed her.
You killed her because, finally, when you could have saved her, when you could have gone away with her, when you could have been thinking about her, you were thinking about yourself …
What a powerful, brutal, and so painfully honest picture of human nature. Of our selfishness. Of the fact that there is no one to blame but our corrupt selves.
I could go on and on, but let me just say: Stover’s Revenge of the Sith was a pleasant surprise, a tale of unexpected beauty that deepened the movie’s story and rang with an astounding amount of biblical truth.