The prequels will never be the same. After reading this novel I know two things for sure: 1, this story line could replace episode 1, Phantom Menace, and do much more justice towards the eventual downfall of the republic and the Jedi, as well as the rebirth of the Sith. 2, if you don't appreciate the prequels now, after this novel, you will.
From The Author: "The principal story arc in 'Darth Plagueis' spans several decades. The challenge was to create a 'history' of a kind without eclipsing the characters who are in effect making history. Fortunately, the Star Wars universe is so large that I was able to research the book almost in the same way I would have a more traditional historical novel. As it progressed, I was forced to hew more closely to established lore, but even then it proved possible to shed light on what was going on in the wings behind the scenes."
Darth Plagueis. The apprentice, Sith Lord, investment capitalist, mad scientist, and manufacturer of the machinations that eventually destroyed the Republic. Darth Plagueis's transition thru this novel is full circle. From his beginning tutelage under the Bith Darth Tenebrous to the fatal ending at his apprentice's hand, this story leaves no undesired detail unturned. Although this is the story of Darth Plagueis, I found what captivated me most about the novel was how his actions molded the outcomes from episodes 1 to 6.
THE PREQUELS - how the past explains the future. The events in Darth Plagueis are pre-Phantom Menace by 100 years up to the Gungan and Naboo celebration in Theed. These are what redefined the prequels for me:
Why Palpatine? With a galaxy filled with force sensitive sentient beings, what makes one truly worthy of the Rule of Two? Whether it be his training under Plagueis or the will of the Dark Side, Palpatine had all the tools to live a fulfilling, lucrative life before the Sith. Much like Padme, Palpatine comes from one of the most noble, aristocratic families on Naboo. It is the will of the Force that Plagueis and Palpatine's path cross during the prospecting of plasma on Naboo. Plagueis entices Palpatine with the benefits of a greater calling and a more galactic influential role in galactic politics. Plagueis knew that for the Sith to come out of their 1000 year hibernation it would take a full reconstruction of the republic and a Sith Lord in full control of all the strings that connect the galaxy to do so, and Palpatine was the poster child of political greatness. His goal was a co-chancellorship with Palpatine. Palpatine's path from student to Sith Lord is complete after his brutal killings of his family after they try and wedge a gap between him and Plagueis. As Sidious and Senator Palpatine, his master’s influence as part of the International Banking Clan help create Palpatine's constituents as well as those backwards deals with the Trade Federation. It is Palpatine as the face of the Sith's swift, cunning, and secretive actions, it was Plagueis conducting the master plan from start to his finish.
Why Naboo? Does Naboo strike you as an odd place for a bunch of neimoidians to create a blockade? What are they taxing? Why does this matter? Prospectors on Naboo discovered a great galactic resource of plasma that was to be harvested from the planet and sold among the stars. Plagueis was the broker that was helping fund the deal that would put Naboo on the galactic commerce map. There was resistance from the elder family's on Naboo to sell and harvest the natural resources until the Sith helped get a new ruler on Naboo that would play this puzzle to their favor. After the approval to begin mining, Naboo had no method of dispersing the plasma. Introducing the Trade Federation. Naboo was part of a trade free zone thus not subjecting it to taxation. The Sith's plot was to plant the seed I the senate to create taxation in trade free zones, leading to the blockade of Naboo that would get deliberated in the senate until either the queen signed a peace treaty or the senate over through the current chancellor and elected a New Democratic leader. All parties necessary in the reimergence of the Sith.
Why Dooku? Both Sith sensed the discontent in Dooku with the Jedi and the current state of the republic. Plagueis knew with the events of corruption in the senate he influenced and the upcoming actions on Naboo, the he would have the would-be Count Dooku of Serenno, helping Palpatine with the rebuilding of the republic. Palpatine also had his own agenda, not revealing his true identity, while pulling the Count closer as an adversary and possible partner as the face of the seperatists and possible apprentice. He knew there was a darkness to Dooku, but need to learn more about the Count before creating an alliance.
Why Syfo-Dyas? For the pivotal character that Syfo-Dyas was, i do not think any of the movies gave his role the true justice of how important of a role he played in the Clone Wars. Everyone knows he order the Clone Army, but why? Plagueis met many Jedi in testing the hiding in plain view of the Sith. In his discussions with Syfo-Dyas , he saw the clairvoyant views of the Jedi Master and agreed that the Republic would eventually need an army that is much larger than what the Jedi could ever handle. With much persuasion, Plagueis's own funds would help assist in payment for the purchase of the clone army. Syfo-Dyas's fate was not revealed in this novel but we eventually know it is at the hands of Dooku as a test by Sidious, where the procurer of the clones meets his end.
Why Maul? Maul has an interesting beginning with the Sith. Much like Ventress from the Clone Wars, he was viewed by Plagueis as Sidious's assassin. Sidious learns of Maul on a political venture on Dathomir. A Nightsister senses the darkness and force sensitivity of Palpatine and gives up her child. Maul was born a twin and would have been sacrificed based on Nightsister traditions. Maul was unaware the Sidious had a master but Plagueis approved of Sidious's apprentice while he was still valuable. Sidious treated him like a true apprentice and intended on ruling with him after overtaking his master, but did not expect his failed against Obi-Wan on Naboo.
The Force - the give and take relationship with Plagueis. The Sith Lord was facinated and studied the nature of midiclorians and the force with in many different species in his private sanctuary on Muunilist. His experiments could be classified as the most extreme forms of torture; bringing beings as close to death and bringing them back to life to study the life forms that bind all life together. His cruel experiments and manipulations of the dark side were all at the principal of finding a method to preserve and prolong his life. Through his many experiments his theory on the balance of the force maintained the same; for each evil action there was a counter action to offset the prior. His most evil action, was undone by his own doings.
Chosen One....A Vergence of
the Force....There was no Father.... Anakin Skywalker's tale has no truer
beginning than as the counter action of all the vile, cruel, and perverse
experiments of Darth Plagueis. Coinciding with Plagueis's belief that for all
the sinister manipulation of midiclorians experiential he performed, that there
was a counter action to balance his dark plans. After learning that a child was
born, of the highest concentration of midiclorians, a true birth of the force,
he knew that this was the retaliation of all the plans he had set in motion. In
Plagueis's words, "this will be our undoing". Palpatine took another
stance on this child, that he would let the Jedi train him, as he could not
train him in his current political stature. He would be the kind, nurturing
father figure and earn his trust, the same way Plagueis had lured him.
The apprentice becomes the master, the master falls to his apprentice. The final moment between the two Sith was more than just "being killed by his apprentice in his sleep". Plagueis vowed to not rest until all their work had seen the triumph as co chancellor Sith Lords. It was that venerable moment as Palpatine is elected chancellor that he reveals his plans that no longer include his master. I won't spoil that thrilling moment but I do want to mention that Palpatine was not the Sith Master during Phantom Menace. He was an apprentice, with his assassin/apprentice Maul acting for Plagueis and the greater good of the Sith.
My final thoughts: James Luceno does a brilliant job of linking the expanded universe novels, clone wars saga, and the movies in this novel. I guess you could say it would be easy to write stories based in other works of literature, but were this succeeds is with its gracefulness. Even though I knew the outcomes of the major events in the story, a different perspective made me feel like I was reliving some of those scenes for the first time. There are only a few Star Wars novels that would top Darth Plagueis, but none that make episodes I to III more than this.
Star Wars Hitchhiker