Biweekly Book Review: Star Wars: Dark Legends

*Spoilers Below*

You know what the truly evil, dark side, Sith like thing about this book is? The fact that it’s a different size from the other two in the collection.

Truly, this is Palpatine levels of evil.

Though you know what the wonderful thing about this book is? NO PALPATINE. Darth Vader is on the cover, and still, there’s no Palpatine. Because there’s more evil in the galaxy than just what one, slightly incoherent old man can think up.

It’s the strangest thing though. Dark Legends is meant to be the darker, scarier counterpart to Myths & Fables but somehow I didn’t find it to be as upsetting or chilling. Don’t get me wrong, this book is still deeply unsettling (in a good way), and is a perfect Halloween read with spooky season right around the corner! Maybe it’s because going into a book knowing things are going to be dark sets you up with different expectations? What also sets Dark Legends apart for me is that focus on the dark, and the Dark Side. Not all dark stories involve Jedi or the Sith, but a great many of the ones in this book do. I appreciate the focus on Dark Side stories, even though that’s just one sliver of the evil the galaxy has to offer. Let’s dive in for my highlights.

The One That Made Me Yell In A Good Way: The Dark Mirror

You know what’s cool? Masters and apprentices. You know what else is cool? When a fundamentally good person has to do war with themselves and the Dark Side. You know what The Dark Mirror is? Both of these things rolled into one. Padawan Sol Mogra is apprenticed to Nil Idyth, who is just the best Jedi around. Everyone agrees that there is no better person out there than Master Idyth. So much so that Sol struggles to live up to his example. Master Idyth once famously defeated a terrible apparition on Coruscant before selflessly taking off to the Outer Rim to protect them instead.

When Master Idyth is murdered himself, his one sentimental possession, a dark wood amulet containing a kyber fragment. Sol meditates on this amulet, pouring his frustrations into it, allowing himself to remain firmly on the side of the light, as his master did. It’s only when the amulet starts to reach back out and affect him in turn that things take a twist.

This is such a fantastic reckoning of a Jedi’s need for balance within themselves. The darkness cannot all be pushed away, because eventually the dark will push back, as it did with Idyth, as it then did with Mogra. The twist in this story, which I don’t want to reveal, had me shouting in the best possible way. I love when Star Wars keeps me guessing.

The One With The Nightsisters: A Gilded Cage

NIGHTSISTERS. It doesn’t matter how much Nightsister we get, it’s never enough Nightsister. A Gilded Cage tells the story of the Nightsisters of Dathomir attempting to bring down Darth Caldoth. He of Gaze of Stone fame. The story actually has a callback to Gaze of Stone that I found chilling. But I digress. The Nighsisters enlist one of their own, Zeldin, to use her magic and infiltrate Caldoth’s mind, to subtly influence his actions. Though they are largely unsuccessful in getting him to see things through their way, they continue to press their luck and push for more and more influence. But the further Zeldin goes into his mind, the more she loses touch with her own body on Dathomir, until at last she severs all connection. Which of course is what Caldoth wanted, trapping Zeldin in a gilded cage of her own making, unable to return home, unable to die until he does.

The ending is haunting, it’s true. But nevertheless, I really enjoyed this deeper dive into the Nightsisters and their magic. Though they seem omnipresent, with a presence in Jedi: Fallen Order, The Clone Wars and the Asajj Ventress-starring Dark Disciple, they remain one of the more under-utilized parts of Star Wars canon. We need more cool Nightsister stuff like this.

The Ones That Unfolded Like A Ghost Story: The Orphanage and The Predecessor

Sometimes, you have to confront evil head on. And sometimes, the true evil is lurking in the shadows where it cannot be seen. Both The Orphanage and The Predecessor are Force-reliant ghost stories, though they unfold very differently.

The Orphanage builds its mystery out slowly, with children being taken in the night from the titular orphanage, and little Elish determined to investigate why they’re vanishing. Kira is special, it turns out, and has powers of “perception” that few others have. Readers will recognize this as the Force, but in a post-Clone Wars world, with the Jedi branded traitors, no one around Elish is willing to call it what it is. No one, that is, except for the spectral Sith who is stealing Force sensitive children from their beds. Elish calls out for help, and Order 66 survivor Kira Vantala answers the call. The story ends ambiguously enough that it left me wanting more.

Meanwhile, The Predecessor unfolds less like a mystery, and more like Hitchcockian suspense. After about a page, we know the bomb is under the table and ready to go off. It’s a question of when. We know what mystery is plaguing the main character, but when will he catch on? The story is about an Imperial officer, Denholm, who out of the blue one day receives a sudden promotion, with no word about where his predecessor went. But those familiar with the Original Trilogy know that when officers suddenly disappear while serving in the vicinity of Darth Vader, that usually only means one thing…which Denholm learns the hard way. But not before being haunted by a literal ghost. I admit, I didn’t see the actual, literal ghost twist coming, which made the ending that much more shocking.

The One With Literal Werewolves: Blood Moon

Not much to say about this one except Star Wars WEREWOLVES. A crew goes on an expedition to a remote moon whose inhabitants were changed by an exploding star with a heart of kyber. It retains that Star Wars mystique…but with fucking werewolves.

The One That Really Went There: A Life Immortal

I have a questionable relationship with Exegol. I don’t mind it as a concept, but given the only time we’ve seen it onscreen? I’d just rather not engage with it. But Exegol is featured front and centre in the final story in this collection, in a way I did not expect.

Darth Noctyss (a lady Sith, and about damn time too) is determined to find a way to cheat death. Her questing takes her to Exegol, where she hears the story of a Sith Lord, Dark Sanguis (an excellent name) who had once achieved the same). She becomes entrenched in rituals to prolong her life and make herself immortal so she can continue her pursuits for as long as she pleases, all with the help of the deformed listless attendant she finds in the Exegol temple. When it becomes clear the ritual requires sacrifice, she kills the attendant and for a moment is full of power before most of her life force is drained away, leaving her as the deformed being in the temple instead of Sanguis.

Like the next story I mention, this is also a tale of hubris, but what I like so much about it is it pushes the boundary of what is possible within the Force. Nothing is possible in Star Wars until the plot necessitates it, and I want to thank George Mann for making rituals like this possible for storytelling going forward.

The One That Made Me Want to Go Back To Batuu: Buyer Beware

Buyer Beware is a cautionary tale about the lust for power. But it’s the source of the lust for power that really piqued my interest. The main character, Ambassador Slokin, purchases a cursed mask from Dok Ondar (yes, that Dok Ondar), which shows him visions of how to get what he wants. What the mask shows him too late, however, is that all actions have consequences. When his actions get him killed, the mask finds it’s way back to Dok Ondar’s and I just really want to see if it’s actually there.

Image Credit: Grant Griffin (@grantgriffinart on Instagram)

Also, can we talk about Grant Griffin’s fantastic artwork? He brings such an element of epic high fantasy to the GFFA and it takes my breath away. My absolute favourite is this one he did for “The Gilded Cage” which has such an air of magic, mystery and horror to it.

Dark Legends is a fantastically chilling read, and is a perfect choice as the nights get longer and the season gets spookier.

***

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